Reviews of College Admissions Consultants

College Admissions Consultants 1) help high school students identify colleges to apply to 2) provide guidance with the application process, such as coaching on essays and application letters.  Many parents have also recommended the website as a good resource for college application planning.

Questions & Responses:
Private College Counseling reviews?(0 responses)
College Counselor Gabrielle Glancy(11 responses)
College Counselor for A-/B+ Junior(1 response)
College/Technical School Counselor for a HS Junior(1 response)
Seeking College Counselor with Openings(7 responses)
College/Career Counselor Rec(1 response)
Archived Responses: 

Parents' Reviews of College Admissions Consultants Advice about Using a College Admissions Consultant

2012 - 2016 Reviews

College Admissions Essays Help

May 2016

We are looking for someone who can help our son with his college essays. He's a very strong student but is a little shy and has anxiety about the college process. We think he will be applying to top-and middle-tier schools. We hope to get a head start this summer and would appreciate advice. APerez

Hands down, Gabrielle Glancy. She took our son through the process from start to finish. It was painless and turned out to be very successful. She's great with kids this age -- fun, down to earth and very effective. Our son was always excited to see her and work with her. She helped him come up with great topics and he went on to write some really strong essays that got him in where he wanted to go. She started off working with him in junior year on applications for summer pre-college programs. He got into Brown, Dartmouth and MIT. So when it was time for the Common App and UC essays, he had a head start. She also helped him become a better writer and gain confidence in himself. She's a real pro. Happy Parents

I've worked with Tina Boyer to prepare essay-writing workshops. She is a Berkeley-based college essay coach with several years experience (and a successful track record) helping students improve their personal statements and supplemental essays. She can assist students at any stage of the essay process, be it developing a timeline for completing their work to brainstorming topics to drafting and ultimately polishing their writing. She has worked with several respected independent counselors and was mentored by a long-time UC admissions reader. Here’s her LinkedIn profile: Tina can be reached at: tinaboyer [at] Karen G

One of my daughters worked with this college essay coach via Skype and I've started using her very specific how-to advice from this article with my other daughter. Her suggestions are a good starting place wheither in place of, or in addition to, working with a coach: Been There

Our family has benefited from working with Kevin Arnold over the past couple of years as an academic coach, for test prep and with essay and application help. He is the right mix of knowledgeable, calm and supportive/directive. Best of all he helped both our kids feel confident and in-charge of their process. We highly recommend him! We found him through the BPN. Kevin Arnold 510-495-7923 Kevinarnold333 [at] a BHS Mom

I highly recommend our tutor Carla Castillo. She worked for 25 years as a lawyer and now specializes in college essay writing and tutoring english. She has worked with my middle schooler for the last year and I can only say the best things about her. She also worked with my daughter for her high school application essay. Carla is very down to earth and has a great way to connect to middle and high school students. Carla Castillo (510) 847-3789 Steffie S

We could not have done this without the help of Gabrielle Glancy . Our daughter is so excited about her acceptances and she learned so much about herself through the process of working with Gabby. I am thrilled that she has such wonderful choices and that she was offered aid, including from one of her top schools, which I'm pretty sure is where she is going to end up. I think this school will honestly be perfect for her. We are happy to serve as testimonials although we know that Gabby has so many already, which is not surprising. She also wrote THE book on the subject called The Art of the College Essay, which we bought and used alongside our one-on-one sessions with Gabby. Working with Gabby was an amazing experience! Parent, Walnut Creek

Jan 2016

I would like to recommend Mary Finn as a college counselor. I found Mary through BPN in the spring of my daughter's junior year in high school. My daughter *says* she wants to go to college, but she was extremely unmotivated when it came to actually doing the work necessary to apply. I knew that if I were trying to manage her the result would be power struggles and unpleasantness. Mary was friendly, upbeat, and unfailingly supportive. She helped my daughter refine the college list I'd put together for her, and she completely organized the process, regularly checking in with my daughter over Skype after an initial in-person meeting. She was also available to give advice and to edit my daughter's essays, and she always kept me in the loop. Thanks to Mary's low-key, courteous persistence, my daughter will apply to an appropriate set of colleges for her, will get her applications in on time, and has produced well-written, thoughtful entrance essays. Satisfied mom of unmotivated college applicant

College admissions process

Dec 2015

My 16 year old goes to Berkeley Independent Study. I work full time and want
advice on how to get admissions info. for art schools that offer product design.
The Berkeley e tree drives me crazy as I don't gave time to wade through. My kid
is not a good student and may not end up with a 4 year degree , but I wish
someone could walk us through his options.

As a student at BIS, does your son not also have access to the counselors at BHS? 
Or does BIS offer college counseling?  

I thought that BIS was still a part of BHS and the students could still see
counselors at BHS if they need to...  sk8ma512

Even if you're not anxious, the college process can give you anxiety!
Lately there are a lot of changes with the new SAT and different kinds
of application choices.  With our daughter, we didn't hire anyone.  We
got too involved and we all had anxiety!  We didn't want that to happen
again.  So we decided to try to hire someone for our son.  We knew we
needed someone with whom our son could bond so we didn't have to prod
him to work on his test prep and college essays. Our friends, who have a
son and daughter at Berkeley High, had used Gabrielle Glancy.

  We then saw she came highly recommended on BPN and
decided to give her a call.  Our son was resistant, to say the least! 
He was afraid she would be ''inauthentic'' and ''pushy.''  Well that
couldn't have been further from the truth.  We told Gabby his fears, and
she basically said, if you can get him here, the rest will be history. 
He went kicking and screaming! But she was amazing with him.  By the end
of the first session, he felt comfortable and we never had to worry
after that.  He's very nearly done with his college applications now and
all I can say is we are so grateful for Gabby's help.  She saved our
family tons of anxiety and heart ache. He's already been accepted to one
school and we are hopeful he will be accepted at many more.  You have to
find the right match. That's the key. Gabby is one of a kind -- very
professional, gifted in her field, and really good with kids this age.
Our youngest is 6 and we're hoping Gabby doesn't retire before he's
ready to apply to college!
Grateful Parent

College counselor for anxious senior

 Nov 2015

My daughter is a senior and is very anxious about college. On one hand she feels she isn't ready, but on the other hand she doesn't want to not apply and find herself regretting that decision when her friends all go off to college. She has asked that I find her a college counselor that can work with her regularly. All the recommendations on BPN focus on the essay. I need to find someone who can work with my daughter in a wholistic way, with patience, understanding, guidance, and support, and not focus just on the essay. I really need someone who has experience working with a teen who has a lot of anxiety, and who can help my daughter with all aspects of the application process (e.g., she doesn't know how to pick a college, she feels she needs to know what she wants to major in before applying, etc.). I have tried to counsel her on all of this, but she really needs someone other than a parent to advise her. Any suggestions? Recommendations? Advice? Thanks in advance. Berkeleyparents

I hired Lora Lewis lora [at] for one session with my daughter when my daughter was getting anxious about college apps. The point of the meeting was to look at her list of colleges and tell her if it was realistic and suggest others (my daughter had As and Bs and not amazing extracurriculars). My daughter really liked her and felt better afterwards. But we didn't hire her on an ongoing basis (we didn't hire anyone on an ongoing basis!) so I can't speak to that. best wishes

I think your daughter needs help connecting with her own feelings, decision-making skills, and slowing things down so she can manage her anxiety. The best way to work on that would be with a therapist. If she hasn't started already, it would be a great age to start because many transitions are coming up for her, and anything she learns now she will put to great use. I would suggest trying a few therapists (maybe 3 to start?) to see who she connects with, and let your daughter take it from there.

One she starts to connect with her own feelings more, she'll be more confident about choosing what do in a gap year or choosing the right school for her.

There are many ways to find therapists, including your insurance company. Here are some places to start for low-fee therapy:

SF Counseling Center -- 415-440-0500 (excellent therapists with excellent supervisors)

Access Institute -- 415-861-5449 (also in SF)

Berkeley Psychotherapy Institute -- 510-548-2250

The Wright Institute -- 510- 548-9716 (Berkeley)

A great complement to the therapy work might be a college counselor.

Gabby Glancy is local and is amazing at connecting with teenagers. It's like she can zero in almost immediately and get to the heart of the student and the college application. I'm still impressed at how she kept a 17-year-old, male, largely passive applicant on schedule, and helped him produce an outstanding, touching essay. Gabby's a real ally for any applicant to have in the process. Here's Gabby's phone (415-637-1955).

Kristin White of Darien Academic Advisors is based in Connecticut, though does a lot of work over Skype. Kristin is calm, steady, thorough, and has deep knowledge of colleges and their expectations. Here's a link to her page:

I think some combination of options like these will help your daughter. Once she has more information about herself and her options, she'll be the best person to determine which school is the best fit for her academically and socially.

I don't have any experience with this, though I wonder if there is also someone who could provide interesting suggestions around gap year possibilities. If she feels she's not ready yet, maybe she needs to listen to that right now and take some time. Sarah

I recommend Sophie Silverstien ( She's an excellent counselor and can help with the anxiousness. She's also an experienced college counselor, and can lead your teen through the whole process. Anya M

High school senior needs essay tutor

Sept 2015

My high-school senior son at Oakland Tech hates to write and hates to read. He is bright, articulate, empathetic, a natural leader, smart but humble, social and earning good grades. His strengths are in physics and math. His teachers love him, so he is moved up in English every year. Now he's in Honors English, his own choice, but he can't do the work! He needs expert tutoring in essay writing. He needs someone with a proven track record of success with recalcitrant writers who can make a difference in his attitude (he believes that he can't write) as well as his output. I have checked the many tutor recommendations on the listserve, but can't find someone with a specific focus on essay writing. All recommendations will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

My son, also a ''math and science guy'', has similar issues - and we were dreading the whole college essay process as a result. However, amazing help came in the form of Zack Bonzell. He completely reversed my son's reluctance to write, as he helped him find his voice and fine-tune what he'd already worked on. Now my son feels like writing isn't an obstacle, but something he can actually tackle with energy and confidence. Zack is a recent Stanford graduate - and Skyline HS Class of '11, which means he's someone high school guys be relaxed around and relate to; our son also feels like he's with someone who speaks his language. No shy awkwardness that can sometimes be present with adult tutors! Don't wait another minute to call Zack. 510.333.1390 Mom of no longer reluctant writer

If your child needs help with college essay writing and application process, I want to highly recommend Nae Tanaka, who has been working with my daughter for the last few weeks. My daughter is applying to UCs and some competitive schools out of state, and needs a lot help on her application essays. We were all very clueless about how to even approach a personal statement. So, I decided to get her a tutor and hired Nae, who was recommended by a friend of mine. My daughter connected really well with Nae and really likes her. She probed and asked insightful questions to help my daughter determine the best stories for her essay. We are still working to finish the essays, but we're very happy with the progress so far! Here's Nae's website w/ contact info: Her # is 650-731-5496. Jessica P

I'm writing to recommend Zack Bonzell for college essay application consulting. If you need someone with whom your student will immediately feel comfortable, look no further. His skills as a tutor are excellent - as a recent Stanford graduate and Oakland native (Skyline HS class of '11), he's got ground zero perspective on what essays need to look like and how to help kids achieve that. Our son has a private college admissions counselor that does not seem to spend as much one-on-one effort on helping with essay work; she's held two group workshops with writing consultants, and helps kids choose which essay to use where, but not much of the fine-tuning they really need. That's where Zack comes in - he's already spent two hours with our son reworking the essays he's started, and now our son feels much more confident about the statements he'll be submitting. Not only does he feel better about what he's written, but especially about what Zack has helped him say. Zack also checks in on his progress, is happy to text (most kids' preferred mode of communication!), and our son feels like Zack's help has energized the whole essay-writing scenario for him. Zack can really help your student find his/her voice and express it in an authentic way - which is what it's all about. Senior mom

Seeking excellent college application essay coach

July 2015

My son is generally a good student but is having some anxiety about writing the college application essays. We do not want a full package as provided by some college consultants as my son knows generally where he wants to attend college. Furthermore, the cost of a full package is a bit more than we want to spend. Instead, we want a college application essay coach who can help him with his ideas, help keep him on track, and of course help him express himself in the best way possible. Recommendations would be appreciated. Hopeful

If your son goes to Berkeley High, there is a free college essay writing service provided by trained writing coaches. Some of them even offer their services professionally but give back to the community by volunteering at Berkeley High. My daughter got excellent help there. I'm sure other people will post names of writing coaches they've worked with as well. Best of luck.

We have been very happy working with Ellen Bull. She provides only this service. ewbull [at] Leslie M

Our daughter worked with Kathleen McCleary last year -- she has a really good process and is a gifted journalist/novelist and teacher. She focuses only on college essays, not the rest of college admissions stuff. (Caution: She won't write the essay for him if that's what you're looking for.) She's great at connecting with teens, has two of her own. Worked very easily thru Skype/phone/email. You can see her info here: Or if you want to go it alone without professional help, I also recommend her tips on how to write a good college essay here: mom of happy freshman

Ariel Mazel-Gee is an excellent college application coach. The thousands of college applications she read at the Stanford Admissions Office really paid off in honing her amazing insight into what works. My daughter was admitted to almost every school she applied to. Wow! She has a very warm and supportive style. My daughter was initially unsure about wanting any help, but ended up loving working with her. Ariel was great at drawing out stories and ideas from my daughter. She was able to inspire my daughter to reshape and refine every piece of writing until it reflected who she was and expressed her thoughts in her own voice. I really appreciated that. She is worth so much more, but she charges a very modest rate. Ariel's website is Thankful mom

My son worked with Ariel Mazel-Gee on his personal essay. I found Ariel on Berkeley Parents Network which had a glowing review of her. Ariel worked remotely through Skype with my son which made it very easy for them to connect. In fact, she told me that she works remotely with people from all over. Even though my son is not a very good writer, Ariel was able to help him tell his story. She began with a brainstorming Skype session to get my son started. She kept him on track by giving him assignments after every session which he was to complete before the next session. She also taught him that he needed to revise and revise to improve his writing until it felt right. She was great at connecting with him and encouraging him all along the way. Both my son and I are very grateful for her help. He got into several of his top school choices. I hope you have as good an experience as we did. Good Luck!

