Congratulations! After 12 years of homework, late-night study sessions, and parent-teacher conferences, your child is ready to graduate from high school. Now the next step: applying for college.

Writing the perfect college essay can be as intimidating as it is important. Just like prospective employers, each college is looking for the candidate that will best fit with (and succeed in) their environment. Here are some helpful tips as your child prepares to write their essay.

Research Your School

Each college, from the state college across the state, to the ivy league across the country, is looking for something a little bit different from their students. Is it a college that values research, or publishing papers? Does it encourage its students to think outside the box, or are they more traditional? Finally, if your child knows what they want to study, take a close look at what the teachers in that department specialize in, or like to study. By knowing what a school is looking for, your child will be better equipped to write an essay that showcases the qualities that college is looking for.

Stand Apart

Everyone has their own story to tell. Something that says where they came from and where they want to go from here. When written correctly, these stories can play a major role in helping your child get accepted into their school of choice. These stories are often strongest when they show a student’s strengths and dreams, and how that college will help them accomplish those dreams. Be careful to avoid overly-broad, over-used topics, however. Stories like “my summer vacation” are rarely as interesting to the admissions board as they are to the student unless a truly significant transformation occurred during that summer.

Peer Review

No matter how many times you go over your paper, you will always find something else that needs to be fixed. Every good writer has their work reviewed by at least one or two other people before sending off their finished product. Ideally, the best people to review the piece will be those most familiar with the genre you are writing in. In this case, teachers, school counselors, and college professors would be great people to review and edit your child’s piece.

Writing a successful college essay can be an enormous undertaking. With some collaboration and hard work, however, you can help your child write an outstanding piece that will help them take the next step in their academic journey.