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Resources for college counselors and independent consultants

For your own use and to share with students and parents

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If you’d like to explore how EssayQuest can help you save time, simplify your life, and help your students write better essays than ever before, please schedule a conversation with Barak.

Send him an email, call or text 206-696-2448, or schedule here.

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College Essays 101

A 20-minute self-directed online introduction to college essays.

Video library

Webinars, training videos, and more to come!

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Sample college essays

The best collection of college essays online (all written by our students).

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Self-review and feedback forms

Using these forms, students and reviewers can focus on what matters.

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Upcoming webinars

5 Fundamentals for Better College Essays: a webinar for college counselors and independent consultants.

College Essays 101

(or…How Elijah Wrote a $145,000 College Essay)

In this 20-minute online activity, students and parents build the solid foundation they’ll need to write their best college essay. They’ll be clear about who admissions officers are, what college essays are, and the perspective that will help them

They read three versions of the same student’s essay: the one he wrote on his own, the one he wrote in English class, and the one he wrote with Barak’s mentoring. He was accepted to all 11 colleges he applied to and was offered $145,000 in unsolicited scholarships.

We’ll be making a stand-alone version of College Essays 101—this version is in EssayQuest. These pages are unlocked, so you don’t need an account to see them.

Video library

Webinars, training videos, and more to come!

Recorded webinar: 5 Fundamentals for Helping Teens Write Better College Essays

(65 minutes)

Integrating EssayQuest into Your Work with Students

(20 minutes)

Sample College Essays

College admissions officers want to read engaging, authentic short stories that show who the students are. Unfortunately, 80% of college essays aren’t even what they’re looking for.

Our students wrote these sample essays using our Write Like a Pro process and they’re exactly what admissions officers love to read.

Barak talked about these three essays in the webinar.

"I lost it when Xander peed in the girls’ cabin."

I lost it when Xander peed in the girls’ cabin. It was the end, the twisted climax of a week I will always associate with pure, unbridled pain.

Xander had been building to this all week. This eleven year old had become my sole responsibility for the week he was at YMCA Camp Orkila, and he was systematically breaking me down. My directors had told me to focus my efforts on him for the week he was here, because as a first year counselor I could use the experience of dealing with a child like Xander. Yet in the seven years I’d been a camper here, I’d never encountered anything like him. Here was a child naturally skilled at wreaking havoc; harassing people and wildlife was an art form for Xander.

Before this week, all I’d wanted was to be a counselor. I wanted to support children and teach them to trust themselves, just as this camp supported me as a camper. I was ecstatic, and spent hours learning the best methods of managing children. But what about when your camper is fifty feet up a climbing tower and unstraps himself to taunt you? I realized that nothing I learned in the workshops had prepared me for Xander.

My drive to help others succeed was gone. After days of being positive with Xander, negative reinforcement became my best friend. It was all I could do to keep him in line.

Then, the finale. I’d been setting up for dinner when another camper told me that Xander had peed inside the girls’ cabin, and ran away to the forest. I led a four hour search party tracking him down, and spent an hour cleaning the desecrated cabin. I was broken. The hours of mental depravity had gotten to me. For those last two days, I paid as little attention to Xander as possible. We only spoke when he created problems.

When Xander got on the bus to leave, I started breathing for the first time all week. But as he boarded the bus, he said something I never expected: “Elijah, thank you for this week. I had so much fun.” That moment still feels as raw today as it did two years ago, and I still can’t put what I’m feeling into words .

No one was waiting for Xander back in Seattle. His foster parents had abandoned him while he was at camp; CPS picked him up a few hours later. I still question myself about how I acted that week. Was I justified in how I treated him? Or was I simply too frustrated to dig deeper and help him, to support him? I tell myself I was only fifteen, it was how anybody that age would handle it. Maybe that’s true. But the idea that Xander is still out there, living a life in which everyone treats him the same way, still haunts me. It will for a long time to come.

"It’s cherry red, old, and all mine."
It’s cherry red, old, and all mine. It’s a 1970 VW Beetle. It’s not practical, but it’s me.

My dinosaur of a car has a special type of comfort. My friends don’t agree. They often regret getting in.

“Why’s it so loud?”
“Is it supposed to smell like gas?”
“I don’t wanna die!”

Their discomfort doesn’t mean we won’t have fun. My car opens up new conversations and deeper relationships. They’re already overwhelmed with unfamiliarity; any conversation won’t change that. So why not have a good one?

Along with sparking unique conversations, my car also breaks down. Keeping it on the road takes work. Everytime I roll to an unplanned stop on the curb, I get the opportunity to sit back and think. I enjoy learning my car’s components. I wish I had blueprints for the whole engine, to get every part’s purpose, down to the nuts and bolts. It’s not just a mode of transportation to me. I love gripping the skinny steering wheel and feeling it shake. I don’t have an RPM gauge. I have sound and feel. I have a pedal that communicates when to shift.

I’ve always been intrigued by how things work. For my car, I like starting with a direct path into its mechanics, like when I followed the stray wire into the broken speedometer. If I’m blocking traffic, I skip the mindful approach and jump straight under the hood to get it running. I always have fun, even in a panic.

