One of the great aspects of teaching is that the teacher, if she's doing her job correctly, often learns stuff -- good stuff. It's no surprise that teaching the dreaded and feared "College Essay" greatly affected my writing style. But, let's face it, you'd have to be a hanging salami not to absorb something you taught 80 or 90 times.
It's always good to have actual models when you teach. I would write purposefully wanting essays full of the horrible mistakes I wanted the kids to avoid, show the essay on the overhead projector and have the kids tear it apart. At first they would show restraint -- fearful of criticizing something I'd written (they were also a bit confounded that their teacher could have written something so lacking) and often times I'd have to get them started. Then I'd put a well-written model of the same essay up there and asked them what the particular differences were. I loved watching the light bulb go on!
Another tool I used was a book I'd come to love, On Writing The College Essay, by Harry Bauld (yes, that's his real name). Sounds horribly dry, doesn't it? The book, not his name. Well, it's funny, entertaining, expertly written, AND relatively short. I learned much about writing from this book -- particularly in the section titled "Trimming the Fat". I was always a soldier in the war on wordiness. Bauld also features a section of essays, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" -- essays actually written by college applicants -- some excellent; some less so; some downright God-awful.
So, the offer is on the table...Anybody need to write a college application essay???