Helping Parents Give College Essay Feedback

As parents, we want to support our children through every step of their academic journey, including the college application process. One area where our guidance can make a significant impact is in providing feedback on their college essays. By offering constructive criticism and helpful suggestions, we can help them refine their essays, showcase their unique qualities, and stand out to admissions officers.

In this article, we will explore the importance of parents providing feedback on college essays and how they can effectively support their students in the application process. We’ll also discuss key elements of a college application essay and provide tips for parents to keep in mind when offering feedback.

Key Takeaways:

  • Providing feedback on college essays is crucial for helping students improve their applications.
  • Understanding the purpose and structure of a college application essay is essential before giving feedback.
  • Parents play a crucial role in offering guidance and constructive feedback.
  • Feedback should be provided in a constructive and helpful manner, focusing on content, structure, grammar, and language usage.
  • It’s important to balance feedback with respect and encourage students’ independence and originality.

Understanding the College Application Essay

Before diving into giving feedback, it’s crucial to understand the purpose and structure of a college application essay. The college application essay is an essential component of the admissions process that provides students with an opportunity to showcase their unique qualities, experiences, and aspirations. It allows admissions officers to gain insight into the applicant’s personality, values, and potential contribution to the university community.

When crafting a college application essay, students should keep in mind the following tips to ensure their essay stands out:

  1. Be authentic: The essay should reflect the student’s genuine voice and personality. Admissions officers value originality and are looking for essays that provide a true representation of who the applicant is.
  2. Focus on a specific topic or story: Instead of trying to include every aspect of their life, students should choose a specific topic or story that highlights their strengths, challenges, or personal growth. This helps create a compelling narrative that captures the reader’s attention.
  3. Show, don’t tell: Rather than simply stating qualities or achievements, students should use vivid and descriptive language to illustrate their experiences. This helps the reader connect with the applicant on a deeper level.
  4. Keep it concise: Admissions officers review thousands of essays, so it’s important to be concise and clear in expressing ideas. Students should avoid unnecessary repetition or wordiness.
  5. Edit and revise: The essay should go through multiple rounds of editing and revision to ensure it is well-written and free of errors. Students should seek feedback from teachers, counselors, or trusted mentors to improve their essay.

“A well-written college application essay can make a significant difference in the admissions process. It provides an opportunity for students to showcase their personality, passion, and potential contribution to the university community.” – Sarah Johnson, College Admissions Counselor

By understanding the purpose and structure of a college application essay, students and parents can approach the feedback process with clarity and insight. The next section will explore the role of parental feedback and how it can effectively support students in their college essay journey.

The Role of Parental Feedback

Parents play a crucial role in helping students with their college essays by providing guidance and constructive feedback. Their involvement can greatly contribute to the improvement of these crucial application documents. By offering valuable insights and suggestions, parents can assist in shaping an essay that effectively showcases the student’s unique qualities and aspirations.

There are several benefits to parental involvement in the feedback process. First and foremost, parents have a deep understanding of their child’s strengths, interests, and experiences. This familiarity allows them to provide personalized guidance that aligns with the student’s goals and aspirations.

In addition, parents can offer a fresh perspective by pointing out areas that may need further clarification or development. They can help students identify gaps in their writing and encourage them to look at their essays from different angles. This collaborative effort can lead to the creation of a more coherent and compelling narrative.

“Parents have a unique vantage point when it comes to giving feedback on college essays. Their insights can help students refine their ideas, structure their essays effectively and ensure that their writing accurately reflects who they are.”

However, it’s essential for parents to approach the feedback process with care and sensitivity. The goal is to provide guidance and support while allowing the student to maintain ownership of their work. Balancing constructive criticism with positive reinforcement is crucial to nurturing the student’s confidence and motivation.

By offering specific and actionable feedback, parents can help their students understand the areas that require improvement. This can include suggestions for strengthening the introduction, expanding on key points, or enhancing the clarity of ideas. Providing concrete examples and encouraging students to revise and edit their essays helps them develop essential writing skills.

The ultimate aim of parental involvement in the feedback process is to foster independence and originality in the student’s writing. While guidance and support are valuable, parents should also encourage their child to express their own unique voice and ideas. This ensures that the essay reflects the student’s individuality and showcases their personal growth and aspirations.

By assuming the crucial role of providing feedback on college essays, parents can make a significant impact on their child’s application journey. With their support and guidance, students can craft standout essays that captivate admissions officers and increase their chances of admission to their dream colleges.

