Our Uncommon Essay Approach is a step-by-step process that teaches students to brainstorm, freewrite, sculpt and polish their final drafts to a high shine. We know it works because we have been using it for over a decade. Also, these people say it does!
We work to accommodate busy schedules, providing ongoing support for both students and parents to help them better navigate the essay writing process and maintain their sanity.
A stellar essay begins with a strong topic that speaks to who an applicant is at his or her core. We work with students to unearth their best stories and put fresh spins on classic subjects. We refuse to let you hand in a bland essay.
When you are juggling a full academic schedule along with a mountain of application essays, time management is key. We serve as the liaisons between student and parent and are the evil deadline setters and expert nags. You will still love us in the end.
We help students proactively combat writer’s block and manage admissions-related stress. Sometimes this involves writing exercises. More often it involves ice cream.
Students who work with CEA exit the advising process with sharper writing, research and organizational skills, which will come in handy on campus and beyond. We will prepare you for college whether you like it or not.
We advise, students write. Though our process is thorough and intensive, students are responsible for getting the words on the page. When filling out their applications, all students know their work is their own.
This process can be time-consuming and challenging, so we have to make it fun – both for you and for us. We will make jokes. We might send you videos of cats jumping into boxes. We will probably Skype you while eating ice cream at some point.
Stacey Brook is an accomplished writer and admissions expert who has spent more than a decade helping students conceptualize, edit and refine their college essays. During her college years, Stacey discovered she had both a knack for consistently reinventing the creative personal statement and a perverse love of bridging the gap between stressed-out teenagers and their parents. She received her first exposure to the admissions process in the Dean’s Host program at Boston University’s College of Communication, serving for two years as the program’s coordinator. She was also the ’04 commencement speaker for the College, winning a coveted scholarship from Burston-Marsteller Public Relations.
Stacey has since spoken at schools around the world on the subject of the college essay and has advised over 1,000 students on their admissions essays. She is a member of the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and is on the faculty at nytEducation: The School of The New York Times, teaching students to wrangle their school-specific supplemental essays. Her writing has been published in numerous publications including The New Yorker, Money Magazine and USA Today and she pens a regular admissions column for The Huffington Post. Stacey also honed her branding skills, personal and otherwise, as copywriter for world-renowned ad agency, Cline Davis & Mann. She lives in New York, NY where she spends most of her spare time eating her way through the city like it’s her (second) job.
Stacey’s own college admissions essay involved a contrived The Wizard of Oz metaphor comparing her life journey at 17 to the yellow brick road. Though it successfully secured her admission, in retrospect she kind of wishes she had hired an essay consultant.
Kat Stubing is a freelance writer, advisor, and communications specialist who has worked for grassroots and nonprofit organizations, theaters, newspapers, magazines, and digital publications reaching audiences all over the world. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a BA in Media and Communication Studies, where she received an Award for Academic Excellence from the College of Arts and Humanities. As an undergraduate, Kat studied Journalism for a semester in Leicester, England, where she discovered her passion for narrative writing and travelling. Kat has explored the streets of Cardiff and Chirk in Wales, Rome and Mirabella Eclano in Italy, and Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand. She believes travelling is the key to self-discovery and a broader mindset.
Kat’s college essay was an instruction manual on how to overcome adversity and make the best lemonade out of life’s sour lemons. She takes full credit for Beyoncé’s award-winning album.
Thea Hogarth is an experienced teacher, tutor, and educational product mastermind. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Haverford College with a BA in Comparative Literature and French, and is now nearing the completion of an MA from Columbia University’s Teachers College. As an undergrad, Thea sought out opportunities to guide younger students in their transition to college life, participating in Haverford’s “Customs” orientation program, tutoring in the Writing Center, peer advising new Comparative Literature majors, and giving campus tours to prospective students. Beyond the college campus, she has spent nearly a decade teaching English, literature, and writing to all grade levels from K-12 in a variety of settings, both in the US and abroad. In recent years, she has also cultivated a love and knack for product development and digital learning, and has led the charge on many projects from app development to video production.