As a kid, I enjoyed creating things. I spent hours building with legos and days in the garage constructing pointless projects. I built jumps for my remote controlled car and a makeshift forge built from the cheapest things I could get from the Home Depot.

These youthful constructions would often be interrupted by a bash on the head that turned into a physical battle between me and my older brother, Josh. He’s two years older than me. Josh’s strong desire for power and my annoying sugar-fueled energy spikes caused us to clash heads a lot. I have scars to prove it.

I hated that we couldn’t get along. I wanted us to have a good relationship.

When I was in seventh grade we figured out that we could actually kill each other. We started to understand one another. In any relationship you have to know who that person is and how they see you, or at least guess. I know how Josh perceives my actions.

If I’m watching tv, do I need to have the remote? Should I click my pen when doing homework?

Can we be responsible for our relationship?

We’ve worked to become friends. We love and understand each other.

I started by building with lego bricks, then with nails, and later with conversations.

Every project has components with a purpose and different ways to fix a broken part. If my car is stuck in the middle of an intersection or I’m struggling for air while in a choke hold, then I have to dive into the problem. But I prefer to follow a wire and see where it leads.

"An apricot a day keeps the boredom away."
An apricot a day keeps the boredom away. As I work my nine-hour shift, I gravitate to the apricot tree at Kelly’s Resort. Some apricots are a golden orange, others crimson, and the rest a premature green, waiting to turn.

I enjoy the apricots. The first day they were ripe, it surprised me. Every time I get bored, I pick apricots. When I get really bored, I slide on my Vans, climb to the top of the tree, and jump on the branches. I make it into a game, seeing how many I can get to fall. Time passes by. Eventually the shift is over – who would’ve known it was nine hours?

“Chad’s out, schedule’s changed,” my boss groaned.
“What happened?”
“I don’t fully know man, but you’re working overtime now.”

I was hesitant to work 25 hours a week. Now, it’s going to be 35. I want more time off, but I know the struggles it would cause my pregnant boss. I know I committed to something, even if it’s more than I expected.

I listen to music and audiobooks to pass the time. Obviously, when I’m fueling customers’ boats or helping guests borrow kayaks, I keep my ears open. That’s relational. That’s fun. That’s my favorite part of my job. I get to meet new people and improve my small talk (which before the summer was subpar).

But, when I’m raking the small rocks on the homemade beach to look like a zen garden, or closing the pool in the warm shadows in the evening, music and audiobooks help the time go by. I’ll pop in my airpods – one at the beach and both at the pool. And I’ll listen. Sometimes to the voices and lyrics of Kanye or J. Cole and sometimes to the voices of old men reciting a captivating book. Either way it’s better than silence. I like it.

I like feeling productive.

“It’s the Fourth of July!” I exclaim as I skip into work. “Too bad I’m scared of fireworks.” I slow down my skip.

One of my biggest fears is fireworks. It sounds irrational but it’s real. On the bright side, at least I’m not scared of balloons anymore.

“Seriously??” My boss laughs. “Have fun today.” She pauses. “You’ll be busy enough, you’ll never notice.”

I was anxious, sure, and some may laugh, but deep down I’m a little proud.

Having worked for over a month now, I was comfortable with conversations like this. Even if I was frightened, as long as my boss was amused, could I really care?

I’m slow to warm to new people, but once I’m warm, I’m warm.

“Football is starting again, time to get your butts kicked!” I joke. I’m overly warm with my friends.

Every year, I execute a plan with my nine closest friends to form a fantasy football league. We poke fun, win and lose some, but in the end it’s all just for kicks.

We gather at my house and draft players for our teams. My strategy is to rely upon the research. I read magazines, analyze stats, and envision a scale in my head, tipping towards the better player. My friends use a cheat sheet. The banter is extraordinary. At least ten times throughout the night you’ll hear “why would you take him??”

Once the season starts, we debate at school like we’re on sports radio. I’ve never won. My team is analytically good, but too average. I won’t be deterred from my statistics though; one day I will win.

Whether I win or not, the tradition means something to me. Everything I do means something to me, or why would I do it?

I gain the most from life not through success, but experience. I succeed by learning from experience. Every tradition or activity I take part in – it’s intentional.

Even picking apricots.

Self-review and feedback forms

Students get a lot of feedback on their essays; it can be overwhelming, contradictory, confusing, or just plain wrong. Parents, teachers (and cousin Sally, the sophomore English major) don’t always know how to give quality, actionable feedback.

Using these forms, students and reviewers can focus on what matters at each stage of the process.

(We’ll be updating these with the EssayQuest branding.)

Webinar for college counselors and consultants

What if it were even a little bit easier to help kids write college essays?

Five ways to save time, simplify your life, and help your students write better essays than ever before

Upcoming webinars

Thursday, March 3, 2021
4:00–5:00 pm ET / 1:00–2:00 pm PT

Wednesday, March 16, 2021
4:30–5:30 pm ET / 1:30–2:30 pm PT

We'll stick around for Q&A at the end and will send a link to the recording if you can't make it live. 

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