Welcome to the
Learning Center.

Welcome to the Mentor and Mentee Learning Center

The College Essay

The College Essay 

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Key Takeaways: 

  • Your mentee may not have written a narrative essay before, and definitely not one for such a specific purpose. It is your responsibility to guide your mentee through this writing process and to alleviate their potential anxiety about their writing skills.
  • Your mentee will be sharing a draft of their personal statement with you. Feedback is critical to your mentee’s development, both as a student and as a person. Be honest with your feedback, provide suggestions on how to improve the essay and also offer encouragement and empower your mentee to keep going.
 
Roles for Mentors:
  • Thought Partner 
  • Editor

 

Brainstorming 

The essay is an important writing sample. No matter your intended major/career, ability to communicate effectively in writing is critical.  There is no "best essay topic".  It is important to consider all options and choose the one that best reflects your mentee's personality and character. 

Questions to help mentee's consider which essay to choose:

  • Does your idea have good supporting examples or stories?  You’ll need one or two concrete details to make it memorable.
  • Will this topic show the real you?   Is it about something that really matters to you?
  • Will this topic highlight something new?  Mentees should write about something that hasn’t come across somewhere else in their application.
Use this guide with your mentee as you brainstorm potential essay topics. Please note, you will have to download the document to be able to write on it. 

Comment on your mentee’s proposed topic areas. If you liked the subjects your mentee selected, tell them why and add further detail to strengthen those points. If you feel like another topic would also be an intriguing option for your mentee, tell them why you are making this suggestion.


Supporting Mentee Writing 

Model how you can turn ideas into an essay by writing a sample college admissions essay about your own life. This essay should be written from your perspective in the 12th grade. You should pick the topic you would pick now, with all of the wisdom and insight you have gained. But you should write as if you are a 12th grader in this essay. Begin by introducing your topic to your mentee and telling them why you selected this topic. Then, show them your ~250 word mini-essay. This will help your mentee see how an idea can be built out into an effective personal statement.


Guidance for Feedback 

Your mentee may choose to write about a deeply sensitive topic, be sure to thank them for sharing something so intimate with you. Remember that your mentee’s writing is a draft, as much as possible read for content as opposed to grammar, punctuation etc. Remind your student to “show” not “tell”, their personal statement should be a narrative so emphasize storytelling.

Use specific examples and connect your praise for their progress with other things you know about them as students and individuals. For example, “I know you have been really worried about what to write here. That makes it all the more of a big accomplishment that you finally have this first draft on paper.”

Give your mentee's your overall impressions of their essay while reading their draft. What did you find compelling? What did you find unclear? Comment on the part of the essay your mentee's are feeling proud about. Provide your insight to the part of the essay your students are  unsure about.

Close with encouragement! No matter where your mentee's are in this process, your job is to keep them going, keep them encouraged, keep them on track, and to keep offering your support (emotional and tactical) in this process. Use the closing of your message to reinforce these points.

Use this document with your mentee to support the revision process. 


Additional Resources

  • Click here to view some examples of essays that have been successful.
  • Click here to watch a video from admissions officers on what they are looking for in a college essay.