If you’re searching for a college essay tutor, it helps to have a few questions in your back pocket. I have these answers ready to share even when I’m not asked, because I want potential clients to know my methods and approach.
What can be accomplished with your services?
I give families a ballpark number of essay topics we’ll tackle, as well as the commitment that we’ll address different types of essay formats, from the longer personal essay to the 30 or 50-word head-scratcher. (How DO you sum something up in that short a space? There’s a technique!) I want students to walk away not only with essays started or drafted but also strategies to generate strong ideas, to provide rich details, and to organize their writing.
During the four weeks of my Get Started services, a student can prepare notes and outlines for up to six different essay topics in four weeks, and emerge with a few first drafts. Some students can accomplish more if they like. That service is best suited for students who want support with idea generation and the whole process of getting started.
During the two weeks of my Self-Starter services, a student can tackle up to eight or more essay topics if they start the first week with drafts ready to go. Ugly first drafts, welcome! That service is best suited for students who like to work independently and have been working prior to meeting me. Students who tackle fewer essays during this time are doing just fine; the process depends on the types and numbers of essays in front of them. We sometimes find that draft we thought was going well needs to be discarded and we have to start over.
The accomplishments do depend on the student’s time commitment and intrinsic motivation. The writing process is mercurial and hard to predict, so I make sure to check in with students regularly and keep families apprised of where we’re at, each week of the process.
The Draft Review service is available to those who would like to return for a brief engagement and send me a few essays for a last set of suggestions. This is a great option for someone on their fifth or sixth draft and who’s close to submission.
How would you describe your coaching methods?
I bring encouragement, structure, and strategy to the table. I honestly get very excited when students bring their own authentic voice and humor to a story; about those rich sensory details they offer; about those innate storytelling techniques they bring, making a reader lean forward and ask what will happen next. So we celebrate what’s working already. I love covering a draft with compliments.
Places where I often ask students to stretch include the robustness of detail. Does the detail really shine and really convince? Or is it too vague? Is the detail truly emblematic of your authentic self? I also push students on reflection and depth of thought. Colleges seek thinkers. Four years of study requires you to stretch your mind, to embrace paradox, to seek out the gray, and to ask big questions. I push students to do the same in their essays, demonstrating their critical thinking to colleges.
My weekly structure–a shared calendar with Wednesday and Sunday deadlines–means everyone is looped into the process and there are no surprises. Students know they’ve got to commit at least two days a week to this process. It’s a relief to have boundaries in a process that can feel sometimes like it’s all over the place. (Revision is like a cat, I always say.) It’s a relief to know you don’t have to be haunted by it every single day.
As students conclude the service, I send a summary assessment of writing strengths and areas for growth. I make a few recommendations for next steps. I want students to be empowered to work without me and take those strategies with them into other essays and their college writing.
How do you distinguish between coaching revision vs. actually rewriting someone’s essay?
Don’t rewrite an essay, college essay tutors! Just don’t. I know some find it quite tempting. I know they feel that as the adult, they have all the best words.
But no. The most I will do is cross out a word or two, as a model to show a student what’s redundant, and then I ask the student to follow suit in subsequent sentences. I give strategies for cutting to get to word count.
I also share model essays, and I ask a ton of coaching questions in the margins.
- What Gold Coin detail could you add here?
- What Blue Sky statement do you need here to sum up your points?
- What else have you discovered about yourself? Try to go deeper. What has surprised you?
If you work with me, I teach you these strategies.
Years of teaching and enforcing the rules of academic honesty, and years of seeing my fiction pirated makes me pretty passionate about this subject. Give where credit is due. I am not applying to these schools, and therefore it is not my work. Application readers can see straight through to the soul of an essay, and they can smell an adult’s writing, easy.
What is expected of my child during the service period?
I expect at least 5-7 hours of student work a week, and that a student meet the twice-weekly deadlines. I ask us to use email exclusively and for students and parents to respond to me every 48 hours for greatest efficiency and maximum results. I ask students to try my methods and bring their authentic stories. Here is the Participation Agreement.
How do you respond to some unique needs my child has?
I’m happy to hear about any particular needs and for us to brainstorm how my approach might help. I am a big believer in talking through ideas and using the Talk to the Doc method (more about all of that here.)
I also ask families what their personal goals are, both parent and student; what the student’s past experience with writing has been like, and whether they have ever written what I call a narrative-persuasive essay; and what their priority schools are.
Do you have takeaway materials and strategies?
You should see how much stuff my students get. I have brainstorming templates, drafting templates, outlining templates, and model essays. I have guides to various sections of various applications. You have a question I haven’t yet answered, I will be sure to arm you with information and possibly a brand-new handout you have inspired me to create, just so you have everything you need after we work together.
I am a huge fan of giving students materials, not just my time.
Can we all meet on Zoom?
Yes! I like having family inquiry meetings so the student can see me and then talk afterwards with family about whether my personality feels like a good fit. My years working in schools with teens have taught me to honor the agency, creativity, and independence of those between the ages of 16 and 18. I also may not have the personality that matches what this student needs, so it’s always good to hear my voice and learn about my approach in person.
Ask away. You deserve to know what the experience will be like before embarking on it.