Laura is a brilliant writer whose poetic prose needed no help from me. She wrote about how overcoming her difficult family circumstance shaped her ambitions. However there were two main issues with the original draft: first, there was lack of context about what exactly she overcame. This lack of explanation is actually a common mistake among most students writing personal essays for the first time: your story is so familiar to you that basic details often get overlooked since they feel so obvious. We ended up adding more detail about the immigration history that clarified her hardship.
Second, we worked on adding that deeper layer of vulnerability that takes a difficult upbringing and makes it relatable. Without showing us that vulnerable side, the reader can’t appreciate how far the student has come in order to triumph. I recommend old-school journaling with a pen and paper when you’re relaxed (like at night in bed before you go to sleep) to access that deeper self-reflection. Something magical happens to you creativity this way and helps you avoid cliche.
After we finished our edits, she wrote, “Thank you so much for all of your help! You don’t know how much I appreciate it :) I now feel more confident applying to colleges knowing my essay is at the best it can be!” So I asked her to write something about working together and this is what she sent over:
"Just a little over a month before my 20+ college applications were due, I had made little progress on my personal statement and decided to contact Yelena. Her understanding and flexibility subdued my anxieties but also allowed me to stay on track towards completing my essay in time for submission. In that short of a time frame, I grew from being relatively insecure about my essay to being extremely proud of it. Yelena gave the narrative I had placed on paper an unrivaled sense of vitality and power. She narrowed in on the formative experiences that made me more than a score or a GPA. Yelena not only transformed my paper, while still preserving my voice and message, but gave me an unparalleled confidence going into the final steps of the admissions process. She made my dreams of going to an elite school tangible. I cannot emphasize enough how helpful and encouraging Yelena has been throughout the process, and I wholeheartedly recommend her services to others wishing to give themselves an edge in writing." -Laura, accepted to the University of Vanderbilt