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Parent Essay

heartburnerheartburner Registered User Posts: 417 Member
How influential is the optional parent essay. My son is relatively shy and I have tons of effusive compliments that I would love to share with the admissions committee. Could this backfire? I am extremely proud of him (as a person, student, artist, athlete, adventurer, ping-pong master, snowboarder, and "magic-the-gathering" wizard) and am not sure how this could come off. I feel like his application/interview will never reflect the true person he is and hope that I am able to provide some glimpse of what I see in the son I so admire.

Will this essay help, hurt, or have no influence?


Replies to: Parent Essay

  • payn4wardpayn4ward Registered User Posts: 3,149 Senior Member
    I would find someone else who knows him well but not related to write optional/supplemental recommendation letters to reflect on these. That would be more helpful than your words.
  • BlairParentBlairParent Registered User Posts: 58 Junior Member
    I think it is great to use the parent essay to bolster the student essays and interview, but not have it be the primary conduit of important information. Also, you what to avoid being too effusive, and go for a tone that shows you understand both your child’s strengths and weaknesses, while highlighting the strengths.

    Much more effective I think would be to spend some time with your so making lists of his major strengths and accomplishments, and helping him organize his thoughts so when he tackles the interviews and essays he can have some concrete ideas to build on. Having a checklist of things you want to get across is helpful. I think it is best when it comes time to do your side of it (both interview and essay) that your input serves mainly to reinforce an image that was built mainly by your son. It is OK for your son to carry a notepad and list into the interview. AO’s will not be surprised to see a boy who is nervous and who honestly states “I am a bit shy and nervous, so I have some notes to make sure I don’t forget anything I wanted to say.” If anything, it will show he has invested a bit of effort in the process, especially if his list is tailored to each shool.

    Parents are asked about their goals for their children at boarding school. One thing you could include in your essay is the goal of having your son helped through his shyness. This could segue into some of the points you think may have been overshadowed by his shyness. It is touchy, because you do not want to portray the shyness as so debilitating that he needs others to communicate for him.

    I think teacher references are much more influential, and if your teachers are cooperative you could remind them of a few things they could include in their comments to reinforce these traits of your son. My child’s teachers made specific references to a number of things my son had accomplished both in and out of school.
  • sgopal2sgopal2 Registered User Posts: 3,146 Senior Member
    The parent essay is the opportunity to
    1) See how well the parents thought through the boarding process
    2) Add details on a different dimension for your child that is not apparent from school reports

    Don't be afraid to boast about your child's non-academic qualities (especially those that the teachers do not see). In my letters I spoke about how the decision to apply to BS was driven entirely by my son, and that we were there to support him no matter what. Good luck
  • heartburnerheartburner Registered User Posts: 417 Member
    Thanks @sgopal2. I think that this approach makes sense.
  • AgincourtAgincourt Registered User Posts: 189 Junior Member
    What sgopal2 said...

    But also... the parent essay can be in some ways entirely different from teacher essays. The latter gives the AO new information about the student. The parent essay can give the AO new info about the parent.

    Is that parent educated? Successful? Open, guarded, stern, friendly? Status obsessed? In conflict with partner or the idea of sending the kid away? Does the parent know much about the school? Likely to be a reliable supporter? Does that parent love and admire the student? Is this application parent driven or student driven? Is the parent's objective different from the student's? Is the parent prepared to send the kid off to school for the positive there or to escape a negative a home?

    You get the idea.

    Not all letters are going to be a gold mine of information but you can bet on AOs thinking about these issues as they consider one applicant versus another. The parent letter will not be a major aspect to an application but it might, in certain circumstances, tip the balance.
  • soxmomsoxmom Registered User Posts: 738 Member
    I second what sgopal2 said, but would also point out that if you're going to brag about your kid (which I totally encourage!), it will get more traction with the AO if it comes across as a balanced presentation. In other words, I would also acknowledge some shortcomings or areas where your son is less strong. Of course, you want to be sensible about what weaknesses to admit and how to portray them. One way you can acknowledge a weakness but still make it a positive is to play off some attribute of the particular school. So, for instance if your son is shy and takes awhile to make new friends, and he's applying to smaller schools, you can acknowledge that he can be reserved in new situations and take awhile to fully integrate, but that's why you think that School X with its strong sense of community is such a good fit for him, as opposed to bigger more impersonal schools.
  • PhotographerMomPhotographerMom Registered User Posts: 1,839 Senior Member
    I'm not sure if this is helpful advice or not, but when my sister was going through the admissions process with her son last year, she either had hard copies of the applications sent to her or she printed them off the school's website. I'm not sure which, but I do know that before they completed the official online applications and submitted them, she had filled in hard copies (for various schools) scattered all around her house for awhile. She said it helped her (and her son) to see the applications ( his part and hers)- if that makes sense. Sometimes, she'd scoop them up and take them with her- waiting rooms, athletic competitions.... airplanes.... MY HOUSE. I loved it when she brought them to my house. No really, it was fun......

