College Essay Coaching

I have been working with high school seniors on their college essays since my own son  went through the process in 2006. I have coached dozens of kids and can proudly report that nearly all of my students have been accepted to their first-choice colleges.

Over time, I have developed a structured approach that has proven effective in helping students write their essays. Meeting in my office in my home in Portola Valley (and leaving cell phones by the front door), we begin by brainstorming specific essay topics. Once we settle on an idea, I ask the student to tell me their story from beginning to end, almost in stream of consciousness, and I take notes. I  help them develop a detailed outline and then, while they are in this creative “zone,” leave them alone in the quiet room to write the entire essay on their computer. I ask them not to re-read or edit as they go, but simply write to the end. Producing the first draft is, most of the time and for most of us, the hardest part.

This process usually takes students between three and four hours, although occasionally longer (one boy took six hours to compose). Once they finish their draft, we will review it together and go over the structure, perhaps brainstorming the conclusion a bit more. The students are always pleased with their essay, relieved to have a draft, and frequently surprised at how they somehow managed to “channel” the writing.

Nobody can write a finished essay in one sitting. Writing is a (sometimes painful) process of composing, revising, editing, rewriting, taking out, putting back in, and taking out again. But there are few things as satisfying and exhilarating as completing a finished piece that truly reflects who you are.

Students usually decide to edit their essays on their own later, although I am available to help revise and whittle it down to the required 650 maximum words, if necessary. “If I’d had more time, I’d have written a shorter letter.” ~ Mark Twain

For more information on pricing and scheduling, please contact

For a better sense of the results you can expect, please read the testimonials by students and parents on this website.


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