Chief among the most important things on your college application check list is the application essay. Students are typically asked to write a self-reflective, personal, descriptive essay, that is supposed to describe who they are. Oh--and it also has to be technically perfect, too. This is a big deal! Colleges use a student's essay to tell a great deal about them, such as how well they can write, what their thought process is like, and whether they'd fit in well with the college. Each college has unique questions--usually several different topics that they give, which they ask a student to write about. The ultimate question colleges are asking within these essay questions is, "Why should we admit you?"
When you realize that the average student applies to six different colleges, and writes approximately three essays for each college, you'll quickly see that there just isn't enough time in the day to write all those essays! When they're in 10th grade, you think your children are just as busy as they could ever possibly be, but they actually get busier and busier in 11th and 12th grade, and it gets more and more difficult for them to get through the process of college application essays. That's why it's important to learn how to reduce, reuse and recycle your essays, so that you can do as little writing as possible in order to get this job done.
The big problem, of course, is that a self-reflective, technically perfect, descriptive essay can be a completely overwhelming assignment for teenagers. It can even be overwhelming for an adult to create a technically perfect essay. I have two boys who are not known for being self-reflective, and it was most challenging for them. One of my children doesn't really enjoy writing and certainly doesn't enjoy writing about feelings. He doesn't mind so much writing about science, engineering, or chess, but writing down feelings is certainly overwhelming, and can be a difficult task. It's important that we, as parents, understand that it can be difficult for children to do this sort of assignment; so writing them one at a time is better.
Fortunately, college topic questions often overlap significantly. If you have the option, you can carefully choose which topics you write about, and reuse the same essay for multiple college applications. This will help you significantly cut back on how much you must write. An easy way to do this is to lay out all the questions from the colleges you're interested in, and find which ones are similar enough that you could write one essay to be used for both (or more) of them. This planning ahead will save you time, energy, and arguing with your teen! It's a good idea to have another person review the essay too, so that it's 'technically perfect' before you send it off to the colleges.
College preparation takes a lot of time, but if you put careful thought and energy into the process, it will pay off with college admittance, and hopefully some great scholarships too!