FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE APPLICATION ESSAYS
1. How do you work with your clients?
I generally work one-on-one, except for small-group summer “boot camps.” If you live in or near San Francisco, we usually meet in person first, then continue our work electronically, with the occasional Skype or telephone call. If we can’t meet in person, we can accomplish everything electronically. If you already have a work in progress, we can begin with that, but if it makes more sense to start afresh, we will.
A. For High School Students
After an initial telephone conference or emails exchange with parents, if the student is starting from scratch, I typically…
- …email a set of questions to the student about accomplishments, interests, activities, hopes, goals, and anything else significant, to see how these might lead to an essay topic. I also like to see a recent writing sample to get a sense of linguistic strengths and weaknesses.
- …send brainstorming exercises and sample essays to the student.
- …meet with the student in person, if practical, for an hour to discuss ideas. We work out a rough outline and decide on a workable schedule, with built-in time cushions to forestall panic or all-nighters.
- …read first drafts and return them with overall comments on structure and content.
- …work with the student on style and any additional content, making individualized comments on each new draft, until we are both happy with the results.
B. For Graduate School Applicants
This is the same as for high school students, except that I communicate directly with the applicant throughout the process, not the parents.
C. For Out-of-Area Clients
I am happy to work exclusively over the Internet, so please contact me if you are out of my immediate area to discuss your needs. Between email, Skype, Dropbox, and Google Drive or Hangouts, this has never been a problem.
2. How are you different from a private college counselor or advisor?
College counselors work with students and their families to select the best-fit schools for them and then shepherd them through the entire application process. This typically includes junior and senior year preparations, such as course selection, teacher recommendations, and external testing, and sometimes help with the application essays.
Other students, however, need help only with the essays, which is where I come in. My areas of expertise—and my great joys—are coaching, editing, and writing, so I focus on these alone. I work with a range of applicants, from those at the very beginning of the writing process to ones who only need help with final polishing, and everything in-between.
3. I don’t know exactly which schools I am applying to yet. Does it still make sense to work with you at this stage?
If you think you will be applying to at least one of the 525+ institutions that now use the Common Application, then it is a good idea to tackle your personal essay first. You can always come back to me once you decide on specific schools so that I can help with any supplementary essays they require. Even those colleges and universities that are not members of the Common App usually want at least one personal essay, on topics they designate.
For more information, please see the “Resources” page.
4. Are the supplementary essays important?
Absolutely. If you don’t treat them just as seriously as your primary personal essay, or leave them till the last minute without giving them the time they deserve, you will have missed a golden opportunity. Your readers will wonder why you have a polished personal essay, but have chosen to submit slipshod supplementary ones. It reflects badly on your writing skills, your thoughtfulness, the seriousness of your application, and the ability to manage written work in a timely way. Be aware that they may take more time than you think—the number of essays, topic, and length can vary significantly from school to school.
5. Do you write the essays for your clients?
I work tirelessly with my clients to help them reach their goals, but if you are looking for someone who will write the essays for you, I cannot help. Not only would this be unethical, it would be shortsighted, too: admissions committees can tell the difference between an honest essay and one bought off the shelf—and will send the dishonest application straight to the reject pile.
Yes, I know, writing these essays can seem like a real burden–just more items to scratch off an endless to-do list. But they are really both a challenge and an opportunity. When you take charge of your work, you build vital communication skills, the profound satisfaction of speaking in your truest voice, and the critical self-insight that comes through this particular process of writing and self-reflection.