College Essay Resources
for our friends and neighbors in Issaquah
Thanks to coronavirus, college essays matter more than ever.
With the challenges around standardized testing, many colleges have said they won’t be requiring, or even considering, SAT and ACT scores for the class of 2021. That means they’ll rely more on factors such as grades, recommendations…and essays.
We started Essay Mentors right here in Issaquah in 2012 and are excited to make these resources available to you.
Issaquah-based Essay Mentors is devoted to helping high school students write great college essays, become better writers, and discover who they are as young adults.
Our founder, Barak Rosenbloom, has led workshops to thousands of students and parents, as well as to college counselors, college admissions officers, and teachers around the country. He has helped over 400 high school students write great essays in our one-on-one personal mentoring program.
Free Zoom Workshops
Our Seven Secrets for a Great College Essay workshop for students and parents (the same one we would have led in-person).
Sample college essays
The best collection of college essays online (all written by our students).
Online intro to essays
A 20-minute self-directed online introduction to college essays.
Our teen-tested online program, launching early June.
Our 1-1 essay program for start-to-finish mentoring for all college essays.
Free Zoom workshop for students and parents
Seven Secrets for a Great College Essay
Writing an effective college essay is not the same as writing a school paper. It has a different audience, serves a different purpose, and has a different set of secrets for what works and doesn’t work.
We’ve led this workshop to thousands of students, parents, college counselors, and admissions officers.
In this fun, interactive workshop you will discover:
What a great college essay is and isn't
You’ll know the fundamentals of a great essay, how to recognize one, and how to avoid the most common pitfalls that 80% of students make.
At least one topic idea for your essay
Those prompts are just starting points. You’ll leave with a customized topic idea that you can turn into a great essay.
A proven pathway to write your essay
Writing a great essay takes different skills and a different process than most of the writing you’ve done up till now.
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.
"I hit a boy with a bat in the second grade..."
I hit a boy with a bat in the second grade after he said “short girls can’t play baseball.” I saw red, and as my mom says, “When Audrey is seeing red, let her be.” Overcome with emotion and not thinking about consequences, I was too young to find a constructive way to deal with things that upset me. It would not be until my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years ago that I found a balance.
Alzheimer’s ran in the family, and knowing that it may only be a matter of years deeply rattled my mom. She read that jigsaw puzzles could delay the presence of the disease, so we began to puzzle together.
She puzzled because she had to. I puzzled because I wanted to.
For every puzzle, there is a strategy. First, find the edge pieces. This gives it a structure, a way to begin, a way to work from the outside in. From there, find a dominant color scheme or a section that appears easiest to tackle. Pull out all the pieces that fit this microcosm and complete a puzzle within the puzzle. Continue doing this—section by section—until you see a completed picture tied together by all the challenges you just tackled. Then, start over.
Within a year of casual puzzling, puzzles took on a new meaning. I went from doing them for fun to using them to reset. I saw red less and less.
My biggest puzzle, one that took over two years to tackle, is that of my sexuality. For the year before I came out to my parents, I was jumpy, testy. Obviously not at peace, I needed something to do to keep from bursting, so I did jigsaw puzzles once, twice, three times; I finished a puzzle, gave it a look, then ripped it apart to start over. I did it faster each time. Unaware of it then, every time I finished a puzzle, I got closer to putting together the pieces of how to deal with the component of myself that did not seem to fit—the gay part.
Life is full of situations that require some movement of the pieces to achieve something workable. Every day in Calculus, I stare at the page until I can find some way to begin the problem. I will try anything until I find the right edge pieces to work towards to the answers. In soccer, I play in the center of the field and my job is to be the brain. I see the second pass before the first is made and find a way to manipulate the players and the ball to get the outcome we want. My job is mentally exhausting, but every game it’s a new puzzle—and that’s why it’s fun.
I’m tiny, I’m gay, Calculus drives me insane, but puzzles reset me. They alleviate stress and bring understanding of my world and the world around me. Audrey is doing her puzzles, let her be.
Barak’s thoughts on this essay
Audrey struggled for a couple of weeks to find her topic. Sometimes the little things you do can reveal the most about who you are. Andrea started in the early summer and spent countless hours over five months perfecting this essay. Good writing takes time.
"With a cup and a spoon you can do it all."
With a cup and a spoon you can do it all.
I was rafting on Idaho’s Snake River with my Boy Scout troop. I packed lightly. There was a saying I had on trips like this: the more experience I have, the less stuff I need. I would find a way to make do with what I had or didn’t have.
I thought that I had enough experience to pare my mess kit down to two items: a big plastic mug, and a cheap plastic spoon.
I didn’t bring a spoon.
I tried to bargain my way into a spoon, but it was futile. No one wants to give up their spoon. When you’re a hungry teenager a spoon is the most valuable thing you’ve got.
Boy Scouts is about learning through struggle. If you don’t have something, you suffer the consequences. You won’t forget it the next time.
I therefore did the only thing I could: I made a spoon out of duct tape. It was a terrible spoon, but it got food into my mouth all week. It was dirty and floppy, and crumbs would stick to the spots where the adhesive side of the tape was still showing. I was really proud of it.
Each time I used the spoon it got dirtier and dirtier. It couldn’t really be cleaned. It was so lacking in structure that it was more effective to drag food up the side of the mug than to use the bowl part of the spoon. Everyone was jealous. Not that I had to eat with the spoon, but just the idea of it.
In a way we were both jealous. I wanted their spoons and they wanted mine. Of course they only wanted the good parts. No one wants to sacrifice their reliable spoon, but everyone wants to be that guy who made his out of duct tape. Everyone could see the silver outside, only I could see the food particles still stuck in the crevices from breakfast.
The next summer my pursuit of adventure would take me to Chajul, Guatemala, where I would be far removed from my trivial spoon issues of the year before.
