Writing Coach for College Applications

Parent Q&A

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  • So many things have ground to a stop right now with all the school closures. One of those things is my daughter working with her college counselors to prep for college essays and apps. While schools are closed, I'd like to get her a private coach or specialist, but our shelter in place status rules THAT out. My question is does anyone know a coach or specialist doing this work online? Might be wishful thinking, but I thought I'd throw it out there, Thanks. 

    Alpha college prep is doing consulting on Skype. My daughter just had a session with Jennifer.

    Most private college coaches are offering online sessions. Just ask anyone that you come across via Yelp, BPN or other resources

    I have used Terry McClure sucessfully online: 510.384-7383. Good luck!

    Writing coach Carla Castillo, based in Berkeley, is amazing and works via Skype or FaceTime.  She is immensely skilled and can help with anything from writing basics to dissertations.  www.carlaswritingspace.com or simplycarla [at] icloud.com

    I recently posted this review for her on BPN - you can search her name for more reviews.

    My teenage daughter (now a high school freshman) lacked confidence in her writing and had difficulty putting ideas to paper.  After working with Carla for a few weeks, she was transformed.  Now, more than a year later, she is thriving.  

    Carla is not a tutor, but a coach who is deeply invested in the success of her team.  With warm guidance, she started by working with my daughter on the basics – vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar, punctuation.  They’ve now advanced to drafts of the UC application essay prompts and detailed character analysis.  Carla never steps in to rewrite a project; instead, she nudges my daughter with constructive questions that teach her to review and edit her own work product with a careful eye.  Every finished project is written entirely by my daughter in her own voice.  Where I used to hear “I can’t think of what to write!” or “I hate this!”, I now hear muttered phrases like “compound or complex?” and “that’s not parallel sentence structure.”  My daughter’s work with Carla has been challenging and immensely rewarding.   

    Which brings me to Carla’s true gift: her ability to connect with people.  Carla has established a personal, meaningful relationship with my daughter that has inspired her to pull the best from herself.  She looks forward to her weekly sessions and considers Carla a mentor.  Both of us enjoy Carla as a person and find her easy and flexible to work with.  Without hesitation, we highly recommend Carla as a writing coach. 

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

    Angela Sun does online college consulting. We have met her in person in the past, but will go forward with the on-line appts. 


    Jamie Keller is an excellent writing coach who works via Skype and Zoom. I highly recommend her, especially for college essays.  My son worked with her with great success when he was applying for college.You can reach her at: jamiekeller1 [at] gmail.com


  • Tutor for kid writing essay

    (3 replies)

    Is there any good tutor you know for kid writing essay? Thanks.

    [Moderator Note] See College Admissions Advisors for past reviews of essay coaches as well as announcements from tutors who currently offer this.

    I'm not sure what age your child is.  My son has been tutoring with Peggy  for a few years.  She specializing in writing and reading.  She's very good  at  helping kids write essays.  She can work with kids of all ages.  My son is 15.  He really enjoys working with her.

    Her Number is 415-786-3879

    Great College Admission Advisor and Essay Tutur in North Berkeley--Debra Davis did a great job helping our daughter as a BHS junior and senior navigate the college selection process and also writing her essays.  Debra has a great rapport with teenagers and has a great sense of how to support and guide high school students through all the ins and outs of college essay writing.  We can't say enough great things about Debra's expert support and guidance, and we highly recommend her.

    Both of my kids have worked with Jamie Keller of Berkeley on their college entance essays.

    Jamie Keller M. EdEducational Therapist/Professional510 524 8697 office510 847 2505 cellSkype: jamieskeller www.LearnWithMe.com

    Jamie has a gentle way of guiding kids through the thought process of finding a compelling topic, intro psragraph and multiple drafts if necessary. 

    I found her coaching took me off the hook for critiquing and nagging on a very sensitive process. My daughter’s college applications succeeded at all but one of 13 colleges. My son is a high school senior now and writing drafts with her now.

  • My high-school junior would like to get started on college application essays this summer and we're wondering whether it's worthwhile to enroll in one of the essay-writing workshops that various coaches seem to offer for brainstorming and writing sessions, whether the money is better spent hiring a coach to work with the student one-on-one, or whether anyone in this area still goes it alone (perhaps with the help of a good guidebook or website).  There seem to be a lot of writing tutor recommendations on the site but I haven't seen recommendations for small-group workshops, which are appealing to my student.  If your student has gone through a summer essay-writing workshop or class do you have any feedback/recommendations for one?  And if your student hasn't worked with anyone but found a book or website to be particularly helpful in the process of writing, I'd love those recommendations too.

