I've been writing my College Essays but my parents keep on criticizing every detail I make

So I’ve been working on my College Essays, and I already have a full set of main essays and supplementals, but my high school counselor and my essay teacher all tell me they’re too dry and have none of my personality (and they’ve seen me write for four years). The essays are “not like me”. Content-wise they’re perfect, but they seem… stale. Understandably, since my parents kept on forcing me to remove and add stuff. The current essays are more like formaldehyde-preserved versions of my originals, to be honest.

That’s why I began working on new essays a while ago, and I like them. I really do. I haven’t tried to hide my enthusiasm for space (even though I’m applying for a different major) and for futuristic stuff, or my wild experiments. I’ve tried a more student-like image but it just doesn’t fit me.

But once I showed my parents, they keep on getting angry about those “weird” details and how I’m not showing enough of my “hard work throughout high school” and screaming at me to scrap all of them.

What should I do? Should I go with my gut feeling, and show these essays to my school teachers and hear their opinions, or are my essays really that horrible and should I just give up on them?

Go with your gut. Colleges want to know more about YOU, not what your parents think should be on it. AOs will see the “hard work throughout high school” through your grades, test scores, classes, and ECs.

Thanks for the answer. In fact, I really do want to go with my gut but my father keeps on screaming at me that it’s trash and that I should go with my previous essays… I write about like experimenting and he says it’s too frazzy because I’m a developer, not an experimenter.

Difficult to offer constructive criticism without reading the essays.

One approach is to offer insight into who you are & how you became that person.

Word choice is important.

Parental input often is obvious and disruptive to the flow of one’s writing.

Best to formulate a clear theme in your mind prior to writing your essay. The theme should have substance; it should reveal something meaningful about you and your motivations, for example.

It is okay to be creative, cute or humorous, but you must have a point that you are trying to communicate to the reader.

P.S. OP wrote: “my parents keep on getting angry that I am not showing enough of my hard work throughout high school in my college application essays”. Your college application essays should not be a regurgitation of your resume. College essays should reveal something about you that is not clearly evident in other parts of the application.

Listen to counselor and your teacher, and not to your parents.

Your parents are, like so many people, think that your essay is, somehow, to reiterate your resume. Tell your parents that all of those details will be in the counselors letter of recommendation.

Bombard you parents with the articles which present “the best essays from student who were accepted to Big Name University”. Bombard them with articles explaining that the point of the essay isn’t to tell them “facts” about yourself.

Also - you may not want to show your essays to your parents at all. As I wrote - they do not seem to understand the point of the essay, and therefore are not only giving you bad advice, but trying to force you to take said bad advice. The simplest solution is not to ask their advice on topics with which they are not familiar.

It’s YOUR essay, not your parents’, and it’s time that they backed off and let you get on with writing it.

The current essays are more like formaldehyde-preserved versions of my originals,

First, let me say that as I read this comment in your post I chuckled out loud and thought, “this kid is a good writer!” Talk about show don’t tell! I love it!

I agree with the previous posters who suggest sticking to the advice of your professionals at school. I really think you’ve got this! You are obviously very responsible and have taken charge of this task by seeking the help of your teachers. Just figure out the best way to keep your parents at bay on this one. Good luck!

I agree, that is one killer sentence!

While it is an interesting sentence, it doesn’t seem to accurately express OP’s intended message.

In fact, this sentence appears to be the opposite of the truth as OP wrote “since my parents kept on forcing me to remove and add stuff”. This suggests that the original version is anything but preserved.

The essays need to be told in your own voice and speak to who you are. We were told that AOs can spot inauthentic writing because of things like formatting and word choices. As a parent, I made the conscious choice to not even sneak a peak at my D’s essay and it was the hardest thing I ever did because I didn’t even know which prompt she addressed or what the topic was. She submitted all of her applications on Friday and I finally read the essay. It was absolutely amazing and absolutely not what I would have written at all!!

Can you do two essays? One that you get feedback from your guidance counselor or a trusted teacher to submit and one that you show your parents and go along with their suggestions and don’t submit? In the end it is YOUR essay. Once you get accepted, it won’t matter what you wrote or which essay you submitted.

It’s unfortunate that your parents are inserting themselves so much into this part of the process. As many have said, it’s YOUR essay and it should be yours. Our D19 did not show us her essay until it was 100% done (she worked on it solo and with her college counselor). When she did show it to us, she said it was just to read, not for feedback and we respected that. I think your parents need to chill out. Have them read this thread! Again, sorry that you’re dealing this. Trust your gut and your counselor.

Oh, and one more thought, there are a ton of YouTube videos of kids reading their college essays that got them into amazing schools. Tell them to check those out!

I think having four people review your essay is akin to having too many cooks in the kitchen. No wonder your voice and essence got removed!