Dos and Don’ts of Feedback

When providing feedback on college essays, it’s crucial to do so in a constructive and helpful manner. Effective feedback can guide students towards improving their writing and creating compelling applications. To ensure you deliver impactful feedback, consider the following dos and don’ts:

Do: Be Specific and Detailed

Provide specific examples and suggestions that address areas of improvement in the essay. Instead of general statements like “good job” or “needs work,” point out specific sentences or paragraphs and explain why they are effective or need revision.

Don’t: Be Overly Critical

While it’s important to highlight areas for improvement, avoid being overly negative or harsh in your feedback. Remember to balance constructive criticism with positive reinforcement to maintain motivation and confidence in the student.

Do: Focus on the Essay’s Content and Structure

Pay attention to the essay’s overall content, organization, and coherence. Identify whether the essay effectively communicates the student’s experiences, goals, and personality. Offer suggestions on how to strengthen the thesis statement, develop supporting arguments, and structure the essay logically.

Don’t: Overwhelm with Grammar and Language Corrections

Avoid getting too caught up in grammar and language corrections during the initial feedback stages. While it’s important to address major errors, focus primarily on the content and structure aspects of the essay. Save detailed proofreading for later stages of the editing process.

Remember, this initial feedback is meant to guide the student in refining their ideas and strengthening their essay’s core message.

Do: Encourage Originality and Authenticity

Promote the student’s unique voice and perspective by encouraging them to bring their own experiences and anecdotes to the essay. Emphasize the importance of authenticity and originality, assuring them that their individuality is what sets them apart.

Don’t: Rewrite the Essay

While it may be tempting to rewrite certain sections of the essay, it’s important to respect the student’s voice and allow them to develop their writing skills. Instead of directly rewriting sentences or paragraphs, offer guidance and suggestions on how they can improve their own writing.

Do: Provide Actionable Feedback

Go beyond pointing out errors and offer specific suggestions for improvement. Use action verbs and clear directions that the student can act upon, such as “strengthen your argument by providing more evidence” or “reorganize this paragraph to enhance its clarity.”

Don’t: Focus on Perfecting the Essay

While striving for excellence is admirable, it’s essential to remind students that the purpose of feedback is to help them grow and improve. Avoid pressuring them to create a perfect essay from the start. Instead, encourage them to embrace the iterative process of drafting and revising.

By following these dos and don’ts of effective feedback, parents can provide valuable support and guidance to their children during the college essay writing process. Remember, the goal is to empower students to showcase their unique qualities and aspirations through their essays.

Timing and Frequency of Feedback

When it comes to supporting students in writing college essays, timing and frequency of feedback play a crucial role. Providing feedback too early or too frequently can overwhelm students, while delaying feedback can hinder their progress. Finding the right balance is key.

So, when should parents offer feedback? It’s recommended to provide feedback after the initial draft is complete. This allows students to brainstorm ideas, organize their thoughts, and establish a foundation for their essay. Once the first draft is ready, parents can begin their review.

However, it’s important to consider the student’s needs and workload. Giving feedback right away may be beneficial for some students, while others may benefit from a short break before delving into revisions. Communication is vital during this process, allowing parents and students to discuss an appropriate timeline for feedback.

As for the frequency of feedback, it’s generally best to provide feedback in stages rather than overwhelming students with an all-encompassing review all at once. This approach allows them to focus on specific areas for improvement and tackle changes in a more manageable way.

Overall, finding the right timing and frequency of feedback is an individualized process that requires open communication and understanding between parents and students. It’s about striking a balance that supports students’ progress while respecting their autonomy and workload.

Focusing on Content and Structure

When it comes to crafting a strong college essay, focusing on content and structure is essential. Parents can play a vital role in helping their students refine and organize their ideas to create a compelling narrative. Here are some college essay editing tips that can guide parents in supporting their children:

  1. Encourage brainstorming: Start by encouraging your student to brainstorm ideas for their essay. Help them explore their experiences, passions, and goals, and guide them towards selecting a topic that showcases their unique qualities.
  2. Develop a clear thesis: It’s vital to have a clear thesis statement that sets the tone for the essay. Guide your student in crafting a strong and concise thesis that encapsulates the main idea of their piece.
  3. Organize ideas: Help your student structure their essay in a logical and coherent manner. Encourage them to outline their thoughts before diving into writing to ensure a well-organized and cohesive essay.
  4. Create engaging introductions and conclusions: Advise your student on how to create captivating introductions that grab the reader’s attention and compelling conclusions that leave a lasting impression. Emphasize the importance of crafting strong opening and closing paragraphs.