Thea’s college essay described a moment in her life when grammar made her cry…with joy.
Rachael Fendrich is a communications specialist and has worked as a copyeditor for over 10 years. She earned her BA in English with a minor in Philosophy from Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo. While studying there, she realized her passion for literature and the power of the argumentative essay. She went on to earn her MA in English at Cal Poly, teaching Rhetoric and Composition during her studies and continuing as a lecturer after graduating.
As an editor, she loves the structural world of grammar and linguistics, but also has an eye for rhetoric and how word choice and tone affect the reader. Rachael spent two years writing and editing textbooks for children with learning disabilities at Lindamood Bell’s Gander Publishing. Her experience there taught her that language is not merely text on a page; language can create images in the reader’s mind that persuade them to believe a story’s purpose or argument—this is especially true in the college entrance essay.
Rachael’s own college entrance essay explored how Kate Chopin’s use of symbolism in “The Awakening” actually “awakened” her to how powerful language can be. She really hit the nail on the head with that one.
Nina Bailey is an experienced high school English teacher who has taught at independent schools in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area. She is passionate about working with high school students to develop their own written voice and gain the confidence to address any written task. Nina graduated Magna Cum Laude from Tufts University with a BA in English. After completing her undergraduate studies, she moved to New York City where she worked for several years in book publishing and at Christie’s Auction House. Nina then embarked on a Masters degree at New York University where she became a graduate writing instructor teaching freshmen composition courses with a focus on the personal essay. After completing her MA at NYU, Nina went on to teach English and writing at the Branson School in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Dwight School in New York City. Nina has worked one-on-one with numerous students over the past nine years helping them craft insightful, unique, polished college essays.
Nina’s own college essay was a meditation on writing as a process of discovery and transformation, a subject that still inspires her to this day.
Rebecca Myers is a poet and creative nonfiction writer who thinks it doesn’t get more exciting than the essay: immediate, personal, variable, challenging. Rebecca graduated with Honors from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BA in English and Creative Writing, then earned a Masters in English from The University of Georgia. She went on to study with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Sharon Olds and receive her MFA in poetry from New York University. She has taught composition, literature, and creative writing courses at both large universities and small liberal arts colleges, and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Wells College in upstate NY. Her published personal essays have covered subjects as diverse as that summer she spent working food service at Disney World (purple polyester is about as breathable as you’d imagine) to her toddler’s refusal to sleep (he’s fond of waking her up by banging two puzzle pieces against her face like a defibrillator). Most recently, her poetry and creative nonfiction have been published in Creative Nonfiction, Best New Poets 2015, The Rumpus, The American Literary Review, Gulf Coast, and featured as part of an NPR Radiolab segment on the periodic table.
Rebecca’s college essay was about that sole time she snuck out of the house…to go to the library.
Ashleigh Fox is a writing tutor, English professor, and unwavering supporter of the Oxford comma. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Allegheny College, a private liberal arts school and founding member of the Colleges That Change Lives organization, where she majored in English and minored in writing snarky e-mails. Ashleigh has worked in communication consulting, matchmaking, financial compliance, and cosmetics sales, but her true passion is working with young adults and meeting them at the fascinating intersection between childhood and adulthood. She spent ten years in the high school English classroom, earning her M.Ed in Secondary English Education from the University of Pittsburgh while encouraging her students to embrace multicultural texts, happiness studies, and the redemptive nature of unhappy endings in classic literature. She soaks up stories and is thrilled to help high school students unlock their unique narratives in the college essay.
Ashleigh’s own college essay explored the complex dynamics of mother-daughter relationships; its opening sentence described her mother as her “best friend, number-one fan, and harshest critic.”
Caryn Schwartz has been an editor—of school assignments, newspaper articles, college applications and more—for eight years. She earned her BA from Vassar College in English and Chinese, and then promptly took off to join the college consulting industry in Shanghai. She has worked with high school, undergraduate and MBA applicants. After five years in China, which included stints editing for the People’s Daily and Penguin’s North Asia office, she has made her way to NYC to work in book publishing. These days she reminisces fondly about Chinese breakfast foods and tries to read everything.
