College Essay Coach Sarah Shankman

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srshankman [at]

Since 2002 I've coached students in writing successful college and graduate school admissions essays. I love helping young writers find their unique stories and voices. Together we zero in on topics that will best illuminate their various talents, skills, accomplishments, passions, and dreams and explain any particular challenges. As a former English teacher and successful novelist and editor, I bring my own talents and considerable experience to this task. My goals: excellent writing and low stress for both students and parents. 

I invite you to review my website, see above, for fees, lists of accepting colleges and universities, a brief explanation of how I work, and more. For additional information, please then give me a call. 

Parent Reviews

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Sarah Shankman has worked with my son for his college application essays. She communicated with my son via emails and phone calls, and also with us. She does not cover the college application part, but she's phenomenal guiding your student to put himself/herself in the best light for college applications through their essays. Sarah's phone number is 510.484.7112 and her email is srshankman [at]  Check her website If you want more information, please ask the moderators for my contact info, I will be happy to answer your questions.

We found Sarah Shankman in BPN and she’s the real deal for essay coaching. Our son started writing his common application essay and we knew that it was going nowhere with his procrastination and his very scientific reasoning and writing style. Besides, like any teenager, he didn’t listen to our comments and suggestions. When he realized that his first draft was not his best work, he agreed that he needed help and he met Sarah.

Sarah treated him as a responsible adult, and set a timeline, deadlines, and expectations, which proved very helpful. Sarah was able to steer him to pick and choose better topics or even to tweak his essays, where he was able to highlight his accomplishments. Further, she guided him to find his voice and use his personal and unique experiences to draft an engaging essay. Thrilled to report that after all the hard work, our son was accepted into Carnegie Mellon (Engineering), his dream program, and other coveted engineering programs.

Sarah was very professional and a pleasure to work with. She played a pivotal role, running a tight ship in such a stressful time. In sum, we successfully emerged from the application season, and we’re very thankful for that. You can contact her at srshankman [at] or 510.484.7112. 

I highly recommend Sarah Shankman for an insightful perspective on the College Essays. Every student brings certain personality, passion, motivation, and drive but not necessarily a clear way to connect the dots and express who he is. That’s where Sarah brings that shining sun out of the cloudy weather. We were really fortunate to find Sarah and most importantly; cannot thank her enough for her help at a very short notice. My son got accepted to his top choice colleges. We are very happy and honored that he will be attending West Point this fall. Additionally, without changing a single word he submitted the same essay for his National Merit Scholarship application and became National Merit Finalist.

She has been pleasure to work with and very professional. Thank you Sarah for being part of our success and proud moments. Sarah Shankman can be reached at 510-484-7112 and email srshankman [at]

Sarah helped my son (graduate in 2017) with writing for both the UC essays and his personal statement.  As background, my son was very reluctant to even tackle the writing portion of applications (in fact he seemed to want to avoid the process completely) and he was/is not a natural at writing.  It got to the point where every discussion about writing college essays turned into an argument, and so we decided we needed outside help.  Sarah was great at outlining the entire process from the outset, laying the ground work and expectations, and assigning deadlines for my son to tackle.  She also had us fill out an extensive questionnaire so that she knew the points we felt were important to touch on, as parents.  She was very good at working individually with my son and treated him like a partner, rather than a student.  When he lagged behind in keeping up with pre-determined deadlines, she sent him gentle reminders.  When he felt like he had nothing interesting to write about, she worked with him to understand that any experience could be turned into a highlight.  She  used his first very rough drafts to make detailed outlines that helped him to visualize the final product, and included areas with which he was asked to expand on. She also tried to pry little details out of him to make the final product more than just a recitation of events, and to add some personal touches.   This last part was a struggle, and I admire her fortitude.  We ended up having to make some changes to the essays that Sarah produced with our son, but only because we had some personal insights that we thought would add some “color” to the essays that Sarah never knew about because our son was not particularly forthcoming.  Our son was accepted at all the UCs and ended up going to UCLA to major in Engineering.  I give Sarah a hearty thumbs up, recognizing that some kids, like ours, are just tough to draw out!

