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College Essay FAQs

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General FAQ

Why is the college essay important?

By the time admissions officers start reading your college essay, they already know all about your grades and test scores, your extracurriculars and your family background. What they don’t know is what you’re like in person. What are your outstanding personality traits? What is it like to spend a day with you? What motivates you to take action? What are the events that have had a meaningful impact on your life? When trapped within the confines of a generic college application, so many students look the same. You would not believe how many good students and club leaders there are, or the number of students who achieve perfect scores on the SATs. The only way to make yourself stand out is to show admissions what makes you an individual. The essay is your one true chance to show it, and it can make all the difference between rejection and admission.

Who needs college essay advising services?

In short, pretty much everyone. The average college admissions reader spends 2-3 minutes on a student’s personal statement, which means each student has about a commercial break’s worth of time to make a lasting impression on the person who has randomly been selected to seal their academic fate. Whether you are applying to an Ivy League institution, a renowned private university or a selective state school, it is important to make those minutes count.

But why do I need a college essay advisor when I have a perfectly free English teacher?

We at CEA love all English teachers (some of us even used to be English teachers), and find they can be an effective supplementary resource during the admissions essay writing process. But if you have an English teacher who can execute a full year’s worth of curriculum while giving each of their students’ application essays the attention it deserves, then you have a superstar on your hands. Most English teachers have their plates full simply teaching their demanding course load for each quarter, and though many are talented writers, few are familiar with the specific requirements of each individual college or the style in which the personal statement is written. Though Junior and Senior English class is a great place to start for the brainstorming and drafting of your personal essays, CEA’s services or video course can help push your piece to the next level. With this task in particular, personal attention is key.

I have already drafted my essay- is it too late to use CEA?

Unless it is 11:30pm with an essay due at midnight, it never too late to work with CEA. We want you to be thrilled with the writing you submit to the admissions board, and find there is almost always room for improvement. Not only that, we have extensive experience with and insight into what admissions committees are looking for when they read through a student’s essay. A fresh pair of eyes, free from the bias of the teachers and parents that know a student intimately, are always an asset. Do you love your essay? Does reading your essay make your brain launch into a Disney-fireworks-style celebration of uncontainable glee? If not, it’s probably not too late to work with us or at least binge-watch our step-by-step video course.

I’m not applying to Ivy League schools. Do I still need CEA’s services?

The pool of students applying to college gets ever more competitive as a college education cements itself as more of a requirement and less of a choice for young professionals. This competition is expanding across the board in schools of all levels, and students of all abilities are beginning to seek help outside of their school-given resources. Don’t sell yourself short or miss your chance to push your application to its greatest potential. When admissions decisions start to roll in, you don’t want to wonder whether you could have done more to make your application the absolute best it could be.

What is the difference between a personal statement and supplemental essays?

The Common Application personal statement comprises 650 word (or less) in response to one of five essay prompts. The personal statement is just as it sounds: an essay that reflects something personal about the student’s life, and we use the prompts as a launch point for finding an essay subject that is tailored to each student’s specific interests and style.

Supplemental essays have become increasingly popular over the years, and especially in response to recent changes to the Common Application. These essays are often found in the supplemental portion of a school’s application and must be completed in addition to the personal statement. Supplemental essays range in length and scope on subjects that range from deeper explorations of a student’s collegiate and academic interests like, “Why do you want to attend Boston University?” (250 words) to more amorphous topics like, “What is your favorite book and why?” (Brown University, 450 words). Students who work with CEA are often encouraged to nail down their personal statement topic first, and supplemental essays are then completed in priority order according to submission deadlines.

Pro tip: Ivy League applications often have extensive supplements, as do many other top-tier schools and honors programs.

One-On-One FAQ

How much do your services cost?

Because every student is bound to apply to a unique set of schools, each requiring a different amount of time and effort, CEA finds it most helpful to give parents personalized quotes to fit each student’s very specific needs. Please call CEA HQ at 347-927-9232 or use our contact form, and we will be happy to discuss pricing and provide you with a quote asap.

What does a college essay advisor do?

