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

I would have preferred a consultant, frankly, so I think that’s one of the main things. I would have been happy for any help when I was writing the essay, only now I understand how it all works.

What kind of help would you have liked? I think some consultants have a tendency to ruin essays, unless they have training in how to help without directing.

1 Like

I don’t have a problem with that at the moment, thank you. I’m just sharing my thoughts on how I would do it. Also, when I wrote the statement of purpose, I had some help with this (great article, I’ll try to attach it). But I think a good consultant will do hundreds of times more than any advice or article from the internet, and the main thing is to be competent, actually, what you were talking about.

Unless the consultant is trained in teaching creative writing in high school, or has had extensive experience in admissions at multiple colleges and universities which have holistic admissions, they are most likely no better than most of the internet discussions sites such as CC.

I will repeat that, by and large, the best person to help is the high school English teacher who teaches Honors or AP English. They are more familiar with what a good essay by a high school looks like than anybody else out there.

English teachers not only know what such an essay looks like, they also know how to identify where an essay is weak, and what needs to be done to improve it. They also know how to teach a student to write a good essay, without writing it for them, and are far better than any consultant at making sure than an essay is in the voice of the student who is writing it.


No consultation regarding the writing of the essay. But we knew a college consultant who gave our kids some feedback once the essays were written.

She suggested no changes for DS.

DD had to turn in her essays the first month of her senior year to her English teacher. This teacher edited the crap out of the essay…really cut out the essence of the essay. Our consultant friend was sent the rewrite (kid did this for her English class) and the original. We didn’t tell the consultant friend which was which. Consultant chose DDs original essay and suggested the other one was just not complete. I still have that essay in my computer…it received positive comments handwritten on all of DDs acceptance letters.

1 Like

Well, of course there are people who use consultants and succeed and people who do not and succeed. The laws of admission to top schools being what they are, most students who use consultants will be rejected from top schools—just as most people who do not use consultants will be rejected from top schools.

I’ve looked at consultant-assisted essays that were pretty bad, and looked at others that were pretty good. The best consultants help students to find an interesting topic, perhaps a nice theme, and preserve the student’s voice. You can do this on your own, but it requires more than a few drafts and the willingness to take a leap into the unknown—i.e., be your real self, not the self you think the committee wants to see.

The biggest problems that I’ve seen with initial drafts of essays are “trying to impress the admissions committee.” Really good college essays usually come out of some surprising detail about a kid’s life that no-one else in his school has or would dare to write about. You can turn just about any topic into a good essay. Heck, there’s an essay (not a college admissions essay) on sighing.

I still think the best book on the process, if you want to go it alone, is by Harry Bauld. It’s got great examples of terrible topics, good essays, and a lot of good advice on how to improve your writing; also, the author has a great sense of humor. You’ll get more out of reading this book than you will out of reading most collections of college essays. More importantly, if you conscientiously follow the suggestions of the book, you’ll become a better writer. And having that skill is worth a lot, no matter where you go to college.

BTW, I’m not big on going to the Internet for advice for the college essay. The main problem with Internet-published essays is the lack of context—no sense of what the rest of the application was. Maybe the kid was so amazing that he didn’t need to write a good essay to get into Harvard, maybe he was a recruited athlete, or maybe his essay topic made sense for his particular background but would not for another person’s.

I like Bauld’s book because it is a complete manual of what you need to do, written by someone who is obviously a very good teacher.

The man is an English Teacher, a coach, was an admissions officer, AND is a freelance writer. Seriousely, I cannot think of an individual who would be more qualified to give advice on writing essays.

Even without reading it, my tendency would be to recommend it.

The author is a college counselor at New York’s Horace Mann school. Previously worked at two elite schools in admissions.

Definitely a person who knows what he is talking about, when he gives advice about essays (or in general about admissions). It would be interesting to know what he thinks about not following the essay prompt. @Its_Just_A_School You’ve read the book - do you remember if he talked about following the prompt?

PS. The OP of another thread claimed that not adhering to the essay prompts was a good idea - that is why I’m asking.

1 Like