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As college admission landscape changes, priority shifts to essays

As college admission landscape changes, priority shifts to essays
As college admission landscape changes, priority shifts to essays 03:27

CHASKA, Minn. -- For parents of high school seniors, this time of year is the start of the college admissions adventure.

Applications are increasing again while the process continues to change. One area of greater priority in recent years is the college admissions essay.

"I'd say it's taken me more time than some of my actual classes," explained Becca Moore, a senior at Southwest Christian High School.

Moore says the essays were the hardest part.

"I think it's easy to see the questions and know what you think the college might want to hear and what I should actually write about, said Moore.

She asked her parents for help. They had a different experience at her age.

"My mom, she's like 'I just walked into the admissions office of some tiny college in Nevada, handed them my application, go take the ACT and that was it,'" Moore described.

The family turned to college essay coach Stef Tschida. She says the essay is one of the largest changes in admissions.

"I have students writing 10 and 12 essays sometimes. I personally don't remember if I had to write a single one. It was definitely a non-event if I did," said Tschida.

More than 1,700 colleges and universities including St. Thomas are not requiring students to submit SAT or ACT scores for Fall of 2023 admission and in some cases for a few years to come. When those scores aren't counted, other factors including the essay count more.

"Should I apply using my ACT & SAT score or should I not and that's a huge question mark even as we come out of the pandemic," said Tschida.

Tschida's tips for success include allowing plenty of time to review and edit the essay, identifying what makes you most unique so you pick a prompt that fits and finishing your senior year strong. Many colleges will still require transcripts for the rest of the year to see you maintained your GPA.

One major don't is to stay away from writing about minor pandemic struggles.

"If you've got the general 'yeah maybe my grades dipped a bit, maybe I had to learn some time management in COVID', that is not substantial enough," said Tschida.

Finally, a little advice for mom and dad from a teenager who doesn't live under your roof.

"Just make sure you support your student in any way they may need. Whether it's reading over their paper briefly or being honest with them. I think if you have parents being like 'wow that's a really good idea' but in reality, I had some horrible ideas and my parents were honest and I really appreciated that," said Tschida.

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