More on the Dangers of Personal Statement Coaching and Editing

On Tuesday, I wrote a new article for parents that touched on the dangers of parents helping their child to write the personal statement (see point 6). On the same day, The Boston Globe published an article warning that college applications can be too good. I thought it would be a good idea to expand upon what I suggested for parents in my own article by generalizing the advice to cover these so-called "College Application Consultants" or "Personal Statement Coaches".

The Boston Globe cautions that, "[a]s college admissions officers sift through thousands of application essays [...] they increasingly encounter writing that sparkles a bit too brightly or shows a poise and polish beyond the years of a typical teenager." They suggest that such essays are known around the admissions office by the pejorative nickname 'DDI', for 'Daddy Did It'. Further, they reinforce my assertion that colleges are increasingly cross-referencing the SAT or ACT essay with the personal statement to ensure that a student's voice, word use, and syntax are consistent. It also becomes obvious that something is amiss when the level of polish varies dramatically between the short answer responses and the longer essay.

The importance of the application essay is well-known, and I see more and more students each season turn to professional services which offer to edit and sometimes even write the personal statement for you. College admissions officers are wise to these services and are employing even more techniques to spot and punish cheaters in the admissions process.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to remember that while universities do want to see some level of polish, they still expect you to write like a 17- or 18-year-old. Some minor mistakes are good, and make you seem real and personal. If you do decide to hire a professional essay editor, make sure that none of the changes alter your own personal voice or the authenticity of the essay. Take this tip from admissions director at MIT Stu Schmill, who warns against penning a 'sanitized' essay: "[t]he best thing [you] can do is write from the heart."

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This is sound advice.

- Fubeca, 03/05/08 at 9:02 am

A 40 year old writes much different than a seventeen year old, so it is very important for the students to keep that in mind when submitting their essay and make sure to keep it in their own voice. Besides, the college is accepting the student, not the parent, so they want to know what the student's passions are. Thanks for the great advice.

- James, 06/25/09 at 7:09 pm

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