Even though much of my work is literally TOO BIG FOR WORDS, occasionally I am inspired to write, and this is the place for that. Feel free to join in the conversation. Thanks for reading.
“Why are you here?” she asked. Pressed for more, I explained: “Because students where I live can afford to pay coaches to perfect their essays, I want to help level an unfair playing field," I responded. “You have really great stories, too, and I want to make sure that they are told well.” Somehow my answer built a bridge of trust encouraging even the most skeptical among the students — a tall, thin, 17-year-old boy who hadn’t yet made eye contact with me. With that, he looked up and shared his essay, telling how the violent death of a family member led to his newfound resolve to attend school and work on time, despite a move requiring a two-hour, four-bus commute. As we reviewed his essay for flow, consistency, grammar, and spelling, he made it absolutely clear that he wanted no pity — none from me and none from the college admissions folks who would be reading this. His point was gratitude: navigating the death of his mother helped him become the man he wants to be.
I love guiding teenagers to discover their unique voices, empowering them to tell their stories while staying sane throughout the college application process. After learning how stressful the process is with my oldest, I became determined to create a more meaningful, mindful process that was child-focused. That’s how I came to support the writing of thousands of beautiful, authentic, college essays.
I begin posing the big questions of life and having the students create an idea bank from which to tell their stories. The first required pivot is to move away from the third person, three-paragraph, mechanically outlined essay they are so used to writing. The next is to explore writing from their own voice, claiming their unique perspective on life. Interestingly, this feels foreign to most, yet once they are given permission, the process becomes enjoyable, even satisfying. The essay is the singular place that does not box them in — by test scores or grades — where they can express their creative selves and make their applications personal. Having a mindful reflection process, supported by caring mentors, that leads to increased self awareness is a critical part of the rite of passage transitioning our children into adulthood.
Helicopter and lawnmower parents, you’ve been outdone by Learjet parents blinded by affluenza and utterly desperate to place their children in pristine places that they will pay millions to influence an already rigged —and clearly broken — system. In addition to the illegality, immorality and inequality of this accidentally discovered fraudulent scheme, the adult involved in Operation Varsity Blues have robbed their children of the right to a critical rite of passage. I hope their punishment includes financial contributions to level the playing field, supporting those who have far less materially — but in my experience, have far more, morally.