Application Essays – The Process

If you’ve scrolled through online examples of college application essays and still wondered how even to begin writing your own, you’re not alone!


Here’s how my process works:

Step 1:

You and your parents will provide some basic information, including demographics and a preliminary list of colleges you’re considering.

application essaysYou complete a questionnaire, one I’ve refined over more than a decade, to tease out clues about who you are, your most important experiences, your plans, and your dreams:

  • When was the last time you felt truly and fully alive?
  • What’s your most underappreciated or surprising talent?
  • Have you ever made a really big mistake?
  • What’s the most significant decision you’ve ever made?


Your Parents will complete their own questionnaire to share their understanding and observations about you.

Step 2:

From answers on both brainstorming questionnaires, I’ll develop a preliminary impression of who you seem to be on paper, annotating and highlighting sections I’ll want to learn more about. Based on your target colleges, I’ll also rough out a timeline, and a spreadsheet of the essay prompts, side by side, to see where one stellar essay can be adapted for more than one school.

Step 3:

In a 90-minute to 2-hour video call, you and I will review the strongest sections of the questionnaires, zero in on your most promising topic material, match up your best stories, anecdotes, and experiences with actual essay prompts, and review and tweak your timeline until we’re convinced of its do-ability. Then we’ll both commit to doing its tasks, and meeting its deadlines.

We’ll conclude the video conference with a decision about which general area in your life we feel will make for a promising initial essay (which is usually your main 650-word Common Application essay) followed by an agreement about your next deliverable and due date.

Step 4:

You’ll develop an unintimidating, stream-of-consciousness free-write exploration from which we’ll identify one or two central themes. Most students find this process fun; There’s pretty much no way to do it incorrectly!

Step 5:

The real writing begins! From a rough draft, through as many revisions as necessary, we will make your essay clear, powerful, and as perfect as possible.

After one comprehensive video call via Skype or FaceTime, we can generally do all this in an exchange of e-mails, phone and video calls— unless you need a more structured process with regular meetings.


Here’s What We’ll Be Looking For:


Thematic Clarity  Narrative Arc
 Structure  Consistency and Authenticity of Tone
 Flow of Ideas  Dramatic Tension
 Transitions  Opportunities for Metaphor
 Pacing  Telling Detail
 Showing Versus Telling  Vividness of Language


Ready? Let’s DO this!

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