Is a college consultant absolutely necessary for writing an Ivy League-worthy essay?

I’m a rising senior who plans to apply to several T20 schools. I’ve been working on my application as a whole for a few years now, but I’m stuck on the essay and I’m starting to panic a little now that college application season is here.

I’d love to work with a college consultant, but most of the services I’ve looked at have astronomically high rates and my family just can’t afford that.

Does anybody know statistics on what percent of Ivy League admits received professional help with their essay and/or application? Do I have any chance at all of writing an eye-catching essay without professional help?

Additionally, does anyone know of good consultants that aren’t so costly?

Plenty of free essay readers here.

FWiW, I did not use a consultant, and I did pretty well with admissions.

And no, I do not think there are statistics on this.


Purely anecdotal but my kid didn’t use a consultant nor would he allow us (parents) to read it until his essays were finalized. He would only consider edits that were grammatical and even then pushed back “to preserve his voice”.

Speaking candidly I aggressively pushed him to enlist professional help and he just kept saying relax. Very frustrating and I wasn’t relaxed.

When I read the essays they weren’t as polished as an adult author would have constructed them, but they were extremely sincere, self aware and specific. I don’t think anyone else could have captured the rawness or passion of what he conveyed but certainly a professional could have made it more refined.

He was successful at several very selective schools.

Good luck but don’t doubt yourself. The essays are your opportunity to tell your story or be creative.


My kids didn’t use a consultant and had great results. Honestly, I think it is better if adults don’t mess too much with essays :slight_smile: The best essay readers preserve your voice . I also think it verges on unethical to have someone help too much with writing an essay. It should be yours. (Yeah, I know, everyone does it…and colleges know too…)

And yes, plenty of free help here on CC.


Based on your topic - I ask - who is writing it - you or the consultant?

My daughter’s senior English class (I think it was a creative writing class) worked on the college essay as one of their first projects. I’m not sure if anyone was admitted to an Ivy League university through this approach (my daughter did not apply to those schools) but I think it was a nicely structured project that benefitted the class. Any chance your English class will be doing something like that?


I didn’t use a consultant. I used inspiration from one of my AP English essays. My teacher said it was one of her most favorite in all her years of teaching. So I kind of bounced off of that. My parents read it once I was done. I showed it to my GC at school and to my AP teacher…no changes.

My brother just finished his…he bounced a bunch of ideas around to everyone in our family…and his GC. He actually said he wished he could write two…because he was so torn. lol He went with the more original, introspective yet quirky one…Hope it’s the right choice. It was an enjoyable read.


My daughter received no professional help except she did have two high school English teachers read and provide feedback on her personal statement. She wrote rough drafts for a few ideas and struggled at first, but when she came up with her final concept, my brain became all “zappy” (best way for me to describe it) because I knew it was IT. I think one of her English teachers knew that, too, and helped her with the final edits. My daughter was accepted to highly and extremely selective colleges.

I recommend that you write rough drafts for a few ideas. You should see pretty quickly which ideas spark enthusiasm and creativity and which ideas fall flat. I believe that with the help of a few trusted teachers, you will not need an exorbitantly-priced college consultant. Wishing you the absolute best!


My son didn’t use a consultant and did very well this past admissions cycle. Last week he was reading some of his past supplementals and said “oof, I can’t believe I wrote that, so cringy,” Lol. But hey it worked. He wrote his common app essay in one night at 2 am while walking around in the garage (talk to text). He said he wrote from the heart.


My kids didn’t have any teachers or GC’s involved. At the outset we had conversations about topics, which is really the most important thing to get started.

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From what I saw at Son’s HS (atypical elite public) the kids getting in to IVY+MIT+Stan+Williams+Amherst+UChicago wrote their own essays. The kids that used consultants for help on essays (and other aspects of the application process including strategizing where to apply) ended up at the next tier down.


I can only offer anecdotal evidence, but none of my circle of college friends used a private consultant. Some used a lot of CC, others had lots of support from their school, and most (like me) just did it themselves. My regular suburban high school’s most successful students also did not use consultants, but some of the less strong applicants did.


You are a rising senior and have been working on your college application for a few years now? I’m sorry but that is way too much overkill. If you are approaching your essays as a project, they will come through as that. Just be your authentic self.