In addition to these tips, it’s crucial to remind your student to stay true to their own voice and experiences. While guidance is valuable, the ultimate goal is for the essay to reflect their unique perspective. By focusing on content and structure, parents can help their students create engaging and impactful college essays.

Grammar and Language Polishing

Attention to grammar and language usage can greatly elevate the quality of a college essay. In this section, we will explore effective strategies for parents to assist in polishing the language of their child’s essay without taking over the writing process.

1. Proofreading

Start by encouraging your child to proofread their essay carefully. Emphasize the importance of checking for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Consider using online tools, such as grammar checkers, to help identify any mistakes that may have been overlooked.

2. Encourage Strong Word Choices

Guide your child in choosing powerful and precise words to convey their ideas effectively. Remind them to use a variety of vocabulary and avoid repetitive words. Encourage the use of strong verbs and vivid adjectives to make their writing more engaging.

3. Provide Synonym Suggestions

If you notice that certain words are repeated excessively, suggest alternative synonyms to enrich their writing. This will help expand their vocabulary and avoid monotony in their essay. However, ensure that the suggested replacements maintain the same intended meaning.

“The use of varied vocabulary adds depth and richness to the essay.”

4. Improve Sentence Structure

Work with your child to enhance the clarity and flow of their sentences. Encourage them to vary the length and structure of their sentences to create a dynamic and engaging essay. Show them the impact of well-structured sentences on the overall readability of their writing.

5. Edit for Consistency

Check for consistency in tense, tone, and style throughout the essay. Ensure that the chosen style guide (such as APA or MLA) is followed consistently. Discuss the importance of maintaining a consistent voice and perspective to create a cohesive essay.

6. Seek Professional Editing Assistance

If you feel that your editing expertise may be limited, consider seeking professional editing services specializing in college essays. They can provide valuable insights and suggestions to enhance your child’s essay further. However, remember that the essay should still reflect your child’s unique voice and ideas.

7. Provide Feedback on Language Use

When offering feedback, focus not only on grammar but also on the overall effectiveness of the language. Comment on the clarity, conciseness, and impact of their writing. Encourage them to revise and polish their essay multiple times to ensure a refined final product.

By focusing on grammar and language polishing, parents can help their child present a polished and professional college essay.

Providing Specific and Actionable Feedback

When it comes to giving feedback on college essays, general praise or criticism can only take your child so far. To truly help them improve their writing, it’s important to provide specific and actionable feedback. By offering targeted suggestions, you can guide them towards making meaningful revisions that enhance the overall quality of their essay.

Here are a few strategies to keep in mind when providing effective feedback:

  1. Highlight strengths: Begin by acknowledging the strengths of your child’s essay. Point out what they did well, whether it’s a compelling opening paragraph or a unique perspective on their experiences.
  2. Identify areas for improvement: Once you’ve highlighted the strengths, provide constructive feedback on the areas that could be strengthened. This could include suggestions for developing a clearer thesis statement or expanding on supporting evidence.
  3. Be specific: Avoid vague or general comments. Instead, focus on providing specific examples and suggestions. For instance, instead of saying “this paragraph needs work,” you could say “consider rephrasing this sentence to make your point more concise.”
  4. Offer guidance, not solutions: It’s important to remember that the essay is ultimately your child’s work. Instead of rewriting sentences or paragraphs for them, offer guidance on how they can improve their writing on their own. Encourage them to think critically and make changes themselves.
  5. Encourage reflection: Ask thought-provoking questions that encourage your child to reflect on their writing. For example, you could ask them to explain why they chose a particular example or how they plan to revise a certain section.

Remember, the goal of feedback is to empower your child and help them grow as a writer. By providing specific and actionable feedback, you can support their creative and intellectual development, ultimately strengthening their college essays.

Encouraging Independence and Originality

While parental feedback is essential for supporting students in writing college essays, it’s equally important to encourage them to develop their unique voice and ideas. By promoting independence and originality, parents can help their children create standout applications that reflect their true selves.

Here are some effective ways for parents to foster independence and originality in their child’s writing:

  1. Encourage self-reflection: Encourage your child to explore their passions, experiences, and values. Help them understand what sets them apart from others and how they can express these aspects in their essays.
  2. Develop critical thinking skills: Encourage your child to think critically and express their own opinions and perspectives. Teach them to analyze different viewpoints and provide supporting evidence in their essays.
  3. Emphasize personal storytelling: Encourage your child to use personal anecdotes and storytelling techniques to bring their essays to life. Help them find unique angles and narratives that will captivate the reader.
  4. Support creative expression: Encourage your child to experiment with different writing styles and formats. Allow them to express themselves creatively, whether through poetry, letters, or other unconventional forms.
  5. Promote research and exploration: Encourage your child to conduct research and explore diverse topics related to their interests. This will not only broaden their knowledge but also provide them with fresh and unique perspectives to incorporate into their essays.

