College Application Essay Review

Students working with me get all the benefits of reviewing their college application essay with a teacher, but by someone whose feedback is given through the eyes of a former admissions officer. My goal is to make sure the files come together well, as admissions officers sometimes say. This means the college admissions essay and activities list are at the same level or stronger than the applicants’ grades and testing. I can make suggestions with regard to content, grammar, and composition to ensure students present themselves in the best possible light.

Let the real you shine in your essay.

We start with student and parent questionnaires so I can get to know the student and to learn about their strengths, interests, and talents. My essay review services include meeting in person or remotely to review this information and often in these meetings, I notice qualities in the student they may not have seen in themselves. This is where the essay begins. For example, one of the questions on the student form asks the student to tell me about their most exciting intellectual experience. While many students might cite a particular class or teacher and use this as the basis for the essay, a student I worked with answered it by saying that the discussions she had with her dad on long car rides were especially exciting intellectually. With this information, I was able to help her craft her essay around this experience. Another question asks the student to describe something they do very well that is not an academic or extracurricular activity and it is followed by one asking what they were doing when they last forgot what time it was. I can help the student mine their answers to bring out their unique personality and talents.

If a student simply does not know where to start their college essay, I give them a brainstorming exercise which breaks the Common Application essay prompts into a series of questions. We then talk through the answers to these questions and I write what the student tells me. This forms the core of the essay. Students sometimes worry they are writing too much, but I can help students identify the points that absolutely should stay in the essay and the “filler” that can be removed. Knowing where to cut parts of the essay and doing so often makes the piece stronger and it respects the reader’s time.

Based on my many years in college admissions, I have a very good sense of what works when it comes to college application essays and what doesn’t. I can help students avoid essay minefields and turn what they may think is a mundane experience into an essay that speaks to application readers on a deep level.

My goal as I review essays with students is to make sure the college application reader is left with a sense that they would love to have the student at their college—e.g., does it pass the “roommate test”? Is this a student they simply must have on their campus, one who would contribute to the community? I also advise students to ask a friend or trusted adult to read the essay to find out if it sounds like them—does the essay show who they really are? Is their voice clearly expressed? How does the person feel about the student after reading the essay? Be sure to review my essay writing tips and the list of essay topics to avoid.

In addition to giving students constructive feedback on their essays, I can also help students write their Common Application activities list descriptions. The Common Application asks applicants to describe each of their extracurricular activities in 150 characters or fewer (including spaces). This is an excellent place to show colleges what students have accomplished outside of the classroom, so it is important that their activity descriptions on the Common App are both informative and succinct. See my tips on writing your activities list.

Get a rough draft of your college essay and supplements done the summer before your senior year or within the first few weeks of school. You will more than likely need to do some edits so you want to make sure you have the framework done early so you’re not cramming at the last second or having to settle with an essay/supplements that aren’t very good.

—Allie

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I can’t thank you enough for helping Ali. Your words and corrections to her application essays were always encouraging and uplifting.