    It is a good idea to start working on it over the summer to reduce senior year stress. Autumn Stephens helped my daughter. In some ways it seemed liked counseling as much as writing help -- talking through what was important. My daughter also did a fair amount of work on her own. One thing I noticed was that the college she ended up going to was the one that had the prompt that was closest to her interests. Here's Autumn Stephen's email: autumnalstephens [at] gmail.com

    Your question is very timely.

    Berkeley High will be hosting a college essay workshop on the evening of May 30, so if your student is a BHS student, he/she can attend that workshop. A BHS college counselor and folks, including myself, who comprise the Berkeley High college app essay reading team will be leading that workshop.

    Personally, I think 1:1 advising works best to help students choose topics that can add the most value to one's application, as well as to bring out each student's authentic voice. Independent writing coaches can help with that. In working with students individually, I find it helpful for the essay coach to also have a holistic view of the student so that the application "hangs together" and is cohesive.

    Of course, there are plenty of printed resources that many students find helpful. One that was widely recommended by instructors of a college admissions certification program that I recently completed is collegeessayguy.com

    Good luck

    Elaine Chan

    My son worked with Heather MacLeod for his college essays.  He is accepted to many UCs and one UC with an Honors program.  Heather is very kind and sweet and that made his whole college application a wonderful experience!  Her email is hmactutor [at] gmail.com

    I'd go for the 1-1 if you can afford it. This is such a turning point in your child's life. We found Lesley Quinn www.lesleyquinn.com to be kind of astonishing. Each essay from our son - who was not a writer, more science-y, was like a polished piece of memoir, and it was moving for both of us to read HIM writing so insightfully about these moments in his life. (She coached in great detail, but he wrote every word.) She's also highly organized, which he very much needed. The essays were a level far above what he would have done without her help, and he ended up proud and surprised - and he got into the places he was hoping for. 

  • High school essay writing

    (2 replies)

    Do people us tutors for private high school entrance essays? My son is a good creative writer but doesn't have much practice writing standard essays. 

    My daughter, and a ton of other families, worked with Nina and Kate at Essays Composed. Nina was a beloved English teacher at a local private school and is talented. They really work with their students to help them find their own voice and teach good writing as well. The program is well structured with a nice time management component as well. Best wishes for a good college process. It worked well for my daughter and now starting with my son. 

    Lesley Quinn www.lesleyquinn.com was exceptional. She is highly organized but what has really kept her in our minds is the way that she inspired our son and got writing out of him that surprised all of us, him included. The essays were a level far above what he would have done without her help, and he ended up proud - and got into the places he was hoping. 

  • College Essay Writing Tutor

    (1 reply)

    Does anyone have any recommendations  for a college essay writing tutor?


    Becky Gross is an experienced English teacher who tutors writing on the side and has been working with our son on his college essays.  Our son has trouble getting his words down on paper. Becky is warm, creative and has helped him figure out how to tell his story.  Some of the big names are quite expensive and she is more reasonsably priced.  Her number is 510-849-4877.

Archived Q&A and 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

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: www.linkedin.com/in/tinaboyer. Tina can be reached at: tinaboyer [at] mac.com. Karen G

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] gmail.com http://www.berkeleycommunitytutor.com 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 http://carlaswritingspace.com/ (510) 847-3789 Steffie S

You can contact Carla Castillo, 510-847-3789 https://www.berkeleyparentsnetwork.org/recommend/org/carlas-writing-space#comment-460 She is really good at helping kids to better express thoughts in a concise way. Mengzhi

I highly recommend Carla Castillo's writing tutoring services. She loves working with kids of all ages and is a fantastic writing tutor. We used her to help our son write his college essays and I can't say enough good things about her! She made it a painless process for our son and the final product was far superior as a result of their work together. The turnaround time was really fast which was an added bonus when up against deadlines. Because of her stellar work, I had her review my nephew's essays for his UC applications, and was amazed to see how she could craft his words into a much improved essay. Both kids got into their first choice schools. I don't really like ''playing the game'' of college admissions, but in this day and age, I CLEARLY see the advantages of helping kids put their best foot forward with a well-written essay. Carla can definitely help with that! She can be reached at 510 847-3789 and her webpage is www.carlaswritingspace.com. Sharon

