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How to Find the Best College Essay Advising Services

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Perhaps the most complex and time-consuming element of college applications is the essay-writing process, which now often includes personal statements, additional information essays, diversity statements, mountains of supplements, and other fun surprises. As a result, many parents and students are increasingly seeking the help of college essay tutors to help them organize, strategize, and execute an increasing amount of admissions-related assignments. You know this. That is why you’re here, right?

But how do you know which advising companies are the real deal? Or who has valid expertise and who is faking-it-till-they-make it (or exaggerating their credentials)? And what qualifications even matter when it comes to hiring someone for admissions essay advice?

We put together a handy checklist of skills to covet, questions to ask, and red flags to look out for when hiring an admissions essay expert.

First, here’s what not to do: 

1) DON’T believe the Ivy League hype.

A slew of essay advising services (and general college advisors) lead by promoting their Ivy League pedigree. While we recognize the value of an education from these top-tier institutions, we also have found that it is not synonymous with being qualified for and skilled at college essay advising. Just because someone was able to gain admission to Harvard or Yale or UPenn doesn’t mean they know how to help you get in. We employ experts based on their past essay advising experience, creativity, and ability to effectively guide a student through the essay-writing process. We don’t discriminate against those who don’t have Ivy League diplomas; and if we did, we would have missed out on hiring some of CEA’s most brilliant and beloved consultants. Success with your own application to an Ivy League university does not equal an innate ability to help others succeed with theirs. 

2) DON’T believe the former admissions officer hype.

The logic in this is very similar to our Ivy League advice above. We have the utmost respect for college admissions officers and their in-depth understanding of the evaluation process. But just because you can recognize an effective application essay doesn’t mean you can help a student create one. The ability to help a student identify their story and generate creative ideas that admissions officers will remember is what counts. That, plus ample experience helping students with a wide variety of assignments, is what makes for a truly stellar college essay tutor.

3) DON’T use an essay factory.

At least not if you want the personal attention and nuanced feedback that comes with hiring a true expert. Massive test prep companies have hopped on the college essay prep bandwagon and are known to employ staff with little-to-no college essay advising experience. And a “college essay editor” is not the same as a college essay advisor, consultant, or expert who helps a student think through strategy, content, and messaging. College essay consulting companies who try to grow too fast often have a similar issue with sloppy hiring and lack of personal attention. If you are looking for high-touch services, a small or mid-sized operation is likely better suited to your needs.

4) DON’T hire a college student.

Even if that student was successfully admitted to the school of their (and your) dreams. No one loves college students more than we do, but they’re not qualified to assist with a student’s college admissions essays. Most students, even at the graduate level, are mere years (sometimes months!) away from having written what was likely their first-ever attempt at college essay writing. Many competing firms hire college students because they are, frankly, inexpensive—especially compared to true experts with many years of professional writing, editing, and teaching experience. We don’t even consider it.

5) DON’T trust essay experts “reviewing” other essay experts.

This may sound bizarre, but we’ve seen this more than we care to think about. Since the college essay advising field has been flooded with self-purported “experts,” some services employ less-than-savory promotional tactics, including fake reviews of themselves and other companies. Lean on your media literacy and assess the validity of sources before you buy into the advice.

6) DON’T trust guarantees.

No one can guarantee a student’s admission to any given institution, unless something truly shady is going on behind the scenes. It’s just not possible. Any service that claims to be able to do so is not telling the truth and could be lying/exaggerating about other elements of their offerings.

7) DON’T hire someone who offers to write the essays themselves.

We don’t have to tell you why this is a terrible idea, right? We believe a student should be proud of the applications they submit. And the only way to ensure that is to uphold strong ethical standards and guide students in a way that best showcases their true abilities. Authenticity is key. Also, for what it’s worth, we’ve read some of these essays, and very few of them are detailed and unique enough to make an impression on admissions. Even fewer read like they were written by teenagers.


Now, to what you should do:

1) DO look for consultants with teaching experience.

Connecting with a student is essential to the advising process, and not all applicants are immediate open books. Consultants with teaching experience have an ace up their sleeve—they often have experience with coaxing students out of their shells. Our essay advising services are also not just geared toward the drafting of a winning final product. We offer extensive advice on ideation, content generation, narrative flow, story structure, and so much more. And we have taught these skills to teenagers in various contexts, including the classroom and private tutoring.

2) DO look for companies with a substantial track record.

We here at College Essay Advisors started mentoring students on how to write the college essay before this industry palpably existed. Truly. CEA’s Founder and Chief Advisor, Stacey Brook, has worked with students on thousands upon thousands of college essays and has spent two decades forging relationships with related experts in the field. You don’t want someone guessing how to help you stand out to admissions or hypothesizing what admissions might respond to. Our team has rigorous hiring qualifications, and everyone who works for us has at least 5+ years of experience in college essay advising. 

3) DO hire a coach with experience working on a wide range of applications, from top-tier and Ivy League schools to state schools and lesser-known liberal arts colleges.

It is impossible to hone your essay advising and editing chops without being aware of overarching trends in the industry—and Harvard isn’t the only school that sets the tone for application essay requirements and objectives. Experience with advising students on applications across the spectrum provides deep insight into and perspective on what admissions committees value.

4) DO ask about consultant training methods.

How did a purported essay expert acquire their expertise? Does everyone at the company you’re considering employ the same methodology? Is their training method legitimate and comprehensive? Do they have a training program at all?

5) DO ask about their process.

Is a consultant offering one-on-one help? Are the number of calls or sessions restricted? What about rounds of editing and feedback? Do they provide in-depth guidance during the writing process or do they leave students to struggle with an empty page? Make sure the company you’re entrusting with this process has standardized processes that feel approachable and attainable within the given time frame. And be mindful about how experts label themselves. A “college essay editor” who corrects grammatical inaccuracies is not the same as an advisor, consultant, or expert who helps a student think through strategy, content, and messaging.  

6) DO go with your gut.

Call the service in question and talk to the people who work there. Do you enjoy speaking to them? Will your kids like them? College essay advising—at least the way we do it at CEA—is an in-depth process, involving the building of a trusting relationship. It often requires a generous amount of back and forth (depending on student needs, of course). Find college essay tutors you warm to on a visceral level and who you believe a student will connect with as well.

An important note: We here at CEA pride ourselves on honest assessments of a student’s needs and goals. If potential clients don’t need our services or are better served elsewhere, we will always tell them the truth. We care about what’s best for all students. What’s best for you also happens to be best for us, because it means we can reliably meet your expectations and ensure you are satisfied with our services.

We hope the above information was helpful and wish you the best of luck in your search for the best college essay advising service. If, after reading the tips above, you believe that service is us, feel free to CONTACT US!

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