Gabrielle Glancy is truly the best. Our daughter worked with Gabby two years ago and got into the school of her dreams. We started our son at the same time as our daughter even though he was only a sophomore. Gabby helped him every step of the way -- with SAT's, his college list and the entire college process. As a rising senior, he is now working with her on his college essays. In this area, I cannot imagine anyone better. She has helped him come up with really unique topics that express his true essence, is teaching him how to write in ways he and we could never have imagined and has helped him gain confidence in himself throughout the process. I have seen them work together and they have a great rapport. She's easy to talk to but really sharp and on her game. He always comes out of her office (or SKYPE) smiling. He's calm around her and she gets his creative juices flowing. Catch her early if you can. She's busy. Her book The Art of the College Essay came out last year and she's started working with students all over the country and all over the world. She's worth every penny. A rare find. 415-637-1955 You can also check out her website which is pretty thorough and informative. Parent, Walnut Creek

We want to recommend Mary Finn – whom I found on BPN – as a spectacular college tutor/advisor. My high-school twins worked with Mary last year and are headed this fall to colleges they are enormously excited about. Mary began by creating a system for identifying and evaluating schools that interested them or that she thought they should consider. She then explained the details of the application process and guided them through each part. She oversaw all the deadlines for submissions as well as managing a comprehensive checklist of other necessary tasks. She made the entire experience fun and rewarding rather than intimidating or onerous. She knows the technical pitfalls of online applications inside out (and how to fix seemingly intractable problems with forms and formats). Best of all, Mary is a very warm, empathic, perceptive and genuine mentor and coach who challenges students to challenge themselves and encourages them every step of the way. We feel so lucky to have worked with her. Mary has an extensive background in education with a specialty in college prep (see her LinkedIn bio). She can be reached at maryelizabethfinn [at] Katrina H

June 2015

I would strongly recommend Raymond Barglow and Berkeley Tutors for any students serious about significantly improving their college prospects. Ray has a calmness of spirit combined with a rigorous approach that worked well for my college bound son. His style motivated my son to reach new heights. Not only did he vastly improve my son's ACT/SAT scores, but he provided insightful tutoring in several subjects; including Math and English. Ray and his team mentored and guided my son through the college application and selection process. It was an excellent experience!! Lee F.

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

May 2015

As grandparents of a very talented young lady, we engaged Cynthia Robley, with College-Watch, in our granddaughter's sophomore year of High School. Cynthia was given one main task: Get her into the best school possible at the lowest net cost no matter where the school is located. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Even due to a unique set of personal circumstances and some difficulties our granddaughter endured, Cynthia performed well above expectations. Cynthia is very knowledgeable about the college admission and aid process and if a student listens to her and follows her advice, success will be had. I could not recommend anyone for a position in any field more than Cynthia. She takes her job very serious and realizes that this college process is the beginning of future success or failure of the student. Cynthia individualizes the search for the right college as not all students are the same. I would give her a 10+ on a 1 to 10 scale. Lois W

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! SouthBayDad

April 2015

My daughter lost her original college admissions counselor about two weeks before her first applications were due last fall. Cynthia Robey (College-Watch)graciously and enthusiastically stepped in and agreed to take my daughter on and shepherd us through the entire remaining admissions process (including interviews and choosing schools which we are still doing now). I cannot say enough good things about Cynthia! She did a fantastic job! My daughter got into her number one school plus these others, including Wellesley, Johns Hopkins, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UCLA, USC, Tulane, and with healthy scholarship money and/or financial aid. Cynthia knew what the schools wanted to see in the applications and she worked with my daughter to tailor her apps/essays to give her the best chance of being admitted to each school. Through regularly scheduled Skype sessions, she enthusiastically motivated my daughter to do her best work and enjoy doing it! Cynthia is super sharp, assertive, positive, easy to work with, and best of all, thoroughly steeped in all that it takes to create applications that have the highest potential to be accepted by the school your child is considering. She can be reached at 925-548-0002. We will never be able to thank her enough for picking us us off the ground and taking us through to a supremely successful application conclusion. Patricia

Seeking top-notch college essay tutor/advisor!

Sept 2014

Seeking recommendation for a college essay tutor/advisor/consultant who can guide my high schooler through the writing process. Please share any guidance and recommendations. Thanks so very much! Anon

Ariel Mazel-Gee is a top-notch college essay tutor! We can't thank her enough for her amazing help with our daughter. She has read thousands of college applications when she was working for the Stanford Admissions Office. That experience really shows in the way she guided my daughter to vastly improve her essay! We are so thankful to have found her. You can find her on the website. Good Luck!!

Gabrielle Glancy (gabglance [at] is who we used for both our sons. She's skilled in all aspects of the college process, but is really expert at helping students write their college essays. In fact, she wrote THE book on it (The Art of the College Essay) which I read alongside my youngest son heading into this application season. She's also very lively and funny and wise and gets along great with kids that age. I can't imagine anyone better. Andrea

My daughter has been meeting with Gabby Glancy (gabglance [at] to help with her college essays and advise on the college application process, and it has been a great experience for her. The essay part is a bit like taking a writing class -- I think the skills she's learning are not only helpful for her college essays, but will come in very handy in college and beyond. Gabby really pushes my daughter to think hard about her writing, to revise and revise and revise, to get comfortable with free writes to spur ideas, and to continually re-shape and refine. She also gives my daughter deadlines which means she's continually moving forward (and saves me from having to be the one pushing my daughter to write). My daughter really appreciates Gabby's combination of honesty, constructive feedback, and support. Despite all of the hard work, in many ways, this has been a really interesting and wonderful journey for my daughter as she thinks hard about who she is, what matters to her, and why, and Gabby has been enormously helpful in making that process a positive one. Rachel

Lesley Quinn is extraordinary. I thought we were hiring someone to help our son polish up his college admission essays. What we got was someone who had real conversations with him that were surprisingly deep. They dredged up experiences in his life that illuminated what a great kid he is, and then Lesley helped him turn that raw material into professional-class little memoirs. We were blown away by some of the things he wrote (and thought!), either because we hadn\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2t heard about them at all, or didn\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2t get how meaningful they were to him. The whole process had a \xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xc5\x93rites of initiation\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xc2\x9d kind of significance, and he was highly motivated to do revisions for her to get them just so. We just kind of stumbled into a wonderful experience for him (and us). Happy Dad

Aug 2014

Jamie Keller helped my daughter Jasmin on her college application essays last year. She is a great mentor and has an excellent approach to kids making them feel comfortable. Jasmin was accepted by many universities including her ultimate choice, Georgia Technology University, in an extremely competitive admissions environment. Now Jamie is helping my younger daughter to craft her essay. I am very confident that Allison, like her sister, will also be accepted to high caliber school. I highly recommend Jamie to any students that need help. She was a great help throughout the process, whether your child has no topic to start with or simply needs to refine their essay. Jamie email address:jamiekeller1 [at] phone#(510)524-8697 mobile/(510)847-2505 work

Excellent advisor needed

June 2014

My daughter is entering 11th grade next fall and is basically a solid student. However, we as parents feel the need for an advisor to help us navigate the whole crazy process of high school and college applications. Can anyone recommend a good tutor or advisor who might be able to help? Concerned Mom

I recommend you check out Lesley Quinn for help on the college essay. Lesley worked with two of my teens, and for both of them the experience could not have been better. She is patient and caring, but also holds the bar high and knows how to draw forth their best and most interesting selves ... in writing! My daughter liked to write, but my son did not and even so he really enjoyed working with Lesley, learned a great deal in the process and wrote an impressive essay. Both kids were accepted at their first choice schools. You can find out more about Lesley's services at Best of luck to your daughter for the year ahead! parent of 3 high school graduates

Tutor / Editor to help craft memorable college essays

June 2014

I cannot praise tutor Lesley Quinn more! Lesley [at] Lesley worked wonders for my son, when he was confronted with the daunting task of writing his college essay. He was stumped as to what subject to write about, had some thoughts, but had no clear idea which topics would help reveal who he was, and what was important to him. Using skilled probing and insightful questions, Lesley helped Sam evolve subjects to determine his best material for the essay. She helped him take his very rough written ideas, through multiple drafts so he would offer a final polished essay (skills that served him well in college). Lesley is friendly, warm collaborative, and was a master at activating his own motivation and helping him work in a timely fashion to meet deadlines. As stressed out parents, we were not helpful in this department (understatement!) Lesley encouraged, and carefully helped Sam discover his own strengths. She did not write any part of his essay -- it all came from him, inspired by her calm and thoughtful support. VB

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

April 2014

My daughter didn't use a college coach when she went through the application process this year, and it worked out well. But when one Ivy League school put her on a waitlist, she wasn't sure how best to handle it or what to expect. I found two names of highly recommended college coaches on BPN and contacted them via email. One of them replied that it was a very complicated situation, and suggested we hire her for $300/hr. to help navigate the process. I realize that this is absolutely to be expected. But the other coach, Wendy Morrison (, wrote back immediately with great advice, good wishes, and an offer to answer any further questions! I was so impressed and grateful, that I just had to post here about the experience. Empty nester-to-be

Feb 2014

I would HIGHLY recommend Sean Brennan (wordguild [at] for help on the college application process. He helped my daughter extensively through multiple drafts (including additional ones beyond the three full exchanges guaranteed in his price) of her application essays and supplements. She was struggling with topics and the initial essay did not showcase her well, and we were paying thousands to another college counselor who did not provide enough detailed feedback and guidance. By contrast, Sean is quick, affordable, in-depth, easy to work with, and made a very positive impact on my daughter's application process. The finished essay communicated who my daughter was in a way that reflected her own voice. She had a time-crunch for one of her essays and Sean worked through four drafts with her in just 5 days - he is very efficient in his editing of the essays, the draft revisions were thorough and well thought out, they preserved all of her original content while focusing her ideas and drawing out the more important parts. She will be attending Harvard University next fall because of Sean's advice and essay editing work. He is also available to help with the rest of the application process, and provides and unique and valuable service! Jessie L

Feb 2014

I'd like to recommend Jamie Keller very highly as a writing coach for college application essays. Her email is: jamiekeller1 [at] She worked with our daughter to produce multiple essays. Jamie has been doing this for a long time and truly understands how to advise without overwhelming the students own voice. Jamie's guidance is kind but honest, so that our daughter actually enjoyed the process! Margaret C

Jan 2014

I highly recommend Gabrielle Glancy as a college counselor. We went through the process without a counselor for our oldest, and decided, given the personality of our second, that it would be a good idea to enlist some outside help. Gabby worked with our daughter for 8 months (from spring of junior year through applications submission on 12/30), and, thanks to her, most of the stress at home around college apps was eliminated. This meant that our home was not a battlefield but rather a calm place--very different from two years ago when our oldest was at the same stage. Sophie stayed focused and on track both with the apps and with working to get her grades up (part of our agreement with her and with Gabby). She heard from her first school last week--she was accepted into their honors program with a scholarship that will cover 50% of all expenses. Gabby is worth every penny! Deirdre

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] Nadine

Jan 2014

I would like to recommend Jamie Keller as the best tutor that I have ever hired for my daughter. She helped my daughter write two wonderful essays for her college applications. My daughter was so worried about the essays and had no idea how to get started. Jamie was able to help her calm down and then guided her through the writing process which resulted in two wonderful essays. My daughter felt that the essays represented her and were in her voice. I highly recommend Jamie. You may contact her at JamieKeller1 [at] or at 510-524-8697. JC

Jan 2014

Who knew that the high school application process could be so nerve-wracking? We were totally overwhelmed as we attended tours, open houses, scheduled shadows and got advice from our neighbors and friends. Luckily, we connected with Kerryn Pincus who has recently started advising families on high school and college admissions. She had a great sense of our daughter as a student and was able to clearly narrow the field for us. It was a relief to get straight-forward advice from an insider (she is former Dean at Julia Morgan School for Girls) with intimate knowledge of each high school's strengths and weaknesses. I highly recommend her. RelievedMom

Dec 2013

College admission essays are very stressful for both the student and the parent. Jamie Keller helped my daughter write the two essays that are required for the UC application. She made the process so smooth and stress free for both my daughter and I. Jamie and my daughter met once, discussed topics and then they met via Skype to continue the conversation and within a few weeks, two wonderful essays were written. My daughter was concerned about ensuring the essays represented her individuality and Jamie was able to help her succeed in attaining that goal. I would definitely recommend Jamie Keller to anyone who is looking for help and guidance for their teen in this process. mm.c

Nov 2013

I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus! We did our college process from start to finish with Gabrielle Glancy (gabglance [at] and everything that is said about her is true. Our daughter had done previous preparation for the SAT's, but eight sessions with Gabby was worth all of the rest of it put together. She has some techniques that seemed to unlock previously locked doors for Sophia. And then she helped her find her voice and write the most beautiful essays. She got into all of the schools she applied to including USC, UCLA, CAL, NYU, the list goes on. We honestly could not have been happier. Gabby's really a pro. She's tuned in to the process and to the students in a way that's hard to express. She's also a very intelligent, wise and upbeat person. The only advice I would give is start with her early. That can make all the difference! S C

Lamorinda Area College Counselor

Oct 2013

Hi. I'm currently looking for a college counselor. Although my daughter's high school is great in many ways I'm wanting more information earlier than the school thinks is necessary. Also, there seems to be an assumption that kids want to strive for acceptance into the UC system. UCs are great but there is so much more out there! My daughter is a sophomore and wants to start exploring her options now. I don't want her to get anxious about admissions; I'm thinking that having concrete images and info will be motivating. Do you have any recommendations?

