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.
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.
Jacqueline Abrams is a freelance writer who has taught at Emory University, New York University, and UC Santa Cruz. She earned her PhD in Comparative Literature and her MA in Humanities and Social Thought, and for the last decade, she has brought her love of writing to high school students across the country to help them craft winning college application essays. She believes that the college application essay is more than a hurdle for students to jump through; it is an opportunity for students to learn how to build powerful narratives about their lives. She teaches her students how to examine the details of their experiences and find meaning in even the most mundane moments. In addition to her scholarly work, Jacqueline has lived abroad for many years—as a university student in Bologna, Italy, a samba dancer in Bahia, Brazil, and a writer on a dissertation grant in Berlin, Germany. She has spent the better part of her life developing strategies for creative thinking and emphasizing the importance of effective communication.
Jacqueline’s own college application essay was a creative piece about the benefits and dangers of competition.
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 her 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.
Alexa DeGennaro works in international television marketing for NBCUniversal in Los Angeles, where she also proudly mentors teen girls at WriteGirl and moonlights as a YA author. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Boston University with a BS in Journalism, which lead her to a job with BU in London, and then to EF Foundation for Foreign Study, where she found homes for exchange students (and read many a student application!). The lure of using her German minor and working in TV brought her to Los Angeles in 2010. At WriteGirl, Alexa has worked with underserved teen girls guiding them through the college application process with a focus on crafting essays that sing.
Alexa’s own college essay charted her experience as a high school foreign exchange student to Germany, capped off with a now cringe-inducing use of a Fiona Apple song lyric.
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 teaching 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 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.
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.
Rebecca Semenetz is an up and coming senior at the State University of New York at Geneseo. She studies Communication and hopes to work in marketing in New York City after she graduates in 2017. Rebecca has worked with New York State children’s cancer charity, GiantKids, creating promotional materials for their summer family fun event and also participated in a directed study with South Brooklyn Community High School, creating promotional materials for recruitment purposes. She also enjoys volunteering for numerous charities including St. Baldrick’s, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, The American Cancer Society, and Friends of Karen. Rebecca went through the stress of applying to colleges and writing her own essay only a few years ago and continues to help her 16 year-old brother and 17 year-old cousin as they go through the same process.
Rebecca wrote her college essay about how her brother being a cancer survivor has shaped her life and inspired her to help others.
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.