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.
Prior to the first meeting, I was always stressed about the daunting college application process. However, after our first meeting at the beginning of summer, I walked out of Nick’s office confident and ready to take on the process! We created a solid plan with attainable goals. He has helped me through every step of the way, from keeping me on top of deadlines to helping me cultivate all of my essays — especially my personal statement — and taking them to the next level. Nick's insightful advice and experience really pushed me as both a student and person.
I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to work with Nick. Thanks to his guidance, I will be attending my dream school, Columbia University next fall, and I couldn't have done it without him!
I wouldn't just call Nick a college counselor, I'd call him a mentor. Whether it was with college applications or just my life in general, Nick was always there to talk to me. I'm most certainly not the type of guy that opens up to everyone, but something about the setting I was in and the person I was facing made it really easy. He was so talented at helping me translate everything I was saying into writing, which in return made all my essays feel so personal and authentic. Overall, Nick made my application process a breeze and as less stressful as possible. Thank you, Nick!
Working with Nick the second half of high school took a big burden off me. Whether in the form of essay help, ACT tutoring, or just someone to ask simple questions to, his help made me feel a lot more confident throughout the college application process. Starting with him in my junior year meant that he helped to craft a list of potentially interesting schools for me, plan trips for tours, narrow down the list, and actually work on the individual applications.
His relaxed demeanor made the whole process just a bit less stressful and helped to make me feel as if I was making progress towards a more tangible goal. With his help I was accepted into Tufts University for early decision, where I will be attending next fall.
Applying to college can be a stressful time; I’d had constant writer's block and really struggled to write an essay that would represent who I am while also fitting a prompt. Nick told me to completely disregard the prompts and helped me brainstorm ideas by asking me basic questions that you'd ask a new friend, just to get a sense of who I am. He then helped me organize my thoughts and guided me on how to develop my essays from there. Nick was very comforting to talk to and helped me calm down whenever I was anxious about college.
Ultimately, he helped me create essays that really represent my voice, who I am as a person, and what I believe in. I am so proud of everything I have written, and I would not be as confident about my applications if it wasn't for his help!
Nick is a college wizard, creative writer, and, oddly, a therapist. Not an awkward, obviously paid "yes-man" type of therapist, but one that you open up to and discover inner truths about yourself—making for wonderful essays. But Nick doesn't hold your hand; he makes sure you write it yourself first to capture your own creative flair, and then coaches you through restructuring and making the piece as coherent and interesting as possible. I can't thank Nick enough for helping me get into my top school, but ultimately, he taught me a skill even more valuable, that I'll use for the rest of my life: how to properly write about myself.
Nick's SAT and ACT tutoring services have been excellent for both of our daughters. In 2016, Nick's expertise helped our daughter, Sydney, raise her already strong score by 120 points! During the Early Decision process, Sydney was admitted to Duke University where she is now a sophomore in Spring 2018. In 2017, we returned to Nick to tutor our daughter, Kendall, for the ACT, and he helped her achieve a score above 30, which was her goal. Kendall was admitted to Cornell University during the Early Decision process and will be a Freshman in the Fall 2018. Nick Soper is one of the very best SAT and ACT tutors in Los Angeles. Thank you, Nick!
I am so grateful for how much Nick helped me through the college process. I came in with a good ACT score and good essay topics, but he help make them both outstanding. By our second meeting, it felt as though Nick had known me for my entire life. His calm and cool personality made him approachable and fun to work with.
For my essays, Nick was spectacular at helping me get my personality and message across to the reader. His extensive knowledge about different applications and admissions processes made him extremely adept at helping me write to my different audiences.
Without Nick's help I do not think I would have gotten into all my top choice colleges that I applied to. I always felt enthusiastic to go meet with Nick, and I wanted to stay past my allotted appointment time just to talk. I can't thank Nick enough for making the college process go so smoothly and for helping me get accepted to my dream school.
My college application process would have been extremely difficult without Nick. Whether for ACT prep or college applications, he prepared me for everything that could be thrown at me during junior and senior year. He kept timelines throughout the process and helped me choose deadlines that would keep my stress under control. To lessen the pressure during senior year, he also made sure that I stayed on pace to turn in applications way before their deadlines, so that I could relax over break. In addition to working with me as a student, Nick really took interest in my life and found out who I was as a person. Then, in our work together, he helped me to develop 'my story' and portray that in the applications. My college application journey was smooth and fun, rather than a daunting experience! I am so grateful that I was able to work with Nick!
I recently received the news that I was accepted to UC Berkeley after working with Nick through my college application process. I am an extremely shy person, but somehow Nick made me feel very comfortable and in addition to his fantastic advice, he gave me the confidence I needed to share my story. His experience, knowledge, and humanity made the college application process much less stressful and I learned a lot more about myself through his guidance.
When I came to Nick, I was starting the first semester of my senior year. Prior to this, I thought I had everything under control, until I began writing my personal statement. I had essays drafted, but I was not confident that they conveyed all of my ideas the way I wanted. Nick helped me put into words everything that I was struggling to do on my own. He knows exactly how to synthesize the writing, without judgment. His process of brainstorming and drafting makes the whole college process bearable and actually exciting. Nick coaches writing in a way that enables the student to take the lead, while he helps to refine ideas and the language to express them. I learned a lot about myself in the process. As the student, if you put in the work, you will definitely see the results. I strongly recommend Nick as a writing coach.
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.