We worked with Joanne Fraser-LeGates in the Oakland Hills. She was wonderful. We have one teen enjoying freshman year at his first choice school and three more who will work with her. Good luck! Nina

College Essay tutor for high school senior

Sept 2013

My son is entering his senior year of High School. Does anyone have a recommendation for an essay tutor who could help him navigate the college essay murky waters? Thanks a lot. Marie

Carla Castillo provided writing coaching for my son during his senior year. Carla read his college application essays and gave thoughtful guidance. Carla was encouraging, patient, and understanding through the revisions. I would recommend Carla's professional service for your student's writing needs. You will be reassured after contacting Carla at simplycarlacastillo [at] Mary

I'd like to recommend Heather MacLeod (macleodphd [at] She used to work as a recruiter at UC Berkeley's grad school of education, helping students improve their admissions essays. My 13-yr-old son worked with her for 5 or 6 1-hr sessions (mostly 1x/wk) for an essay he needed to write for acceptance to an educational opportunity program. Very similar to HS application essays. And to college application essays, I think, though we're not there yet. I was skeptical that my son would be able to work with anyone, but I needed to try something because he certainly wasn't able to work with me and he wasn't getting it done on his own. I was very pleasantly surprised that with no resistance from my son, Heather had him writing, editing, etc. She has a very easygoing way that accomplishes what needs to get done. She also has a lovely personality and is pleasant to work with. If you have specific questions I haven't addressed, please feel free to contact me directly. Best of luck. klc

Heather MacLeod has been tutoring my son for a few years. My son's writting and comprehension skills have improved dramatically, thanks to Heather's effective teaching methodologies. Heather connects with and relates to kids very well. Her students adore her and looks forward to attending her classes. Heather is one of the most dedicated teachers we have ever known and she genuinely cares how her students are doing in school. I highly recommend Heather. Her email is macleodphd [at] Maggie-David's mom

I'm a little late in responding to the person who has a high school senior and is looking for someone to help with College Essays. I can strongly recommend Carla Castillo at: simplycarla [at] or by phone at 510-847-3789. She worked with my son, a BHS 2013 graduate , on both of his essays. He felt like she totally understood what he was trying to say and was able to guide him in finding his own voice and to put that down on paper. Those essays can now be found in the latest edition of, The Berkeley High Book of College Essays on Amazon. I'm not trying to sell the book bus am using it as an example of where Carla can take a child with their writing. Wishing you the best in this next process Diana C

College Counselor - Arts Programs

Feb 2013

We are looking for an advisor to help our high school junior figure out his post-high school plans, and none of the recommendations in the archives seem to fit the bill. We are not (at this point) looking for someone to help him write his application essays. We are looking for someone who can help him figure out the best way to move toward independence after high school. He is very smart and a talented artist but has never liked school (with the grades to show it). I think he would do best in a program that is very hands on and allows him to start doing what he loves (digital arts) right away, without a lot of prerequisites. Obviously, we are also concerned that he end up with a marketable degree.

We'd also like some short term advice on how to best focus his time in the limited time remaining before he applies to colleges. Given that his grades are pretty bad (C average), is it worth it to expend a lot of energy studying for the SATs? PSAT scores were not promising. Or is it better for him to focus on building his portfolio? He would definitely enjoy the latter more, but I think he would need some structure/advice on what the portfolio should contain, and we (his parents) have no idea. And if it's better to focus on the SAT, are there any programs that work for kids who hate studying??? I can just imagine him completely zoning out at Kaplan sessions and would hate to throw away money like that. Please advise if you know any college advisors who have successfully advised students like our son. Thank you.

Don't know for sure if he would fit the bill, but you might talk with Casey McCarroll. He's not a college counselor per se, but he created the Transition Counseling program at Holden High School, helping juniors and seniors envision and plan for their lives after high school. Some of the students are interested in 2-year or 4-year colleges, but many are interested in something more hands on or practial. Casey has a private practice doing the same kind of work with teens and young adults, specializes in working with young men. My 16-year-old son, who is following a very non-traditional educational path, really likes him. Terry

My son has Learning Disabilities and had the exact same GPA in high school. I can't remember who we used but, Contact Bay hill High School in Oakland and ask them for some possibilities. Bay Hill is a High School for kids with Learning Disabilities.

Lots of schools have good Services now. I was really, really impressed with Southern Oregon State U in Ashland, Oregon. They had lots of great help. Don't let anyone suggest Evergreen College in Washington. It's an interesting college but not if you learning disabilities. Tracy

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. ( -Hong

May 2013

Fabulous College Essay Coach
I write to wholeheartedly recommend my daughter's college essay coach, Jamie Keller. Jamie was a huge help throughout this process, and really took most of the stress out of it. My daughter was having trouble getting started, and Jamie worked with her brainstorming essay topics, and then asked the right questions to flesh out the topic. She reviewed drafts and offered insightful and constructive comments, always making sure that my daughter was the author and that the essay was in her voice. My daughter ended up with several lovely, well-written essays that really expressed her personality. Jamie has a very gentle and supportive manner and put my daughter immediately at ease. We also recommended Jamie to my niece, who lives in Las Vegas. She worked with Jamie entirely remotely and was also very pleased. Jamie can be reached at jamiekeller1 [at] Emily

May 2013

My daughter Danielle worked with Jamie Keller who assisted Danielle in writing her college application essays. Although we live out of state, Jamie was able to communicate using Skipe. She was insightful, focused, intelligent, and creative as she assisted Danielle develop excellent thoughtful essays. Jamie was able to illuminate those concepts within the essay that would be most interesting to a prospective evaluator. Jamie has a professional, constructive approach which avoids simple criticism in favor of helpful recommendations to solidify ideas and clarify language. Danielle found this attitude to be collegial and non judgmental. Danielle would recommend Jamie to any college applicant without reservation and with respect and admiration for her skills, personality and professionalism. Grateful parent

Writing coach needed for college entrance essays

April 2013

I am applying to a very competitive nursing program in the fall and need to submit 3 writing samples. Writing is not my strong suit, and am hoping someone has a recommendation on where to find a fantastic writing coach. I don't want to use craigslist. Thank you in advance! anon

I'd like to refer you to Kirsten Enriquez. She's a writing coach/dissertation coach, she's very easy to work with, and she's good at what she does. I've used her as a writer, not a coach - she wrote the material on my website ( and she writes other marketing materials for me - but I know that for the most part she works with students or professors on academic material, and I've met clients of hers who find her coaching to be very helpful and empowering. I think she's fantastic! She can be reached at k.enriquez [at] or 614/623-6426. Good luck! rebecah

I recommend Deborah Davis -- see her website at She was a great help in the college essay process for my son this year. She worked with him once or twice in person - then reviewed his essays via email and phone. Excellent results, easy to work with. em

April 2013

Re: College prep help
I just had to post this. My husband and I searched high and low for the perfect college counselor. We interviewed three people and finally settled on one who was reasonably priced and seemed like a good match. Our son, who is a very strong student at Berkeley High, did not end up getting in where he had hoped. He got deferred and wait-listed at several of his top choices. A friend who had used Gabrielle Glancy (she goes by Gabby) recommended we call her to see if she could help. Gabby was amazing! She is really a pro. Our son ended up getting into one of his top choice schools after she helped us prepare a supplementary package that highlighted aspects of his personality and academic career that were missing in his original application. I cannot recommend her highly enough. Our only regret is that we didn't use her in the first place! Her phone number is 415-637-1955 Email: gabglance [at] She has a great web site too if you want to check it out first. Much Relieved Parent

March 2013

I read your post in Parents of Teens Issue and I can definitely say that having a college consultant is the best thing I've ever invested in for my son who is now a high school senior. He began with Cynthia Robey, MBA at College Consultants his sophomore year.

My son's weighted GPA was 3.6 with average ACT and SAT scores when he submitted his college applications. Because of Cynthia's extensive knowledge of what colleges look for when accepting students, she has guided my son in completing and submitting his college applications. So far, he has been accepted to 11 of 15 colleges and universities.

Today, he was accepted to UC Davis, his number one choice. My son chose schools based on the best fit for his profile. We could not have completed these great accomplishments without her.

I highly recommend Cynthia. She can be contacted at 925-548-0002 or R

Looking for Great Tutor/College Admissions Go-To

Feb 2013

For amazing help with college essays and the admissions process or any kind of excellent tutoring, Gabrielle Glancy is outstanding! We came to her on the late side and she bent over backwards to help our daughter with an early decision application and with her college essays. A former admissions director herself and a widely published writer, her insights were invaluable. She really helped our daughter focus, hone and polish some really beautiful essays. She's calm, kind, quick and effective and also has a great sense of humor. Our daughter really enjoyed working with her. She gets an A+ in our book! c. lum

I have three sons and I have never met someone who has as much expertise and rapport with kids as Gabby (Gabrielle Glancy - gabglance [at] does. She's truly an expert in her field. As a former Admissions director, she knows from the inside out what students need to get into college. Working with Gabby is really one-stop shopping. She does everything from test prep (SAT & ACT) to helping students figure out where to apply to working deeply with them on developing awesome college essays. I'm so glad she was referred to me. I can only say: She's the best in the business! Illana

Feb 2013

For the College Admissions Consultants section of BPN.

For the single and married parents who want the ''Best AND Most'' for their child, Cynthia will get you top Results. She has a special gift of connecting well with her students and is very knowledgeable when it comes to preparing each child for acceptance into the college of their choice. Every student may not have the highest GPA or SAT/ACT score, but Cynthia knows how to be creative and think out-of-the box to help your child develop and implement ideas that will definitely strengthen his/her profile, increasing their likelihood of being accepted. If you want to help alleviate the worry and stress that comes with writing essays for college applications, choosing top colleges and universities most appropriate for your child's interests, while making sure you receive all possible scholarships available, connect with Cynthia. You'll be extremely pleased. I am!

My son's weighted GPA was 3.6 with average ACT and SAT scores when he submitted his college applications. Because of Cynthia's extensive knowledge of what colleges look will for when accepting students, she has guided my son in completing and submitting his college applications. So far, he's been accepted to 8 of 15 colleges and universities; as of yet, he has not been denied. He has been accepted to Sacramento State, San Francisco State, University of Nevada, La Sierra University, St. Mary's UOP, UC Riverside, and Cal Poly. We are still waiting to hear from UC Davis, UC Berkeley, USC. My son chose schools based on the best fit for his profile.

Even if he doesn't get accepted to another college, he has great options. With Cynthia's help, he developed excellent personal essays and became involved in a variety of extracurricular and community service activities. I could not have accomplished this great task without her. Cynthia's college consulting service has been one of my best investments yet and I highly recommend that all parents reserve an appointment with her just to hear what she has to offer. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Cynthia can be contacted at 925-548-0002 or Rosalind

Dec 2012

I would like to recommend Jamie Keller for anyone looking for a writing coach. My son has been working with Jamie on his college essays and he and I are very pleased with the results. Jamie provides guidance on how to develop, structure, and refine these essays in a way that allows for improved writing skill, not just a completed essay. jamiekeller1 [at] satisfied mother

Dec 2012

I highly recommend Jamie Keller. Jamie is an excellent college application essay coach who really understands how to help students make their personal statements pop. My daughter Erin had some ideas about what she wanted to write about. Jamie listened to Erin, and helped her choose and develop her topics for UC, the Common Application, and the many supplements the colleges required. She encouraged Erin to believe in the power of her own voice, guiding her through the process until her finished essays were unique stories only Erin could tell. Jamie showed her that by using vivid language and creating images that would stay in the reader's mind, her essays would be memorable and stand out from the rest. Jamie was right. Erin is now a freshman at Vassar, and I am sure that her powerful essays were a major factor in her acceptance to the school. Jamie's contact information: Jamie Keller, MA Education Educational Therapist/Professional 510 524-8697 510 847-2505 cell
Sarah A.

Nov 2012

Jamie Keller is an excellent college essay tutor! She helped my daughter 3 years ago and my son this year. She has gently guided them to create a unique statement, reflecting their personality and voice. With my son, in order to work around his schedule after meeting in person a couple of sessions, they worked online via Skype and Word Docs. Each of my children have different ways of working and Jamie was able to encourage each of them to excel and succeed. Jamie Keller (510) 524-8697 Pat H.

