That's an overwhelming question for most of us adults, let alone these teenagers, who have likely never learned to write in a way that even remotely resembles what most college essay admissions folks really want to see. A way that gives them a glimpse into the real you.
Figured out your story? …Ready or not, you have 650 words in which to do it. Good luck.
Here's the thing: we all need to know how to tell a good story, beginning with the one about us and the work that we do. This doesn't end with personal statements on college applications. It's a major life skill, and in an age when one's digital footprint spans nearly all aspects of life and work, it's more critical than ever.
Telling your story is the cornerstone of a successful pitch, interview, or submission—basically, any situation with the potential to open a door for your future.
Here are the top three reasons people hire me as a writing coach:
1. My training. I was a creative writing major at Northwestern and I have my editing certificate from University of Chicago after having worked in publishing for a couple of years.
2. My background. I began work as a writing coach during undergrad, and despite the many twists and turns in my everyday working life, I never stopped coaching, if only on a freelancing basis. I even occasionally teach corporate workshops on how to write emails and make presentations!
3. My belief is that we all have a story to share, even if we have a lot of life still ahead of us. Something has formed our point of view, framed the way we think, filtered the things we perceive around us. Taking those first steps into a more independent, adult lifestyle is the perfect time to start reflecting on our experiences, and ultimately to begin tuning in to our story as it unfolds each day.
First as my SAT tutor, then as my college counselor, Nick has been part of my life for about two years now. From start to end was always there to answer any and all questions about the college application process. He kept me on top of my deadlines and proofread all my drafts for all the written parts of my application. Nick really took the time to get to know me as a person, not just as a student, and when I wanted to take an unconventional route for my personal statement, he encouraged me to trust in my own ideas and believed in my conviction.
Thanks to Nick's help and guidance, I will be attending Yale University, my top choice school, in Fall 2017!
I cannot thank Nick enough for the work we did together this fall! It took off an immense amount of pressure to have someone guiding me that was mellow, creative and could talk to me on my level. Nick was much more hands-on than the school counselor (who was extremely busy and couldn’t offer as much time or attention as Nick). I can't imagine how that would have worked without Nick.
As a creative type, it was so important to me to find someone who could balance the academics components with creative ones. Nick finds that balance.
We were always able to get things done without getting stressed out. We worked together flexibly, and even when I wasn't able to get something done, we'd just talk through it. I was really comfortable talking to him; it was therapeutic, even if what we were discussing was not directly going into the essay.
Most important of all, Nick always made sure the story I was telling was true to me, and he ensured that I was writing to tell my story rather than give them an answer I thought they would want to hear.
From the moment I met Nick, I knew he'd make the college application process a breeze. He tries really hard to get to know you and what your strengths and weaknesses are so he can brainstorm colleges that relate specifically to what you want.
At every meeting, Nick takes notes so by the time you have to write your essays, everything is right there for you in your own words. He also takes his time to help you edit your work and make sure it's the best it can be. Nick made me feel confident about my application rather than nervous.
The best thing about Nick is that he helped take away the stress that applying to colleges can cause. He made sure that I turned in all my applications way before the deadlines.
I'm so glad I decided to work with Nick because he helped me apply to all my schools with ease.
Nick was way more personable and easy to talk with, to work through my ideas with, than other tutors and mentors I've had. He always asks the right questions to get me to think about things that wouldn't have occurred to me otherwise. I also really like the setting at his home office because it was comfortable and relaxed. This really helped to relieve the stress that otherwise can come with the hard work of college preparation.
Nick was especially helpful with ACT prep. He really helped me break down what I was doing and showed me how I could get a better score the next time.
Nick is great for people who have a certain degree of independence and a sense of time management—he gives just the right amount of space to allow us to take the initiative. I'm so grateful to have someone with me on this path to the colleges I really love.
If you're like me, you thought that you could write essays without a college counselor. So I brought some of my essays to Nick, mostly to make sure I was putting commas in the right places. He looked at my favorite essay for one second and recounted exactly what was in the essay almost word for word. I asked him, "How did you do that? You didn't even read the essay." He told me that about 1 in 3 students write about a trip to a third world country in similar fashion, therefore boring their college admission officer and simultaneously squandering their chance at admission. If you want a college counselor who knows which essays interest admission officers, then Nick is the right guy for you. Secondly, when choosing a college counselor, it is imperative that they possess superb writing talent. Nick definitely has you covered in this department. Thirdly, in order to make great essays, you need a lot of time. The more time you spend perfecting/polishing your essays, the better they will be. Nick is amazing, but hard work is required on both ends. Nick encourages you to start early because great essays don’t appear out of thin air. Finally, Nick is a very welcoming presence, whether you meet him at his home or talk to him over Skype.