“Encouraging independence and originality in your child’s writing is crucial for their personal and academic growth. By empowering them to express themselves authentically, you are fostering their confidence and enabling them to make a lasting impression on college admissions officers.”

Ultimately, supporting students in writing college essays involves striking a delicate balance between guidance and allowing them to flourish independently. By promoting independence and originality, parents can help their children create compelling essays that showcase their unique qualities and aspirations.

Benefits of Encouraging Independence and Originality Strategies
1. Showcasing uniqueness and authenticity Develop self-reflection skills
2. Creating memorable and engaging essays Stress the importance of personal storytelling
3. Fostering creativity and critical thinking Promote creative expression and diverse research

Balancing Feedback with Respect

The feedback process is a collaborative effort that requires respect and sensitivity. When providing feedback on college essays, parents play an important role in guiding their students without diminishing their confidence. Here are some tips for maintaining a positive and supportive relationship while giving feedback:

  1. Be mindful of your language: Use constructive language that focuses on the strengths of the essay and offers suggestions for improvement. Avoid harsh or negative criticism that can discourage your child.
  2. Focus on the essay, not the person: Remember that the feedback is about improving the essay, not about criticizing your child’s abilities or potential. Separating the essay from the person can help maintain a respectful and encouraging environment.
  3. Act as a guide, not an editor: Instead of rewriting the essay for your child, provide guidance and suggestions for them to learn and grow as writers. Encourage independent thinking and originality.
  4. Encourage open dialogue: Create a space where your child feels comfortable discussing their ideas and concerns. Ask open-ended questions to facilitate a thoughtful conversation about the essay and its themes.
  5. Recognize their efforts: Acknowledge the time and effort your child has put into their essay. Show appreciation for their hard work and dedication, motivating them to continue refining their writing skills.

“The most effective feedback is grounded in respect and support, creating an environment where students can thrive and develop their unique voice.” – Jennifer Smith, College Application Advisor

By balancing feedback with respect, parents can contribute to their child’s growth and success in the college essay writing process. Remember, the goal is to guide, encourage, and empower your child to create a compelling essay that reflects their individuality and aspirations.

Seeking Additional Support

Sometimes, college application essays can be challenging, and students may require additional assistance beyond what parents can provide. Fortunately, various resources and professionals are available to help students craft exceptional essays that stand out in the highly competitive college admissions process.

Writing Centers

Writing centers are excellent resources for students seeking guidance and feedback on their college application essays. These centers are usually housed within universities or colleges and offer one-on-one support from experienced writing tutors. Tutors can help students refine their essay ideas, develop strong arguments, and improve their writing skills. Additionally, writing centers often provide workshops and writing resources that can be beneficial for students.

Private Counselors

Private counselors specialize in college admissions and can offer personalized guidance throughout the essay writing process. They are well-versed in the expectations of college admissions officers and can provide valuable insights and strategies to help students create compelling essays. Private counselors can also offer assistance in selecting essay topics, organizing thoughts, and polishing the final drafts, ensuring that students present their best work to colleges and universities.

Online Writing Resources

In the digital age, there is an abundance of online writing resources that can provide valuable college application essay tips. Websites, blogs, and forums dedicated to college admissions often offer articles, guides, and sample essays that can inspire and inform students as they navigate the essay writing process. These digital resources can be especially beneficial for students who may not have access to in-person support or who prefer to work independently.

Professional Editing Services

Professional editing services can help students refine their essays and ensure they are polished and error-free. These services employ skilled editors who have extensive experience in college admissions and can provide detailed feedback and suggestions for improvement. Professional editors can help students enhance their essay structure, grammar usage, and overall clarity, strengthening the impact of the essay on admissions committees.

Peer Review

Engaging with peers in the essay writing process can provide valuable perspectives and insights. Students can form writing groups with their classmates or seek feedback from friends who are also working on their college essays. Peer review allows students to receive constructive criticism, exchange ideas, and gain a fresh perspective on their writing. However, it’s important to seek feedback from trusted peers who can provide valuable input.