We tell a lot of jokes. (Some of them are even funny!) We eat too much ice cream. We also help students brainstorm ideas, conceptualize winning essays, outline concepts from beginning to end, and edit final drafts to perfection. We assist with everything from the Common Application’s personal statement to short answers, supplemental essays and scholarship essays. Because we have over a decade’s worth of experience in admissions essay advising, we have seen it all — and this allows us to guide students away from the trite treatment of overdone essay topics and into the realm of the truly personal narratives that admissions is looking for. We are also pretty great at helping students overcome writer’s block and other challenges related to these often daunting and high-pressure assignments and are always happy to lend a supportive ear for parents and students, alike.

Who writes the essay, the advisor or the student?

A few things about CEA’s essay advisors: We don’t eat carrots. (We just don’t like them.) We don’t go to bed before midnight. (We’re busy beavers.) And we definitely don’t write essays for our students, though we are more than happy to advise, reflect, inspire, analyze, edit, and aid students in unearthing and expressing their most poignant and captivating personal stories. Ghostwriting essays for students is unethical. And the admissions boards know when it happens. Also, our lives aren’t interesting enough to fill 10,000 unique essays. We leave that to our brilliant students.

Who is responsible for the research and factual information contained within each essay?

That would be you! Here’s why. Each student knows the details of his or her life better than any of the CEA advisors ever could. If you lie to us, your essay will contain lies. Don’t do this! It makes for terrible essays. The truth of your life is far more interesting than any lie you could conceive and keep up.

We also hold parents and students responsible for the factual accuracy of information researched about schools for supplemental essays. Most of our advisors know the specifics of each school up-down-and-sideways, but it is still impossible to familiarize ourselves with every program, every professor, and every club at each school. If you tell us something exists, often we will double check it to make sure, but no matter what it is still ultimately your responsibility to ensure your facts are straight. We are writers, not fact-checkers. So students, parents and CEA advisors must truly work together to make these essays as compelling and accurate as they can be.

Parents, what’s in it for you?

Fighting? What fighting? By now you, the parents of pre-college-age students, have realized that teenagehood is tough. Don’t take it personally. Who is the one person your child doesn’t trust for opinions about essay subjects, writing style, school choice? It’s not your fault. We were all like this once. But we at CEA are not just expert essay writers, we are slick mediators, navigating the territory between parental and teenage desires and bringing the disparate parties together in harmony. How do we get your kids to cooperate with us? It’s magic. We’ll never tell. Also, our advisors are young and cool and relatable. Also, your kids will probably listen to us simply because we’re not you. Twisted, isn’t it? But it works!

Kids, what’s in it for you?

Nagging? What nagging? We totally get it. We were there. What is worse than parents bugging you about one of the most stressful and daunting assignments of your academic career thus far? CEA’s job is to take the pressure off- off your parents, sure, but mostly off you. We want you to be happy with the final product. At the end of the day, we are on your side. Because your parents are not applying to school, you are. So let’s get that brain unstuck. And if you work hard for us, we’ll take you out for ice cream.

Does CEA provide references?

Absolutely. References from a wide selection of former CEA clients are available upon request. Simply send us a message in our Contact Us section, and we will be happy to connect you with someone who has employed us in the past.

Where are you located?

CEA HQ is in New York City, but we have advisors all over the continental US. While our advisors will occasionally meet with students in person, we have found that it is much easier for everyone to meet remotely, in order to accommodate crazy extracurricular schedules, long commutes, and distant time zones.

Which is better, working in person or remotely over phone and email?

We live in the age of technology. Let’s use it! Though we love to work with students in person, we have found over the years that successful essays are easily brainstormed, outlined and edited via phone, email and Skype. We attract clients from across the country and around the world, in places as far as Singapore, Dubai and The Netherlands. Over half of our clientele in any given year works with us remotely, and these students’ admission success rates are equal to that of the clients we visit in person. If you have questions about how you might best work with our advisors, write us using the form on our contact page, and we will be happy to talk through all the options.

How long do CEA’s essay editing services take?

Writing effective personal statements and other admissions essays is a process. Even with our help, brainstorming powerful ideas and tweaking artful wordplay takes time, which is why we urge our students to begin the process as early in the year as possible. Clients should expect multiple drafts to pass back and forth between advisor and student before an essay is finalized. The time taken to complete applications in full varies depending on number of schools applied to and complexity of those schools’ applications, and we ask clients to please keep this in mind throughout the process. We are happy to estimate a more specific timeline for the completion of all applicable essays before we begin working together.