Her college essay was about a particularly traumatic haircut.
Kate Seldman is a freelance writer and editor who is passionate about helping clients find their voices and tell their stories. She specializes in identifying the ideal voice for companies and individuals and guiding each one through the construction of a branded narrative–or a college essay! Kate graduated from Vassar College with a BA in English and Film, then earned an MFA in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. She began her career as a writer’s assistant on the CBS TV dramas JAG and The Agency. Since then, she has written, edited, and consulted for an eclectic array of clients, including children’s cartoons, men’s lifestyle magazines, news websites, software companies, environmental nonprofits, and bodybuilding publications. On her personal blog, she writes narrative nonfiction about her sweet, rambunctious sons and her love of all things bizarre.
Kate wrote her college essay about the culture shock she experienced as a teenager when her family moved from London to Los Angeles, and the many times her classmates asked her to say the words “banana” and “water” because they wanted to hear her English accent.
Will Howard graduated Cum Laude from Pomona College, where he majored in English with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in Spanish. He also wrote for the student newspaper, taught creative and expository writing in an afterschool program for low-income youth, and was a mentor in the Queer Mentorship Program. During his junior year he lived in Buenos Aires and took art history classes in an old cigarette factory. Now he lives in Los Angeles and listens to podcasts while he sits in traffic. In the summer of 2018 he participated in the Disquiet International Literary Program. He hopes to earn his MFA in creative nonfiction one of these days.
Will’s college essay was about surfing.
Vivienne Kim has a B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard University. As an Asian-American violinist with a 4.0 GPA from California, she is convinced that her success in applying for colleges (she got into every college she applied to: Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Brown, University of Chicago, Berkeley, and UCLA) came down to her application essay.
She is a professional violinist with more than twenty years of teaching experience, and is completing a certificate in copy editing through UC Berkeley. In her work with prospective college students, she brings together two passions: a passion for the written word, and a passion for daydreaming with students in search of the telling detail, the funny anecdote, and the beauty of each person’s story. Her curiosity is endless and infectious, and she loves the process of getting to know each student and helping them put the essence of who they are into their essays.
Vivienne’s essay was an earnest inquiry into life that ranged from Brunelleschi (who, she now confesses, she rather randomly found in an encyclopedia) to Belgian chocolates (which she had a lot of first-hand experience with, thanks to a generous Parisian aunt with a discriminating palate.)
Melissa Schorr is a freelance writer, editor and published author whose personal essays have appeared in the New York Times, GQ, and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine.
She earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and later was awarded a mid-career Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at M.I.T., focusing on medical writing. As a journalist, she has stalked celebrities for People Magazine, penned a weekly opinion column for the Las Vegas Sun, and matched singles for the Boston Globe’s popular “Dinner with Cupid” feature.
She is also the author of two YA novels, including a romantic comedy about interfaith dating based on her own high school days. She currently works with authors and memoirists, helping them craft book proposals and manuscripts for submission to publishers. A native New Yorker, Melissa has been living outside Boston for over a decade now, although she’s not quite sure how that happened.
Her own college essay recalled the disastrous piano lessons given to her by her mother, a professional music teacher.
Sarah Artieda is an experienced, bilingual college counselor and English/ESL teacher with over 15 years of experience in the field of education. After obtaining her BA, Sarah was accepted into the New York City Teaching Fellows Program where she taught English Language Arts and ESL for six years in Brooklyn, NY. During this time, she also earned her M.S.Ed., graduating Magna Cum Laude. Although she absolutely adored her students and loved living in New York City, she was itching to explore the world. Over the following eight years, Sarah lived in Chile, Vietnam and Ecuador where she taught English and also worked as the Director of College Counseling at an International Baccalaureate school. Her love of meeting new people, learning about different cultures, and eating delicious food has led her to travel to over 30 countries on six continents. She’s already planning for her next 30!
