The Fingerprints of Parents in College Essays

Parents in College Essays, College Essays, Fingerprints in College Essays

A high school counselor or private college counselor who leaves a fingerprint in a college admissions essay isn’t good at what they do (photo credit: Andrew Chen).

One question we sometimes get from parents during free consultations goes like this: “Can’t college admissions officers tell you had a hand in your students’ essays?” Our answer goes like this: “If college admissions officers suspected we had a hand in revising our students’ essays, we wouldn’t be very good at what we do and our students wouldn’t be earning admission to their dream schools year after year for the past quarter of a century.” You see, when we revise our students’ essays, we leave not one fingerprint in any one of these essays. We don’t use words that businesspeople, doctors, and lawyers use. We teach our students not to use big words when small words will do just fine. We teach our students to dare to write fragments. We teach our students to dare to defy the rules so many high school English teachers hammer into their heads. Teenagers write a certain way and we help make their writing a whole lot better. Heck, the folks we pair with former admissions officials are published young adult authors whose books have hit the shelves in Barnes & Noble and / or they’re television writers who’ve sold shows to networks like The CW, MTV, Netflix, and Amazon.

The Invisible Fingerprint of Parents in College Essays

Yesterday, we read a terrific editorial in “The New York Times” penned by JM Farkas. The piece, entitled “How I Know You Wrote Your Kid’s College Essay,” references one specific fingerprint that parents leave in college essays. It’s an invisible fingerprint. It’s one we’ve written about many times over the years on the pages of our college admissions blog. Not sure what this invisible fingerprint might be? It’s two spaces after a period. You see, many parents grew up using typewriters or word processors. They were taught by their English teachers to place two spaces after each period. But kids these days don’t put two spaces after a period. Have you ever once seen two spaces after a period on any one of our blogs? Nope. Scan the pages of our website. Just one space after each period.

We Leave No Fingerprint in Our Students’ College Essays

The two spaces fingerprint is but one such fingerprint of parents in college admissions essays. Fancy words. Business-y buzzwords, even simple ones like “next steps.” We recently even came across an essay that was written in the third person. The parent must have forgotten to write in the student’s voice. Oy vey is right. It’s so very easy to tell when parents — who are often not particularly good writers themselves — have a hand in a student’s college admissions essays. It’s also very easy to tell when bad high school English teachers, school counselors, and private college counselors have a hand in a student’s college admissions essays. One of the reasons we at Ivy Coach are able to help our students earn admission to their dream schools year after year is because an admissions officer would never know we helped revise their essays. Good writing is absolutely about revising and through that very revision process, students become much better writers — which is reflected in their work. It’s a big part of our secret sauce, a sauce which happens to be delicious.


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