“Since day one, Yelena has been committed to helping me develop powerful essays. From responding to emails or texts promptly, to sending back edits on or before scheduled, she exudes professionalism. Her expertise in writing is also reflected in every single one of her edits, from structure, to line-by-line analysis, to overall impact. What makes Yelena exceptional, however, is her guidance throughout the essay writing process. She doesn't only care about bringing essays to perfection; she also cares about my success as an applicant overall. It gives me great confidence knowing that Yelena has my back in the college application process. Getting into top universities would be her victory as much as it would be mine.”Read More
"I have worked hard throughout high school to prepare myself for the application process to get into my dream schools. But when senior year came and the time to start applying to colleges arrived, I didn’t know where to begin with my personal statements. I’ve always heard that you can literally write about anything in your essays and it will be fine. But anything doesn’t always show the best qualities in me.
"That’s where Yelena came and turned things around. Torn between topics, Yelena helped me brainstorm powerful events in my life that helped illuminate my strong characteristics that reveal who I am as a person while also making my statement impactful. She is extremely gifted in noticing significant features about a person just through her writing process. The fact that she actually takes the time to get to know her students before helping us with our work shows her determination to make our essays well written while leaving a great impression on the admission officers. She believes that every person has something amazing to share and she works hard to help us show that. With her help, not only did I come out with an incredible essay but I also learned more about myself and my values. I cannot thank her enough for her tremendous help.
-BA, accepted to Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Williams, UCLA, UC Berkeley & more
"I got into Columbia!!! Thank you so much for helping me with my essays and bringing them to perfection!! I don't think I’ve ever been proud of any piece of writing as my Common App essay... Being a STEM-related student, I've always had trouble with writing. Yelena knew exactly what to do so that I could freely and clearly speak my mind in my essays. She guided me through creative directions so we could find the write one for me. Her knowledge of how the admissions essays work allowed for us to focus on the important aspects of the essay and leave out the fluff. In addition, Yelena made my essays very interesting with bits of (effective) humor and storytelling that made my essays stand out. Overall, Yelena was able to unleash the creative side of my writing and add life to my otherwise monotonous essays. Thank you again!!!”
-AK, accepted to Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS)Read More
"I sought out Yelena's help just one week before my application was due. Although I considered myself a proficient writer, I was having difficulty tailoring my writing to express my personal identity and my interest for Cornell University. Yelena worked with me over the phone and inspired me to consider the bigger picture and to incorporate a more creative narrative for my essay. She also kept me motivated and focused, providing a timeline of due dates. In just a couple of days, my essays went from bland mediocrity to a vivacious and impactful assortment of words. Yelena helped me eliminate extraneous phrases and wording that didn’t aid the overall momentum and suggested the practice of nighttime journaling to spur creativity and insight. She also helped me incorporate shorthand (like "Cornellian" and "A&S") to give my supplement an additional level of authenticity. Although my stats were competitive for Cornell University, I’m convinced that Yelena's input and editing are the main reason I was admitted."-JT, accepted to Cornell UniversityRead More
"Yelena was so engaging and insightful! She visited my students during the Fall at the High School for Environmental Studies, as they were preparing for the college admissions process. The process can be so daunting for kids, and she really helped to ease their concerns about what to include and what not to include in their personal statements. My seniors were so grateful to have her come in! She provided them with so much useful, valuable advice as to how to individualize their college essays. She answered all of their questions as clearly as she could, as they vigorously jotted down notes and ideas while Yelena spoke. I am happy to say that many of those very same students, especially those who went for early acceptance, have been accepted to so many great colleges and universities. Thanks so much Yelena for all of your help! And we look to having our students work with you again next year!" —Erika Brooks, Social Studies Teacher, The High School for Environmental StudiesRead More
"I'm attending Binghamton University right now, planning on majoring in Biochemistry. I can't thank you enough for your help, I think my essay really stood out because I had plenty of great options to choose from despite my lacking high school GPA and the competitive pool I was put against. I learned a ton from working with you." -AdamRead More
"Yelena helped illuminate my strengths on my personal statement, breaking my habit of cutting myself short. She used her excellent intuition to select compelling scenes, asking questions that allowed me to elaborate on my defining moments. She also helped cut my repetitions, maximizing the use of space on the very limiting word count.
"I'm extremely grateful for Yelena's help for she is one of the reasons why I'm able to have the opportunity to attend a top liberal arts school on the opposite of side of the country from where I live." -Octavio, Williams CollegeRead More
"This year I got into all 8 of my top choice schools—and it is all thanks to Yelena. My essay was a mess when she began working with me. I had no clue what I was going to write about, or how I was going to do it alone. I even received two personal compliments about it from two different admissions counselors at top colleges."Read More
"I am a high school senior who will be attending UC Berkeley next fall. My academics and leaderships made me a competitive candidate, but my personal insight questions, edited and shaped by Yelena, is one of the top reasons I will be attending the #1 public university in the world next fall. In terms of my writing, I had strong arguments; however, they were not so coherent and well structured. Then, Yelena came along and took my writing from good to near perfect.
I definitely recommend Yelena to individuals who need feedback or additional support in the application process. You will not regret it. The results speak for themselves, the professionalism is on point, and the feedback is off the charts. I am really thankful for her service and I am keeping her in high consideration for future academic endeavors."
"I have to thank you for all your help! Ms. Shuster's techniques for helping students with their essays are astonishingly effective. She just doesn't limit herself to fix our essays, but rather to make us part of the essay's revision by asking us questions about us that can help, she also ensures we are comfortable with her suggestions. Without Ms. Shuster, I doubt I would have had been able to be as confident about both my personal statement and supplements. All of this is pro-bono."Read More
I worked with Marie last winter pro bono in partnership with a public school in NYC and I knew right away she was a force to be reckoned with. Her first draft was impressive and it was clear she knew the power of a creative narrative. Her first line started "in media res" (in the middle of the action), which draws the reader in right away and continued with evocative descriptions that helped me feel like I was right there with her throughout her narrative. We worked on clarifying timelines and context, cutting cliches and repetitions, reordering paragraphs for a smooth, easy-to-read flow, and digging deeper to get to the emotional root of the story.Read More
Yelena encouraged us to write freely and give a lot of examples to help our son come alive before the Admission Committees. She then skillfully edited our answers to highlight his strengths and show how he was working on his weaknesses. As we moved along, to ease the process, Yelena created a master file with all of our answers so that we could reuse them efficiently. She not only edited each application package, but also helped us ensure that we were consistent between the parent and the student essays, covered everything we needed to, and were not repeating ourselves—no small feat with such a volume of work! I am very happy to say that we completed all the applications several weeks before the deadline and feel very good about them. We could not have gotten this done without Yelena!"
—Regina, parent of Max, who was accepted to St. Ignacius College Preparatory & JCHS
"Yelena provided my essay with the perfect pair of fresh eyes. She shined a light on all of the blind spots, showing me which content I needed to highlight more or less. And the best part? The revision process was conveniently done online via a Google Doc. Yelena gave lengthy and straightforward comments that were 100% helpful. Without her guidance, I'm not sure if my essay would've had the same impact." —Dara, accepted to the USC School of Social Work
In addition to my one-on-one pro bono work with underserved students, I also love going back to school (#NERD) and hosting admissions essay seminars. Last fall, I led an essay workshop at a local New York public school where 73% of the students receive a free lunch. We discussed how admission essays are different from the academic essays they're taught at school, why the personal statement can influence your acceptance, and the secret things admissions officers look for (and don't want to see) in your answer.