Think of the admissions essay as a snapshot
Why is writing your own admissions essay so important? Because the admissions staff wants to know what your child thinks, what her opinions are and how she arrives at those conclusions. An essay synthesizes so many things which your child has learned over the years. An essay provides a window into your child's thinking and experiences.
Worried that your child's essay won't be as good as other candidates for admission? Whether the essay is good or bad is not the issue. That's not the point of the essay. Think of the essay as a snapshot of your child at that specific point in time. Essays are also just one part of the picture which the admissions office is building of your child. Test scores, transcripts and the interview round out that picture. It is the composite or complete profile which the admissions staff need to see and understand.
That's the way most private school admissions offices work. They will meet you when you come for the formal school visit. Then without fuss or fanfare your child is asked to sit at a desk and write a few words about something she knows about. It doesn't take long. And there's absolutely no doubt about who wrote the essay.
Are you worried that a poorly written essay will jeopardize her chances of admission? Assuming that her academic transcripts and teacher recommendations tell a very different story, a so-so essay shouldn't matter that much. However, if her academic performance and teacher recommendations indicate serious academic deficiencies, that's another story. Essentially the admissions staff are concerned about two things: can your child do the academic work and will she fit in?
Another point to consider with respect to helping your child write her admissions essay is that having her do this task on her own equips her for similar tasks in the years ahead. This is the first of many essays which she will have to write on applications for schools, college and eventually employment. You will not be allowed to hover in the room some human resources professional has assigned her so that she can write answers to questions employers always ask. "What was your most significant achievement in....?" "Who have you looked up to as role models?" "Why do you want to join our team?"
Knowing the questions she will have to answer, wouldn't it be prudent to prep her so that at least she's pretty much on topic. After all who's to know? Trust me, the savvy, professional admissions staffers will spot the difference between the answers on her Candidates' Statement and the short essay she will have to write in their presence. It just doesn't make sense to interfere with the process. Your child will do just fine.
Please understand that you should allow her to express her ideas and opinions freely. You may not agree with her. But teaching is also about dialog. Explaining other points of view in a non-confrontational manner is part of what we parents do all the time. Unless you are training her to be a despot, it is important for her to be able to see somebody else's point of view. As with most things in parenting you will need guhe amounts of patience.
You know your child better than anybody
You know your child. Her strengths and her weaknesses. And you love her. Against that backdrop it is important to recognize when your child's academic skill sets need improvement or remediation. Sometimes it helps to have a trusted advisor review progress reports and help you plan a course of action. You may have rationalized why your child isn't doing as well as she could. A trusted advisor will see things as they are and offer your advice and encouragement. It is always a good idea to fix things before they blossom into a serious deficiency.
Guide. Direct. Offer advice. We parents always have to be reference points. We must always be ready to share our own personal experiences honestly. We understand the pitfalls when it comes to applying for just about anything. We understand what works and what does not. Discuss. Suggest. Offer help. But as with most things in your child's progress towards adulthood, let her learn to do things by herself.
Think of your child's admissions essay as one more rite of passage. You have been molding and shaping her since she was born. The thought processes and writing skills which she will use while composing her essay were formed many years ago. That's the main reason why you need to step back and watch her manage for herself. Relax. she will do just fine.