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A Less Stressful Senior Year

autumn-leavesWhew! I had a lot of students who made the Early Action/ Early Decision deadline on November 1st.  We were all very relieved.

However, the most relieved and relaxed were their parents, because they had one less battle with their senior.  When it’s your son or daughter’s  final year living at home, the last thing you want to be doing is fighting over the college essay or telling them “it’s not quite there yet.”

When I coach, I do a lot of encouraging, but I also speak truth to my students.  If an essay or short answer needs a rewrite or some tweaking, I make them do it.  If that last line isn’t quite right yet, I ask them to try again.  If a point isn’t crystal clear, I ask them to clarify it.

And they do it.  Why?  In part, because I’m not their parent.  They take my comments seriously, because I know what I’m talking about, and they know that, too.  Rarely have they had someone take their writing this seriously.

My last round of students learned a lot about sensory details and the power of anecdote, about verb consistency and hooks, and about coherence and unity in an essay.  They’ve also learned that good writing is a challenge that they can meet.  I’m so proud of the wonderful essays my students wrote, and I know the admissions officers will be wowed, too.

Common App Glitches

admission imageLike the rollout of so many new or revised products, the latest version of the Common App has experienced lots of glitches.  (See this recent article in The Washington Post for an update.)  All of this is occurring with the early application deadline of November 1st looming.  While a very few schools have extended their early deadline, it’s best to be prepared.

I just sent an email reminding all the students I coach to send their early applications in a few days before the November deadline to avoid tears and hair pulling. Chances are that the Common App system will be overloaded on 11/1, so it’s best to be prepared.

As they say, the best defense is a good offense.

 

“Empowered”

CoachSkills_400On the advice of several friends and colleagues, I’m expanding my business into a wider array of essay coaching.  I’m now offering coaching on everything from the Thomas Jefferson High School admission test essays to scholarship essays to graduate schools essays and everything in between. Why?  Because there’s a definite need and because I love it!

It’s great fun to get to know my students and help them find their authentic voices.  One Washington and Lee High School mom, whose son is applying early, said that he left our session feeling “empowered.”  Isn’t that the word that every coach and teacher wants to hear?  I sure do, and that’s one of my primary goals:  that my students walk out of our sessions knowing they have the skills, understanding, and talent to tackle writing in a new way.

My students are some of the best and brightest around, yet they have no clue how to write a strong personal essay.  It’s completely different from writing DBQ’s or a five-paragraph essay or an Advanced Placement analysis. Many of their first drafts are formulaic snoozers that will be easily discarded by an overwrought admissions officer.  I tell my students clearly that I’m not being mean, but honest.  They need to take their writing to the next level, and it’s been tremendously satisfying to watch them do just that.

Happy writing!

 

College Essay Coaching in the News

From the new Common App essay questions to a novel based on the “frenzy” of applying, college essay coaching has been in the news lately.  I really like this article, “Confessions of a College Essay Coach,” by Elizabeth Benedict, which looks at some myths about essay coaches.  (No, we’re not going to write the essay for your kid.)

Most high schools seniors — even at some of our nation’s best schools — have little experience writing a personal essay.  They can write DBQ’s for AP history classes and literary analysis for AP English classes, but they don’t know how to tell their own story in vivid detail.  That’s where a good essay coach can step in and teach them how to bring their own experiences to life.

College admission officers also want to be assured that prospective students are reflective.  A good essay coach can nudge a writer to think more deeply about why, out of 18 years of life, he or she has chosen that one experience or place or failure to highlight. Usually, a student knows why it’s important but may need some help articulating it. In almost every coaching session, I tell one of my students, “Write that down! Just as you said it. That’s powerful.” Like all good coaches, an essay coach is something of a cheerleader.

According to an admission officer at Georgia Tech, only one in 20 college application essays are any good.  The rest are dull and predictable, like many of the first drafts I see from my students. Again, it’s not that the students can’t write well. It’s that they don’t really understand what a good essay looks like and how to get there.  (The Georgia Tech admissions officer was featured on the radio show, This American Life.)

In other news, I’m also looking forward to reading this new novel by Lacy Crawford,who’s billed as a college essay 16248259coach to the elite.  It’s getting strong reviews and should be fun reading!

Happy writing!

(Writing should be a happy experience. Truly.)

 

Announcing my College Essay Coaching Business

I’m thrilled to announce that I will now be available to coach high school seniors on their college application essays.  As the mom of two sons who were accepted at their top choice schools, I have experience shepherding kids through the challenging process.

An excellent college essay can distinguish your child from the pack, but many students feel panicked by the prospect.  With ten years experience teaching writing and twenty years of freelancing, I have the expertise to guide both reluctant and enthusiastic writers through the process from brainstorming to an excellent final draft.

My method includes a pre-questionnaire, a one-on-one coaching session, and several online coaching workshops.  My style emphasizes the importance of story, structure, and sensory details to assure your son or daughter successfully communicates his or her uniqueness.  The final products will be personal and polished.

So watch this space for more information.  I’m signing up students now!