Is it okay for parents to help edit their child's college essay?

Application Process

Our counselors answered:

Is it okay for parents to help edit their child's college essay?

Cat McManus
Assistant Dean of Admissions University of Pennsylvania

Is it okay for parents to help edit their child's college essay?

Here is my video response to the question.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Yes (and no)

Now parents -- you all know the difference between fixing typographical errors and making massive substantive changes to your child's essay, right? Of course you do. Be really disciplined about not crossing the line between "good help" and "too much help." To be honest, admissions officers can tell the difference between an essay that presents a 17 year old's point of view and a 40-ish/50-ish/ageisjustanumber point of view. Remember -- the admissions officers read thousands of essays every admissions season, and they can spot an overly polished essay a mile away. They can also check the student's transcripts and test scores if they suspect that the writing quality of the essay seems to be overly "mature." And you don't want your kid to be exposed as the kid whose mommy wrote his essay, do you? So -- yes -- it's fine to take a quick read to look for spelling errors, but it's not fine to write your child's essay for him or her.


Is it okay for parents to help edit their child's college essay?

The emphasis must be on "help" and not, "take over." Parents, with only the best intentions, will often offer lots of input and comments, which their child will gratefully accept. The danger there is that the essay starts sounding more like a forty something adult, instead of a high school senior. There is a certain "voice" that defines a young person about to start college and if it is lacking in an essay, Admissions Directors will quickly pick it up. So by all means, help edit. It's only natural. But resist the urge to rewrite everything in the way you might express it.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Editing the Essay

My preference (and admissions officers') would be that parents are minimally involved in the essay. Believe me, those admissions officers are experienced and they can definitely spot the difference between a 50 year-old businessperson's phraseology and a 17-year-old senior's own voice and manner of expression.

Megan Dorsey
SAT Prep & College Advisor College Prep LLC

Okay To Proofread Not Produce

More than any other element of the application, the essay gives insight into who a student really is. So it should “sound” like the applicant, revealing personality, interests, quirks, personal style, and voice. Some parents can act as a sounding board without taking over the project, while others cannot. It is okay for parents to suggest topics, point out unique experiences or strengths, and help proofread the final product, but parents want to make sure the essay showcases the ideas and voice of an educated teenager rather than that of a middle-aged adult.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Parents and The Essay

While it is okay to have a parent proof an essay, they are not always the best option. Asking someone who is slightly more removed from the application process may be the wisest route to go. While parents mean well, any constructive feedback may be misinterpreted, creating conflict at what can already be a stressful time. Teachers, guidance counselors, even friends are viable candidates when looking for a second opinion on your writing.

Erica White
College & Career Counselor Middletown High School

Is it okay for parents to help edit their child's college essay?

Yes! Parents may know other details about the student that they should include in the essay. Parents are also a great second pair of eyes for grammar and spelling errors. I would still suggest that a English professional still read over the essay for expert editing purposes. However, parents should not try to change the voice of the student, which can be difficult to refrain from. The essay needs to be a reflection of the student's creativity, writing ability and personality; not the parent.

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

That depends upon how you define "help" !

I have seen too many essays where parents "helped" and as result, the essay lost the student's voice. Too many words had been added that just did not reflect the student's vocabulary or mode of writing. College admissions readers are bright and intuitive and can tell when an essay has been "helped" too much. I see no problem with parents doing a grammar/spelling check as well as offering suggestions on how an essay could be improved. Just be sure that it still reads like it was written by a 17 year old and it shares the story that is important to them and not just an important sounding topic that a parent thinks would be more impressive .

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures

Parents and editing essays

Preferably not. If possible, mom and dad should stay out of the essay writing business. A teacher or a counselor are better. However, some parents are able to understand that over-editing essays is not a good thing. Everything should be spelled correctly, with correct grammar and punctuation, but the essay should sound like a high school student wrote it. Most of the time I see that parents get into an essay and take away the student voice...they make it too polished for a high school student. Colleges get suspicious when they receive an essay that sounds like a PhD wrote it.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

it's OK but it's not the best option

Students may ask their parents for editing the essay, however, they better off asking their English teacher for such task. of course, some parents are in the position to do a good job, in many cases, they are not suitable for the job.