Would you risk college admission on your English essay?

I’m just curious. Why would a student want to work with you on their college essay? I don’t mean this in a negative way, but our high school has students do their essays in Senior English class. Isn’t that enough? I just don’t understand why the application would be that difficult.

For those of us who applied to school way back when –  when you could have typed your essay on a typewriter instead of a computer – things were different.  When I applied to college, there was no SAT prep in my area, application deadlines were February or later, few schools required essays, and most colleges admitted almost everyone who applied.  Today things are different.

College admission is more competitive.  Applications aren’t impossible, but more is riding on those essays, short answers, activity lists, and letters of recommendation.

So why would a student work with me rather than just work with an English teacher at school? While English teachers are very knowledgeable about writing essays, they are not necessarily well informed on what colleges are looking for and the types of writing beneficial in the admissions process.

I’ve seen good suggestions backfire when the entire senior class works to write college essays en masse.  I had one young man come to me and say: Mrs. Dorsey, my English teacher says we need to have to have two instances of dialogue in each of our essays. Dialogue can work well in a college essay if it’s done well, but effective dialogue is difficult to write.  Two pieces of dialogue in each essay from every student from that entire school!  What used to be unique now is commonplace and all essays begin to sound alike!

Why would a student want to work with me? I spend a lot of my time specializing in college admissions, attending professional conferences, and speaking with admissions officers. I know what colleges do and don’t want to see in an essay.

  • I get students to tell their unique stories in the most effective way.  Colleges don’t want to hear essays that sound like I wrote them. They also don’t want to hear the same formulaic essay from every student at a particular school. They want to hear the unique, educated voice of a teenager.
  • I understand that the college essay is a student’s best opportunity to show-off abilities, talents, and strengths. The essay is so much more than the question presented and if students provide a direct and literal answer, they often overlook an essential opportunity.
  • I can help a student step back, put the essay in the context of the entire application, and formulate a response that answers the question while promoting key factors that highlight strengths not mentioned elsewhere in the application.

Yes, it’s good to have someone proofread essays and English teachers are good at doing this.  But if you know your essay might be the difference between an admission or rejection letter, you may want specialized application coaching.  I know it is a cliché, but when students submit college applications, they only get one opportunity to make a good first impression.


To learn more about Megan’s College Application Success Camp program visit:

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Dream School + Debt = Nightmare

cap w dollar questions

Should students go to the best school they were accepted to,

even if they will graduate with more debt?

What is the “best college”?  I emphasize “fit” when counseling students and families on college choice.  The best college for you may be different than the best college for me because our interests, majors, learning styles, families, personal and social goals are different.

I do not believe rankings determine which school is best, but I’m afraid this may be what the question is asking.  Rankings evaluate criteria which may not be significant to you.  (To learn more about how rankings are calculated:  Believing a higher ranked school is best often results in disappointment.

Putting the discussion of ranking aside, is it worth it to attend a higher ranked, better-known, or more prestigious school?  Not if it means graduating with a pile of debt.

Attending a prestigious university does not guarantee you a job—in today’s competitive market, you are more likely to find employment via your internships and networking efforts. Having a well-recognized name on your diploma will not get you a better starting salary or more offers of admission for graduate school. (Ask all the unemployed Ivy League graduates.)

My undergraduate degree is from Rice University, which consistently ranks in the top 20 nationwide.  It is nice to have that name recognition and prestige, but I was fortunate and my parents were able to pay for it (my two public school teacher parents).  I can’t say the education I got from Rice would be worth 20 years of student loan payments, equivalent to a home mortgage.

Nationally, student loan debt now dwarfs credit card debt. Countless news reports feature stories about graduates struggling to repay college loans, and these graduates agree that their dream educations turned into financial nightmares. I simply cannot advise students to borrow huge sums of money for their undergraduate education.

Your “best” school should be a matter of fit rather than ranking, and it should be a school you can actually afford.

Time For College Admission Coaching

How do you want to change this world?

How do you want to change this world?

I love my job!  When I started my own college admission coaching business in 2006 I was looking for a way to stay connected to the world of college admissions counseling while staying at home with a new baby.  I thought I’d eventually return to the public schools.  WRONG!  Now I doubt I’ll ever go back.

Don’t get me wrong, I worked with some great people and I loved my students, but a large school district is almost the textbook definition of bureaucracy.  I know all the educators out there can relate.  I wanted to focus on students, not paperwork or testing.  This year a nearby high school estimated they will spend 25 of 180 instruction days doing nothing but federally and state mandated testing.  Count additional days for the “good tests” like the PSAT and Advanced Placement exams and pretty soon 20% of the school year is made up of testing.

No wonder school counselors aren’t getting enough time to offer academic guidance and college planning to students.  The counselors are busy testing, handling schedules, dealing with crisis situations, attending required meetings, and working with at-risk students; there is simply not enough time in the day.  Add to that the fact that the average student to counselor ratio is 457 to 1!

I’ve broken free from the bureaucracy and now get to spend ALL my time helping students and their families prepare for college.  I can meet in the evenings or on weekends, so I can work with the entire family.  I don’t need to wait until students are in high school to make suggestions on course selection and academic planning.  I can take the time to really get to know the people I work with; yes, they are people, not numbers.  I know their strengths, weaknesses, and goals.  When students come to my SAT prep classes they have chosen to give up extra free time so they can improve their chances of getting into the college of their dreams.   I have the privilege of working with some of the most unique students who are truly interested and motivated in maximizing their college options.

So I can’t imagine going back to the old way of doing things.  I love helping students and families with college admission coaching. I love being my own boss!