Admissions officers look for personal information that sets a candidate apart; the essay is the place for applicants to let their personalities show. By late fall senior year, students should be thinking about what they want to say and writing first drafts.
Write from the heart
Students wonder what they "should" write, as if there is a right or wrong answer to the essay question. What colleges really want is a thoughtful, well-organized essay presented in a clear and honest way. Since the essay showcases writing ability, you might want to help with proofreading.
As tedious as the applications seem, the worst thing your child can do is confront them only a few days before deadline. Working on a rough draft well in advance can make the difference between a half-baked and an exemplary essay. And in close-decision cases, the essay can actually be the deciding factor.
Make it look good
Unless otherwise specified, essays should be typed. Colleges try to leave adequate space to complete an essay, but there are rarely limits. Students can add a page or two if necessary, but shouldn't ramble just to fill space. Also, photocopy both the essay and the application before mailing them, in case they get lost or damaged in transit.