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Frustrated with lack of effort on essays

Wjp007Wjp007 10 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
Hi,
I really need some advice. My son is ready to apply to colleges. He's worked extremely hard in the last three years. Has perfect grades, extensive volunteer work and extracurricular work with leadership. I believe he has a good chance ED into a top 20 school. But now that we are in the home stretch, we are getting Senioritis. I get it he may be burned out. But all of these senior activities (dances, football games, homecoming) is all taking away from the time he spends on the essays. And the results are apparent. No matter what we do, we can't get real effort to be put on this. and it's not that my son hates writing.

And when we say spend time on the essay instead of going out with your friends that doesn't work. We get lackluster effort just to appease us. We've even said, it's OK if you don't want to go to a top 20 school. But that he denies that and he really wants to go to one of these schools. I almost feel like he is avoiding this as he afraid of the let down if he doesn't get accepted.

We've tried to ask him to be honest to tell us how he really feels, but we never really get anywhere.

Help!
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Replies to: Frustrated with lack of effort on essays

  • LindagafLindagaf 9243 replies497 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 12
    He won’t get into any top school, much less a Top 20 school, with mediocre essays. Not when the competition is so fierce.

    Your son is making his decisions right now. You can show him this post if you like, but he probably won’t believe it. Make no mistake, when almost EVERY applicant to a top school is competing for a less than 10% chance of getting in, essays will be really important. They won’t think “all the other stuff is great, but we’ll overlook these uninspired and sloppy essays.”

    Stop nagging him. Let him have his fun. He can spend his Christmas break totally stressed about essays while others are relaxing. Plenty of kids do that and it works out in the end. If you want him to be aware of just one thing, don’t make it essays. Be sure he understands that when all those top schools say they could admit 70% of the people who apply, they aren’t kidding.

    For your benefit, I suggest you read this old chestnut from 2016. Still applies today. https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/1878059-truthful-advice-about-getting-into-top-colleges-for-your-average-excellent-student-p1.html
    edited September 12
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34198 replies378 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Try NOT saying, "...nstead of going out with your friends." Try asking him to proactively set a time, without it sounding like an either/or choice: life or apps.

    Essays are important, sure. But neither of my kids were writing them in Sept. They grow a lot between now and Dec. Let them.

    Also, ED is no tip, just for submitting early. He still needs to supremely match what they look for, which is more than stats, some ECs, and leader titles. Make sure you understand more about what it really takes. Then you both have a better idea what makes a great app/supps.
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  • northwestynorthwesty 3509 replies9 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 12
    ED absolutely is a hook at some of the top 20, where they fill 50% of their available seats via ED. Vandy, Penn, NW. And of course Duke (who unlike most is refreshingly upfront about how it works):


    "Myth: The Early Decision process is more competitive than Regular Decision.
    Fact: While some schools make this claim, at Duke we appreciate that we are your unquestioned first choice. There’s an advantage in applying early to Duke—last year we admitted 23.5% of our Early Decision candidates and only 8.7% of our Regular Decision candidates. There are students for whom applying Early Decision can make all the difference."

    Look -- college essays are, imho, a pox and mostly an exercise in disingenuous humble bragging. Who really believes that the true passions of your typical 17 year old male are biomedical engineering and world peace? But you and your son are stuck with it. Here's my advice.

    ED is your friend in this. Make sure your son understands how that could work for him. First, it gets your kid to focus on his favorite school. Second, if he does a good job on just one single app and hits the target in ED1, then there's no more apps and no more essays to write. Son can be coasting from December through graduation while his classmates continue to furiously churn out apps/essays late into the evening on NY Eve.

    Getting most 17 year old males to write an introspective essay is tough. They'd literally rather do anything else but that. For my kid, it helped a lot to just get started and then breaking it up into little bits/tasks. Talking and brainstorming topics got things going much better than making him sit and stare at a blank computer screen. Turn the brainstorming into a bullet point outline. Once the outline had gone through several revisions, only then was it time to actually start writing the prose. Writing prose one bullet at a time is not so tough to do.

    And if that doesn't work, he'll do just fine at Home State U. My son did. : )
    edited September 12
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  • dropbox77177dropbox77177 266 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Farm out the task to a consultant? We know more than a few families who have said it's the best $5k they ever spent.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34198 replies378 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ED is NO hook if you aren't a full match. They may accept more of the highly qualified applicants...but this does not mean they lower their expectations. That's not what Duke is saying.
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  • socaldad2002socaldad2002 1443 replies29 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    northwesty wrote: »
    ED absolutely is a hook at some of the top 20, where they fill 50% of their available seats via ED. Vandy, Penn, NW. And of course Duke (who unlike most is refreshingly upfront about how it works):

    Remember that most of the "hooked" applicants like recruited athletes, legacy, development cases, URM, faculty kids, and special talent students will be applying ED so for the "unhooked" applicant the ED acceptance rates are far lower.