Sarah wrote her college essay many moons ago, so she doesn’t remember exactly what her topic was; however, she’s almost positive it was related to social justice.
Josh Hawkins has nearly 20 years of academic, professional, and freelance experience as an editor-from college essays to college textbooks and everything in between-with a special place in his heart for making complicated or convoluted material consistent and easier for everyone to read and understand. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Georgia with a BA in Journalism and worked for a time as a freelance writer and magazine editor before embarking on a career in book publishing. During extended stints in the editorial departments at McGrawHill and Oxford University Press, Josh acquired new titles and developed projects in the areas of communication, journalism, film, and television. Since 2010, he has worked full time as a medical editor and group supervisor in the world of pharmaceutical advertising; he has been the Lead Editor at CEA since 2013.
Josh’s college essay was a long time ago, but it was most likely about wanting to get out of the small Georgia town where he grew up and make something of his life, which was a recurring theme for him. Mission accomplished.
Sarv Kreindler received her BFA with Honors from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where she majored in Film and Television and minored in French. This means she got to spend most of college running around and making movies (it was a lot of fun). She has dabbled in all sorts of writing including screenwriting, Emmy-award winning copywriting and copyediting, and professional tweeting for the likes of Bravo and MTV. She is also an award-winning YA and children’s book author.
Her college essay was on the many laudable qualities of her all-time favorite movie…Grease.
Michael Ventura is a freelance designer, animator, and illustrator with a love of all things creative. He graduated with Honors from Northampton Community College with a degree in New Media Design, and graduated Cum Laude from Lesley University with a degree in Animation and Motion Media. He has six years of freelance experience working on websites, promotional materials, short films, and mini-series. Michael likes to bring his creativity and love of design to the CEA team, and his work can be seen around this website; as well as in our college essay writing tip videos and our College Essay Academy YouTube series!
Michael wrote his college essay on the influences animation had on shaping his youth. How cartoons, video games, and other forms of art helped to drive his imagination and creativity to new heights; inspiring him to make things that would uplift and inspire other people’s imaginations as well!
The CEA Student Advisory Board comprises an all-star group of alumni who now attend some of the most elite colleges and universities in the country. They review and test new products to ensure that we’re always providing the best advice-plus they recommend the best TV shows!
NAME: Caroline Wang
SCHOOL: Duke University
MAJOR: Public Policy Studies
ACTIVITIES: Volleyball/Leo Club/Guitar/Community Service
COMMON APP PROMPT: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content.
ONE LINE ESSAY SUMMARY: I am perfectly content within the letters I write to the senior citizen I volunteer for, Norma.
BEST ADVICE FOR APPLICANTS: Your first (or even hundredth) idea will probably not end up becoming your essay. Be patient and stay creative.
NAME: Sam Gochman
SCHOOL: Dartmouth College
MAJOR: Biological Sciences
ACTIVITIES: Fencing, jazz saxophone
COMMON APP PROMPT: Transition from Childhood to Adulthood
ONE LINE ESSAY SUMMARY: The tools you receive in life are only valuable if you use them and give them to others.
BEST ADVICE FOR APPLICANTS: Be authentic and show how you can contribute to your school of choice.
NAME: Vikram Ashok
SCHOOL: New York University
ACTIVITIES: Band, Model UN, Super Smash Bros
COMMON APP PROMPT: Name One Time You Failed
ONE LINE ESSAY SUMMARY: Test out different approaches to a problem and adapt accordingly.
BEST ADVICE FOR APPLICANTS: You’re going to get into college, don’t worry.
NAME: Joshua Landsberg
SCHOOL: Duke University
ACTIVITIES: Soccer, Lacrosse, Sunrise Club
COMMON APP PROMPT: Background story
ONE LINE ESSAY SUMMARY: Life might knock you down, but that just means you have to get back up and fight harder.
BEST ADVICE FOR APPLICANTS: Work hard because the feeling of acceptance is all worth it.