You seem like an otherwise talented writer. Pick one person, not among the original four, to review and give the final word on each essay. If that requires negotiating with your parents if they want a say who that person is going to be, start negotiating. It could be an essay consultant or an English teacher, but they all need to realize this is YOUR essay, and as such, it is no longer a group project.

@Lindagaf may do essay consulting. You might find her opinion helpful.

I don’t think the parents will be convinced by other examples. Wanting OP to press on her hard work seems to show they not only misunderstand, but think she’s better than a usual narrative.

Your parents don’t need to officially approve before you submit. Why not scribble out something they like, plus your own, then say the GC will determine which essay?

In effect, the GC is guiding you.

A nice narrative works because using an experience or turning point has it’s own timeline to follow. You want to show traits the college looks for (related to hs and college, not too random.) None of that is about proclaiming you’re a hard working student. This is a slice about the rest of you.

Remember, “Show, not just tell.” It means the right examples that let the reader “see” your points and agree, not just taking your word for it.

Consider adcoms friendly strangers, curious about you for the class. Not harsh judges. In fact, it sometimes helps to envision them much as you see us- interested, willing, hoping to like you.

Yes, the turn of words like formaldehyde works here because it’s direct and a comparison we all get. AIm for that flex in the essay. Good luck.

Your parents are wrong.

Just yesterday, a student sent me a supplemental essay for an Ivy League school. I gave her feedback and suggestions. Then, a few hours later, she sent another essay for the same prompt, but it was the polar opposite of what I’d already seen. It was very polished and sounded like an adult.

I called and asked her where this second essay came from, because it was so different and sounded nothing like the student (I had read her personal statement also.) She confessed that her parent had written the essay and she was hoping I would notice it wasn’t right. She said her parent wouldn’t listen to her, but might listen to me. I advised her to ignore the parent’s version. AO’s can spot it a mile away.

I’ll read it if you pm it to me, but do not submit a link to a google doc. Just put the body right in the message.

I did not ask to see D’s essays. She did not share until they had been submitted. That was our deal. I trusted her. And my voice would not have been hers. I’m a logical and very terse writer. It goes with my job. She is a very logical but a more engaging writer. I don’t think Dartmouth and Harvard would liked “my” essay as much as hers.

One of the best essays I ever read was from a young woman who wrote about her experience raising chickens: why she decided to do it, the mistakes she made, her reactions to the predators who predictably took advantage of those mistakes, etc. I suggested a few changes – but very few. Her essay told me – and every school she applied to – a lot about her. Not about her teachers. Not about her parents.

I’d be happy to read your essay(s) if you would like. As @Lindagaf posted, keep it private. You can PM me.

Thank you so much, everyone, for the advice! I’ll try to show my counselor and my essay teacher both versions this week and see if they can point me in the right direction. I do suppose that their choices will have a better chance of convincing my parents!

I did read essays for my children. I do have to say most were outstanding and just needed a minor edit/suggestion to clarify a word. However, there was one important essay that fell completely flat. This was for all schools common app so it was important that it was effective at telling the story he was trying to tell. It was not working. At all. I did suggest some minor revisions to make it somewhat OK, but also generally shared that I didn’t think it was working as written. I do think that this was completely necessary, but it did put a strain on the process. He was upset and much more reserved to share after. He did scrap it and went in a different direction that turned out amazing. He later admitted that he was stuck on that first idea. Sometimes people who know you well, know when an essay is not working. I respect those posters who don’t see any of their kids’ essays and I would say it would be fine if I hadn’t read any of my kids’ others - except for that one. I am so relieved that I was involved and that he listened.

one of the people who helped my kid write his essays was a reader at one of the UC schools, and her first advice was that if she was bored with the essay in the first 20-30 seconds, it would more-or-less go into the reject bin. It’s important to show your uniqueness, as the readers probably see the same thing with 90% of the essays.

I was pretty helicopter-ish when it came to my kid when it comes to things like keeping up with grades and stuff like that, but pretty much left it to the two or three people who critiqued his essays and helped him along the way.

This is a great thread! As a parent, it’s hard not to intervene, but I can totally see how a parent’s voice, not the student’s, would come through if they help revise it too much. We’re in the thick of it now with S20. This all was good advice for me to read, as well. He is working with someone on his essays and I need to have faith this will assist him best. Since early application deadlines are looming and he needs to finish those early schools THIS WEEK, I am really hoping his essays are strong, since these are the schools he is most interested in. I’m especially nervous about his ED school, but I need to have faith that he’s getting great help and that his voice comes through in those supplemental essays.

One thing I’ve found really difficult are the 300 word short answer questions! It’s so hard to be succinct with those when answering those prompts that can easily end up being 700 words.

Great advice on this thread for the OP. :slight_smile:

In our family, no one had their application essays reviewed by anyone. Also, each essay was written in 20 minutes or less. Very successful results. Best to think about the essay before writing. When written in one sitting, essays flow in a logical fashion.

Of course, writing practices differ among individuals.