The Common App and other college essays are immensely important in influencing schools’ perceptions of you. Writing the essays requires strategic choices about how to define yourself as well as an intensive process of revision to make your essay truly memorable. Drawing on my experience as an English professor and college writing instructor, I provide guidance to juniors and seniors at any stage of the writing process.

Ideally, the college essay reflects (or reveals) the person behind the high school transcript, but for many high school students the writing process provides anything but clarity. Some struggle to identify an experience or interest to write about, or, more specifically, struggle to find the right mode of expressing it. Others find it difficult to incorporate or smoothly transition between the elements of narrative, argument, and resumé.  And for many students, determining the best criteria for revising a draft and deciding between different versions of the same essay can be overwhelming.  It’s important to remember that the writing process isn’t easy and progress isn’t always a straight line.

At Write Start Prep, we have options for students at all different stages of the process. For juniors who are planning to get an early start on the Common App, our College Essay Writing Group discusses writing strategies, model essays, storytelling techniques, and builds to a first draft outline.  For students who have already completed a written draft or are looking for more individual focus, our one-on-one Essay Planning + Editing allows students to get expert advice on everything from strategies for highlighting their strengths to the early stages of editing to proofreading and the final draft.  Finally, for students who have a final draft ready to go, we offer Proofreading to recommend final revisions before submission.


For students whose College Essay is still in the early stages, we specialize in Essay Planning.  Through one-on-one sessions, Dr. Kevin Cooney guides students as they generate ideas, organize and expand their paragraphs, and finalize their Common App or supplemental essays. Our step-by-step guidance helps students to understand what colleges are looking for and to strategize the best way of presenting their strengths.  The focus of individual sessions changes based on each student’s unique needs and progress as a writer, but they commonly include discussions about essay content and organization, writing strategy and revision, and adapting your essays for different schools.  Here are some common topics:

  • Understanding Your Strengths
  • Finding Your Style
  • Varying Your Essays
  • Proofreading and Final Edits


For students who have completed their Common App essay or supplemental essays, we offer a Proofreading service. After all the planning and painstaking revisions you have poured into your essay, don’t skip the final step: getting an English Ph.D. to proofread your essay and flag any mistakes. Beyond looking at grammar, punctuation, and word choice, we evaluate the intangibles–the essay’s tone and what it says about you, how well the essay dramatizes your experiences, and to what degree it stands out from similar essays.


Even though the college essay focuses on you as an individual, that doesn’t mean you need to physically isolate yourself to write it. In fact, some students make significantly more progress when working with a group. For juniors or seniors just getting started on their college essay, Dr. Cooney offers an intensive Writing Group and guided class that builds to an outline of the first draft.  The class is capped at 8 students and runs for 4 weeks (2 hours per week).

  • Strategies for Essay Questions
  • Model Essays
  • From Resumé to Narrative
  • Writing Exercises