Getting into college

Guide Elizabeth Benedict advises high schoolers not to ‘Sweat the Essay.’

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Elizabeth Benedict — Courtesy Elizabeth Benedict

Today, when high-profile parents face jail time over bad behavior in the college admission process, and kids’ social media use gets them unaccepted from college, Elizabeth Benedict comes along to provide navigational aids on how to do it right.

Best-selling author, Ivy League writing prof, Island summer resident, and mentor for kids applying to college, Benedict will discuss “Applying to College in an Age of Scandal and Stress” at 7 pm on Thursday, July 25, at the Edgartown library. Benedict and her company, Don’t Sweat the Essay, advises families and college-bound kids on mastering some college application rituals.

Last week, Benedict told The Times that the stressful and competitive world of college admissions is more hyper this year. “We are going to address the scandal because people are a bit more nervous this year; dispel the fears, and distinguish between the scandalous behavior and honest, authentic help available to kids who want help,” she said.

Benedict will also address the use of social media after a Harvard-admitted applicant lost his admission after ranting on social media. 

Her forte, as her company name indicates, is helping kids prepare to write essays for their college applications, an effort as varied as the institutions of higher learning. For schools like CalTech, kids are asked for a variety of essays. For a small liberal arts college, a brilliant personal essay can be a game-changer, she says. 

Noting that the essay is only one of the standards — besides GPA, SAT scores, AP courses, extracurricular activities, and community work — colleges use to select their incoming classes; the essay is often the final step able to affect admittance decision-making, she says. 

“The essay can make a difference when added to the academic history. Admittance has changed so much [in two generations]. Schools that used to admit 30 to 40 percent of applicants now accept 10 or 15 percent. It’s important to know you are looking at the right schools,” she said.

To that end, Benedict has compiled lists of websites, books, and other sources that allow her clients to streamline the process. She’ll share her expertise next Thursday.