Boys vs. Girls
Recently I listened to a radio show discussing gifts for children, and much was said about the differences between “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys.” Some stores even have designated blue and pink aisles to help shoppers along. One parent lamented that even the building projects were stereotyped. For instance, the pink aisle contained dollhouse kits; the blue aisle had airplane kits. And then there’s the story of the parent who bought a doll for her son, who then imagined it was a gun. Are the sexes really wired differently? Are they destined to become “Men from Mars” and “Women from Venus?”
Perhaps. It’s even apparent with the college application essays.
As a writing coach and editor for The Write Stuff Help, I see more than five times as many boys as girls for essay help. Why? The boys aren’t necessarily deficient writers. In my experience, they have similar strengths and weaknesses. Are boys more serious about getting accepted and thus seek more help? I don’t think so. Perhaps it has more to do with (1.) how attuned they are to their feelings and (2.) how they’re wired motivationally.
Most application writing prompts lead the students toward introspection. Somehow, girls seem ahead of boys in this matter. I don’t think girls are truly more emotional, but they certainly display them more than the boys. Perhaps this gives the girls an initial edge in writing about their feelings and inner thoughts.
I’ve also noticed a gender difference with my own son’s and daughter’s sports teams. I’m not saying that the girls don’t need a coach, but they listen and then “play together” as a team. At least, as I’ve observed it, the boys require more motivational “coaching.”
Perhaps this is why I see more boys than girls. I’m a writing coach. Just as a baseball coach would not handle a ball on the field, he certainly would alert his team of an opportunity for a double play. I neither write my students’ essays for them nor decide what they should write about, but I certainly help them shape their work into something an admissions officer would want to read. Perhaps boys just want to be coached.
The most common feedback I receive from parents is how wonderfully I eased their household stress with getting their sons (and sometimes daughters!) to complete their essays. Believe me, I don’t work miracles. I think the students simply respond to my approach. And parents, listen so you can try this at home.
If you want to help your student with the application essay, assuming you’re a decent writer or have access to good reference books, first you must step away from your emotions as a parent. Be a coach. Remember, it’s not your essay; it’s the student’s. Admissions officers can smell a parent’s essay a mile away. The piece must focus on the student’s feelings and observations and reflect the student’s voice. Someone can coach another person into finding his or her own voice, but one cannot find it for him. If a parent becomes too emotional at any time, the coaching can easily turn into nagging. Be the kind of writing coach you would want as an athletic coach. Be firm, encouraging and decisive, but let the student play the game. Offer strategy and wisdom, but stay in the coaching box and off the field. If you can’t do that and don’t get help, the college application season will be stressful for the entire family.
Just as the writing prompts ask students to delve into their feelings, this is when parents should step away from theirs. The household will be better for it. The sexes may be wired differently, but ultimately they want the same thing: acceptance. Good luck in these final weeks of the application season. May it be a winning one!