The first night at dinner my host family and I had stew as we crowded around a table clearly built for kindergarteners.
There weren’t enough spoons.
We were hungry and needed food. Everything that I knew told me that the spoons should be even more valuable here. But we didn’t argue over them, we just took turns. Was it unsanitary? Maybe, but it was life.
Whenever I look back at these two situations, I find myself considering the same question: which way was right? And to be honest, I still don’t have an answer. I never forgot my spoon again. But I don’t think that’s the point.
In scouts I was left to my own means, to make do and learn. In Guatemala they would never imagine this.
They just shared their spoons.
Barak’s thoughts on this essay
The topic doesn’t matter. What you do with it, does. This is a simple story that captures the writer’s personality, intellect and voice. It’s a thoughtful meditation on values, culture, learning, and community written as simply as can be. It was one of only three essays read to the 650 students at Middlebury College’s freshmen orientation—that’s 0.5% of essays at a highly selective college.
"I didn’t like Zach at first."
I didn’t like Zach at first. He broke my glasses in the fifth grade–slammed my head into a playhouse door. Little did I know, he would become one of my best friends.
Unlike most people, I’ve had the same best friends since elementary school; we would roam the playground and stay away from icky girls.
In high school, I moved on to new playgrounds. They weren’t necessarily equipped with a jungle gym. The Matthews Thriftway parking lot became our new home. Surprisingly, I’m okay with that.
We make sitting in a cramped car fun. The playful banter never seems to stop, and when you say something, you can almost guarantee that someone will try to poke fun at you.
“Let’s do something.”
“What do you want to do?”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“Well then why’d you ask … ”
“Let’s go to a movie.”
“Okay well then you think of something to do.”
“I can’t … ”
“Let’s go to the carwash and roll the windows down.”
“Shut up, I’m serious.”
After 10th grade, I started to hang out with the wrong people. The girls thought they were the prettiest and the guys thought they were the toughest. They didn’t take school seriously, more focused on partying and fun than their futures. Their carefree attitudes and overall “coolness” intrigued me. Drifting away from my real friends, I found a place with these new kids.
I knew I didn’t fit in with them nor did I want to, but I didn’t do anything about it.
I wasn’t a bad kid but it didn’t matter. I didn’t spend time with these people in school, but I hung out with them on the weekends. I became no better than them in the eyes of others.
After being grounded for the third time in six months, it hit me. It just wasn’t worth it. I wanted my friends back. I wanted my parents’ trust back. I had lost the freedom teenagers long for, and for what?
Although I was nervous, rebuilding the relationships with my real friends wasn’t difficult. They knew I was regretful – I should never have left them. They seemed happy I was back, never holding it against me.
I didn’t think I knew as much about my friends as I do. Zach hides his feelings in an attempt to not seem weak. Jack is somewhat of a “hopeless romantic” even though it’s not obvious. Stuart needs to be complimented due to his own insecurities. I sometimes take the playful jokes to heart. These aren’t flaws, it simply makes my friends and me who we are, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve argued in that parking lot. I learned it’s not so much what I do with my free time, but who I spend it with.
We plan to spend the night in the parking lot before we all go our separate ways. Kind of like one last hurrah, but by no means is this the end.
Barak’s thoughts on this essay
Of the thousands of essays I’ve helped students write, this is one of my top two all-time favorites.
It’s an essay about…nothing! The story, structure, and language are simple and straightforward; there’s nothing fancy here. It’s effective because he gives such a strong sense of what he’s like as a person: loyal, kind, thoughtful, responsible, and more. He had impressive accomplishments he could have written about, but those stories didn’t get to the core of who he is. He was accepted to every school he applied to, including his reach schools.
Online introduction to college essays
(or…How Spencer Wrote a $145,000 College Essay)
Most students (and even many parents and English teachers) don’t have a clear idea of what colleges want in a college essay. In this 20-minute online activity, you’ll learn exactly what they’re looking for.
You’ll 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.
(Some of you may recognize this guy as an IHS grad…he asked us to change his name.)
This is the same essay we read in the live Seven Secrets live workshop. It doesn’t replace the workshop but hits on some of the critical themes.
Our new online program is self-directed, teen-tested, and nothing like school.
Write your best college essay, explore who you are, and become a better writer with EssayQuest.
In the past decade, we’ve learned what it takes for students to write great college essays – and how parents and others can support them in their journey. We’ve poured that all into EssayQuest. Students won’t just write a better college essay with less stress. They’ll explore and discover who they are as young adults and will learn an approach to writing that the pros use.
The program lists for $379 — use the coupon issaquah100 to save $100. We’ll also donate 10% to the your high school’s PTSA.
Don’t let cost be a barrier. We have scholarships for anyone who needs them.
Personal mentoring program
Our in-person or video-based personal mentoring program empowers teens to write the kinds of essays that admissions officers love to read. It makes intuitive sense to teenagers, giving them both the freedom to be creative and the structure to produce their best work.
We’ve mentored over 400 students one-on-one, guiding them through our unique Write Like a Pro™ process. Of course they write better college essays and have better options for college. But, they also become better writers and communicators, and head off to college with greater self-awareness and self-confidence.
We charge a flat fee of $3950 for the program. That covers as much time and support as your teen will need to write an unlimited number of college essays.
This year, for every student in the Issaquah School District we mentor, we’ll donate 5% to that school’s PTSA.
It’s actually trippy. I really didn’t expect it to work like this.
This eliminated a lot of stress and conflict in our home and I was happy we could still like each other when it was all done.
I became a better writer through Essay Mentors. I learned how to put my voice in my writing every time I touch a pen to paper or finger to key.
You’ve made this whole applying to college thing a happy experience rather than one I hated.