Can My Parents and Friends Help Me With My College Application?

essay writing

One college application question we come across pretty often is this: Can My Parents and Friends Help Me With My College Application?

Are you asking if they are ALLOWED to help or if they are ABLE to?

Either way, the short answer is that it depends on the kind of help you’re looking for.

You should never have someone else write your application for you. Even if your mom is a writer for the New York Times or your best friend has won a billion poetry contests. No one can write your essay better than you can. No one knows your mind—the way you think—better than you do. Colleges don’t want to know your dad’s or your friend’s version of how you see the world. That’s not the person applying to their school. You are. You must write your own application. Not only is this an academic integrity issue, writing it yourself makes it BETTER because it’s written with a genuine voice, not a voice trying to be genuine.

That being said, there are a few ways that friends and family can help you during the application process:

  • If you have trouble remembering all the activities you’ve participated in throughout the years when you’re writing your list of extracurricular activities, your family and friends can help you brainstorm.
  • Similarly for the essay topics, your family and friends can help you brainstorm ideas if you’re stuck. They may even be able to help you narrow down your ideas. But in the end, the final decision should be yours—it should be a smart, educated decision that has considered all the options, but it should be yours.
  • When you finish writing your essay, you can ask a trusted reader if everything is clear. A trusted reader is someone with serious writing and editing experience, and ideally someone with an intimate knowledge of college admissions.
  • Similarly for proofreading, you can ask your favorite grammarista to do a quick sweep of your essay for glaring errors.
  • You can have someone (or multiple people) proofread your Common App for you. Sometimes it’s easy to make silly errors on those online forms. When you finish filling everything out, if your eyes feel like they are going to explode, you can, once again, have a trusted proofreader glance over it to make sure there aren’t any horrendous errors.

When it’s crunch time, your friends and family can also help you by giving you space, or hugs, or cookies, or really healthy snacks, or bringing you coffee, or encouraging you to go to the gym or go for a run and generally help you stay healthy and sane.


By Emily Herzlin, Admissionado Senior Editor

(Image source here.)

  • Admissionado

    Hi @kaitlinwervin:disqus, deadlines are crucial, you’re right about that 🙂 However, having an “online writing firm” write your paper for you is never, ever a good idea. Maybe… just maybe… on an off chance… on a weird day when the wind blows just right… some people get ‘lucky’ and get away with using one of these services for a random high school paper that held little weight in their future (we certainly don’t condone that use case either). But for anything that a student plans on sending to a college admissions committee, using an “online writing firm” is a grave mistake. Think about it. If you don’t write your own essay, how do you know what’s actually in it? How do you know entire paragraphs aren’t plagiarized? Any sort of plagiarism is an automatic disqualification for your admission to a college. No questions asked. Furthermore, as we mentioned above, whenever you have someone write something for you, or in this case, hire someone else to write something for you, the writing takes on THAT person’s voice instead of YOUR voice. The whole point of the essay is for people to be able to get to know YOU. Using “online writing firms” that generate generic papers for hundreds/thousands of people a week/month aren’t even going to come close to capturing your unique, awesome personality, skills and experience. So, while students definitely have the option to use one of these services, we’d argue that doing so will not “solve all of your problems” but instead, cause students far more problems than they had in the first place. We recommend that students who are having trouble with their essays talk to trusted adults like their parents, other family members, teachers/coaches or an essay writing specialist that can HELP them brainstorm, edit, or unlock their unique voice. Everyone student has the potential to write a spectacular essay, but that potential gets crushed the moment they ask/hire someone else to write it for them.

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