We strongly recommend Sarah Shankman to help with the college application process.  Our daughter graduated from high school June 2017. During her college search and application process, our daughter worked with three professionals: the school's college placement counselor, Sarah Shankman, and one other private college advisor.  The public school's counselor was well-informed and reasonably available to help, given her caseload.  In all likelihood, we underutilized her knowledge, experience and resources.  The first college advisor we worked with turned out to be a waste of time and money.  Initially, we were impressed by her high degree of enthusiasm and sense of focus.  However, it became apparent that this woman selected students on the basis of how likely they would ultimately pad the counselor's resume, allowing her to boast of her success in getting students into a very limited pool of big-name, conventionally "best" colleges.  We decided to part ways with her, but soon realized that our daughter needed professional guidance for the very specific task of writing the numerous, important and dreaded college essays.  We found Sarah Shankman’s name on a previous BPN review. She was available and easy to schedule with.  Sarah provided invaluable help in this area:  She met with our daughter and was able to elicit topics and themes from her, helped her shape them into the kind of essay sought by the colleges, gave clear and experienced guidance about translating the topics into first outlines, then draft and finished essays.  Our daughter had been quite stuck and was tired from all her coursework however Sarah was able to motivate her and provide the insight and structure that she needed at the time.  Our daughter applied to and was accepted early decision to Tulane, in New Orleans, her “dream school”.  After our whole family visited last week, we could not be more excited for her.

We were happy to have Sarah Shankman as our son's essay coach.   Sarah worked with our son initially to brainstorm the topics and set up the schedule targets.   Later on, she helped us with the essay editing throughout the applications process.  Sarah is a professional writer.   Our son learns a lot from her during the essay revisions.   She is also very efficient.   She would finish the editing and get back on the next day.    

Our son will be attending UCSD this fall (thanks Sarah).

Archived Q&A and Reviews

May 2016

RE: College Admissions Essays Help
My son had a wonderful experience with Sarah Shankman in Berkeley. He is a student at DVC with the goal of transferring to a UC. Sarah was able to meet with my son and then do the rest of their work together either on the phone or online. The was really helpful as we live through the tunnel. Sarah is experienced and has a well tuned process that works. She is easy to work with and, best of all, my son was accepted at two UC's, including his first choice, UC Davis, where he will start in the Fall. I've included Sarah's contact info below and I highly recommend her.

Sarah Shankman College Admissions Essay Coach 510/528-8111

Happy Mama

May 2015

We would like to highly recommend Sarah Shankman as a college essay coach. In this ultracompetitive college admission process, great grades and competitive test scores do not predict which colleges your student will get into. The reality is that highly selective schools all have significantly more applicants than there is space in their freshman class. The only thing that can separate your student are the essays. Sarah worked well with our daughter who is a good writer, but was stuck starting the process. After going to her home in Berkeley and answering some questions, Sarah was able to jump start her essay topics. She is a professional writer and her systematic method results in excellent essays written entirely by the student. She kept our daughter on schedule and the entire process was successful. Our daughter was accepted to 9 out of 10 colleges many with generous merit scholarships and honors programs. We were thrilled and felt that Sarah played an important role in her success. Sarah Shankman can be reached at 510-528-8111 or or sarah [at] Happy Danville Parents

April 2015

We used Sarah Shankman ( to help our son with his college application essays and wanted to recommend her services.

Our son could write reasonably well to begin with, but on topics that are impersonal. When it came to college apps, where the essay prompts required introspection and narrating personal experiences his initial attempts did not touch the reader. Sarah started working with him and had a few sessions where she talked to him (and briefly to us) where they verbally mapped out story lines for each prompt. Then, she worked out a schedule with him and iterated on each essay till it was up to his (and her) satisfaction. The really good part we liked about this process was that she was keeping him on schedule and making sure the quality was good. She kept us in the loop on his progress and prodded him gently when he as falling behind. She was very prompt in providing feedback and my son and Sarah mostly communicated by email/skype. They met in person only a few times on the weekends and she was very easy to schedule.

