1- Please complete the attached JUMPSTART CONTACT FORM: The contact form helps us keep track of our work together. Please send it to me by email, as a .doc.
2.–Complete the optional attached JUMPSTART QUESTIONNAIRE: This optional questionnaire is a way to get a jumpstart on thinking about essay topics. Although it is optional, it is helpful for both of us. It gives me a chance to get to know you quickly, and a way to suggest other essay topics if needed. The questionnaire benefits you also by giving you a chance to think about your story when you’re relaxing at home. Please send it to me by email, as a .doc. Thank you.
3 –Please make a payment for your essay startup/review here.
4.- Share your google doc with editing permissions with firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the prompt(s), the college, the word limit, and your concerns. If you need suggestions for how to reduce the number of words in a polished essay, I usually can only work on that one essay during the meeting. If the essay is not over the word limit, depending on the status of the essays, I can often complete more than one essay review during the session.
5–After you complete the steps above, I’ll send you a handout with writing tips, essay samples, and a date when the review will be completed. Most reviews will be completed within one week. You’ll receive comments and questions on your google doc, and positive, constructive feedback. You’ll have a good idea of what works in your essay and what to do to strengthen your essay.
Questions I ask myself before delivering one-on-one feedback.
- What did I learn about this student from reading this essay?
- Was I interested and/or impressed with what I learned? Did I learn about qualities that might help this student to enjoy, participate in and graduate college?
- Could I follow this essay, especially the timeline? Did any parts of the story confuse me?
- Was there anything mentioned that I was curious to hear more about?
- Does the essay seem as impressive as the student I read about in the questionnaire or met on a zoom?
- When I try to envision the student and his/her story, what images from the essay do I see, what phrases do I remember?
- Were there any obvious grammatical errors?
- Were there any sentences or paragraphs that were not needed or should be moved?
Note on the structure of common app essays: College application essays show what you care about, and what you’ve done about it. Colleges read these essays to envision you graduating from their college. I usually recommend that an essay start with a scene that occurred one day within the last two years, to portray yourself in that important initial paragraph as a teen. The best incidents reveal something positive about a student. For example, an opening incident could be as minimal as stopping a bike ride to move a kitten to the side of the road, if you love animals enough to consider a future as a veterinarian. Write about that opening anecdote in as much sensory detail and personal insight as possible. Dialogue may help. I don’t recommend that essays be written chronologically starting with paragraph one.
The rest of the essay in paragraph two or later helps us understand why you are telling us about your opening incident. Your backstory may talk about how or why you developed an interest, your influences and experiences, and show yourself learning and growing, maybe also helping others. What are some of your challenges, and rewards? How does this incident color your current actions and future interests? Use sensory phrases that show what you saw, heard, etc. Include emotion words (“I loved that…” to show what you felt. Try to quantify anything possible: such as dollars earned, time spent studying or on a project, age, years spent on an activity, people in an audience.
Essays don’t need to end with a summary. Use that valuable ending paragraph to tell us something new about yourself that fits in with the theme of the essay, or to relate your interests to your activities, background or plans.
You can also view my website to try these quizzes, Which is Your Best College Application Topic? and How Strong is Your College Application Essay? Be sure to read the helpful notes explaining your score after you complete the quiz.