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How I Work

How I Work

I do things my own way. I’ve never followed directions well and instead find myself figuring out the most efficient, effective method for success and then going for it with everything I have. It tends to work. You’re likely here because you read something I wrote and liked my system for getting into school.

Here is my system for doing my job:

1) I meet with students 1-on-1 for an hour each week. These meetings used to be in person, but due to me now serving families worldwide, it’s on Zoom. That’s why I call my students my Zoomers! Once you sign up, we will figure out your timeslot, usually on Tue, Wed, Fri, or Sat. That is then your hour. It’s your hour from the week we start to the week when everything is done and submitted. Everything. In my experience, it’s about 25 weeks straight we are together.

I allow parents 5ish minutes at the beginning or end of each session to check-in if they want, but the vast majority of the work is done between the student and myself directly. When we first meet, I will analyze your handwriting and just kind of chat with you. I’ll figure out what you’re into and go over any writing or documents you’ve already written. Once we have a baseline connection, we’ll choose an essay topic to write for. We will usually start with a UC essay or a school Supplemental that isn’t one of the most important ones. We will then begin a process that will become extremely familiar to you by the time we finish working together.

2) We pick a topic. I will usually read the prompt and go, “…Ok, what do you think?” If you have an obvious answer, we’ll go with it. If not, we’ll talk some more. I have a background in profile journalism; I used to interview CEOs of mid-sized companies. My goal was to then write about them in a way that made them and their company come off well.

You will get the same treatment. I’ll ask a lot of obvious questions, then less obvious ones, then possibly bizarre ones. I’ll keep going until I hear something I like. Then I’ll ask you more about it. I’ll keep taking details until I know we have what we want. Then I’ll ask you to start over from the beginning.

3) I will walk you through the story or belief using guided questions. It’s a lot of, “Oh! So then what happened?” and, “Wow! That sounds like it must have sucked! How did you feel after?” As you answer my questions, I’ll be taking notes. These notes will become an outline. All my outline is is a list of facts that you told me. Those facts are, however, ordered in such a way as to establish a clean narrative. I could nerd out for 3,000 words on what a clean narrative looks like, but basically, I’ve found that the most challenging part of writing a college essay is having everything make sense and flow nicely. I establish the plot points for you so that you don’t have to worry about it while writing.

4) You take that outline home with you. You will already be home because we’re on Zoom, but you get my point. In the week between meetings, you write the essay. You write it. I try not to editorialize on the outline; the goal is you place the facts I’ve listed within your work using your voice. 

If you need any help while writing, my Email is always open. Part of the way I work is by balancing flexibility and reliability. I want this entire process to be a calm, controlled, and stress-free as possible. I don’t like surprises or things being on fire. The best way I can guarantee this is by being around. My Email is open to students and their parents Mon-Sat for any reason. I try to get back to students as soon as possible, or at least tell them when I will be able to assist them. If you ever feel lost, or confused, or uncared for during the time we work together, tell me. That means I’m doing something wrong and need to fix it.

5) We meet again. You finished your essay! Now we edit it together. I will read through the essay line by line. I apologize in advance for this thing that I do where I start muttering to myself about writing stuff and come off like rain man. What I try to do is include the student in whatever changes I wish to make. Instead of rewriting a sentence, I’ll ask what you are trying to say in it, and then we may come up with a better replacement together.

If there are broader structural issues I see with it, I will explain those to you and have you do another draft. But thanks to my outline, the essay’s core info will usually be how I want it. Then it’s merely a matter of polishing it.

We will do this for every sentence in the essay and then probably go over everything again to double-check that the work is what we both want. I work quickly, and the closest thing I do to a magic trick is to convert an essay into a polished, submittable draft in like 18 minutes. You’ll be into it.

You’ll also get better at writing these things. I fancy myself a creative writing teacher as much as a consultant (I’m also an entrepreneur, psychologist, life coach, accountant, cat enthusiast…). I try my hardest to explain what problems I see in your work and why I think they’re problems to begin with. I then make a conscious effort to break down the issue into more general writing terminology. I’ll also be extra mindful to notice and bring up similar problems if you keep making them in the future. My goal is not to shame you but instead to improve your skills as a writer as much as possible during our time together. One of the coolest parts of my job is seeing students’ first drafts improve as we get deeper into essay season. Part of that is raw repetition, but a lot I can tell is them listening to my feedback and making smarter writing decisions. My ability to write powerful non-fiction has always been the one thing that made me feel special. I badly wish to share that gift with the next generation.

