Over the last year or so, I have been involved in a mentoring project at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy (YWLA) matched with Sofia, a young woman in the inaugural graduation class.  Next year, in 2016, seniors from the first, all female gender Fort Worth public school will graduate its first class.  And Sofia will be part of it.  She is amazing.  Her parents immigrated from Mexico many years ago and have a home in southeast Fort Worth where they are raising five beautiful and amazing children.  Sofia is 2nd in birth order.  With support from her parents and school staff, she sought out YWLA in 6th grade and it has been her school and home away from home ever since.  I can tell she really loves her school and her friends, teachers and staff.  And they take care of her as well.  This last year, we have watched movies together, went bowling, had lunch, emailed, and shared common interests.  Sofia had dinner with my family and I met her parents and her Lego-addicted little brother and her crazy and loving sisters.  Her mother and father are master gardeners with a beautiful front courtyard garden and neat as pin yard and home.

Sofia and I are planning a college visit in February, with her parent’s blessing, to Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.  Since Sofia was attracted to a school with a smaller student to teacher ratio and single-gender based, I want to expose her to Southwestern with an enrollment around 1,000 students—many of them young women.  I advised her, she would likely know when she walked onto the college campus which one was the right one for her.  It was the case for my three daughters.  So I encourage her to listen to her heart and mind as she tours the universities that YWLA organizes for her which is such an a wonderful and important part of any high school student’s junior and senior year. Many of our FWISD schools don’t have the resources to take students on these field trips.  YWLA is fortunate because of their relationship with a network of female gender schools in Texas and foundation support.  Sofia may choose UT Austin, UNT, UTA or many of the other fine universities in Texas but C1, a proud Pirate grad,  and I look forward to the opportunity to share Southwestern with her.

Sofia earned all A’s last semester and is on her way to a productive and self-supporting life.  She is interested in media and film as well as STEM and liberal arts.  She is studying for her SAT and preparing applications for scholarships as well as exploring college options.  It is a stressful year for her with so many expectations and options to explore and limited time as she is taking some of the hardest classes of her high school experience.  Her friends, who ate with us at lunch today, seemed excited, exhausted, overwhelmed, and at the same time caring of each other and the options they face.  The last question they wanted me to ask was, “what college are you considering after high school?”  It was better just to offer up an option, plan the tour, and hope that one of her experiences clicked for her so she can at some point in her near future, make an educated and informed choice.

I looked up the Common Application essay questions just to get an idea of what is expected of her in the process of applying for college.  She is already writing draft responses.  Too bad this is supposed to be non-fiction and biographical because going in the direction of fiction would so help the quality of my responses at that time in my life and hers today.  Please show some initiative and creativity, Sofia, and the college admissions counselor will appreciate it especially if you select words like “used” versus “utilized” but also watch out for the common gaffes shared below the essay prompts.

  • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure.  How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.  What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content.  What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

The following miscellaneous gaffes found on the internet, while not directly related to college essays, nonetheless reveal the dangers in poor writing:

  • “I am eager to be part of your diverse campus so I can expose myself to many different people.”
    • We know what this student wanted to say, but the words did not come out quite right.
  • “I’d like to thank my parents, Mother Theresa and God.”
    • Without the serial comma before the “and” in this sentence, it seems as if this writer’s parents are Mother Theresa and God—which would probably look great on a college application.
  • Seattle’s PBS Station magazine was sent out to subscribers with this headline in 18-point type on the cover: “KCTS, Your Favorite Pubic Television Station.”
    • Did you miss the spelling mishap? Don’t rely on spell-check. Review everything with your own eyes. speed to all the Sophia’s as they ponder their options and make choices.



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