In the end, she got stories and essays out of him that we could not! We are pretty sure these essays helped in getting into some very good colleges. Thanks Sarah!


May 2014

I highly recommend Sarah Shankman as College Admission Essay Coach. We were very fortunate to find Sarah through BPN, as we frantically searched for guidance in the midst of the college application season. My son had too many ideas, yet no clear direction on what to write in his essay. His SAT score was a mixed bag, so he was really counting on his college essay to make a difference.

We met Sarah at her lovely fairytale cottage in Berkeley and found her to be very pleasant and professional. After a brief introduction, she got right to the business interviewing and brainstorming ideas. By the end of our first meeting my son emerged with a clear idea of what he wants to write about. Sarah's efficiency is remarkable and her influence on teenagers is magic. With Sarah's guidance and thoughtful editing my son wrote 2 wonderful essays. He got admitted into Purdue with $, UCD, UCSB, UCSC honors $.

You can find Sarah at

UCSB mom

April 2014

I highly recommend Sarah Shankman as an excellent College Admissions Essay Coach! Sarah assisted my son with crafting his college application essays and was an invaluable resource during his college application process. The hardest part of the college admissions process is knowing how to get started and Sarah put my son on the right path. She helped him to create a plan for his application statements that highlighted his unique personality and showcased his talents. Sarah is responsive, professional, and a delight to work with. Beyond helping my son with his essays, Sarah helped to boost his confidence with the overall application process. Thanks to Sarah's help, he was admitted to some of his top choices! Sarah has a website and her email address is sarah [at] Adrienne

April 2014

If you are going to do to anything to help your child get into their desired college, I would highly suggest using Sarah Shankman to help with the college essay process. We have 3 sons, now all starting/going to college. We talked to/worked with various college counselors, and we are all in total agreement that our best time and money spent was working with Sarah Shankman for our son's college essays. We approached Sarah last Summer, before Senior year, because we wanted to get a basic UC application and Common Application essay completed for our twin sons before school and all of their activities started. Even though the official questions were not out yet for the colleges for the Fall, we were able with Sarah's help to have general ideas on what to expect and find topics that would fit many questions asked by the colleges. This ended up being a great plan so that we were able to do early admission applications at most schools and be done with the essays before school started. This really helped relieve the stress of the college application process. Sarah met with each son talked through thier ideas and helped them flesh them out and give them a framework for how to proceed. This was incredibly helpful. All of us had an immediate connection with Sarah, which was not true with others we met. She is very nice and easy to work with and just immediately makes you feel at ease. From there, the boys were able to create 4 essays (2 topic) that fit the mold for almost all of the college applications that we did. They applied widely for colleges- UC's, out of state Universities and private colleges, and the boys were able to use these essays in almost all situations. During the application process though, my sons came to me with concerns about a couple of questions for private Catholic colleges that they did not even understand. My husband and I (both with advanced degress) were also not clear on what they were asking and were truly at a loss. We called Sarah again and asked her to help us figure it out. She was able to explain what the question meant and knowing my boys, suggested directions to be taken for them and again helped them with a framework on how to proceed. This was very kind of her, because at this point she was busy helping others and really went out of her way to accomodate our last minute question (you know how boys can procastinate). Both sons were accepted at many colleges and were fortunate enough to have great college choices. They are convinced that Sarah is part of the reason that they got into great schools. Other consultants have people that read over the essays, edit them, etc. Sarah really takes the time to understand your child and your family. Her focus is on the essays as this is her expertise, and she is great at it! We were all very happy with the boy's essays and thought they truly reflected the boys individuality and talents in a great way. We have no hesitation in recommending her. KristiM

Jan 2014

I am writing to recommend my daughter's College Admissions Essay Coach, Sarah Shankman. Sarah was recommended to me by a friend who had been through the admissions process with her two children.

