College Essay Coaching
My work with student writers goes far beyond editing and proofreading. My approach combines the craft of creative storytelling, personal coaching tailored for teens, and insightful attention to the goals of college essays to mentor kids in creating outstanding pieces of writing that make their applications vibrant and impactful. It’s a time intensive process that I’ve developed over years of experience as a writer, teacher and college admissions counselor, and is about much more (and is more valuable) than just finding good transition sentences and eliminating extraneous commas...it’s about finding yourself and sharing who you are on the written page.
College essays are all about your stories. Whether you’re writing the main essay for the Common Application, the short responses for the UC, or the tricky supplement essays required by many colleges, uncovering and skillfully telling your unique stories is the key to authentic, effective essays.
Using my decades of experience as a writing teacher and professional writer, I help students explore their life experiences and not only find the right stories to highlight their backgrounds, strengths and goals, but to share those stories in ways that let their individual voices speak.
The process is exciting, fun (and sometimes a little scary at first) and it produces stand out essays that many of my clients cherish as the best pieces of writing they’ve ever produced. It isn’t, however, an easy task. Like all creative work, composing vibrant, exceptional college essays requires patience, diligence, and the willingness to work through multiple drafts as you find and polish the stories that reveal your best self.
When you collaborate with me on your essays, you’re embarking on a personal journey that requires bravery, commitment and a healthy sense of humor. Yes, the result of your hard work and dedication to self-reflection is a portfolio of exceptional college essays that make you come to life on the page, but the writing experience is also its own reward, whose benefits are felt far beyond the college application process.
How I Coach Writers
College essays must be true: They need to capture a student’s unique life experiences and express not only those stories but reflections on what those experiences mean in the student’s own style and voice. I guide students in discovering their stories through:
* Guided brainstorming using writing prompts, conversation, imaginative reflection, and suggestions for ways to draw connections between past experiences and resulting self-awareness or personal growth.
* Story structuring and outlining, starting with the “gems” of brainstorming and exploring different ways to share your story to create the most power and impact.
* Coaching to find the most authentic responses to the “why do you want to attend our college?” essay questions, and strategies for effectively sharing these ideas in the context of personal stories.
* Providing ongoing suggestions for revision and editing as students slowly uncover and polish their stories.
* Moral support, encouraging and inspiring enthusiasm throughout what can sometimes be a challenging, intimidating process.
* Celebration of progress and achievement, encouraging and honoring the writer that shines brightly in all students, regardless of their “skill level” or fears about writing.
Lora Lewis Educational Consulting
Most rising seniors feel they don't have even one personal story that is worthy or powerful enough to make a good essay. I’ve found that once they see what the essay is all about, they have plenty of good options. The work to be done at that point is to sift through the ideas and choose the topic that will best speak to the reader about the student’s interests, values and goals. It should also highlight his or her ability to think and craft a clear and informative essay.
How long will it take?
The personal statement frequently takes from two to three hour-long sessions to compete. Brainstorming the topic, finding the best structure for it, and honing in on the right tone sometimes takes the first hour.
Sometimes the best strategy is to just say everything chronologically, and sometimes, it be best to develop the story from a more reflective stance, keeping the central point until the end. Because each story is different, each essay will be structured differently.
And finally, revising until your essay says just what you have aimed for is essential. Finding the ideal word to encapsulate your meaning, attitude and overall tone can be a perplexing but satisfying experience. Some of my clients say that this segment, where we play around with words a little is, quite surprisingly, fun!
What do you charge?
I charge $90 per hour.
What made you decide to be an essay coach?
As my twin sons approached their senior year in high school, we all went into something of a panic mode. The myriad decisions and tasks overwhelmed us. We hoped desperately for acceptance letters and even scholarship money, but wondered how to begin to make their applications stand out. I did some research: I read everything I could find that colleges offered up as advice about essays. A running theme in almost every article and book was, “Don’t have your parents write it.”
Hmm, I thought. But I’m pretty good at writing, maybe I could just, you know, “help” them. Turns out, deans can spot Mommy’s “help” a mile away. The essays that really impress them are written by 18 year olds. And they sound like it.
What I do best is to give students some hope that their own thoughts, experiences and reflections can create something wonderful. And then I get out of the way. Once the writing is reduced down from a gigantic, monstrous task to a doable (and maybe even enjoyable) project, they go right ahead and write.
How do you know when it is ready?
We edit. Carefully. It’s important not to edit the person right out of the essay. So during this phase, I keep coming back to focusing in on the student’s voice, asking, “is that how you would really say this?” What does that word mean to you? After all, they want to get to know the applicant, not the coach. I just help them say what they want to say.