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My Approach

I've learned to decode and analyze what institutions and organizations seek in applicants. When you ask me to help you answer an essay prompt, I not only “read between the lines” but do research on the institution and the kinds of qualities they most want to see in applicants. I also bring years of research on the admissions process to the table, and I am realistic about what actually happens in the room when your essays are read and discussed. This information informs our strategy. 

 

But essays are so much more than strategy. After all, an admissions officer will be reading your essay, not you strategy, and this is why authentic expression matters just as much, if not more, than an abstract idea of what you “should” do. In fact, this is the biggest misake I see applicants make. They attempt to conform to an idea of what they think admissions officers want but sacrifice what makes them unique in the process.

 

That is why my process aims to help you write essays in the sweet spot where strategy and authenticity overlap. I’ve developed tools and exercises that remove the anxious blocks that impede writing and get you into a place where you can write freely and edit critically, but never at the same time.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many sessions does it take?

The number of lessons is different for each student. Some need one session to get on the right track. Other students I meet with over 40 times. The number is dependent on the student’s writing ability, how much support they need/want from me, and how much work they put in between our sessions.

What is your process?

If you'd like to work with me from start to finish, there is a typical set of steps we'll move through. This is especially the case for high school seniors applying to college. 

Brainstorm

This is the fun part. During our first meeting, we’ll sit down with a cup of tea and I’ll ask you questions, gathering a pool of your experiences, anectodes, and interests that we will draw from throughout the process. I have several brainstorming exercises that I’ll walk you through as well. By the end of the first meeting, I will assign you several free writing prompts, which will become the basis for your essays.

Freewrite

Next, you freewrite on your own time. First, a quick definition of “freewrite.” A freewrite is typically a written response to a thought-provoking prompt, but what distinguishes it from a typical essay is that the writing should be completely uncensored and unedited. More is more. 

Freewriting is an extremely important step of this process, as it forces you to get out of the anxious, critic’s mindset that so often plagues my students during application essay writing. Freewrites also allow me to see which essay ideas are truly worth pursuing and which just aren’t working without investing too much time. It also allows you to find out which topics you are truly most interested in writing about and which topics flow the most easily. Being able to freewrite is the single most important skill in making this process quick and easy rather than excruciating.

Outline

During our second meeting, we will review you free written responses and use that material to create more structured outlines for one or several essay prompts. I help you decode the (often) confusing language of essay prompts to get to the heart of what they are asking for.

Draft

In your own time, you will write drafts of essays based on the outline we created. If you have a solid pool of material from the freewriting step, then drafting will be easy — just a matter of piecing together and editing what you already have.

Revise

In our third meeting, I will give you detailed feedback on your drafts and offer ideas on how to improve the essays. Typically, I will offer you big-picture, structural feedback at the beginning and then give you much more detailed feedback once the big problems are fixed.

Repeat

The remainder of our meetings are typically spent repeating Steps 4 (Draft) and 5 (Revise). After each meeting, I will give you a list of things to work on, and then when we meet we will go over your work and continue to revise together. Usually, it is most time efficient to work on several essays at once. Throughout the process, I’ll break down your work into manageable deadlines, creating a timeline that reduces stress and maximizes efficiency.

Do you write essays for students?

No. Although I have a high standard for my students, I refrain from writing for them. This is both ethical and strategic. Admissions officers have a sharp eye for language that is written by an adult or an essay coach. They can easily compare a student’s writing ability in the essay to the student’s letters of recommendation, scores, and transcripts. If they suspect that a student’s essay has been written by someone other than the student, this will only harm the student.

What do you expect from parents in this process?

The right kind of parent involvement can be a huge asset to a student when writing their essays, but the wrong kind of involvement (usually well-intentioned) can hurt more than help. I’ve seen students finally hit a stride with their writing, only to have the draft edited into a safe, polished, resume-like essay by an understandably concerned parent. Misguided advice from parents or other adults is usually rooted in false assumptions about how essays are actually read by admissions officers. 

 

If you want to be a resource for your child as they work on their essays, I ask that you do the necessary research so you are informed (I’ve put a list of great books below). Otherwise, I ask that you put your trust in your child and me so that we can move through this process without the added stress of “too many cooks in the kitchen.” 

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