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I read a most revealing article this past weekend of the changing variables in the college admission selection process.The former emphasis on Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT’s) is evaporating as many schools of higher learning no longer require this exam’s results. The current focus is not on the alphabet letters of the SAT, but in the complete word essay, as in a writing sample.

A bitter headache, but a critical criteria, is the college application personal composition.If you witness ambitious and serious-minded high school seniors with drawn faces, worrisome frowns and tired eyes, be aware that it may be part of the essay draft syndrome — organizing and formulating a written plan that is concise, clear and grammatically perfect.This is the time of year to be finalizing the college application.

The good news in the college application process is that it has been facilitated by the Common Application now used by hundreds of schools so you may submit one essay to satisfy all.However, being concise and clear is a must as this self-identifying composition is limited to 500 words – in other words, the focus is on detail and substance, not descriptive adjectives. Students must remember that this is a personal reflection that will be a vital component in setting the author apart from thousands of other applicants.It is an opportunity to communicate who you are, what has been or is important in your life, or what vision you hold for your future.

Applicants should think about it, plan an approach to writing it, practice with multiple drafts, and then focus on a quality personal contribution.

If you are a parent and you wish to assist your child with the process, give a gift of Sarah Myers McGinty’s book, “The College Application Essay.”

Having put you on notice of the importance of this writing sample, we are concerned that many high school students are not skilled enough in writing in this digital age to submit the quality writing sample expected from higher education.

Inadequate writing skills full of grammatical and stylistic errors have been cited for the last decade by colleges across the nation.The National Assessment of Educational Progress reported in 2007 only 24 percent of twelfth graders scored “proficient” or better in writing assessments.

While the percentage is not available to me at the moment, the reports of needed remedial instruction in writing for entering college freshmen have been well documented. And it isn’t simply a case of “blaming it on the high school.” This writer can remember 13 years ago (yes, I can recall that far back!) when the Commonwealth implemented a teachers’ test, the teaching profession was rocked with a 30 percent failure rate on the literacy portion.

The National Commission on Writing (a part of the College Board) has calculated that “remedying the deficiencies in writing costs American corporations as $3.1 billion annually.

Accept the words of Vartan Gregorian, the former president of Brown University, in speaking about the erosion of communication skills. “In an age overwhelmed by information, we should view this as a crisis, because the ability to read, comprehend and write — in other words, to organize information into knowledge — can be viewed as tantamount to a survivor skill.”

Excuse me, but I am most disturbed (angry) at the continued use of the word “crisis” to describe a deficiency in the educational process without anything but a fractured and scattered reaction (mostly words) from our nation’s know-it-alls and priority setters.

Tom Casey is a retired educator, education consultant and freelance writer.

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