    Of course colleges encourage ED/SCEA, it only favors them as they know that yield is close to 100% and they can get close to guaranteed matriculation for say 50% of their freshman class and then use RD and "waitlists" to round out the class.

    ED/SCEA to top colleges is not the "magic bullet" that most uninformed families think it is.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9243 replies497 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @northwesty , I have to provide some clarity about the personal statement.

    @Wjp007 , As a professional whose students have been accepted to T20 schools and many highly selective LACs, I can tell you that none of my students has ever written their personal statement about why they want to major in physics, their desire for world peace, or their Eagle Scout award. In fact, the most accomplished student I’ve ever worked with wrote his essay about why he loves cooking. Another student who was admitted to several elite colleges wrote her essay about being approached by a drug dealer. Others who have done well in admissions have written about dying their hair, bringing a nightlight to college, and being afraid of mannequins.

    I’m sure some kids are going to write trite and uninteresting essays and they might get into top schools, but I guarantee that AOs would far rather read about something that takes their mind out of the office for five minutes than an essay about world peace. Unless the student is very talented, (and the vast majority are not,) it’s really difficult to make that kind of topic interesting.

    Maybe OP could ask her son what he might be interested in writing about? That’s a better approach than “hey, time’s a-wasting, better start writing those essays!” Still, I’d give it a rest for a few weeks.
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  • rickle1rickle1 1938 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^ Yes write about a passion or something he really enjoys or finds very interesting. The key is to be memorable. A lot of these kids take things to literally. D is having an issue with that right now (which is odd because she's a very creative person and an excellent writer). When S wrote his common app essay, I read it and thought it was "Seinfeld-esque" - an essay about nothing, but it was really entertaining and actually quite a bit about him, the part they don't get to see with the application. He was accepted into several great schools, a few that put an strong emphasis on writing.
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  • Wjp007Wjp007 10 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thank you all
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  • Wjp007Wjp007 10 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @Lindagaf I've tried that tactic also. Asked what he wants to write about. Many schools have the ability to submitting the students own prompts. No help. Just get a vague "I don't know". At some point we think this kid just isn't cut out for the top schools.
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 38451 replies2107 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    It really is HIS choice. You can't make him do it, obviously. He will have to live with the consequences.
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  • rickle1rickle1 1938 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I would do a brainstorm session where he just takes 10 minutes and writes anything that comes to mind. Structure, grammar, etc don't matter. Just get the creative juices flowing. It can be a random list of things he likes, are important to him, he cares about, he thinks are funny. Just write, no rules. Then he can read back through and pick a few ideas to develop.

    Getting started is the hard part.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9243 replies497 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Wjp007 wrote: »
    . At some point we think this kid just isn't cut out for the top schools.

    THAT is your answer. And if he is cut out for top schools, he'll write the essays.
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  • northwestynorthwesty 3509 replies9 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    "Remember that most of the "hooked" applicants like recruited athletes, legacy, development cases, URM, faculty kids, and special talent students will be applying ED so for the "unhooked" applicant the ED acceptance rates are far lower."

    @socaldad2002 -- Duke doesn't agree with you. Since they are so so so very clear about what they do, what basis is there to believe that they don't do exactly what they clearly say they do?

    Not every top 20 ED school operates like Duke does. An example for that might be Brown. But plenty (like Vandy, NW and Penn) absolutely do. So applying ED itself is, in fact, a hook. With respect to Duke, read for yourself from Duke's website:

    "Myth: The reason schools have higher acceptance rates for Early Decision is because athletes and children of alumni apply then.
    Fact: Some schools do encourage athletes and alumni children to apply during Early Decision, but our philosophy is to encourage all students who have Duke as a clear first choice to apply Early Decision and gain that benefit."

    "Is there an advantage to applying through the Early Decision program? There is an advantage in the admissions process to applying Early Decision. "

    "About 10% of Duke applicants choose to apply Early Decision, and there is an advantage in the admissions process to making that choice. In 2015-2016, we admitted 23.5% of students who applied Early Decision and 8.7% of students who applied Regular Decision."

