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How I Know You Wrote Your Kid’s College Essay

Dave_BerryDave_Berry CC Admissions Expert Posts: 2,758 Senior Member
"The paradox of the overzealous editing of the college essay by many helicopter parents is that they don’t know what a college essay is really about.

It was right there in the last sentence of the first paragraph of Mikey’s college essay. I was supposed to believe this typical high school senior, who had inhabited this planet for a slight 17 years, chose to use the word 'henceforth.' Mikey was a good kid. He worked hard in school. He loved basketball and girls and math.

He had a certain way with words, but “henceforth” wasn’t one of his words." ...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/03/well/family/how-i-know-you-wrote-your-kids-college-essay.html
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Replies to: How I Know You Wrote Your Kid’s College Essay

  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 5,329 Senior Member
    It's all about the applicant's voice--which is often lost with excessive editing.

    There is a significant distinction between offering a critique of an applicant's essay and editing another's essay.
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 39,137 Senior Member
    edited October 2018
    I work with non native speakers. They have trouble distinguishing 'his' and 'her' but use henceforth (because the equivalent is pretty common in their native language).
    And like @one+two I would have used it naturally as a teen.
    However "Mike" probably doesn't fit the profile of a kid who says "henceforth" naturally (no English teacher recommendation, no teacher pointing out his verbal choices or vocabulary or way or speaking ).
  • yucca10yucca10 Registered User Posts: 811 Member
    My kid's natural inclination is to use words like "henceforth" and complicated grammar in his writing. I've been advising him to simplify, so the essay doesn't come across as stuffy or written by a parent.
  • DustyfeathersDustyfeathers Registered User Posts: 3,153 Senior Member
    I would think that the parent would be telling him NOT to use the word because it sounds awkward. The student wouldn't realize the break in voice of using such a word that an adult writer would more likely notice.
  • zoosermomzoosermom Registered User Posts: 26,181 Senior Member
    Articles like this are what worries me about my high stats kid's applications to selective schools. He might well honestly use the word henceforth.
    My D would and did use such words. However, her entire application package, including working as a professional writer whose work was googleable, reflected her talent and level. I bet many kids are in her situation - that their overall package shows the origin of their unique voices.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,862 Senior Member
    MYOS1634 wrote:
    I work with non native speakers. They have trouble distinguishing 'his' and 'her'

    Those whose first languages use the same word (or words sounding the same) for "his" and "her"?
  • SlowPopSlowPop Registered User Posts: 27 Junior Member
    Nothing gives away "not quite ready" than applicants who use words/terms/expressions that they are less than comfortable with in essays and interviews. If you're competing for an elite college, your admissions readers and alumni interviewers are products of an elite education and can see through the charade. A "fancy" word salad just obscures the intended meaning, like cop-speak. At best, it is awkward writing/expression. At worst, it it a sign that you just don't know better.
  • milee30milee30 Registered User Posts: 1,662 Senior Member
    "My D would and did use such words. However, her entire application package, including working as a professional writer whose work was googleable, reflected her talent and level. I bet many kids are in her situation - that their overall package shows the origin of their unique voices."

    Good point and makes a lot of sense. I could never figure out how my son talked himself into some of the things he did, like when he cold called local investment firms until one of them hired him to do quant work. Maybe they liked his use of the word "henceforth" in his calling pitch? But @zoosermom 's point is correct - the rest of his app was filled with stuff that supported the idea that this might be a kid who was entirely comfy with formal grammar so the essay didn't stand out as being any more weird than the remainder of his app. Consistency is surely part of the key.
  • My3KiddosMy3Kiddos Registered User Posts: 411 Member
    My kid just sent in an app with an essay that included "discoursing" in it. :)) But this is my son and he talks like that and I really hope people don't think I told him "add some big words" because if anything, I tried to get him to take it out!
  • 1NJParent1NJParent Registered User Posts: 671 Member
    edited October 2018
    Identifying essays with too much input from helicopter parents based on certain vocabulary is just iffy. Wouldn't it be better to REQUIRE written essays from standardized tests to accomplish that task, especially when essays play such an important role in admission? Granted, it's not 100% accurate, but it sure beats using vocabulary.
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