Seeking REASONABLY priced College Admission Essay Coach

July 2012

I am seeking a REASONABLY priced College Admission Essay Coach. I've contacted three (3) coaches/advisors recommended by this network and, all of which, are WAY TOO EXPENSIVE! $180 to $105 per hr? Really? That's more than what AP Physics/Chemistry and some SAT Tutors are charging, and in my opinion, almost more important than admission essays. Any additional recommendations would be appreciated. Anon

I would recommend Elizabeth Garst or Ruby Bernstein. Both are reasonably priced and are good essay coaches. Judith B

June 2012

I want to recommend 3 Moms who just started their business together in the Bay Area. Their business is called San Francisco Admissions Advisors and their website is - I have already learned quite a bit from them. All 3 are certified college admissions advisors who have been doing this type of work for years. They also have experience working with International students, High School admissions, graduate school admissions and students with learning differences. Check them out - great women who know their stuff! Debbie L.

How important is a college essay coach?

June 2012

How important is it to hire a coach to help our son with his college essay? My son has good grades and knows which colleges he want to apply to. My only concern is the essay part since I see many people around me are hiring college consultants for their children. How expensive is the service if it is limited to coaching the student with the essay? If you think it is a good idea, then your recommendation for a good and yet affordable college essay coach is appreciated, too. mother of a junior

I highly recommend hiring an essay coach for two main reasons: 1) in this extremely competitive college admissions market, the essay can be the make it or break it part of the application, and 2) during the process of developing a tight and persuasive piece of writing, students can begin to see their own experiences and unique gifts coming into sharp focus.

My daughter had a truly memorable experience with Lesley Quinn. Not only did she emerge a better and more confident writer, she enjoyed the process thoroughly. Lesley understands what the colleges are looking for. She encourages kids to be self-reflective and to dig below the surface to find the most real and compelling story. My daughter found Lesley to be supportive, kind, and fun to work with. In the end, my daughter was accepted to every one of her top choice schools. Heidi

Hi, I wanted to recommend that you contact Lesley Quinn, who was a terrific help to my daughter when she was writing her college essays. Lesley is smart, funny and personable (which made my daughter invested in the work they were doing together) and organized, with scheduled deadlines and due dates for revisions (which allowed me the wonderful relief of not worrying or micromanaging!). It was a fabulous experience for my daughter, and her essay was well written, clearly her own voice and had the desired outcome of admission to the school that she most wanted to attend. I couldn't have been happier with Lesley's work. You can contact her at Happy Mom

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 lark

May 2012

My son, husband, and I recommend Barry wholeheartedly as both a college counselor and a portfolio preparation adviser. Barry is smart, experienced, and great with teens. He offered superb advice, encouragement, and support to our son, who needed to create an art portfolio for undergraduate architecture programs. A wonderful artist himself, Barry's guidance was thoughtful, insightful, and professional. Barry had a lovely, compassionate approach with our son, who was not a confident artist, but Barry also knew how to nudge tactfully and firmly when deadlines loomed and our son got cold feet. The result of their process together was successful: our son was offered spots in three top-ranked US architecture programs that require an art portfolio. If the opportunity arose, we would work with Barry again. Deborah

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 want to recommend great assistance with college essay writing! (Jamie Keller: Jamiekeller1 [at] My son had a writer's block, especially having to write about himself which is hard for anybody. I hired the hgihly recommended (by the moms in my book group with 3 seniors this year working with her):, Jamie Keller. She worked with a painfully rough first draft and somehow got him motivated to address her feedback and come up with other drafts. He absolutely would not listen to any adult feedback so her skills working with him were admirable. I am happy to say that he got into his first choice college. He did finally write a personal and revealing essay for the Common app, which he was able to break into two parts to address the UC apps. Yeah Jamie! I highly recommend her to anyone with a kid is who is resistant to writing. smartsalgal

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

College Advisor for A+ student in East Bay

March 2012

I am looking for a recommendation involving a college advisor that could guide my child towards her journey to a suitable college. We have some reservations about ''College Quest''. Any input would be really appreciate it. thanks

We have worked with Sue Kim in Pleasant Hill. She knows her colleges and is great with the financial aid. She sometimes takes a while to respond to emails or phone calls when she is busy.

We had a horrible experience with College Quest. Not only were they outrageously expensive, but my kid came home from every session in tears because of the putdowns. The same essays that my kid wrote (that Austin said were horrible) got favorable reviews from every other essay reader and subsequent college adviser. She also kept suggesting schools my kid had zero interest in. Fortunately, several people lifted my kid's self esteem back after this unfortunate experience at College Quest. Parent of happy college sophomore

Our daughter was a top student and test taker. Wendy Morrison of Kensington (sorry don't have her number handy, but I thinks she's been recommended by other parents; look at old posts for her number) was fabulous. Our daughter got into ''elite'' colleges such as Harvard, Stanford, Cal, UCLA, Pomona, etc. Good luck to your daughter, and get ready for a wild and thrilling ride! anonymous

I run a private SAT/ACT tutoring company in Berkeley, and often get requests for a college counselor. I would highly recommend Wendy Morrison. She has worked with many of my students, and has got nothing but rave reviews. My students love working with her. She can be reached at wendy [at]

College prep resources for deserving low income student

March 2012

Hi. My nanny has three amazing school-age kids, destined for college. One of them will be turning 16 soon so her college preparation needs are quite imminent. She wants to be a doctor. The situation is this. The girl's parents are immigrants and not savvy to the college admissions/preparation process. She has a very good GPA at a local charter school. The school seems great, but I'm not sure they have the resources to offer comprehensive college preparation counseling. I've asked, and I don't see they are working closely with her. Because the parents are low-income, it would really be best for this child to attend a school with a large endowment for scholarships, ie. a very good school like Stanford. I think this child could possibly get her GPA in range, but needs a lot of advice regarding extracurricular activities, and needing someone to check that she is taking the right kind of courses to attend a top-tier school. She will also need assistance with her application, getting letters of recommendation, personal statement etc. I really wish we could afford to hire a college counselor for her but our resources are truly stretched. Does anyone know of any affordable or possibly free resources out there to help deserving students like this get the kinds of college prep assistance that kids in the private schools get? berkeley mom

10,000 Degrees (formerly the Marin Education Fund) provides exactly this service in San Rafael. I'm not sure whether East Bay kids are eligible but it's worth a call to find out. JM

Hello, I suggest that you look into two nonprofits that help young people become first generation college students.

1) College Track, which has a program in Oakland. Check them out on line at

2) First Graduate, based in San Francisco but might be able to recommend resources in East Bay. Rachel

Aspire Education Project is a nonprofit ''dedicated to providing the best academic support to all K-12 students.'' From their web site, ''Students whose families can not afford market rates receive reduced price tutoring and Aspire Education Project collaborates with partner organizations to provide test preparation classes to groups of promising students from struggling schools.'' They may have suggestions as well on overall college prep for a student without financial means. Aspire Admirer

free SAT prep

Haas summer program


main UCB pipeline site:

college counselors may be willing to give an hour or so pro bono--try contacting some

depending on your time, you can do a lot w/o any special skills--remind her to take the PSAT/SAT and apply to the UC's on time (deadline is super early), offer to read her essay, etc. best wishes

There is an organization in Oakland called College Track - - and I think there are other similar organizations that help teens of families who will be the first in their family to go to college or teens in other similarly disadvantaged situations. Mary

College Counselor to Help with Sorting Options?

Feb 2012

My son is a junior in high school. The only family I know that used a college counselor engaged her services during the student's freshman year to work with him all through high school. We were thinking it would be helpful to hire someone on a short-term basis, or even just for a few consultations, to help my son go over what colleges could be a good fit for him, maybe go over his essays, and so on. Our main problem is that my husband and I just went to the UC closest to home (Berkeley) and didn't apply to too many other schools. I know there must be plenty of great colleges out there I don't know about, and I'd like my son to have broader horizons in that area than I did.

We have the two Loren Pope books (''Colleges that Change Lives'' and ''Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College that's Right for You''), but I feel my son would benefit from talking one-on-one with someone.

Can anyone suggest a counselor who works on this kind of short-term consultation basis? Any idea what such a service might cost? Thanks a ton! Mary

I highly recommend Barbara Manierre in Berkeley. She helped our son on a short-term basis with college choices and the application process. She is organized, extremely knowledgeable, and kept our son focused and on task. Working with her, he was able to identify the colleges that would be a good fit for him, submit his applications early and ultimately had seven college acceptances to choose from. He is happily completing his Freshman year at the college that was his first choice. Barbara's contact information is: Barbara Manierre barbara [at] (510)655-9065 College Mom

You should contact Amy Loebl, College Admission Advisor. Amy worked with my daughter and was very helpful in coming up with a great mix of schools that would be a good fit, some that we did not know about. My daughter enjoyed working with Amy and found the experience extremely valuable. In addition to being knowledgeable about the College Admission process, Amy is a delightful person. Contact her at: amy.loebl [at] BHS mom

You will undoubtedly receive a host of names of experienced, competent private college counselors. Before spending the money on a session with one of them, I would highly recommend that you speak with the college counselor at your son's high school. Your son can make the appointment and you can go with him. My son and I were in the same position as you are and paid for one session with a highly respected private counselor. Her advice turned out to be much less valuable and accurate than the advice that my son received from his college advisor at BHS.

The college center at BHS has up-to-the-minute information about colleges, has worked with students of diverse backgrounds and learning styles, has relationships with admissions officers across the country and really has the knack for fitting the right student with the right school, whether it is an Ivy League school, a community college, a public university, etc.

As an aside, the private counselor told my son that he had no chance of getting into an Ivy League school. Not so his BHS college counselor who encouraged him to pursue his dream and helped him work through the steps he needed to take to get there. Ivy League Mom

My son and I sat down with David Elliot and he was INCREDIBLY informative on what different colleges and universities have to offer. Many of these ''counselors'' charge a ridiculous sum, because they know its a wealthy families choice, but in our case, we just needed to see what was a good fit. HE was wonderful and reasonable. (He also looks like Harrison Ford, which makes the experience quite delightful) Reenie

2010 - 2011 Reviews

Dec 2011

I feel I absolutely must let the world (or the East Bay) know about Rebecca Field, a most amazing college counsellor who works out of an office near Lake Merritt, Oakland. She guided my son through the process of applying to colleges and actually made it fun and enriching! She connected with my son immediately. She took the time to get to know him and she was with him every step of the way. She helped him organize, set his tasks and introduced him to try a few schools that she thought would be good for him. My son wanted to go to a small college back east. We thought this would be a challenge, but Rebecca was familiar with the full spectrum of public and private schools nationally. She was able to suggest a few additional schools that were not in Forty Colleges but just as good. Jake submitted the last of his applications yesterday and ahead of the deadlines despite a somewhat late start. He feels great about his choices, is excited about college and was able to really think through what he wanted to get out of school. I can say with absolute certainty that Rebecca made all the difference. While some of the choices might have been the same, the quality of the applications, essays and the confidence were entirely due to Rebecca. Debra

College advisor in Fremont/Pleasanton area

Dec 2011

I am looking for a recommendation for a good advisor, preferably in the Fremont/Pleasanton area, who can help my 16 year old daughter narrow her college choices. She is not sure what she would like to study, but does want to go to school outside of California. There are lots of firms out there, but would appreciate advice from parents who have already been through this. May also want help on preparing college essays, but I don't want to get locked into any long-term contract. Ruth

I think that you ought to talk to Elizabeth LaScala who is a very thoughtful and successful college adviser covering the locations and needs you've stated. Dr. LaScala works with students on college and graduate school applications and writes a number of newspaper articles for the general public. She can provide an alternative to a ''package'' arrangement and she can be reached by phone at (925) 891-4491 or by email at elizabeth [at] Best of luck. A reputable reference

The college advisor our son worked with four years ago isn't in the Fremont area, but we just had an excellent experience with an essay coach who helped him with his personal statements for medical school. Her office is in San Francisco but because she can work remotely by phone and e-mail (and the wonders of Skype!) they were able to get everything done with him at school on the east coast. She's pricey but gets great results. Leslie Quinn: (415) 341-1110 or Good luck to you! Margaret S.

Oct 2011

Sean Brennan helped my daughter immensely with her college application essays. She is applying to a number of very competitive universities this fall, and between her class load and other activities, she had little time to spare. Sean was able to work with her essays via e-mail and very quickly provided extremely detailed and insightful feedback and instruction for an exceptionaly reasonable price. He also has a blog with detailed discussion of the major prompts this year. You can reach him at wordguild [at] I strongly recommend his services. c.c

College advisor for gifted teen in tri-valley area

Aug 2011

I need to find an advisor for my high school junior ASAP. She eventually wants to get into a school like UCSD and I'm concerned she has a Fall semester class schedule that isn't right for her. Her high school counselor just let her pick her own courses. (Unfortunately that's a problem with the summer AP work.) I would appreciate recommendations for college advisors who work well with gifted teens who have lost confidence in their academic abilities. We live in Pleasanton, so prefer someone in the Tri-valley/680corridor region. Stymied parent

I highly recommend Elizabeth LaScala. She is an outstanding college advisor with an excellent track record and she is located in your area. You can reach Dr. LaScala at 925-330-8801. A reputable reference

Sounds like you're putting the cart before the horse. If your teen has no confidence in her academic abilities, she's not going to get the help she needs from a college advisor. What she really needs is an ed psych. Once the problem has been taken care of, then she should see the college advisor. Now if the ed psych works in tandem with a college advisor, then she can see both. Anon

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! Lisa

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.

