The Do's and Don'ts for Proofreading Your Child’s Admissions Essay


College application season is stressful for students and parents alike. As a parent, you wonder if your questions are overbearing, or whether you should be more involved in the planning process. You wonder where the line is between support and taking control. If you’re going to help proofread your child’s admissions essay, there are some important tips to keep in mind.  


Set a timeline.

Be realistic and set goals that will work for you and your child. Rather than waiting to proofread the week before Early Decision apps are due, break the essay into several due dates for various rough drafts leading up to your child’s first deadlines. 



Check in on the status of college essays every day. 

There’s a balance between asking too much and not asking enough. Set a goal of checking in once a week or so, to see how your child is doing and whether they need support with what to do next. 



Start with the positives. 

Writing is a deeply personal activity. No matter how rough the rough draft feels, start with the positive feedback first. Does the underlying theme exemplify your child’s personality and ambitions perfectly? Are there one or two powerful sentences that impressed you? Did your child answer all (or even part) of the question? Find the good to encourage your child to keep writing.  

Your child is anxious about what her or his teacher will think about the essay. Your child is anxious about the essay being horrible, she’s worried about getting into zero schools and letting everyone down. Try to add some calmness to the roller coaster and anxiety of college applications. By emphasizing the positive, “on the right track” pieces of your child’s essay, you are going to help them stay confident and determined to put their best into the essay. 


Use red ink or underline every little thing you don’t like. 

Some proofreaders are harder to please than others. Especially in the early drafts, it’s tempting to help your child reorganize or make a lot of suggestions. Instead of nit-picking, approach the essay with encouragement and positivity. 


Ask questions.

If you’re confused about what your child is trying to say, gently ask. Questions will help your child clarify what they’re trying to say, too. If you think there are parts of your child’s story that are missing, guide them by challenging them to think deeper about their experiences. 

Your outside perspective will help your child see the big picture. To help them reflect further, ask open ended (not yes or no) questions. Here are some examples to give you an idea: 

  • How did you know you wanted to study Art History? What moment led to your decision?  

  • What did it feel like when you got third place at your last dance competition? 

  • What are the lessons you learned from getting your blackbelt? How will this experience help you in the future? 

Brian Witte, contributor at US NEWS shares, “The goal during revision is for parents to help ensure that college application essays move beyond the simple recitation of events. Once your student settles on a thesis, think of small stories that illustrate that argument.“



Write or re-write any part of the essay. 

The purpose of proofreading is to make sure your child puts their best into the essay. Your role is to polish the admissions essay by catching any misspellings, typos, or grammatical errors. You might think you’re helping your child by re-writing a few sentences or coming up with the conclusion; however, believe it or not, admissions officers will notice one way or another.