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Stacey Brook, Founder of College Essay Advisors, has been honing the college essay advising process for years. While many of her practices are steeped in field knowledge and instincts that are hard to describe, there is a distinct method to her madness. Whether working with students in person, or via phone or Skype, the steps she and her CEA advisors follow are the same.
Brainstorm: We begin each essay with an in-depth topic brainstorm. If a CEA advisor is meeting a student in person, this initial brainstorm session will often take place on the phone in advance of the meeting to jump start a student’s creative energy. (For phone and Skype sessions, this initial conceptualization will also take place remotely, as will all other work.) Brainstorming is a crucial part of the process, and we are willing to spend as much time batting around ideas as is necessary for students to unearth a truly creative concept. It is always apparent when students stumble upon a magic topic. Their eyes brighten, their voices regain perk, they no longer want to hurl seventeen pound textbooks across the room- it’s a beautiful moment.
Outline: Once a topic had been selected, we discuss this subject at length with our students. Why will the chosen story be compelling to admissions board? How does it best highlight a student’s value and the assets he/she will bring to a university? We take all of these angles into consideration before aiding students in organizing their thoughts in outline form. Before a student begins writing, he/she will know how an essay begins, progresses and ends. The pressure of writing the college essay has now been cut in half. Your advisor deserves a cookie.
Write: Most students believe that the point at which the actual writing process begins is where things begin to get difficult. Wrong! By the time students start to write their future masterpieces, they have already talked through the core message and key points of their essay a thousand times. They have mapped out the story flow to the last detail. They even have a handful of notes, penned when their advisors excitedly yelled “write that down!” after accidental gems were uttered during brainstorming. Our experts have a treasure trove of additional tricks we use to help make the writing process easier for students, but if we told you what they were, we’d have to kill you. Or hire you. Just trust that by the time students hit the writing portion of the task, the essay is already written in their heads. They’ve already done all the work. This, believe it or not, is the fun part.
Edit: We are in the home stretch. The topic has been chosen, the path outlined, the essay written. Now we simply have to scour the writing for spelling and grammar errors, scrub it clean of cliches and clip out all the contractions. This is a time consuming part of the process, but also one of the most important. Parents can be extraordinarily helpful during this part of the process. Even an expert college essay advisor needs a fresh pair of eyes, and parents and advisors make the perfect error extraction team. After many careful reviews, the essay emerges polished, clean and ready for submission. You are now allowed to give your advisor another cookie. And have a couple yourself. You earned it.