The Trouble with Boys and College Application Essays

The Trouble with Boys and College Application Essays
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The Trouble with Boys and College Application Essays

When I gave one of my summer college application essay writing boot camps this last weekend within my hometown of Laguna Beach, I had 11 men and another girl.

As the students showed up, I casually talked about this gender imbalance to your group and another associated with boys quipped: ‘Because boys can’t write.’

I love to think of myself as a person who is gender neutral, and this comment caught me off guard.

My first thought was: That’s hogwash.

I’ve worked with hundreds of students on these dreaded college admissions essays for the last decade, and noticed little difference with the quality of writing between men and girls.

The variety in the overall writing ranged wildly from awful to brilliant, with most coming in somewhere within the middle. But that disparity had nothing in connection with gender, as much as I could tell.

As a whole, girls often had more confidence in their writing ability coming into the essay writing game than men, but once most boys landed on a topic they liked and received a little assistance with just how to execute their essays, they frequently aced them.

I reflected for a minute on why my workshop attracted countless teenage boys, and concluded that the problem wasn’t boys and writing.

The issue was well-meaning parents not believing their sons could write and many have a tendency, as with all things college admissions, to panic and overreact.

In fact, two of the men were highschool sophomores! In my opinion, that’s nearly 2 yrs too early to start worrying about these essays.

A couple were juniors, and I suppose it did not hurt for them to begin learning the college application essay writing drill. But in my opinion the seniors were on the mark, especially since they were probably the most focused and motivated.

Here are A few tips for boys Writing Essays(and Girls, if they apply)

(Disclaimer: This advice is speaking in very general terms, based on my anecdotal observations and experiences working with girls and boys, and there could be many exceptions. If you really are a girl who falls into any of these patterns, these pointers totally apply to you, too!)

1. Men frequently can have a more difficult time finding topics, at first. The hardest students are people who haven’t developed many outside interests, and seem to spend most of their leisure time playing game titles. These could be very challenging, though perhaps not impossible. You simply have to dig deeper. One of my favorite sources of hot topics are summer jobs. (You kids out there starting early; not too late to have one!) (Take A Look At Jobs Can Make Excellent Topics.)

2. The most useful college application essays are highly personal, within my opinion. In most cases, it could be harder to persuade the young men I make use of to open with me about their feelings and deeper thoughts and ideas.racism in sport essay It isn’t that they’re incapable or do not have them; it just takes more prodding and even gentle pushing to have them out. Men is often as deep of thinkers as girls at this age, and I really like that these essays offer a chance to explore their personal thoughts, a few ideas and views. (Try Open Up: How to interact with Pathos.)

3. Guys love action and a good story (which go together)! I have discovered that when boys realize that the quick fix of a great essay is an entertaining or interesting story from real-life their life! most of them have a change of attitude. When they can recall one they like, most boys are naturals at crafting them into mini-stories to make use of to power their essays. This can assist you to start: how exactly to Write a College App Essay Even if You Think You Can’t Write.

4. Men tend to be more comfortable breaking the rules. Men often end up writing the best essays because they have an easier time of letting go of all of the English class writing rules, which often included using long words and a ‘voice’ attempting to sound smart. When they learned that the goal was to ‘write more like they talk,’ many boys are off and running with their essays. Learn just how to get Your Essay Voice.

5. Men gravitate toward sports-related topics. Since many boys have been defined by their sports through playing them and fan culture, many first wish to write their essays about sports. Frequently sports, especially activities injuries and victories, are red-flagged in the cliche list of college application essay topics, it’s worth trying to expand their thinking. Once boys are educated concerning the pitfalls of activities themes, however, they are usually game to explore other awesome topics. These can help: 5 Top guidelines on Finding Topics.

So there. Boys write just like well as girls. And many even better.

Parents can stop worrying about them. It’s great to offer them resources to simply help them with their writing, but trust that when they understand what they have to do most knock it from the park!

Exactly like girls!

Best of luck!

(One last thought: This misconception that ‘boys can’t write’ appears to be the inverse of the bias against girls within the STEM world: In advanced level highschool English classes, girls usually were deemed the ‘natural author’ stars, from what I observed. Yet, at the same time, most of the prescribed literature classics were scribed by males. I think we have to work to know, and assert when possible, that all students have potential talent in all areas, irrespective of gender, or culture, race, social status, etc.)

