On Hillside's Practice

Nothing is more important than the working relationship we establish with a student — usually quite quickly — through asking questions, demonstrating genuine curiosity, and, in turn, drawing from the student motivating language.

Naturally, the success of the coaching plans we offer is dependent on a student's own initiative, focus, perseverance, and writing ability. The promise we make is that the attention we pay to every student’s story and efforts with language is professional and exceptional. Although it is essential that we work up-close to every student’s spoken and written words, an essay always remains a student’s own work; we keep the writer moving on the field while we coach from the sidelines.

College-Application Essay-Coaching


Q:  What is the Ten Sentences exercise? 

Hillside's Ten Sentences exercise is an efficient and motivating first step in a student's work toward a compelling application essay. It's both simple (not stressful!) and instructive. By guiding students at the outset to put aside given essay prompts and, instead, to gather an array of specific moments of experience in order to fuel conversation, the process invariably generates possibilities for authentic, meaningful writing. The yield of the exercise also becomes a valuable resource after a student has completed his or her main application essay and is turning to college-specific supplement essays. Every year, clients remark on the success of the exercise as a coaching method, and we receive requests from school counselors and educational consultants for instruction about it and the process it initiates.

Q:  How much coaching does a student usually need for the main application essay? 

Every student and every student's essay-drafting is unique, of course, but Hillside's experience with a wide range of applicants has informed a main coaching structure of four intensive sessions that (1) are front-loaded by motivating and instructive "Discovery" steps; (2) incorporate discrete drafting deadlines; and (3) are followed by a coach's final online review of the essay. The Uncommon Essay design steers a student toward a final draft both efficiently and substantively. Naturally, a student's initiative, focus, perseverance, and writing ability is a central factor in how efficient the writing process is. At every stage, Hillside supports the writer's positive, energetic ownership of the project, which is key to achieving a memorable and authentic essay, and to achieving it with a sense of pride.

Students requiring support beyond the standard structure may elect to schedule extended coaching or take advantage of Draft Feedback options. Read more about essay-coaching in the reflections of past clients.

Q: What's the best role for parents in this process?

A positive and supportive role! Central to Hillside's approach to helping high school students applying to college is to take care of the writer. An anxious, pressured student doesn't think imaginatively or write easily, and she certainly doesn't enjoy the process. Getting to the stand-out essay requires patience and openness, and is best achieved in an atmosphere of curiosity and spirited discovery, the establishment of which is always Hillside's first goal.

Our most effective coaching includes communication with parents to encourage a supportive sideline team for a student, respecting the student's ownership of the project. All coaching sessions are with the student only. 

Our "Two Cents from 'Rents" request, a preliminary step in essay-coaching, offers parents the opportunity to contribute memories, perspectives, and reflections to the discovery process for determining promising essay material.  

After the initial meeting of The Uncommon Essay program, we produce a detailed recap in audio-file or e-mail format that we send to the student and copy to parents. This personal review, which collects emergent ideas, underlines promising specifics discussed, and re-articulates the expectation for the next meeting, provides parents a clear sense of their child's direction, which can be helpful in conversations on the home front. As coaching continues, we remain readily available for questions and concerns from parents. 

Q: Where are essay-coaching sessions held?

For local clients, essay-coaching takes place in Hillside's office in Lexington, MA. Arrangements can be made to conduct sessions over Skype or FaceTime and using shared online documents. Ideally, in order to establish the most effective working relationship and to launch the project most promisingly, at least the first session takes place in person. 

Q: How much does essay-coaching cost?

You may request information about all coaching options and fees by filling out an inquiry here.

Q: What is Hillside's cancellation policy?

Click Practices & Policies to read about Hillside's cancellation policy and more. 

Q: Does Hillside offer support to students writing college-specific supplement essays? 

Yes! Click here and scroll down to "Supplement Essay Coaching."

Q: What about support for students writing essays other than that on the Common Application and in supplements?

We also work with students preparing transfer essays, honors- and scholarship-program essays, and writing for colleges that do not accept the Common Application. 

Q: Does Hillside work with students long-distance?

Yes. We work with students across the country using a combination of video-chat technology and online documents shared in "real-time." 

Q: What if I already have a draft written? Will Hillside review it for me and make recommendations for improvement? 

Yes. Hillside works with many students who have already completed essay drafts. We enjoy helping applicants advance toward the most compelling and memorable final draft. You can read about the two feedback and coaching options here.  

Q: Where have past Hillside clients gained admission? 

Clients have gained acceptance to a wide range and very long list of competitive colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, Columbia, Tufts, Bowdoin, Bates, McGill, Claremont-McKenna, Cornell, Wellesley, Barnard, Vassar, UPenn, UChicago, UVM, Michigan, Tulane, Smith, Rice, Notre Dame ... and many, many others!

Q: What resources about writing application essays can you offer? 

Visit Resources for the College-Application Writer and also read posts related to writing for college that have been published on the Hillside blog, Sentence x Sentence.