June 2011

Marilynn Aiches is an incredible college councilor and tutor. She's great with all kinds of students. She worked with my son and daughter and saved us all kinds of angst. Her expertise, insight and support was invaluable every step of the way from curriculum choices, extracurricular suggestions, to college choices. Plus, nobody can get a student to write an essay like she can. She's passionate about what she does and gets amazing results. I recommended her to 8 other friends and all of our children have been accepted to their top colleges, including the most selective ones. An added advantage is the fact that Marilynn, in addition to her private practice, works for UC Berkeley admissions. This gives her insight into what makes a great college application. I'd call soon because she gets booked up. Believe me, you won't regret it---and better yet, your student will thank you. Mine did. Marilynn Aiches 510.559.8815 collegeadmitpro [at] Kathy

College Admission Advisors

May 2011

We are looking for a college admissions advisor for our sophomore son at Acalanes. Have any of you used Karen Maas, Jan Hale, Lynda Phelps, or Shelly O'Neill? We would love to hear your thoughts. Anybody else in Lamorinda that you would recommend? Thanks

Hi, I would like to recommend a knowledgable college advisor. Michelle Myers from Walnut Creek guided our son and us through his college choice and application process. She helped him discover what major would fit his interests. She researched colleges that would cater to his major all while taking into consideration his location preferences. She guided him as he completed his UC applications, state and private college applications too. We were pleased at the number of colleges he was accepted to. We believe Michelle's guidance played a part in this. If you need advice for your high school junior to be sure they are prepared for college as well as help with applications and recommendations for scholarships contact Michelle Myers at 925 788-6953 or michellemyers [at] Kristen

College counselor to advise about art college programs

May 2011

My son is a junior in high school and wants to major in visual arts with a BFA. Does anyone know what are the best California state colleges, (not the UC's as they are too big), or a small private colleges locally in California they can recommend with a strong fine arts program.? Also can you recommend a college counselor/coach who is familiar with strong art programs in college? SB

I recommend Susan Martin, Seize the Year Educational Consultant. Although many of her clients are working with her to put together a meaningful Gap Year (a year taken off either before or during one's college pursuits), she has 25 years in the field of education (most recently, undergraduate academic advising at a local arts college), and is also an exhibiting artist. I find her well-grounded and insightful, creative and focused. Best wishes for an exciting time for you and your son. Amy,Oakland

Hi, I am a Professor of Art (Painting) at San Jose State University. We have a first rate program with a BA in General Studio Practice (120 units) and a BFA (132 units) concentration (portfolio review required). Unfortunately, I do not know of any college counselors at the high school level with whom to speak. Other CSU alternatives (that offer the BFA) are Long Beach. Other than UC, there are several great accredited private art colleges to recommend (but if tuition is factor, note that they are very costly). The San Francisco Art Institute, California College of the Arts. There are many good state schools that offer the BA in Visual Arts (SFSU, Humbolt, Sac State, Fresno, San Diego State, to name a few..) Hope this helps. Gale

College advisor to support daughter through the decision-making process

Feb 2011

Hi -- I'm searching for a college adviser who can give my daughter some support through the college decision-making process. She's a junior, with great grades and the right temperament for college, but she seems paralyzed in terms of starting the process. She's expressed concerns that she feels she has to know what she's doing (going to be/study) before she can even think about/look at schools, and that she's afraid of making a ''mistake''. As parents, we've tried to express our views that going to college is when you discover these things about yourself but she's unconvinced.

I'm really looking for someone creative and open who can help her to think imaginatively,and maybe help free her from this need to judge herself overly harshly and over-analyze. She's like this in other things, too. She responds better to adults who are more sharp-witted/edgy rather than the sensitive (= motherly) type. Thanks! Mom whose teen needs to look before she leaps

Wendy Morrison is the best. She is very knowledgeable, very engaging, very responsive, and did an amazing job helping my son to navigate through his applications. She had great ideas about schools that he might be interested in, and schools that would be interested in him as well. Her contact information is Wendy E. Morrison, Educational Consulting, 225 Cambridge Avenue, Kensington, California 94708 Phone: (510) 384-5962, wendymorrison [at] Teresa

We had a great experience with Barbara Manierre. Our son worked with her (we as parents were hands-off) through the entire college admission process - initial exploration of college choices, guidance for HS classes, applications and essays, and weighing the pros and cons in the final decision on college to attend. Our son found that when working with Barbara, he felt organized, ''on-task'', focused, and in control. Working with her removed much of the stress of the college admissions process and we had a most satisfactory outcome. Our son is now off to the college that was his first choice and is very happy. Barbara's office is in Berkeley. barbara [at] 510-655-9065. College Mom

I've written in on this topic before, but your daughter sounds exactly like mine, two years ago. She was stuck in terms of thinking about how to even approach the college process, and I think feeling very insecure, and I was totally ineffective in dragging anything out of her.

We interviewed several college counselors and ended up working with Ethan Ris, who made house calls and was definitely different from the rest of the pack. Instead of just going through a standard spiel (i.e the same thing we could get from the high school counselor ...) he took the time to really get to know our daughter personally and then helped her formulate a strong list of colleges and a game plan for the college process. (He's also much younger than most counselors, around 30 I think, which seems appropriate for connecting with teens). She saw the possibilities and got excited about going off to school for the first time. She is now a very happy freshman at a great school back East!

Ethan has a website at Good luck!! There is a light at the end of the tunnel ... Erica

I felt a little 'stuck' with our Junior last Fall as well. I think the hard part is on 'where to start'. We ended up working with . It has been most helpful. His counselor spend some time getting to know him, 'sorting' through his interests and grade history, and now they are working on a college short list together. He has his personal counselor, and then there are other consultants who specialize in financial aid and essay writing. The fees are about $100 per month for a once a week consultation, but they have different program options. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions. Sonja

Seeking a tutor to help with college essay and planning

Feb 2011

Seeking a tutor to help my teen daughter with her college essay and planning. She hasn't decided the major/minor yet, highly interested in art (I don't think that will end up as her major). Great grades (3.8 GPA), but not strongly focused on science or AP classes and with limited extracurricular activities. Ideally I would like someone who can come to our house in Cupertino or within a reasonable driving distance (10 miles or so). Lisa

Lesley Quinn helped our daughter with her application essays and she was wonderful. She wasn't inexpensive but the results were definitely worth the investment. We felt as if our daughter's writing skills were sharpened, but more than that, Leslie helped her write a story that was personal, honest, and essential to who she is. Parent of Recent Ivy League Graduate

I would like to recommend Lesley Quinn as an outstanding writing tutor for college essays. Lesley is extremely skilled (she is a published writer), knowledgeable, organized, patient, kind and very insightful. She makes the college essay process a valuable learning experience rather than a dreary set of hurdles to be gotten over. My daughter actually enjoyed writing her college essays, because as she worked through the drafts she learned a lot about writing and also a lot about herself. And she was accepted at all the colleges she was interested in! Lesley focuses specifically on the essay part of applying to college, but she collaborates with other college admissions counselors who can work with you on college selection and so forth. I could not recommend Lesley more highly. Check out her website: satisfied mom

I highly recommend Marita Surace. You can reach her at (408) 501-8887 or by email at msurace [at] She invests herself in her clients and she's knowledgeable, thorough, and effective. Linda

Nov 2010

I would like to recommend an outstanding college admissions consultant in Berkeley. Edith Zinn has over 20 years of experience and is a former University of Michigan Admissions Officer. She worked with my daughter two years ago and with my son last year. Edith typically begins working with students in the winter to spring of their junior year, and assists them with planning senior year coursework, when to take tests, and recommending prep work/materials/tutors, if needed. She spends time getting to know each student, drawing out individual strengths and qualities to highlight in the college application resumes and essays, and helps the student to develop a list of colleges that are a good match. She helped both of my children craft really remarkable essays, and ultimately present themselves in a way that gained them admissions to their first choice universities. With Edith's assistance, my son was one of 600 admits (out of 10,000 applicants) to the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at UCLA last spring where he now attends. Edith works on either a flat fee or hourly basis depending upon your need/preference. She is a true professional and I recommend calling her as soon as possible. Edith can be reached at 510-528-0503. Chris

Nov 2010

I highly recommend Barbara Gates for help with college application essays. My son felt hopelessly blocked when it came to writing his personal essay. He wanted his experience to be told it in his own voice, but the draft he brought to Barbara, if honest, was wooden and lacked movement. Right away, Barbara proved to be a wonderful listener. A high school English teacher for decades, and a gifted published writer, and editor, she has a natural ease in drawing from a reluctant teen the experiences that shape a life and the details that make it unique. What is wonderful about Barbara is that she did so without ever giving suggestions, letting my son take charge of the entire process. She helped him link his initial ideas, moving the story to a thoughtful, arresting conclusion. After three revisions, the final product has kept the freshness of the initial draft. I have heard that the best story reads like unfolding self-discovery. By this standard, my son's essay is a winner. Best of all, thanks to Barbara's unobtrusive help, he can rightfully and proudly take ownership of it. Barbara tutors in her home office in West Berkeley. You may contact her at (510) 486-0236 or at bgates [at] Grateful Parent

Need references for college advisers and fee info

Sept 2010

I would like to get references for college advisers in the Bay area (Contra Costa/Alameda counties preferred) as well as fees etc--I have heard those professionals are great but I don't know much about how they work, fees etc. I have a 15 yr old son and feel we need to get all the help we can before deciding on which school is the best for him. Thanks in advance! Patty

Wendy Morrison is an absolutely incredible college counselor. She is kind, knowledgeable, energetic, efficient, and relates well to all different kinds of students. She helps students and their families through every stage of the college search and application process, and assists them in finding public and/or private schools that would be a good fit. My husband is a former BHS teacher who has written college recommendations for countless students in his career. We were both extremely impressed with Wendy from our very first meeting, and our son, who had been ambivalent about the entire college search process, couldn't wait to go back to talk with her again. It's hard to describe, but from the very first meeting, Wendy made all of us feel positive and optimistic about what can be a very daunting process. She reinforced our belief that the college search process really needed to be a search for the best fit for our son, based upon his talents and interests. We found Wendy on the recommendation of some friends (she is also recommended in the BPN archives), and we couldn't be happier. We, in turn, have referred another friend whose daughter was so thrilled after their first meeting, they are driving all the way from Cupertino to utilize her services! They say they couldn't imagine how stressful the process would be without Wendy. My son is now happily settled in a college that is a great fit for him. I recommend you email or call Wendy to find out more about her and her services. Wendy's contact information: wendymorrison [at] 510-384-5962 Happy mother of a college freshman

I recommend Lesley Quinn ( as an extraordinary college essay coach. When my daughter was looking for help with the college application process, I found that the college advisors often didn't make very good essay editors, even though they offered essay assistance as one of their services. My daughter worked with Lesley on her essay over a period of about 3 months, and both the process and the result were outstanding (Emma was accepted at all but one of the schools she applied to). Lesley is patient and kind but also has very high standards and is able to get the very best out of her students. Emma learned so much from working with her, and enjoyed the process as well. I think Lesley is the very best essay advisor/editor around. Heidi

Sept 2010

My daughter, Courtney, went to Jamie Keller, or (510)524-8697, for help with her college application essays. Jamie did a wonderful job of gently coaching her to bring out her own voice in her essays. Here is Courtney's recommendation:

My name is Courtney, and I am a freshman at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon (go Pioneers!); I went to Jamie last year in September when I was having trouble composing my personal statements for UC and private schools. Jamie Keller helped me more in the space of a single hour than my Lit teacher had in an entire month! In two sessions (one hour each, one week apart due to scheduling conflicts on my part) at Jamie's house in Berkeley, we had written a 700-odd word essay, which I was able to use for most of my 16 college applications. In another hour, I had a shorter essay (300-odd words) which I was able to use for a few other applications. Jamie helped me pull up creative ideas and ferret out those which I was most passionate about, suggesting a more dynamic verb here and a change in syntax there, leading me to create a written masterpiece which, despite my poor math scores, earned me a place on an Ivy League waitlist (colleges nation-wide were positively inundated with applications this year, and admissions abruptly became intensely selective and difficult). With so many qualified applicants jockeying for position, personal statements are often the only way to distinguish oneself against the crowd nowadays. I'm certain that Jamie Keller's help afforded my own distinction, and a place on the second-most-beautiful campus in America! Patricia

Aug 25 2010

Barbara Austin, PhD (English), inspired my son to work hard at grades, SATs, leadership and community service. She was able to help him clarify his essay ideas and figure out to which schools he wanted to apply to. She meticulously prepares students for the SAT/ACT and hires a very skilled math instructor for the math section of the test, and coaches the English herself.

In 2009 my son got into Brown University with her excellent guidance. He was also accepted at Swarthmore, Amherst, UCLA,UCB College of Creative Studies, Washington U St. Louis, UC Davis, and several other schools. I have nothing but the highest praise for Ms. Austin's college counseling. Thanks. Dorothea D

Aug 15 2010

My family and I would highly recommend Sharon Travers as a college app essay tutor! She was tremendously helpful throughout all parts of my brother's college applications. She walked him step by step through the essay writing and he couldn't have ever expected or asked more of her. He states, ''Without Sharon, I feel I would have never had even a change to get into any out-of-state school. I would recommend her to anyone who needs help with any part of the college application process.'' Please contact her! She's wonderful and very knowledgeable! Kate S.