From the beginning, my daughter felt strongly that her essays should reflect her thoughts, goals and accomplishments as faithfully as possible. She also felt overwhelmed by the thought of writing several essays in a relatively short period of time. She emerged from her first meeting with Sarah with a strong sense of direction and focus. Most importantly, she knew she could count on Sarah to be there, providing thoughtful recommendations and guiding her work as needed. This was key in allowing my daughter to manage what can be a very stressful process.

In addition to her talent as an essay coach, we found Sarah to be very responsive and professional. My daughter recently completed her final application and we realize how incredibly fortunate she has been to have had Sarah by her side.

Sarah's website can be found at Her email address is: sarah [at] 


June 2013

I would like to highly recommend Sarah Shankman as a college admissions essay coach.

I found Ms Shankman on this website last year and was touched by the recommendations, especially the ones praising her ability to work with teens. Later we found this out to be quite true.

Ms Shankman not only helped to guide his essays while respecting his true voice, but also gave him many several suggestions about his college application. The amazing thing is that my teenage boy was really willing to listen to her and accept her suggestions. Those made his essay writing, as well as the whole application, less stressful. She even gave him advice on time management.

Now my boy has been admitted into a great school he really likes and I believe his essays played a critical role in the process. We all feel very lucky to have Ms Shankman as a college admissions essay coach and we appreciate her help very much. (


June 2012

RE: How important is a college essay coach?

We would like to highly recommend Sarah Shankman as a college admissions essay coach. Our daughter is an A student and very capable of writing her own essay alone, but we chose to have Sarah work with her just to be 'safe.' Sarah helped her brainstorm ideas, organize, and outline. After our daughter composed her essay Sarah edited it. We found her to be very knowledgeable, easy to work with, and a delightful person. Our daughter ended up being accepted by 13 of the 15 colleges she applied to and almost all offered merit $. Sarah took a lot of the stress out of this all-too-stressful process. Her contact info is


May 2012

Sarah Shankman is wonderful! She worked with both of our children on their college application essays. Our kids are very different in many ways. She was able to connect with each of them and help them focus their ideas and efforts. Our daughter was looking for comments from many people, including her parents. Not surprising, she got many different comments. It seemed like she had almost too many ideas and directions to go. With Sarah's guidance, she was able to create sussinct and cohesive essays. She was very happy with the results. Our son would not accept help from anyone, especially his parents. Sarah became the one exception. The process she used was remarkable in getting him first to identify what he wanted to say. Following that, he even accepted her guidance in composing the essays. We still have not read his essays. That's his decision. Both of our children seemed proud of their work. Sarah did not do the writing for them. She brought it out of them. Perhaps more to the point, both of our children have been accepted in programs that were at the top of their list. They actually were accepted at a number of schools. That seemed almost a luxury. I can't recommend Ms Shankman highly enough

A relieved parent

May 2012

I enthusiastically recommend Sarah Shankman for assistance in the college application process. She worked with our son on his essays and was incredibly helpful.

Not only did she help him complete his essays early, but she met with him to discuss topic ideas and through that truly helped him find his voice in a very stressful process.

The result was some terrific essays that we are confident helped him gain admission to a great university. Having someone who is not affiliated with his high school -- and not his parent or relative - was invaluable to all of us. Throughout it all, Sarah was responsive and always kept his ideas at the forefront. He was proud of the final product -- as were we.

They worked primarily through phone and email -- perfect given how busy high school seniors are.

She was great and we will definitely connect with her again when our youngest is ready to begin the college admissions process! Cindy

July 2011

I want to recommend Sarah Shankman, a college admission essay coach. My daughter is an excellent student, but dyslexic and writing is not easy for her. She had a hard time finding a topic for her college essay that expressed who she is. Sarah took all the stress out of the essay. She worked one on one both in person and through email and helped my daughter find a topic, organize her ideas and edit her final draft. Sarah also helped her manage her time and finish the essays in plenty of time.

My daughter said: Sarah helped me take a step back and not just focus on the final essay. She helped me brainstorm and think about what I wanted the college to know about me.

We had a great experience with Sarah and my daughter was admitted to all of her top choices.