I have to sing the praises of Jamie Keller who coached my daughter on her college essays. Jamie had a gentle way of coaxing my daughter to think about a unique way to tell her story. I think they met three times, for a reasonable hourly rate and my daughter was accepted to 12 out of 13 schools she applied to. grace

Hi; My son worked with Sonia Spindt. She was SOOOOOO GREAT! My son is a good writer with great grades, but he found the process of having to write an essay about himself very painful. Sonia was very helpful and patient with him as he wrote, rewrote, & changed topics until he finally arrived at what he felt was a solid essay in his voice. She also helped with editing and proofing his mini essays and entire Common App and UC applications. He got into great schools: Columbia, Northwestern, NYU, Cal and other UCs. I don't think he would have been able to distinguish himself among all the other super star applicants had he not had Sonia's kind and knowledgeable guidance. Also, her being there took the pressure off my relationship with my son. It was still very stressful, but my son and I didn't end up hating each other by the end of it. Sonia's rates are VERY reasonable. Her contact info is: sspindt [at] yahoo.com 510-654-0377 (h) and 510-290-4271 (c) Good Luck with the college application journey! Its rough, but it doesn't last forever. Thank Goodness! Nicole A

I gifted my niece the essay-writing assistance of Carla Castillo. I emailed my sister to get her view on Carla's help, and this is how she replied: ''Having Carla in the picture helped me do what was most important in this whole college application process, at least as far as the writing anyway, and that was to stay out of it unless asked for input. Carla was very helpful in keeping my daughter, a notorious procrastinator, on track by simply asking, 'when might you have a draft ready to discuss with me?' My daughter, who I think is a good writer to begin with, says, 'My final essay in its post-Carla form was about a gazillion times better than my first draft. Her suggestions were really useful, as she had a much better idea than I did of what colleges were looking for, but she always made sure to let me know that I had the final say. She was very easy to work with.' '' End of story: my niece, a small-town girl, was accepted to Harvard, much to our surprise and delight. Here's Carla's contact info: simplycarla [at] icloud.com www.carlaswritingspace.com ph 510-847-3789


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] hotmail.com 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: https://www.kinstantly.com/profiles/2058 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: http://blog.kinstantly.com/how-to-write-a-college-essay-that-admissions-committees-will-love/ mom of happy freshman

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] gmail.com. Katrina H

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't heard about them at all, or didn't get how meaningful they were to him. The whole process had a 'rites of initiation' 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] gmail.com phone#(510)524-8697 mobile/(510)847-2505 work

Tutor / Editor to help craft memorable college essays

June 2014

I cannot praise tutor Lesley Quinn more! Lesley [at] qua.com 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 www.sarahshankman.net 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 www.sarahshankman.com and her email address is sarah [at] sarahshankman.net Adrienne

April 2014

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

Jan 2014

I 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] gmail.com or at 510-524-8697. JC

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

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] gmail.com. Mary

I'd like to recommend Heather MacLeod (macleodphd [at] gmail.com). 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] gmail.com. 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] icloud.com 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

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. (www.sarahshankman.net) -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] gmail.com 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 (rfreeling.com) 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] att.net or 614/623-6426. Good luck! rebecah

I recommend Deborah Davis -- see her website at www.deborahdavisauthor.com. 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

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] gmail.com 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 www.LearnWithMe.com 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

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 www.lesleyquinn.com 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 www.sarahshankman.net. lark

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] gmai.com) 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

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. www.sarahshankman.net

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 www.sarahshankman.net 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 sarahshankman.net. 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.

Seeking a tutor to help with college essay

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: http://www.lesleyquinn.com/ satisfied mom

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

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] inquiringmind.com Grateful Parent

Sept 2010

My daughter, Courtney, went to Jamie Keller, www.learnwithme.com 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 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

My son had a great experience with a college application essay tutor, Jamie Keller (jamiekeller1 [at] gmail.com www.learnwithme.com). ''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: www.lesleyquinn.com. 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 www.lesleyquinn.com. 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 (sarahshankman.net) 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 www.sarahshankman.net a Marin mom


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

Supporting son in college essays

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 www.lesleyquinn.com. Happy mom/ successful senior

We used Lesley Quinn (www.lesleyquinn.com) 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

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: learnwithme.com
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] earthlink.net 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: www.lesleyquinn.com. 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

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] earthlink.net. Sincerely, Paul

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] earthlink.net 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] comcast.net or 510-282-3273. Deb