May 2010

Re: Timeline & strategy for high schoolers
for our BHS senior we used a college councelor who I highly reccomend- he does the SAT/ACT prep, essay prep, college selection guidance, checks the applications and even help with deferring for a GAP year. Fees are mostly 1X set fees and I thought he was amazing: Terry MacClure 510-898-8040 terrence_macclure [at] We started at the end of 10th grade. mm

May 2010

My son had a great experience with a college application essay tutor, Jamie Keller (jamiekeller1 [at] ''Writing college essays can be really stressful - like any of of need more stress in our lives - and Jamie made it fun while helping draw out the best of him. Here's what my son had to say about her: When I started the college essay writing process, I really had no Idea how to approach it. Jamie helped me play with ideas and words and I ended up writing one of the best things I've ever written, which I think helped get me into Brown.''

Need Help with College Essays

March 2010

Our kid is an earnest student with not-bad grades and a lot of worries about leaving home. We're hoping to avoid escalating nerves in our houseshold by starting to think & talk about the college application process with our sophomore now. The thing that appears to be causing the most worries are the essays, so we thought we'd start slowly with some experienced coaching on that pretty soon. Can anyone recommend someone in the East Bay or Contra Costa who is particularly skilled working with students who lack confidence (about both writing and adult life)? Perhaps a tall order, we know... -Trying to Gear Up

College essays benefit from the student's increased maturity and understanding of himself and his goals. I think that it would be better to work now to help your son gain confidence and expand his experiences in life. Maybe a life coach (not a college essay coach) could be of help. Wait until the summer after his junior year of high school to get someone to help with college essays when your son has more maturity and has done more in his life. The essays will then be a stronger reflection of who he is. Anonymous

Dear Trying to Gear Up, I am writing both as a college admissions professional and as a parent of two college students who went through the admissions process in vastly different ways.

It's clear both you and your son are anxious about the college application process and about having him leave home. But my instinct is that dealing with that now may not be productive or relieve either your anxiety or your son's. Most of his thoughts about everything, including college and himself, are likely to change a lot between now and the fall of his senior year. Many sophomores--especially boys--are simply not ready to deal with the introspection a good essay requires, and suggesting that he begin thinking about that now may only add to his insecurity. (Most teens are sure they have Nothing to Say.)

Of course you need to make sure that he is taking the courses, getting the grades, and developing the habits that will help him succeed in college. Beyond that, I would focus on a general and positive message about college: wonderful time of life, unique and special experience, lots and lots of wonderful colleges out there, plenty of places and opportunities that will work for him, lots of time over the next 2 years to explore options. If he is specifically anxious about the essay, you could show him what some simple and unthreatening prompts look like (the UC prompts are straightforward and not ''tricky'' examples).

But the best way to prepare for the essay is to (1) write daily in a journal about impressions, reflections, responses to the world around him and (2) read good fiction and nonfiction, including memoirs and biographies that pull out central themes and lessons from individuals' lives. Good luck!!

I recommend Lesley Quinn for college application essay help. Lesley worked with my daughter on her college essay, and she was terrific in every way. Lesley was able to read the first draft and tease out the most promising themes, which she then guides the student in developing and articulating in a clear and engaging way. She is warm and encouraging, but also encouraged my daughter to work hard and rewrite until it was her best work. My daughter ended up doing six or seven drafts of her essay, and was really pleased with the final result. She also enjoyed the process, and feels that she learned a great deal about herself and about writing along the way. She had a very successful college application process, and it would have been so different without Lesley to help and guide her. You can find out more about Lesley on her website: I don't think you can find a better essay coach anywhere. Satisfied Mother

My daughter, now a college freshman, had a fantastic experience working with Lesley Quinn. Lesley is a professional writer, mother of a college student, and a smart, gentle and funny woman. Here's what my daughter liked best about working with Lesley: she always felt respected and appreciated, and that her unique voice was being heard. Here's what I liked best: I had complete trust that my daughter was receiving perfect mentoring, and that I could step back from involvement with this piece of the process. You can reach Lesley at Grateful mom

I saw your post and wanted to share our experience. We hired Cynthia because we needed guidance and reassurance. My daughter is an average student with minimal activities but Cynthia gave her the encouragement to boost her grades and explore her interests. Cynthia was always available and helped my daughter understand her power in the process. During the application phase, Cynthia was there every step of the way with significant attention to essay development.

From a parent who has been through the process, I felt that the summer before her senior year was ample time to develop a strong essay; however, the advice Cynthia provided during the earlier years was invaluable. We could not have made it through the process without Cynthia. Her genuine concern and dedication for my daughter's success turned a chaotic time into a fulfilling journey for my daughter. I believe you would have the same experience. She can be reached at 925-548-0002 D.

I would like to recommend Lesley Quinn in Berkeley as a remarkable college essay coach. Lesley helped my son with his law school application. She was very supportive and gentle but also able to push him to clarify his ideas and to write about them in a forceful and unique way. I have no doubt that Lesley's thoughtful imput was extremely helpful to my son and I am happy to report that he was admitted to his top law school choices. Lesley is warm,funny and has a great way with kids as well as a great way with words. It sounds to me like she would be a wonderful coach for your child. kathy

I would like to recommend Drew Lau-Regent in the Oakland/Berkeley area as a coach for college essays. Drew is very easy going and receptive but keeps her focus on the goal. She is unusual in that she has a great deal of training in the college guidance process. This allows her to help with college essays while counseling students at the same time regarding what they want in an education and career. DrewC,bs rates are reasonable because she has recently transitioned from technical writing in the corporate world where she excelled. I know Drew personally and would not hesitate to refer her. Drew can be reached at 510.928.9520. rp

From my experience observing several consultants' practices in another part of the country, the biggest obstacle students face when writing college application essays is a lack of writing skills. College consultants do not write essays. They walk kids through the paperwork involved in applying to school. Some add value to their services by sharing knowledge gained through first hand visits to colleges. Some are former admissions officers. My advise for you is to find a tutor who has extensive experience helping kids with their writing. Stay away from ''coaches''. The tutor should have a background in the liberal arts preferably with teaching at the high school level. This person should not write your kid's essay. Rather he/she should help improve your kid's writing in English and history classes. When it comes time to write the college essay, he/she can help your kid with the editing. If you hire a college consultant, you can have the tutor collaborate with the consultant. anon

Hi, In response to the posting about the role of an essay coach -- I have found that the problem is not so much that students don't know how to write, but that the majority of them do not know how to write about themselves in a personal and compelling manner. To me writing is all about creating images in the reader's mind, and as a college application essay coach, I help my students write in a way that makes their words memorable and their essays stand out from the rest. Jamie

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

College Advisor for Junior at BHS

Jan 2010

Does anyone know of a college advisor they can recommend? Our son is a Junior at BHS in Academic Choice, overall a B+ student, and we are looking for some guidance on college choices/opportunities and planning. We find the website very helpful, but want to take a more targeted and personal approach. Thank you. Mom

We are happy with our college counselor - Dorothy Sivazlain - phone is 510-304-3690. She's in Orinda - picks my daughter up at bart (might also come to your house) and is helping my daughter, a B student at BHS with a learning disability, find appropriate colleges for her interests and needs. Anon

I highly recommend Dr Paul R Wrubel as a college counselor and college fianancial counselor. With out his help and guidence I do not think that I could have gotten through the experience of one son finishing at UCSD and one son a Sophmore at The College of Wooster in Ohio. David

I can recommend coach Damian Nash, he's wonderful. I don't know if he has a website but his phone # is 435-259-7886. Kristen

Wendy Morrison is an absolutely incredible college counselor. She is kind, knowledgeable, energetic, efficient, and relates well to all different kinds of students. She helps students and their families through every stage of the college search and application process, and assists them in finding public and/or private schools that would be a good fit. My husband is a former BHS (AC) teacher who has written college recommendations for countless students in his career. We were both extremely impressed with Wendy from our very first meeting, and our son, who had been ambivalent about the entire college search process, couldn't wait to go back to talk with her again. It's hard to describe, but from the very first meeting, Wendy made all of us feel positive and optimistic about what can be a very daunting process. She reinforced our belief that the college search process really needed to be a search for the best fit for our son, based upon his talents and interests.

We found Wendy on the recommendation of some friends (she is also recommended in the BPN archives), and we couldn't be happier. We, in turn, have referred another friend. whose daughter was so thrilled after their first meeting, they have decided to drive all the way from Cupertino to utilize her services! My son, now a senior, has begun receiving his college acceptances, and says he would tell any of his friends who are now juniors that they would be lucky to work with Wendy! I recommend you email or call Wendy to find out more about her and her services.

Wendy's contact information: wendymorrison [at] 510-384-5962 Happy mom of a senior

Please call Wendy Morrison. She helped us so much this past year while we went through the whole college application process. She's lively, positive, smart, reasonable and incredibly resourceful. She is terrific with teens. She helped my daughter choose the best colleges for HER, listening carefully to what was important to her. She was also totally supportive to me as a parent. This process can be hard, stressful and overwhelming. Wendy has been our brightest angel this year. She is passionate about what she does and it shows. Wendy Morrison: 510-384-5962. Helen

Wendy Morrison in Kensington is experienced and enthusiastic. She has a strong track record. Here's her number: (510) 526-1545. Good luck! Lesley

I would highly recommend Martha Black, a college counselor in the Berkeley/Kensington area. She is very kind, easy to talk to, and respectful of who your child is. She really focuses on what the student wants to get out of the counseling. In my daughter's case, Martha was able to draw her out and get her talking about her interests and what she wanted out of college and in the process helped her come up with a list of schools she felt really good about. My daughter felt very comfortable with Martha and enjoyed the process. Martha's contact info is 510-847-1205 or mbcollegeadvising [at] Sylvia

We'd like to highly recommend the college counselor our high school senior daughter has been working with, Dianne Ruyffelaere. Dianne has met with our daughter since junior year and helped with all aspects of the college selection and application process. We've all been impressed with her knowledge, warmth, and ability to help the students figure out what schools would work best for them as individuals. She's made the whole process much more positive, organized, and less stressful for everyone. Dianne's in Berkeley; email is druyffelaere [at] and phone number is 510-525-1619. Sandy

2008 - 2009 Reviews

Need College Advice for CSUs and Financial Aid

Dec 2009

My daughter is a junior in high school and now is the time to start looking at colleges. I don't know where to start! She won't qualify for a UC but could get into a CSU. However-I imagine there are plenty of great private colleges that would work for her too. I just don't know where to start---and also wonder how we can find out if it is worth it for her to apply to private schools knowing we will need tuition assistance. Please help.... wondering and starting to worry

For anyone looking for help with the financial aid applications for college, consider College Counselor Sue Kim of ECC in Pleasant Hill. We initially heard her give a talk at Berkeley High School last year. She has been in the business for 18 years and is smart and funny. She guides you through filling out the FAFSA and CSS forms, and can give you helpful advice about individual schools. She helped my daughter set up the Common Application and gave her instructions on how and when to submit them. Without her help, I would be stumbling through this crazy process. She is very reasonable priced. I highly recommend her. Her email is: suekim [at] Satisfied parent

A word of caution to those considering working with Barbara Austin of College Quest: She meets with your child first before she lets you know what she will charge, then locks you into a contract that costs several thousand dollars. Within a few weeks, my child became very unhappy with the counseling she was receiving. My daughter was frustrated when she showed up for her appointment and Ms. Austin had double booked and expected her to wait without even an apology. Whenever my child had her own opinion of how she wanted her essays to progress, Ms. Austin would just say how she had X years of experience and we needed to listen to her. She continued to recommend colleges that were of no interest whatsoever to my child.

Fortunately, my daughter has now found help on the application process where she is being encouraged and valued for her skills and her writing. She is back to feeling positive and excited about applying to college. I am sorry we wasted our time and money with Ms. Austin. Learned the hard way

Advice needed about non-traditional colleges

Nov 2009

My daughter (a junior) is interested in exploring colleges that provide an alternative path to education. She is doing her share of research on-line and with books, but we are looking for a college counselor/consultant to help direct her with her search of non-traditional colleges. We would also appreciate any feedback from parents and students who have attended any alternative colleges. Thanks! Melissa

My son, who is now a freshman in college, worked with Wendy Morrison, who is fabulous. Our family walked out of the first meeting with Wendy full of energy and optimism. We were all so happy that we had found such a good person who totally understood and appreciated our son's quirks, strengths, learning disabilities, passions and interests. Her depth of knowledge about a wide range of colleges, and respect for all of us was amazing. We know many people who have been equally happy with her.

Her email address is wendymorrison [at] and her phone number is 510-384-5962. She is located in Kensington. I live in Central Contra Costa County and found it worth the drive - but a lot of the work she does with students is by email. I'd contact her right away if I were you. She fills up fast. Good luck! sunhopes

Sept 2009

I can recommend an EXCELLENT college essay coach: Lesley Quinn (I think she has a website). She worked with our son on all his admission essays and we were blown away by the end result. She's not cheap, and she doesn't help identify the best colleges - her focus is just the essays - but she's kind, insightful, goal-oriented, encouraging, and best of all, our son loved working with her and he got everything done early (which was a miracle). She talked with me for about 30 minutes on the phone (for free) about our son first, and then he met with her two times to brainstorm essay topics. After that, they sent essay drafts back and forth by email. Good luck. anon

April 2009

We're going to want our high school junior to start thinking about his college essays pretty soon (he doesn't do well under the pressure of looming last-minute deadlines). He also works best one-on-one so signing him up for one of these summer bootcamps we're seeing isn't the best fit for him. Anyone have a recommendation for someone who can support him through this important writing challenge? Carol M

Hi, My daughter is now a senior. When she was ready to begin work on her college essays, we contacted Lesley Quinn. Lesley was smart, funny and always supportive. She worked solely with my daughter, setting up deadlines for drafts, editing, discussing, but always kept me in the loop. She always encouraged my daughter to be true to herself, and speak from her own voice and be proud of herself.