Support Option Description
Writing Centers Located within universities and colleges, writing centers offer one-on-one tutoring and workshops to assist students in refining their college essays. They provide guidance on essay ideas, argument development, and overall writing improvement.
Private Counselors Professional counselors specializing in college admissions can offer personalized guidance and support throughout the essay writing process. They provide expertise on essay topics, organization, and final polish.
Online Writing Resources Websites, blogs, and forums dedicated to college admissions provide a wealth of information and tips on essay writing. These resources are accessible to students seeking independent guidance.
Professional Editing Services Expert editors with college admissions experience offer detailed feedback on essay structure, grammar, and clarity, ensuring that students’ essays make a strong impression.
Peer Review Collaborating with classmates or trusted friends allows for valuable feedback and diverse perspectives. Peers can provide constructive criticism and help students refine their essays.


In conclusion, parents play a critical role in providing guidance and support to their students throughout the college essay process. By offering the right approach and effective feedback, parents can help their children craft standout applications that truly showcase their unique qualities and aspirations.

Guidance for parents on college essay feedback is essential in ensuring that students are able to present themselves authentically and effectively. Parents can help their children by understanding the purpose and structure of a college application essay, providing specific and actionable feedback, and encouraging independence and originality in their writing.

It is important for parents to remember that the feedback process should be a collaborative effort, balancing constructive criticism with respect and support. By fostering a positive relationship and creating a safe space for open communication, parents can empower their children to take ownership of their essays and develop their own voice.

For additional support beyond what parents are able to provide, there are resources available such as writing centers or private counselors. These professionals can offer expert guidance and help students refine their essays, ensuring that they stand out among the competition.

Ultimately, with the right guidance and support from parents, students can confidently navigate the college essay process and create applications that capture their unique stories and aspirations, increasing their chances of success in the college admissions journey.


Why is it important for parents to provide feedback on college essays?

Parents’ feedback plays a crucial role in helping students improve their college essays. By offering guidance and constructive criticism, parents can help their children refine their ideas, strengthen their writing, and present themselves effectively to admissions officers.

What is the purpose of a college application essay?

The college application essay provides an opportunity for students to showcase their personality, experiences, and achievements to admissions officers. It allows admissions officers to gain insight into the applicant beyond their academic accomplishments and test scores.

How can parents support students in the college essay process?

Parents can support students by providing guidance, offering constructive feedback, and helping with the organization and structure of their essays. They can also assist in proofreading for grammar and spelling errors. However, it’s important to strike a balance and allow students to maintain ownership over their essays.

What are some dos and don’ts of giving feedback on college essays?

When providing feedback, it’s important to be constructive and specific. Dos include focusing on the content and structure, offering actionable suggestions, and maintaining a positive and supportive tone. Don’ts include rewriting the essay for the student or imposing personal opinions on the content.

When should parents offer feedback on college essays?

The timing of feedback should be strategic. It’s best to provide feedback after the student has completed a draft but before the final submission deadline. Parents should also consider the student’s workload and avoid adding unnecessary stress during other academic commitments.

Should parents focus more on content or grammar when providing feedback?

Parents should initially focus on the content and organization of the essay. Once the content is well-developed, they can shift their attention to grammar and language usage. However, it’s important for parents not to overly nitpick grammar and risk overshadowing the overall message of the essay.

How can parents give specific and actionable feedback?

Specific and actionable feedback involves pointing out areas that need improvement and providing suggestions for enhancement. For example, parents can highlight sections that lack clarity or suggest alternative ways to express certain ideas. This type of feedback helps students understand exactly what needs to be revised.

How can parents encourage independence and originality in their child’s essay?

Parents can encourage independence and originality by emphasizing the importance of their child’s unique experiences and perspectives. They can also prompt their child to brainstorm on their own and explore their own passions and aspirations. Parents should avoid imposing their own ideas or biases onto the essay.

How can parents maintain a positive and supportive relationship while giving feedback?

Parents should approach the feedback process with empathy, respect, and open communication. They can acknowledge their child’s efforts and progress, highlight strengths, and provide encouragement along with constructive criticism. It’s important to create a safe space where their child feels comfortable discussing their ideas and concerns.

What resources are available for additional support in college essay writing?

Students can seek additional support from writing centers at their schools, online writing resources, or professional college essay counselors. These resources can provide further guidance and expertise in helping students create compelling and polished essays.

How can parental feedback contribute to a standout college application?

With effective parental feedback, students can refine their essays, strengthen their messaging, and present a cohesive narrative that showcases their unique qualities and aspirations. This can greatly enhance their chances of standing out among other applicants and making a strong impression on admissions officers.

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