Much has been written about how to write a parent statement or essay for your child’s applications to private preschool or continuing K–12 schools, but little has been written on what not to write.
For parents of preschoolers to students at older points of entry (and all the years in between), the finest example of admissions/application essay instructions can be found in the Common Application to U.S. colleges and universities.
The Common App asks applicants to write a statement of 650 words about anything — anything at all — so long as the statement is about them. You may think that sounds easy, but it’s not. For example, the finest Common App essay I have ever read was by a high school senior who, at age seven, started volunteering with kids diagnosed with cancer. The little girl became a national advocate for volunteering with sick children, appeared in the media, and won prestigious awards for her work. Over a decade, she worked with over 100 hospitalized children, befriending each one as well as their families. Her college essay, however, wasn’t about her work or the accolades she received for it. It instead detailed how she had stayed close to these parents and siblings, and talked about the emotional impact upon realizing that she was a link, often the final one, to the children the families had lost.
The same principles apply to parent essays. To make it easier, we ask parents to not use adjectives when they write and describe applicants. Terms like brilliant, gifted, caring, talented, and a host of others not only bore admissions committees, but scare them. If, for example, a parent genuinely feels his child is brilliant or gifted, is that same parent going to expect and demand “special” treatment for that child if and when she is admitted to the school, taking teachers’ precious time away from the class at large? That is how to get rejected on the spot.
Try to write an anecdotally-driven parent statement.
For young children, a day in the life of your child is far more interesting and introductory than a list of his or her attributes as observed by Mom or Dad. For older kids, one or two academic or social experiences is a good suggestion for parent admissions statements, especially the effect these experiences had on the child’s development.
Do not write a statement longer than a single page.
There is much to say about every child, but school applications may not be the venue in which to say it. If schools receive 900 parent statements for a particular point of entry, how much do you believe actually gets read if the statements are overwhelmingly long? More saliently: will it get read at all?
Do not feel you have to impress.
Usually when parents write to impress, it has the opposite effect. The “leader” who is always first to finish the reading or art or math project and “help” his peers in the classroom, while at the same time designs the group’s imaginary games and activities, is often perceived as demanding and overbearing. This is a more central question: can that same leader also assume the role of follower, giving others a chance to shine and create?
Don’t try to conjure the future.
The kid who likes playing with a science kit is not necessarily destined to become a neuroscientist, just as the kid who enjoys writing about his summer vacation is not necessarily tomorrow’s Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
Above all, don’t overstate.
A child who donates his or her gently used clothes or toys to charity is not Mother Theresa helping the poor, or Jimmy Carter building homes for humanity. She is a kid learning about charity and community service.
Balance what you write.
Few kids, especially younger children, actually sit around all day trying to perfect a task or learned skill, whether that be math, writing, art, or computer science, and if they do, they are missing out on many other aspects that childhood and adolescence exist to introduce them to. Admissions directors are famous for asking the magic question, “What else is your child interested in?” Schools do not teach one subject; they teach many.
Don’t brag, even inadvertently.
Your child’s interest in the ocean, marine life, and swimming is fine to write about as is his fascination with changing seasons, nature, and animals, as long as it isn’t preceded by the words: “At our vacation home ...”
Finally, an admissions essay is not the place to list the people you know who are connected to a school (parent, alumni, board member, etc.). For the most part, admissions directors do not like the “powers that be” to dictate which students to accept, and that is the subtle message of a parent statement that name drops.
We are taught to be ourselves at every turn. It’s hard to do in private school admissions, when you suspect that other parents are presenting better selves than they really are, and, of course, painting rosier, larger-than-life pictures of their children. Yet, being honest often yields the best results in terms of admission at virtually every point of entry. Think about the simple, beautiful message of the aforementioned Common App essay.
News view all news »
Crafting the Ultimate College Essay
When you apply to colleges, you will be asked to write the infamous “college essay.” Admissions offices use these essays as additional consideration materials when they look over your transcript and other submitted materials. The college essay can make the difference between getting into a program and having to settle for your safety school. Today we’re going to be looking at what makes an amazing college essay.
Show them what makes you special.
Admissions officers read hundreds of thousands of essays and yours is just going to be one amidst the sea of others. You need to make sure that your essay is interesting, which is easier said than done. The key to being interesting is to assess your finest qualities and to be honest, above all things. A lot of college essays are going to read like marketing pitches and,[LM1] though you’re certainly trying to market yourself, you need to make sure that you sound genuine. What connects you to this school? What about this school is going to help you achieve your dreams and how are you going to help them broaden their student body?
Don’t forget that this is still an essay.
Though this may feel like an open letter, appealing to the humanity in your admissions officers, you cannot forget that this is an essay. It should be structured like an essay and read like one as well. The best way to address this is to begin your process by brainstorming and then create an outline[LM2] . Take your time with this part; a strong foundation will help you a lot when you sit down to write it. Once you have a strong outline, all you need to do is write the essay. It is just like any other essay you’ve written for class, so make sure to think back on any critiques you’ve been given. Once you have it finished, you should let teachers, parents, and particularly well-written friends look at it. Don’t be afraid to go through several drafts!
Are you interested in sending your child to The Catholic High School of Baltimore?
The Catholic High School of Baltimore has been empowering young women since 1939. We offer a wide variety of amazing programs to help your daughter achieve success in the diverse studies of STEM subjects, biomedical subjects, and in the arts. We encourage young women to celebrate the Gospel while learning and growing with the teachings of Saint Francis and Clare of Assisi among other wonderful figures. If you think that your child would benefit from this type of education, set up a shadow day! To learn more about our application process, please visit our website. We also offer distance learning with Neumann University Courses. Looking for sporting events? We’ve got you covered with our amazing Cubs! For more information about who we are and what we do, don’t hesitate to visit our social media channels and our blog!
Next news article: Afterschool Activities Can Be More Than Just Fun
Previous news article: How Can You Overcome Academic Challenges?