In the roller coaster ride of the admissions process, one of the best moments was a letter from a senior admissions officer at a small liberal arts college, who wrote to my daughter: ''I just wanted to tell you that I LOVED your college essay. Great work!''

That's my summary of our experience with Lesley Quinn.....great work! She can be reached at Happy mom/ successful senior

We used Lesley Quinn ( for help on our daughter's essays and she was great. We didn't feel the need for a more soup-to- nuts college counselor...just help on the essays themselves, and she gave us exactly what we needed. Our daughter felt empowered by the process, the essays remained her own, but they were so much better than they would have been without Lesley's skilled and gentle raising of the bar. (Our daughter is now a student at Tufts.) AM

I have a wonderful person to recommend for help with personal essays specifically college or graduate school application essays. Lesley Quinn helped my son with his personal essay when he applied to law school and she was terrific! A skillful writer herself, Lesley brings to her work with teens and young adults a wonderful mix of smarts, kindness, supportiveness and high expectations. She worked closely with my son to define and clarify his thoughts and helped him to frame a remarkably strong, clear personal essay. I am happy to report that he was accepted to his top school choices including NYU, Boalt Hall (UC Berkeley) and UCLA. I recommend Lesley without reservations - she is truly a gem! - Kathy

For a terrific college counselor in the East Bay, I highly recommend Wendy Morrison. Our twins, who are graduating from Miramonte, worked with Wendy and had a very good and successful experience. She removed much of the stress from the college search process (for all of us) by providing sound, practical advice as well as consistent support and encouragement throughout. Wendy is highly energetic, very engaging and extremely well organized. She is exceptionally responsive to the students \xc2\x96 and to the parents. She helps the students get organized, identify and select schools to which to apply and assists in the preparation and submission of the applications, including idea generation for, and refinement of, the essays. Wendy works from her home in Kensington, which is just a short drive through Tilden Park from the Lamorinda area. Based on Wendy's knowledge, enthusiasm, supportiveness and overall love of what she does, our family highly recommends giving her a call at (510) 384-5962. Good luck! Lamorinda Parent

College counselor in Lamorinda area

April 2009

I am looking for a good college counselor in the Lamorinda area, who can provide assistance to an average student. If anyone has any recommendations, I'd be very grateful. Thanks for your help. Allison

My son worked quite successfully with Shelly O'Neill in Lafayette. She is extremely knowledgeable, energetic, has a terrific rapport with students, and really tunes in to individual needs. (Including LD students). Shelly assisted (him) in creating a focus to narrow the list and even added a few suggestions based on the criteria my son required. She set reasonable task lists with specific deadlines to keep the process on track. Shelly does not assist with the essay nor test prep however has wonderful suggestions and resources. I do not know if she is accepting (more) students for the 2009/10 college application process. Try to reach her @ sgo1986 [at] My son was offered admission to four out of six colleges including his top two choices! Good luck! Marcie

I would strongly recommend the college counselor I am working with for my daughter, Ethan Ris. He makes house visits and has been great working with my daughter who is very intelligent but not a top student. He has a website, Ethan's hourly rate was also very reasonable. Erica

College counselor to help sort through the options

Oct 2008

I am looking for a college prep counselor for my daughter who is a junior at Albany High. She asked me to help her find someone who can do some aptitude/interest testing for eventual college/career choices and to help her sort through the options for her college education so she can become more clear about what might be right for her. Any ideas or recommendations? --Diane

I can highly recommend Diane Ruyffelaere. I've been working with her for several years on the BHS College Application Handbook and she really knows both what the colleges are looking for in students (and on applications), and how to help students define what they are looking for in choosing a college. She can work with your daughter on finding several colleges that are good fits for her, on preparing for the SAT and/or ACT tests, and/or on getting that college essay written--before the start of Senior year! She knows her stuff and is super friendly and helpful. She's working with my son right now, and it's making the whole process of just finding a college a lot less stressful now than it was looking a few months ago. She can be reached at druyffelaere [at] Good luck! Nancy

Ellen Lerner is great-- Intelligent, experienced, kind, and resourceful. She is on the North Oakland/Berkeley border, and her phone number is 510-652-7222. --Stephanie, parent of BHS senior

Oct 2008

Our daughter worked with Lesley Quinn (525-4104). Lesley totally got what our daughter wanted to convey and worked gently and insightfully, making suggestions that allowed her to develop her story and convey both her experience and her personality without feeling as if she were losing her voice or her control; her essays remained her own in every way. We'll never understand the mysterious application evaluation process but we feel that our daughter's essays conveyed to a room full of strangers a lot about who our daughter is. We highly recommend Lesley to those who face this daunting task. -A relieved parent

Sept 2008

A while back, someone posted a recommendation for a woman who helped with the college admissions essay process. I think her name was Jamie? I can't find her in the archives, and would be grateful if someone could post her name and contact info again. Thanks! parent of high school senior

Jamie Keller is the person who helped my daughter so much with her college essay writing. Her number is 524-8697 and she also has a website:
relieved mom

Help with personal essay

August 2008

My son is going to start the college application process and I'm looking for a consultant who can help him with his personal statement essay. Does anyone have a recommendation for someone who has good experience with this? My older son received help from a former U.C. Berkeley application reader, but she is no longer available.

You might call Sharon Rudnick at 510-848-9350. 1578 Milvia St Berkeley, CA sharon_rudnick [at] She helps with essays, applications, searching out the right schools, finding options, etc. I recommend her. Nathan

i would like to recommend lesley quinn for college application essay help. lesley worked with my daughter on her college essay in 2007, and she was an extraordinary guide and editor throughout the process. lesley has a remarkable ability to read the first draft and tease out the most promising themes, which she then assists the student in developing and articulating in a clear and engaging way. she is kind and supportive, while at the same time setting the bar high and encouraging the student to do his or her very best work. my daughter ended up doing six or seven drafts of her essay, and was really pleased with the final result. she also enjoyed the process, and feels that she learned a great deal about herself and about writing along the way. and she was accepted to all but one of the colleges she applied to! you can find out more about lesley on her website: i don't think you can find a better essay coach anywhere. heidi

June 2008

My daughter struggled with her college essay last year. She is a good enough writer but had enormous trouble talking about herself. Mid-summer, she consulted with a very expensive and well-known tutoring service. She got a sense of where to start and a ''hook'' for the essay and then got bogged down and remained there for months, despite more sessions with the original tutor. With the deadlines coming up, she found another person to help, who gave her advice that sent her another, and I might add, fruitless and frustrating direction. At the 11th hour, we finally found Jamie Keller, who read my daughter's lifeless essays, talked and listened carefully to her, and then patiently taught her how to show, rather than tell her story. Jamie worked with her through multiple versions and helped her find her voice. The final essays were compelling and rang true. In working with Jamie, my daughter gained confidence in herself as a writer, and she is sure that her essays helped her get into Cal. Jamie's number is 524-8697. Relieved Mom

April 2008

I need a recommendation for a smart, sensitive, straight- talking private college admissions counselor who is reasonably priced, for my high school junior child. We know the basics and can research schools. We need someone to help our child with writing essays, staying on task and meeting deadlines, so that Mom isn't always the bad guy. Advice on where to apply (what is a ''safety'', what is a ''reach'') will be helpful as well. We live in Walnut Creek/Lafayette area. I have read previous posts to this list, but would really appreciate up-to-date recommendations. I have heard from too many friends who have been unhappy with the counselor they used. THANKS!! Junior Mom

There is a wonderful private college admissions counselor in Orinda. Her name is Kit Prager and you can reach her at (925) 254-1309. Kit worked with my daughter 4 years ago and she was successful in getting into many schools. Kit was especially good at helping my daughter choose schools to apply to, editing essays and keeping to timelines. She's not inexpensive, but we found her guidence invaluable. sharon

Jan 2008

Can anyone recommend a college coach to help a junior in high school start to figure out what type/size of schools they should look at. My daughter is an average student with lots of extracurricular activities who has no idea what she wants to study or where to begin the process. She'll be taking the SAT and ACT next month for the first time but we don't know what the next steps are beyond that. She is very busy with sports and her other activities and has asked if we could find someone to help us get organized, focused, and begin to navigate this process. Any recommendations? Thanks!

We are working with a wonderful college coach named Elisabeth Sandberg 510.295.5115. She has worked as a counselor at several schools, most recently at Berkeley High, and has been through the process with her own sons. My daughter has responded really well to her and Elisabeth put a lot of my anxiety about the process to rest. Jill

We worked with a woman in Berkeley named Tami Uecker. She is knowledgeable about many schools around the country, was patient and calm and answered all our questions. She was able to get our son on a schedule with her, so we didn't have to always be nagging. I still edited his essays quite a bit, but she really helped with selecting schools that were a good match for him and where he would be likely to get in (as well as 'safety' and 'reach' schools). I recommend her; you can reach her at tami[at] mom of a high school senior

2006 - 2007 Reviews

Sept 2006

My daughter left for college recently and I'm reminded how enormously helpful her private college counselor, Annissa Hambouz, was in helping her to find a good fit. Annissa has been a private school teacher here and in NYC, relates well to teens, is well organized, creative in her advice and selection of schools and really sees each student as an individual. She has students around the Bay Area, including Marin and the East Bay. annissa[at] (website 415-516-8998

August 2006

I wanted to pass on the name of a fantastic college admissions consultant. Edith Zinn in Berkeley is a former University of Michigan Admissions Officer who worked with our son. She helped him develop a strategy, find a list of schools that were right for him, and then present himself in a way that colleges found attractive. Importantly, Edith is not one of those admissions counselors who works via fancy marketing or a one size fits all formula. She helped our son craft his own strategy. With Edith's help he was admitted at Dartmouth, UC Berkeley, the University of North Carolina, Carleton, and other top tier schools. Edith has been active in the field for at least 20 years and gets her clients via word of mouth. Her phone number is 510 528 0503. She usually books up early for the college admissions season, so it is worth contacting her soon.

Feb 2006

We are looking for a college advisor who has expertise and experience helping with applications and selecting colleges for ADD kids (whose academic record is not steller). Thanks for any suggestions. worried mom

I recently saw an excellent presentation by Jane McClure, of Jackson, McClure and Mallory on College Admissions for LD and ADD Students. Her office is in San Francisco, (415) 421-4177. She has particular expertise with LD/ADD students who make up 40% of her clients. She provided a lot of information about the various levels of LD support available at different schools. She also recommended a book called ''Colleges that Change Lives'' which highlights some lesser known schools that can provide a great experience for the not-straight A kids. There is also another college catalog with LD focus but I don't recall the name of it. Jocelyn

Oct 2005

Hilary Roberts has tutored my son, Aaron, in his college application essays. She had a good sense of the amount of help my son wanted, and addressed his needs well. This helped him (and us parents) tremendously in this very high pressured situation. Aaron is now in his first choice college, and wishes to thank Hilary for her wonderful assistance. Her email address is: worddoc101 [at] Sincerely, Paul

Oct 2005

I would recommend Mrs. Judi Flannery who use to work at Holy Names High School. You can reach her at Jpflann99 AT
Former Parent from HNHS

Oct 2005

My daughter is having a very positive college counseling experience with Annissa Hambouz. Ms. Hambouz was a social studies teacher and college counselor at a private school in Marin until this year and is now full time in her own practice. She relates well to teenagers, is well organized, creative in her advice and really sees each student as an individual. She works in Marin and the East Bay. website 415-516-8998

Sept 2005

Since it's getting to be that time when the Seniors need to write the application letters for the UC's, private colleges, etc., I'd like to recommend the person we used to help our daughter write hers. Hilary Roberts was able to help my very burned-out-on-school senior meet her deadlines and make a couple of rough drafts in a timely manner. Hilary was persistent when my child would have liked to have avoided the entire subject, but she persisted in a professional manner, so it worked. I appreciated that she brainstormed without writing or dictating the letter so the final product was definitely a true sample of my daughter's thinking, grammar and syntax. I recall the fees we paid to be reasonable and the relationship professional and leading to good feelings of accomplishment. I would absolutely recommend Hilary Roberts as our daughter was accepted at most of the schools to which she applied and had many good choices and I do attribute that to the synergy of the work they did together. Before engaging with Hilary I had concern that the essays wouldn't get written. Her email address is: worddoc101 [at] Jill

Sept 2005

I'd like to recommend a tutor who helps teens write application essays for colleges & universities, scholarships and other academic programs. Monica helped my daughter write a successful essay that reflected her personal experience and voice while ensuring the application requirements were met. She has excellent rapport with teens.

Monica has over 10 years teaching and tutoring experience, including work at the UC Berkeley Student Learning Center and Summer Bridge Programs, UC Berkeley's Early Academic Outreach Program and Pre-College Academy, and UC San Diego's OASIS Writing Program. She specializes in helping students in every step of the process, from brainstorming topics to polishing and editing final drafts.

