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How I Know You Wrote Your Kid’s College Essay

Dave_BerryDave_Berry 492 replies2570 threadsCC Admissions Expert 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 8110 replies82 threadsRegistered User 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.
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 41893 replies451 threadsRegistered User 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 ).
    edited October 2018
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  • yucca10yucca10 1262 replies37 threadsRegistered User Senior 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.
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  • DustyfeathersDustyfeathers 3353 replies77 threadsRegistered User 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.
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  • zoosermomzoosermom 25663 replies594 threadsRegistered User 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.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78279 replies691 threadsRegistered User 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"?
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  • SlowPopSlowPop 36 replies3 threadsRegistered User 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.
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  • milee30milee30 2102 replies13 threadsRegistered User 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.
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  • My3KiddosMy3Kiddos 447 replies25 threadsRegistered User 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!
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1380 replies35 threadsRegistered User Senior 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.
    edited October 2018
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 41893 replies451 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @ucbalumnus : yes.
    The point was that what seems simple and difficult to an English speaking native may not be zondoe a non native speaker and thus could create interference in the "parent detector" the adcom thinks s/he possesses.
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  • MusakParentMusakParent 1004 replies9 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited October 2018
    There are real issues with essays on standardized tests. My kid did mediocre on the writing section on the ACT after getting a 36 in English and a 34 in Reading. He does have terrible hand writing. He has a glowing recommendation from his composition DE prof and he's never recieved lower than an A in a writing class. Note that more and more schools are dropping the essay requirement. I think submitting a graded paper makes more sense. My kid actually did that for one school.

    I've contract taught some writing classes and my senior was born a little old man and has always had over the top vocab. I still think for an intelligent reader there is a clear difference between a youthful voice shining through on a personal essay and an older voice. It's not just about vocabulary choices. My kid's essay was only lightly edited for clarity. It's sophisticated in terms of structure, vocab and depth. But I think it reads as written by someone with the life experiences of a 17 year old at the same time.
    edited October 2018
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  • gouf78gouf78 7787 replies23 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    My son had an extensive vocabulary from a very young age. He was mostly around adults and naturally picked it up. I wouldn't dumb him down for sake of an essay.

    There is enough research that good test scores and GPA are the best indicators of success. That you can even forget personal interviews because they don't mean much in the long term success of an applicant for school or job.

    Maybe the real problem these days is that those old gold standards are so diluted with grade inflation and nay-saying about relevance of test scores that there aren't any real standards today.
    And that the system these days seems to require a college education--whether you need it or not to do the job you're hired to do. .




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  • skieuropeskieurope 39285 replies7024 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    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).
    I would assume that no 17 year-old non-native English speaker would call himself "Mikey." I hope against hope that no native English speaker would still call himself that. :)

    Although I do, in part, agree with @MYOS1634 . From my own experience as a non-native English speaker, I have often made errors when using vocabulary and/or sentence structure that would be normal/accepted back home, but which is stilted at best and grammatically incorrect at worst in English.

    From my HS days, though I have often seen many US born-and-bred students, with no input from their parents, who end up sounding like William F. Buckley (but not in a good way) in their writing.
    edited October 2018
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