Sitting down to write the all-important private school admission essay — is there anything more stress-inducing than a blank document and a blinking cursor?
Writing anything from scratch requires intensive energy, focus, and inspiration — and that pressure is heightened when the writing topic is turned inward. No wonder students (and parents) get overwhelmed when it’s time to complete the essay portion of a private school application!
Helping your child write their private school admission essay can be pretty nerve-wracking. However, it doesn’t have to be.
The short essay questions included as part of most private school applications are meant to provide admissions professionals with a well-rounded picture of your child as a person and as a student. If written thoughtfully, this component of your child’s application can make them truly stand out.
Below are our top tips for beating back writer’s block and crafting a private school admission essay that gets noticed.
Remember the essay audience.
Although the essay is about your student, it’s FOR the private school admissions team. What will stand out to them? What will interest them? What will help them best understand your child and how they learn? Help your child craft an essay with these professionals in mind.
Answer the essay question asked.
This may seem obvious; however, it’s very easy to steer off course when you get into a writing groove. Help your child refer back to the question and any associated instructions while they write. Remind them to try to stick to the word count, and make sure to answer all parts of the question.
Private schools are admitting people, not numbers. Their goal is to create a diverse, copasetic community in which students grow and are challenged. Your child’s answers shouldn’t be cookie-cutter. The best essay question answers will showcase a student’s personality, quirks and all.
Private schools are seeking students with different interests and passions. If your child has a unique interest or personal pursuit, the essay can be a great place to explain what it means to them and why it drives their creativity.
Provide a unique perspective.
Opinions are important. If your child believes in a cause or has a strong point-of-view on a topic, talk about why. By standing behind their convictions, your child will demonstrate their critical thinking and leadership capabilities.
Paint a complete portrait.
Regardless of the essay question, you want your child’s essay to work seamlessly with the rest of their application and showcase them as a full, well-rounded student. If the application itself doesn’t allow you to bring your student’s true self to life, take that opportunity in the essay component.
Maintain proper essay structure.
Remember, the essay isn't solely an exercise to get to know your child; it's also an evaluation of their writing ability. Maintaining the proper essay structure with an introduction, body, and conclusion is essential.
Admission officers read a LOT of essays, so really work on hooking them with the intro. Have your child read feature magazine and news articles, as well as the opening paragraphs of books to see how professional authors engage their readers.
Cut the clutter.
After your child writes their essay's first draft, make sure they spend time editing their ideas into a clear, concise answer. Help them proofread, check their grammar, and cut out any extra words or phrases that don’t support their answers.
Once your child’s essay is complete, it’s perfectly acceptable for them to ask someone else to read it. As a parent, point out areas where they have opportunities to strengthen an idea or fix a mistake. However, resist the urge to rewrite the essay in your own words. Again, your child’s own perspective is what matters!
While the questions asked on private school applications may change, these essay-writing tips will help ensure that whatever story your child tells resonates with your dream school’s admissions team. For more essay tips, read Encouraging Your Child to Write a Self-Revealing Application Essay.
Want more tips and resources?
Join Admission Academy, our yearlong event program that supports families step-by-step through the private school admissions process.