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.
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.
Kat Stubing is a writer 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.
Emma Harrington is a freelance writer and former magazine editor who has been working with various student-lead publications since her sophomore year in high school. She graduated from Fordham University at Lincoln Center with a BA in Journalism and a minor in Psychology. She was also one of the founding editors of Fordham’s French literary magazine, Le Bélier, as well as the assistant Fashion Editor for the Fordham magazine FLASH. Though she is originally from Maine, she fell in love with New York City while touring colleges and has lived there since 2016, while she was obtaining her degree. Her favorite place in New York is the main branch of the New York Public Library, and she has spent many afternoons studying and reading underneath the beautiful ceilings of the Rose Reading Room.
Emma’s college essay was about the importance of focusing on the academic and cultural enrichment offered by attending university and not losing sight of why people apply to college in the first place.
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.
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.
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.
Kayla Soyer-Stein is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher from New York City. A graduate of Oberlin College, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in French, she went on to earn her M.F.A. in Fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow. She has over ten years of experience writing and teaching in various capacities, including to undergraduates at the University of Iowa, graduate students in Southern New Hampshire University’s College of Online and Continuing Education, and high school students through several nonprofit organizations in New York. In her free time, she volunteers at the ASPCA and walks around the block with her perfect dog.
Kayla’s college essay was about painting, writing, and dyeing her hair.
Megan Grandmont-Melendy is a high school English teacher whose passion for writing was ignited as a teen by the world of Harry Potter fan fiction (she’s a Ravenclaw). She graduated summa cum laude from Boston College with a BA in English. After spending several years working in animal welfare, she went back to school to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher, earning her Master’s in both English and Teaching from Salem State University. While in grad school, she studied a variety of writing pedagogies, as well as researched the needs of graduate student writers and designed programs to meet those needs. Today she teaches English at a public high school in Massachusetts, where she delights in coaching students to grow in confidence and skill as readers and writers.
Megan’s college essay was about how encountering homophobic language in high school awakened her to the power of language in the real world.
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.
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.