    Plus, she said it made filling in the online applications a breeze because everything had already been thoroughly edited, and obsessed over (ad nauseam).

    I don't know..... I guess if a parent/ student is into that sort of thing this may not be a bad way to go. She did say that after they submitted all the applications, they never looked back or second guessed anything..... which is a good thing.

    I still laugh when I think about her obsessing over the Parent question: "Do you have any concerns....". I loved that one, too. I wrote "None" on all three kid's BS applications ( Heck- JBS took care of that! ) but she (even though she didn't have any concerns) felt like she needed one!! Too funny. She ultimately wrote" None ", but it almost killed her.

    She got mad at me when I said, So- have you come up with any concerns yet? ( It was mean and I regret it :) )

    ( BS admissions can make all parents a little loopy. If it makes anyone feel better, this wasn't my sister's first BS rodeo....but it was her family's last! ).
  • ChoatieMomChoatieMom Registered User Posts: 4,921 Senior Member
    My "concern" was for the school...
  • PhotographerMomPhotographerMom Registered User Posts: 1,839 Senior Member
    Oops, forgot to weigh in on OP's question. Sorry for going off in another direction....

    I don't like to gush, but if you can convey all the things you love about your child without going overboard ... I say go for it. :)

    The hard edits my sister went through had to do with her trying not to sound too gushy.
  • PhotographerMomPhotographerMom Registered User Posts: 1,839 Senior Member
    @ChoatieMom- It's such a loaded question!
  • HarvestMoon1HarvestMoon1 Registered User Posts: 6,228 Senior Member
    edited October 2014
    I "gushed" in the parent essay but also included in the second to last paragraph things D was working on -basically saying that she was "a work in progress" in a few areas. But I chose those areas carefully!

    Most "concerns" can be back handed compliments - i.e. she has such a curious mind that she often takes on too much ……..
  • ChoatieMomChoatieMom Registered User Posts: 4,921 Senior Member
    edited October 2014
    I did not gush and talked about real shortcomings, not the kind that can be turned into a positive like, "he's so over scheduled, but has decided to use it to learn some time management skills" or "his handwriting is illegible but that's due to his amazing computer skills," etc. It's perfectly OK to be honest and to actually describe your kid. I did not see this as an opportunity to brag. I assumed that anything coming from a parent to a school they want to admit their kid is automatically suspect and heavily discounted, so might as well be brutally honest. But I did throw some humor in there.
  • Momto4kidsMomto4kids Registered User Posts: 318 Member
    I wrote about the side of my son that teachers or the interview might not show. I told them of how proud I am of his more sensitive side and how he is a very caring person. I stated that I was certainly proud of his academics and athletics, but was most proud of the person who he is becoming. The parent portion is a perfect area to add things which weren't evident on other areas of the application.
  • friendlymomfriendlymom Registered User Posts: 379 Member
    I've decided I don't like the open-ended parent essay questions as they cause a lot of angst and, in resulting in a lot of "strengths masked as weaknesses", don't provide useful information. When friendlydaughter was applying to BS I liked that SPS asked for a funny story about our child. I didn't like that they also asked for our family motto - I mean, really??

    Now friendlyson is applying to local private day schools. Several of them ask for a parent to write a "recommendation" for their child, which is the kind of question I hate. One of the schools asked the same thing in a much better way - they just said "What is one thing about your child that you think we need to know?" Great! I can tell them about friendlyson without having to deal with trying to describe his weaknesses.

    The question I find absolutely off-putting is from one school that has a long-winded musing on "philanthropy", and then asks how we view philanthropy and how it will affect our relationship with the school. Friendlyson likes the school and will apply despite that obnoxious question, but it's really tempting to tell them where they can stick it. And by the way, I have no objection contributing my time and money to the school, I just object to that being so blatantly used as an admissions criterion.
  • Newbie3kidsNewbie3kids Registered User Posts: 39 Junior Member
    @ChoatieMom - I too did not take the opportunity in the parent essay to brag about DS. I really wanted the schools to understand what we were hoping boarding school would offer our son and how his current situation at the time (LPS) wasn't fitting the bill. I felt I was pretty honest about our hopes for our DS at boarding school.
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