Nick’s kind words of wisdom and masterclass writing talent is the only thing between your application and the shredder. He's well worth the money. In fact, he's undervalued.
Before I met Nick, the only idea I had of college was from The Secret History. Besides daydreams, I was clueless. Nick shaped every part of my college process. After first working to get to know me, he gave mapped out a list of schools that fit what I was looking for and my interests. Together, we planned a college tour, prepared for the ACT, practiced free-writing and brainstormed in preparation for college apps, and finally helped me edit and rework those apps right up until they were sent off. I will be attending Middlebury College in Vermont this fall, one of Nick's recommendations. Besides his diligence during the college process, Nick is an extraordinary person, and one of the people who I admire most in the world. Nick has always understood me when I stammered through vague and confused descriptions of who I am and what I care about. He was able to guide me to the right word, the right phrase, to help me expand my abstract musings into larger, and more concrete declarations. I will be forever grateful for the process that I underwent with Nick, a process that has irrevocably changed who I am and how I think about myself.
I came to Nick flustered, with only a vague idea of what I wanted to do and where I was interested in studying. Nick really encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and do lots of research. This showed me that the "best schools" are the schools that are right for you personally. I was encouraged to stay true to myself, and to make that possible he had personality tests, free-writing and goal setting exercises. Nick was able to pinpoint aspects of my personality that are crucial to who I am and what I wanted to show colleges. Most people won't say this, but I really enjoyed the college application process. I learned so much about myself and what I need to do to accomplish my goals. Thanks, Nick!
About a month before my early decision application was due, I came to Nick with my personal statement and a feeling of impending doom. At the very beginning of our time together, Nick told me to completely disregard any and all essay prompts— and suddenly that feeling vanished.
My first meeting with Nick was a simple “get to know you”: he asked me questions about myself and assigned me basic freewrites, where I would sit down and write about anything I wanted for twenty minutes. This process of getting out ideas was essential for me, because then the actual writing came naturally. Over the course of a few meetings, my personal statement formed on its own, my ideas and values weaving together beautifully to create a piece of writing that truly felt like an accurate representation of myself.
Nick’s approach to this process was incredibly flexible, liberating, and safe. I knew I would finish my personal statement and my supplements and meet my deadlines because of Nick. This feeling of security and assurance is crucial in a process with so much uncertainty. And I’m so proud to say that I will be attending my top choice, Smith College, in the fall.
The college application process for me was one of the most daunting aspects of my youth. But over the course of a few months, Nick helped me work through my anxiety about the sheer size of the task and my fear of writing about myself. Coming out of the college application experience, I am a much better writer, learner, and efficient worker. I will be attending Sarah Lawrence College in the fall, and I highly recommend Nick for his college application and writing support!
I’ve been amazed at how personable, hard-working, and passionate Nick Soper has been, and I am in awe of how he essentially transformed a stressful process into an enjoyable one. That’s right—enjoyable!
Nick helped me compose a well-balanced list of “reach,” “target,” and “safety” schools, spent hours meticulously editing all my writing supplements, and was there whenever I had any questions or concerns. I was never worried about missing a single deadline because together, we had crafted an efficient, week-by-week calendar of everything I needed to have completed by a set list of dates. In fact, I met most of those deadlines early, because Nick actually made the process fun and exciting—I was constantly eager to move on to the next step.
I was accepted into 4 of my 5 top schools, and I was overwhelmed with excitement knowing I had options. I have chosen to attend Tulane University in the fall, and it’s truly all thanks to Nick Soper that I have made this enormous decision with confidence and optimism for my future. I cannot express strongly enough how much I recommend Nick Soper as a personal college counselor.
College as an institution is changing. But Nick tackles the changes with such innovation, it is truly astounding.