We would like to share our wonderful experience using Sarah Shankman as an essay consultant for our daughter, Katie during her college application process this year. Katie will be proudly attending Vanderbilt University this Fall and we credit Sarah and her expertise as part of the reason for her success.

Sarah was recommended to us by friends who used her services in 2010. Those girls are now students at NYU and USC. We found working with Sarah a true delight. After our initial meeting with her, all work between Katie and Sarah was handled without the need of parental involvement, making it a truly student-driven process that allowed Katie to represent her voice alone in her essays. We felt this was very important for Katie to do on her own.

While Katie was accepted early decision to the Vanderbilt School of Engineering, she applied to several other equally prestigious schools and was accepted to several. Sarah helped her tailor her essays to meet the different schools' requirements. Katie loved working with Sarah and found the process very comfortable and positive.

Our son will be beginning the college application process next summer and we will, no doubt, be calling upon Sarah to help him find his voice and tell his story successfully in his college application essays. We encourage you to visit her website at to find out more about her services. You won't be sorry!


College Essay Consultant: Students looking to put their best foot forward when writing essays for college applications ....we have a secret weapon to share. Her name is Sarah Shankman and she can be reached at My son (math guy) hated to write anything,let alone write about himself. Our experience with Sarah transcended the typical notion of using a consultant or tutor. It is not just the fact that she has stellar credentials as a novelist and editor ...but, she was able to get my son to change his perspective on writing. So much so that he took a journalism class and wrote great articles all year for the school and local papers. She taught him how to have fun with words and how to convey who he is. The bottom line is that he got into 22/24 schools (we had special reason for so many apps-really only need about 10-12). Many of these schools were thought to be out of his reach and are very competitive. He got into schools that kids with higher GPA's and test scores did not get into - simply because of his essays. He was able to connect with his audience due to Sarah. She is simply the best,..end of story. Results speak for themselves and this is too precious of an opportunity to squander on unproven consultants. We lucked out! Many college consultants say they also do essays but I would recommend keeping those two processes separate. In this competitive environment the essay is too important to risk.

Best of luck! j.g.

March 2010

RE: Need Help with College Essays

I am very pleased to recommend Sarah Shankman ( for assistance with writing college application essays

Recently Sarah worked with our daughter to help her write her essays for the University of California and the Common Application. My wife and I greatly appreciated Sarah's guidance throughout this process. First, Sarah helped and encouraged our daughter to brainstorm ideas for each question. She then patiently worked with her to fine tune subsequent drafts until her essays were completed to everyone's satisfaction. Sarah's editing skills were remarkably helpful for staying within the required word limits while making sure the essays remained consistent with our daughter's own writing style and persona.

Our daughter enjoyed working with Sarah very much. Sarah helped her to produce top quality final essays in a manner that was reasonably paced and relatively stress free. Having Sarah assist with the essays enabled my wife and I to help support the overall process without getting too involved in the actual writing. This proved to be a very good strategy for keeping peace in the family and produced essays that really do reflect our daughter's perspectives and experiences.

All of us greatly appreciated Sarah's quality work, professional skills and supportive personal style. She is a very good writer and editor, and works very well with students facing the challenge of the college essays. Regarding the cost, Sarah's rates are very competitive for the quality of service she provides.

Finally, with Sarah's help our daughter was admitted to the University of California, Santa Cruz, Northeastern, and University of San Diego.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like more information.

Eric K.

I highly recommend Sarah Shankman in Berkeley as a college essay coach. Our daughter has difficulty organizing essays and really needed extra assistance. Sarah and she discussed each essay prior to my daughter writing a detailed outline, and she gave very specific direction as to next steps after each meeting. Sarah was also very patient and our daughter enjoyed working with her. The process went very smoothly, and I believe our daughter's writing skills improved along the way. Having experienced third party help also relieved some stress for my husband and me during the admissions process. In the end, Sarah Shankman helped our daughter craft very strong college admission essays. We live in Marin and it was worth traveling to Berkeley for the sessions. We highly recommend her. She can be contacted through her website at a Marin mom