The essay writing process can be a major source of anxiety for high school students. Many young adults have difficulty writing about themselves, and some fear they may not have a compelling story to share in their college essays.

And not to add more stress, but the essay is extremely important. It offers insight for college admission officers beyond test scores and academic success.

So it’s important it showcases the following 3 things:

1. Student’s Voice

As students work on their college essays, it can be tempting as parents and well-meaning adults to want to help them edit. The problem is that adults often change the voice of the student in their desire to “help.”

College application readers know the difference between a 50-year-old voice and that of a teenager. Hearing the authentic student voice is one of the key elements of the essay, so try to avoid inserting your language and ideas into what has been written.

2. The Student’s Language

Additionally, please don’t overwork the writing so much in an attempt to achieve perfection. We want the best writing the student can produce, and it is not all going to be Nobel Prize-winning prose. Again, consider voice. We often tell students they should write how they speak so a good question to ask is if their essay sounds like they are telling a story.

3. The Student’s Story

Finally, don’t sweat the topic so much. So often students are agonizing over what to write and finding the most unique story to tell. What matters is that the reader learns something about the student in the essay, and this can come from the most mundane of topics. We have read about comfy pajamas, grandma’s attic, learning to ski, starting a business, the importance of sunscreen and everything in between. The point is that these topics are simply used to set up the real story that reveals something about the student and what makes them tick.

Note that these keys are all student-centric. From the voice to the language and the topic, the college essay must be all about the student.

For help nailing these and other key elements of the college essay, grab one of our essay packages with essay specialist, Jennie Hubbard.