The first thing Nick does is to get to know you as a person. Answering a personal survey he provides, Nick gets a feel for your work habits as a student as well as the type of individual you are in terms of socializing. Paired with his knowledge of school atmospheres nationwide, Nick helps you narrow down what colleges/ universities he sees you fitting into well, and you find yourself rarely disagreeing with him. Nick has you describe your views on the world around you, family life, personal experiences, etc., while he takes notes. When you begin brainstorming your personal essays, his notes are the best foundation to work from. Nick treats every idea you have he with the utmost care and respect.
I cannot thank him enough. I appreciate him immensely as a counselor and as a person for the time and effort he spent helping me.
We had started working with a traditional college counselor that used a cookie cutter approach to the college process. She didn't seem to want to get to know my daughter and think about what might work for her talents, interests and abilities. We felt like we were wasting our time and money.
Then we heard Nick speak at a Santa Monica High School event and decided to set up a meeting. Immediately my daughter connected with him. He wanted to build a plan around her, not around a competitive, often mysterious and frustrating process.
After the first session, Nick helped her organize her thoughts, and they began to work together directly on the various assignments he was giving her. They came up with a list of schools and began to prepare for the application process. Nick was able to turn a potentially stressful situation into something that was actually fun for my daughter. She was researching and brainstorming and planning campus visits with enthusiasm. And the results speak for themselves. Ella's lists of schools were spot on. She was accepted at 11 of the 16 schools she applied to and will matriculate at Tulane in August. We couldn't be happier.
Attending a seminar that Nick presented at LACHSA was the best decision I made in helping my son navigate the college application process with a talent based emphasis. Having successfully ushered my 2 older children into college and graduate school, one with the use of an educational consultant and one without, I approached Nick's seminar somewhat skeptically. After one hour, my skepticism was cast aside and my enthusiasm mounted as I realized Nick had something very special to offer: credibility and competence!
Nick’s services are comprehensive but you can also choose an a la carte approach, which worked fabulously well for us. His writing expertise and background were of particular interest to me especially knowing that Brendan would have to write more than 15 essays during the process.
Nick proved to be the most valuable asset. Nick is calm, rational, professional, caring, supportive and extremely good at what he does. My best advice is to give yourself and your child the gift of working with Nick. I've worked with other consultants and Nick far surpassed them in every way.
I started working with Nick via Skype sessions the summer before my senior year, and he has helped me with everything from college research to essay writing. Prior to our meetings, researching colleges was overwhelming and boring, but he helped me navigate the college websites so I could easily rule out colleges I wasn't interested in and quickly discover colleges that seemed like the perfect fit. While working on my personal statement and supplemental essays, he asked me precise questions that pinpointed exactly what I was trying to say, and as I sat back to answer, he typed up everything word for word so that next thing I knew I had my entire outline set and ready to go! Nick is very flexible with meeting times, and he puts 100% of his effort into all of his clients even at the end of a full day. If I had felt overwhelmed and stressed just hours before, a meeting with Nick would make me feel prepared and excited to continue my college process.
Nick helped me most on science by teaching me how to dissect the passage and highlight key information, which made the questions so much easier. He tailored our sessions perfectly for me to focus on my weaknesses (like science) and not waste time on the stuff I was doing well on. After just a few sessions, I went from a 32 to 35 overall and from a 28 to 35 on science! Thank you, Nick
I was applying to technical programs in science and engineering, and so my writing and speaking style tend to be very analytical. When I started my original draft of my personal statement, I focused mainly on my achievements as a student. I avoided writing anything too emotional or heartfelt. Working with Nick pushed me out of my comfort zone so that I could tell stories that would help admissions offices understand who I am as a person. As a result, my essay-writing and interview skills improved, and I was accepted to Rice University, my top choice!
I'd worked with another tutor before Nick and my ACT scores weren't quite where I wanted them to be. Nick taught me a completely different way of approaching the test, and after just a few sessions, I got a 34 on my next exam! My scores went up in virtually every section. I am thrilled and certainly attribute the improvement to our sessions. I'd say I'm most proud of my 35 in reading.
I knew I had a great story to tell to colleges, but I was having trouble figuring out what parts I should and shouldn’t include. Nick helped me start writing and encouraged me to share as much as possible. Soon I was feeling overwhelmed because we had a LOT of material, but Nick knew exactly how to help me choose the parts that were most important to me. I can’t recommend him highly enough!