The Ivy Coach Daily

March 1, 2014

Ignoring English Teachers in College Essays

Don’t listen to the advice of your high school English teacher when it comes to your college essays.

Many students (and their parents) come to us seeking our help with their college essays and a decent portion of them preface their seeking of help with a line like this: “Jason’s English teacher already reviewed his essays and she thinks they’re just terrific.” And of course, if you’re a regular reader of our college admissions blog, you’ll likely conjecture that this elicits an eye roll from us. We also wonder: So, if you think this, why again are you coming to us then? Jason’s English teacher thinks his college essays are good so they must be! Right. What does a high school English teacher know about college admissions? What does the average high school English teacher even know about great writing? Sorry to come down on high school English teachers but we’ve seen way too many cases in which the essays these English teachers dubbed terrific are, in fact, quite terrible.

In our experience, high school English teachers encourage students to build their college essays around a thesis statement. Around a thesis statement? Seriously? Oy vey. That’s the last thing that you should be doing in a college essay. College essays are supposed to be entertaining to read. They’re supposed to be powerful statements of who a student is and what he or she is all about. Many high school English teachers also have a habit of encouraging students to pepper in words like “however” and “nevertheless” throughout their essays. Don’t do that! Using words like “however,” “nonetheless,” and “thus” is the mark of a bad writer.

One Commenter on one of our blogs some weeks ago pointed out that some of the sentences on our blogs aren’t in fact sentences. He was right! For instance, in the first paragraph of this blog, we wrote, “Jason’s English teacher thinks his essays are good so they must be! Right.” Right, by itself, does not a sentence make. And yet when you write in a colloquial way like this, your writing can be quite effective. That’s why we did that. It’s the same reason we started the sentence on the line above with the word “and.” High school English teachers may teach students never to start sentences with “and” or “but” and yet doing so can be quite powerful. They’re wrong about that, too!

We just wanted to give you a bit of a warning when it comes to high school English teachers reviewing college essays. Many high school English teachers are great at teaching literature and critical analysis. And many are quite bad at editing college essays. They should stick to their expertise.

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