There are free resources online of dos and don’ts and lots of other stuff. And you can brainstorm and talk about ideas with your parents or friends.

Write your own essay and get your English teacher or another adult whose input you respect to read it for structure and flow and to look for technical errors and typos.

Have confidence that you can express yourself and show the admission counselors who you are in your own words.

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College consultants are good for helping students strategize, to figure out the best way to present themselves, etc. Most college consultants, despite the claims of many, are not qualified to evaluate an essay, much less tell you what would help make it better.

Like @teleia’s kid, my kid wrote her essay as part of her AP English class (I don’t remember which), and she was also helped by her old Honors English teacher (for whom she also was a TA).

The best people to help you with your essay are, indeed, your English teachers. Among other reasons, because they are teaching you, not coaching you, and they know what a high school kid’s essay looks like, and will help you work on your essay, without it losing your voice.

So approach your favorite English teacher, and ask them whether they could help you.

All that being said, the point of the essay is not to see whether you can produce an award winning piece of work, which could be published. While they do want to see that you know how to express yourself in writing, they would not have Introductory Composition as a required course if they already expected you to be a great writer. They mostly want to see who your are, and what you can bring to the college. You are writing a letter introducing yourself.

That is why the topic of “how I overcame adversity” is such a weak topic. You are supposed to be showing them who you are, not telling them about things that happened to you.

In fact, one of the best things that your English teacher can do for you is to keep you on the “show, don’t tell” track.

BTW, don’t believe the hype about needing a “winning college essay”. As I wrote - if they expected you to be able to write at that level, there would be no required intro to composition class. The lists of the best essays are the top ten essays of the 2,000 or so students who were accepted, and are not that typical of the essays that they are getting.

I’ve known many Ivy graduates who could to write themselves out of a wet paper back, even if they were using a sharp pencil. There is no way that their applications essay were more than passable.


I’ve been working on my application as a whole for a few years now

  • tell me more!

NO, you don’t need to use a pro consultant. My kid didn’t, and he got into Harvard (not a legacy, not an underrepresented minority, not an athlete, not a donor’s child). He was a very talented musician who had won a couple of international level competitions, however, and he had a lot of good things in his application (although was only probably about top 5% in a good public high school).

He tried several drafts. The first one was, "The local conservatory wouldn’t allow me into their high school level program for 8th grade, even though I had the best audition, so I showed them! I worked even harder and went out and won the most prestigious competition! And it spurred me on to all this long list of achievements! So there! Of course, it came across as bragging. Deleted. The next draft was a humorous account of how he bit a kid in first grade and wound up in the principal’s office. It was funny, but it didn’t say much about who he was now. Finally, my husband, who has taught writing, asked him, “What do you love? What do you really love doing?” Son thought about it, and decided he loved playing music, learning about clinical psychology, and playing ping pong with his dad and beloved big brother, who had left home and moved halfway across the world when my son was only 9 yrs old. He wove these three things into an essay about the connection between work and play. It told a lot about him, it was sincerely in his voice, and it was entirely his own work. We ran it by one of the parents on CC, and by a friend who is a tech writer/tech editor. Both said it was good, and that he came across as likable. I don’t know if his essay got him in, but it certainly didn’t keep him out.

You know how the best way to have impressive ECs is to just do what you love, to the fullest? Think about your essay that way. What do you love? What is important to you? What do you want the admissions committee to know about you, other than the fact that you want to go to their school? Make a list of the things you love, the things that are important to you, and try a draft incorporating these things. You may surprise yourself with how easily the essay will just flow out of you, when you’re writing about what you love in a manner that shows, not tells, why these things are important to you. Then try running what you come up with by one of your English teachers, or by one of the readers here on CC.


One applying to top 20 colleges & universities should have something to say.

Writing should not be the hard part of creating an essay. The most work should occur in your mind thinking about what you would like to communicate to the reader.

Readers at the most competitive schools want to understand how you think and see how you express your thoughts. What you think about is also important.

You do not need to hire a consultant.

Try to be clear & concise when communicating whether in written form or otherwise.



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I don’t know anyone who hired a college consultant. They all got into good to great Us, depending on the applicant and qualifications.