    "Myth: The Early Decision process is more competitive than Regular Decision.
    Fact: While some schools make this claim, at Duke we appreciate that we are your unquestioned first choice. There’s an advantage in applying early to Duke—last year we admitted 23.5% of our Early Decision candidates and only 8.7% of our Regular Decision candidates. There are students for whom applying Early Decision can make all the difference."

    "Myth: I’m better off waiting until I get my first semester grades so that my application looks stronger.
    Fact: Some students do benefit from waiting for that first set of grades, but for most applicants there’s more of an advantage in letting us know Duke is your top choice by applying Early Decision. Even if your application is deferred to our Regular Decision pool, the fact that you applied Early Decision remains part of your application."



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  • yucca10yucca10 1262 replies37 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Many schools have essay writing as part of the senior year LA classes. If it's the case for your son, this makes things a lot easier. My son had the same problem, he was too stressed out about the whole process and afraid of failure so he procrastinated. I had to literally sit with him and participate in a brainstorming session (we set this time aside in advance) to get this started. Once started, it got easier.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7282 replies56 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I was wondering about english class too. D's HS had students write the essays in class.
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  • socaldad2002socaldad2002 1443 replies29 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 12
    northwesty wrote: »
    "Remember that most of the "hooked" applicants like recruited athletes, legacy, development cases, URM, faculty kids, and special talent students will be applying ED so for the "unhooked" applicant the ED acceptance rates are far lower."

    @socaldad2002 -- Duke doesn't agree with you. Since they are so so so very clear about what they do, what basis is there to believe that they don't do exactly what they clearly say they do?

    Not every top 20 ED school operates like Duke does. An example for that might be Brown. But plenty (like Vandy, NW and Penn) absolutely do. So applying ED itself is, in fact, a hook. With respect to Duke, read for yourself from Duke's website:

    "Myth: The reason schools have higher acceptance rates for Early Decision is because athletes and children of alumni apply then.
    Fact: Some schools do encourage athletes and alumni children to apply during Early Decision, but our philosophy is to encourage all students who have Duke as a clear first choice to apply Early Decision and gain that benefit."

    "Is there an advantage to applying through the Early Decision program? There is an advantage in the admissions process to applying Early Decision. "

    "About 10% of Duke applicants choose to apply Early Decision, and there is an advantage in the admissions process to making that choice. In 2015-2016, we admitted 23.5% of students who applied Early Decision and 8.7% of students who applied Regular Decision."

    "Myth: The Early Decision process is more competitive than Regular Decision.
    Fact: While some schools make this claim, at Duke we appreciate that we are your unquestioned first choice. There’s an advantage in applying early to Duke—last year we admitted 23.5% of our Early Decision candidates and only 8.7% of our Regular Decision candidates. There are students for whom applying Early Decision can make all the difference."

    "Myth: I’m better off waiting until I get my first semester grades so that my application looks stronger.
    Fact: Some students do benefit from waiting for that first set of grades, but for most applicants there’s more of an advantage in letting us know Duke is your top choice by applying Early Decision. Even if your application is deferred to our Regular Decision pool, the fact that you applied Early Decision remains part of your application."



    Simple math tells another story. In 2018, Duke accepted 882 ED applicants out of 4,852. You with me so far? Roughly 165 of those were recruited athletes as pretty much every recruited athlete applies ED. You agree? Now you have 4,689 (4,852 minus 165) ED for 719 spots.

    Without considering any other "hooked" applicants, the ED acceptance rate is now 15.3%, and so on as the remaining "hooked" applicants (Legacy, development cases, special talent, faculty kids, Questbridge, URM, etc) are being accepted in the ED rounds at a higher rate then the general applicant pool.

    After all is said and done, the "unhooked" applicant probably has less than 10% acceptance rate in ED. Remember RD is 8.7%. I stand by my point that ED is not much of a bump, if any, for the "unhooked" early applicant.

    It's really just common sense no matter what Duke claims on their website. All they are really saying is "apply early, it helps you get accepted" IF you are hooked; what they don't tell you is the acceptance rate of the "unhooked" in ED is much lower which is the key point for many families.
    edited September 12
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  • AlwaysMovingAlwaysMoving 166 replies1 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Most athletes aren't required to go ED at Duke. Football and basketball for example don't go ED.
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  • socaldad2002socaldad2002 1443 replies29 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Most athletes aren't required to go ED at Duke. Football and basketball for example don't go ED.

    Please cite your authority on this claim?
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