What exactly are YOUR ideas on this? I want to listen to from students, parents, teachers, counselors, whoever comes with an opinion on boys and writing. Just leave them in the comments below. Thanks!

I received a contact from a mom recently inquiring about my tutoring services for her college-bound daughter.

In her email, she included a story about their family history that she thought might create a good topic for an essay. It had been mainly concerning the grandfather’s immigration ‘coming to America’ experiences while the Holocaust.

While it sounded interesting, it didn’t seem that relevant or exciting to me at the least for the purposes of an essay that’s supposed to focus mainly on the student.

At the finish of her story, the mom ended using this line: ‘My daughter’s response: ‘I read that if your parents think it’s a good idea…it probably isn’t!’ LOL!’


Simply that this mom had a sense of humor about her rejected attempts at helping showed me that this mother-daughter team will be fine.

Of course parents wish to support their children. They can’t help it; it’s part of the task.

That funny quote from the daughter isn’t just true, but it’s not that far off.


Because many parents haven’t done their particular homework yet on which makes up a great essay, and especially a stellar topic.

RELATED: Learn What Makes a College Application Essay Great

If her daughter had written her essay all about her grandfather, it will be a hands-down dud. Above all, these essays need to be almost exclusively about the student.

Others can may play a role in some essays, but only when it had something to accomplish with exactly what the student ended up being trying to showcase about their own life, values and experiences.

Many parents also share another potentially harmful misconception about effective essays and their topics: They think they have to be impressive.

Don’t you wish to write about that prize you won at the science fair?

Why wouldn’t you include you are an Eagle Scout?

What about that visit to China where you travelled for a month with your church and built a school for orphans?

Sorry, Dad And Mom. Those are certainly impressive feats and experiences, and can may play a role in the college admissions game. They merely don’t result in effective topics for these essays.

Still eager to help? (Hang in there with me now…)

First, spend time learning exactly what makes a great college essay.

Another exceptional way that it is possible to be of help assuming you’re on a speaking basis with your kid and they want your help would be to brainstorm past experiences with them.

The best essays include real-life experiences, often simple memorable moments, incidents and ‘times,’ from the past that students can share to illustrate what they have learned, how they think, what they value and their unique personality.

This is certainly your big opportunity. No one knows these often funny, poignant, surprising, heart-breaking, silly, unbelievable, ironic, everyday moments as if YOU guys!

If your student is smart, he or she’ll engage your help at some point in their visit a great topic, particularly these life moments from their past.

(Students reading this: Pay attention here. This works for you also. If you want your parents off your back, throw them a bone: Give them a role. Ask for his or her help brainstorming moments from your past. Nobody knows YOU or those stories better!)

This is your opening to simply help as well as in a huge means. These little mini-stories can literally make or break a personal essay.

They often start with: ‘Remember the time you…?’

Before you can get too excited, here is another tip: the very best stories are not about your children’s shining moments of success and triumph.

In fact, the alternative is true. If you certainly want to help, you can expect to help them reacall those often mundane moments of ‘times’ when things actually went a bit sideways, went wrong, ended badly, were embarrassing, and hurt.

RELATED: find out more about as soon as Your Problem is really a positive thing

Why on the planet would your brainy, hard-working, competent, loving kid wish to begin a college application essay in regards to a simple time when something bad, or challenging, disappointing, or humiliating happened?

Three Reasons Off the Top of My Head

  1. It will be interesting because something occurred. When things are rosy, nothing happens and it’s boring. You want to engage those glassy-eyed admissions officers!
  2. It will show your student at a low moment and will help to make she or he naturally relatable. We have all been there. Relate to your audience. Likable is good! Etc.
  3. The student can then quickly shift into sharing how they felt (good stuff!), how they handled or managed that problem (which will reveal their personality) and exactly what they learned (you want lots of this in an essay!).

Are we good now?

So do your homework, then wait for an opening. Tread gently. These are perhaps not your essays.

If you’re lucky enough to enjoy a truly wise kid, odds are at some time they’ll get your help.

Then, JUMP IN!! It could even be fun sitting yourself down together and going right on through those families stories and memories.

All you need is one !