I highly recommend Monica's services and I feel she's well worth the $50/hour rate. Monica Ng Muller can be reached at monica1201 [at] or 510-282-3273. Deb

Dec 2005

My daughter is a junior at BHS. We are thinking it would be a good idea to consult an independent college counselor for assistance. I have searched the archives, but found only one or two listings. Does anyone have current advice for me along these lines?

Regarding seeking college counselor: Try Wendy Morrison, 384-5962. Excellent reputation and vivacious, teen loving personality.

We used Sharon Rudnick, at 848-9350, in N. Berkeley, as a college counselor for our son. She was a pleasure to work with, and our son got into every college he applied to. (And got several very good merit scholarships.) She was very good at helping him with his essays. And, most importantly, he enjoyed working with her.

She seems to know her stuff, and she gives the kids lots of information, but also makes them research certain things independently (like she'll come up with a long list of colleges that might meet your child's needs, but then expects your child to send for the initial materials to narrow the list.)

Her hourly fee was reasonable, and ultimately, it didn't cost us that much-. And the hassle we saved in not having to be the ones to edit his work (it's amazing how much easier it is for teens to accept feedback from adults who are not their parents....)made it all worthwhile. Anyway, good luck! barbara

My son and our family have had a very good experience with an excellent college counselor, Wendy Morrison. She was warm, friendly, thorough, very knowledgeable, and very concerned. She can be contacted at wendymorrison AT or 510-384-5962.

Earlier Reviews

College counselor experienced working with homeschoolers

April 2003

I'm looking for recommendations for a college counselor who has specific experience working with homeschoolers and kids who have nontraditional high school experience. I've seen some of the posts on college counselors here, but I'm hoping someone knows of one that works with our particular situation - I have a 16 year old daughter who completed two years of public high school before taking the CHSPE exam and thereby ''testing out'' of high school. This year she is not enrolled in school, but is continuing to pursue academic work through other programs. She is a very high achieving student with great grades and test scores, but we need more information about what she'll need to do to apply to college without a traditional high school background.

homeschool parent

I am a community college counselor. In my discussion with my colleagues we all agree that your daughter would have to follow the Freshman Admission Requirements for UC Applicants if she desires to apply to any UC Campus. Please go to Go to the QUICK SEARCH DROP DOWN MENU and select Freshman Requirements. At this link you can gather all the information as it applies to admission to a UC Campus. Of interest is the Subject Requirements. this information has to do with the (a-f) subject requirements for high school students if they desire to apply to a UC campus ( the yellow box) Also please check out the Eligibility by Examination Only. this may also give her another opportunity for admission to the campus of choice. As you scroll down to the bottom of the Freshman Requirements page, click on the Selection Criteria link and you will be able to gather information regarding the UC applicant profile. As you do have a non traditional situation, please contact the campus of choice throught the office of admission or the Outreach Programs and see if there is a contact person who may have more experience in dealing with non traditional high school graduates. Hope this has given you a start and good luck

Have you checked the website (California Homeschool Assn)? There's a teen section, and in it you should find a link and info re Wes Beach. He's worked with many, many kids who've done alternative things for high school and gone on to college. As the mom of a homeschooler who did go to high school, and is now in the final days of college selection(!), I would suggest visiting as many college campuses as you can, esp. when school is in session. Don't just take the tours, even skip it if you're short on time, but have your daughter sit in on classes and talk to as many kids as possible while she's there. I've embarrassed my kid, but I stop everyone we see and ask all kinds of questions. It's been invaluable. (and she really doesn't mind.) The other thing to do is to meet the dean of admissions - face time is also invaluable. you/she can then describe your situation and ask for advice and recommendations. my daughter was accepted at 11 schools (some very competitive), most of which we were advised she could not get into. I think homeschooling set her somewhat apart (in a positive way), as did the fact that they had a face to go along with the application. try ''small colleges that change lives'' by loren pope. good luck and feel free to email me. and if your daughter is not quite ready to do tthe touring thing, call admissions yourself and ask for help. most (except uc's) will be happy to help you. peggy


To the parent(s) looking for a college counselor: If you can't find a local counselor who is available, as a back-up you might check out the college(s) that you attended. My alma mater has a free college-counseling service for alumni who are parents of college applicants. The service is available regardless of where the student wants to apply for college, and it can be given by e-mail, phone, or in person. I have gotten some useful information and advice from the counselor who administers that service. Juliann

If you want to discuss college, I suggest the newgroup. The posts tend to be about the more selective colleges. Achieva offered us a free introductory meeting during which they tried to make us as nervous as possible about getting into college.

From Tim
Two well-regarded private counselors in Berkeley are Trish Hawthorne and Dan Dean. I don't have direct experience with either of them myself, but both are friends and very good people. Dan is a retired BHS counselor. I believe they are both in the phone book (white pages).

Sept 2000

I highly recommend Barbara Manierre (464-1056). She brings enthusiasm and good humor to the college application process plus a wealth of first hand knowledge about schools, a high level of organization, and great editing skills. By setting up writing deadlines, she was able to get my 'leave it to the last minute' son to work on multiple drafts of his essays and reduce the overall anxiety of the process considerably.

I sent my daughter to a private college counselor . The college application process can be so overwhelming and she benefited by their counsel and they took their time and they were extremely helpful. Name: Walker and Walker and they live in Kensington. Their phone number is in the phone book. Good luck!

Two years ago we had an excellent experience helping our niece with a college counselor - Edth Zinn in Berkeley. Our niece is now a sophmore at Bard College in New York- her first choice. She was raisied by a terrific single dad (my brother) and needed help with applications, essays, and choice of colleges to visit - as well as interview coaching. Mrs. Zinn was very wise, expereinced in contacting admissions offices for infromation and scheduling and supportive. We plan you use her again when our son is ready in a few years. She also has a partner who i hear is vey good as well.

From Cassandra
Wonderful, thoughtful, knowledgeble, many years experience, specializes in educational advice including finding & choosing a college - Ms. Carol Goodell, Ph. D. (650) 345-7814 fax 650-570-5904

Wendy Morrison

I am the mother of a student at Bishop O'Dowd. I am responding to your inquiry about SAT and college preparation. In addition to the school counselor, we are working with a private counselor, Wendy Morrison. She is enthusiastic and has really helped my daughter figure out what she wants out of her college experience. She has guided us through the SAT testing process: when and where to take the various tests. She has given us invaluable information about financial aid and merit-based scholariships. She has helped my daughter figure out what kind of college best matches her personality. Lastly, she has worked with my daughter in developing her essay topic. She promptly returns calls which relieves the anxiety that inevitably comes from being the mother of a college-bound student. We are extremely glad that we have been able to work Wendy for she has been a great help in this overwhelming process. Wendy works out of her home in Kensington. She charges $85 per session and each session lasts approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours. She can be reached at (510) 384-5962. I highly reccomend giving her a call. (July 2001)

Jim and Dot Walker

Our experience with Jim and Dot Walker was unbelievable. Jim was head counsellor and principal at Albany High for many years, and organizes the college fair at St. Mary's every year - with hundreds of colleges from across the nation. They offer group classes for parents as well as individual counseling and even college tours. They know all the admissions officers and campuses and they understand the individuality of each kid - where they're coming from, where they want to go. They are incredibly supportive all along the way, and were a huge help with the tensions, insecurities, and overwhelming anxiety of the whole process. In the end, they were able to gently steer us toward some schools we might not otherwise have considered - and my daughter got in everywhere she applied. Call Walker, Walker & Assoc. :510-527-1930. Sally (9/00)

Advice and Q about College Counselors

How to choose a private college counselor?

Sept 2013

Hi -- We are seeking advice on how to select a private college counselor to work with our high school student. We have read the recommendations for specific counselors, and everyone raves about the person they worked with. But what helped you select one over the other? What types of questions helped you tease out which one would be a better fit for your particular child? It seems like a lot of it might be related to how the student feels about the that connection plays out? But if there are other objective criteria or specialty areas to look for (do they specialize in different types of colleges?), we'd appreciate any input or suggestions on what has worked for you to sort this out. Is a college essay counselor different from the counselor who helps with the process? Thank you for your insight. Just starting the college process

I'm a school-based college advisor myself, and have done a lot of research on the different types of admission counselors out there. I can see why it's a tough decision!

I believe the best strategy is to first determine what type of support your child will need most. Does he/she have a clear direction and know what he/she wants in a college? In this case, an advisor who is very knowledgeable about colleges and admission requirements and can help you find matching schools. (Most people I know don't specialize in any certain types of colleges - a good counselor should be well-rounded.) Or maybe your child isn't sure yet, and would benefit from working with someone who helps them figure out their strengths, goals and path for the future. This is a time of self-discovery for teens, and I think the advisors who tap into that are the best to work with, because the admissions process becomes a self-learning experience and helps them build confidence.

Does your teen need someone who will be a task master and really keep them on track? Or someone who is more hands-off and expects the student to take ownership of the process? Maybe someone who views college applications as a growth experience, and uses it as a way to teach your child things like time-management, research skills and deadline tracking?

Do you want someone who promises acceptance to one of your top 3 schools, and will strategically ''package'' your child in the application? Or someone who is more focused on identifying the schools where your child is most likely to be successful? Personally, I think that promises of acceptance are suspicious, and recommend looking for a counselor that will help you find colleges that are the best match for you teen.

I suggest that both you and your child make separate list about your desired outcomes for the process and qualities you'd like in a counselor, then compare lists. This should make it easy to come up with questions you can ask a potential counselor.

On your last question - an essay counselor will only help with the personal statement/essay. A full admissions counselor will help with the entire process, from researching schools to making the final decision. Services and areas of expertise vary, so decide ahead of time what type of help you'll need and make sure the person you chose does that.

Hope this helps. I'm relatively new to admissions consulting, but I've been in education for over 10 years and I know teens well. Nicole

Yes, ''just starting the college process,'' an essay coach is different from a ''full service'' college counselor. A writing coach focuses on helping students build and strengthen their college application essays. If you want to go that route, I would recommend Carla Castillo. She has been coaching Berkeley High students as they work on their college application essays. She offers one-on-one, thoughtful and responsive coaching at very reasonable rates. She also is flexible in her approach to the writing process and connects with students in person, over the phone or Skype, or through email. You can contact her at simplycarla [at] I have so many positive comments about Carla's work with her students that I intend to have my son work with her next year when he embarks on the college application process. Good luck! Happy Mom of St.Paul's and BHS Student

Finding the best fit - at $3,700 ??

March 2013

I am in a process of finding the right person to guide my daughter to find the best fit for her in Colleges. I had one interview so far - the person is very knowable and inspiring but her fee is $3.700.00 - to guide and oriente my daughter from now to the moment she goes to college - including helping with essays and extra activities to improve her profile. I am not from this country and I find myself lost and of course want the best for my daughter. Any suggestions are appreciated. Thank you!

I suggest calling more college advisers. Many charge by the hour or in various packages that are more affordable. We found that for our son we didn't need an end to end package. He already had a writing coach we used to get him through the common app essay. We hired someone who charged $400 for 5 hours of help, then hourly, and she was perfect. She created a detailed plan of action he could follow on his own, then she met with him several times to keep him on track, also emailed and called him as needed. She also was happy to keep in touch with me and talk when I had questions or concerns. So there are many approaches. Find the best fit for you and your daughter. Now is the time to look too! Good luck. Berkeley mom

We loved working with Wendy Morrison You can find glowing recommendations on the Berkeley Parents of Teens archives. She is wonderful, positive, well-informed and reasonably priced. Happy college parent

We just went through this ourselves and elected NOT to sign up with a college advisor for our son. His high school counselor was wonderful about helping us come up with a solid list of colleges (and part of the hefty tuition fees we were already paying!), so we didn't need help there. Where he did need support was with the essays and there were a lot of them. My husband and I felt capable of helping him but he definitely did NOT want our help. After speaking with several application essay coaches (several in Berkeley, one in San Francisco) we settled on Lesley Quinn. She led our son through a step-by-step deadline-driven process he quite enjoyed, and the results were amazing (his main essay made me cry). We ended up spending more than we expected, but he ended up getting into all but one of the colleges on his list, so he couldn't be happier. (I just sent my niece to Lesley, who is getting ready to apply to graduate school.) Hope this helps. Good luck. Class of 2012 Mom

College counselors, what to expect?

Sept 2009

I'm trying to choose/hire a college counselor. I need someone to work w/my dtr on essays, to help her find the best scholarships, and to keep her on schedule/deadlines. She's already compiled a list of schools. Seems the ones with whom I've spoken want to help compile the list. And, I feel the first consultation should be free, to determine the efficiency of the match, but most seem to want to charge quite a bit for first meeting, without any promises about what services they will provide, etc. I guess I don't know much about this as a field. Comments, ideas, help? Alison

Many college counselors like for parents to sign up for packages that are put together to guide the student from Soph/Junior year through college acceptance. These packages are a bit pricey, but many parents choose to purchase them so that all their bases are covered.

On the other hand, there are many many college admissions advisors (I being one of them) that simply charge a flat hourly rate and will cater their services to the particular needs of the parents. It sounds like that is what you are looking for.

I think the factors to consider in choosing a college counselor are: 1. Reputation 2. Area(s)of expertise 3. Price and most importantly 4. Chemistry I think that it is super important for both parent and student to feel completely comfortable and open with their advisor.

Since their are a lot of independent counselors located the bay area, the best thing to do is shop around. Let the counselor know what your needs are and see you both can work from the same page.

As with anything, clear and constant communication (and a good vibe) are key.

I hope this helps. Robin