6) Rarely the essay will still need another draft to finish; most often, the piece is pretty much done once we’ve gone over it. I’ve found that once a work passes that 90% competency barrier, further attempts to rewrite it make it different, not better. It’s arrogant of me to say, but it’s true: When I say a piece is good, I mean it. Because if it weren’t, I would still be trying to fix it.

7) Then it’s mostly done. Mostly. At this point, I like to put the essay away and forget about it. Too much staring at one document makes it harder and harder to view it objectively. We will sit and wait on it until a week or two before the piece is due to be submitted. It is then that I will take one more look at it alone. All I will be doing then is copy-editing it and making sure everything is precisely how I want it. I’ll also put it through Grammarly, which rules and I’m using right now. I don’t make major changes to the plot or analysis or anything; I just make sure everything is what it should be.

8) Then you send it in. More virtual high-fives! Maybe even a virtual reward?!?! I ask that students take one last look over everything to make sure no typos or mistakes found their way through. Besides that, send it, dog. I’m a pretty chill guy, but one of the few things that will make me less chill is if you decide to make any last-minute content changes right before you submit. I have so many reasons. If you want to change something, Email me about it, and I’ll help you out. 

And then we do it again. And again. And again. And again, until every essay is outlined, written, content edited, and copy edited. Steps 2-6 are the ones we will actively be doing, with steps 7-8 coming later, usually in a large batch. 

These steps may also work concurrently. Do not think that we will be doing one essay a session, and that’s it. The basic pattern is we will start each week by editing any work you’ve written, and then with the time leftover, outline as many new essays as possible. I’ve found that a good, reliable schedule is to be having you write 400-600 new words every week. 

This process will take up about 80-85% of our time spent together. The rest will be single days where we work together to tackle other aspects of the application. This includes things like your EC/Activity lists, resume, content portfolio, Additional Info, application forms, school interview prep, and anything else you might need. I tend to pick these days based on your schedule. If one week you seem burned out on writing or too busy with other stuff, that will be an application workday. Then I’ll send you off without homework, and you can go retake the SAT or whatever.

My background isn’t in business boardrooms or HR meetings; it’s in writers’ rooms. I am at my best when I am live with similar minds, coming up with ideas and narratives any way we can. It’s a fun process that leads to the best possible work. When we are working, we will be working. I go, and I anticipate and respect that my students do everything in their power to keep up with my effort level. 

But because we work so hard, we will find ourselves with a surprising amount of time to hang out and chat. I love that part because I like to talk and because I have found that it is within those conversations that the excellent essay ideas spawn. I call it “the good shit,” and it’s the type of background info and personality aspects you display that makes you special. I’m good at finding those aspects, but the only way to discover them is to be live with you every week and get to know and understand you on a deeper level.

I’m not the discount option in college consulting, nor do I care to be. I think I’m excellent at what I do, and I want to be the best. The only way to ensure that is to follow a system that allows me to reach my own extremely high standards. I could probably make more money and have an easier time taking on more students and doing more editing work at home where I could bang through each piece in five minutes. But I don’t think that would give every student I work with the best possible chance to succeed, so I refuse. Instead, I limit my yearly calendar to under 15 students and then give them everything I have. I’ve never been able to do things half-way. Like I can’t write a blog post under 2,000 words, I can’t take on a young person as my Zoomer and not do everything I can to get them into the schools they want to get into.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out the applications packages I offer and then sign up for a free consultation with me. During it, I will send you a portfolio of my past work. This PDF contains recent student essays that showcase the type of work I like to accomplish.  Work that makes results like these possible. 

I’ll leave you with the one line that I think sums up my strengths well. My goal as a consultant is to get students into the schools they want to go to. I do that by crafting the type of writing with them that makes Admission Officers think, feel, and do what we want them to. I’m a content marketer; the ultimate goal of everything I have written about college admissions is to get people to know I exist, become interested in my work, decide I might be the one to help them, and then reach out to me for a consultation. If you’re still here, 2,700 words deep, and pondering clicking that consultation link, consider that if my writing skills worked on you, might they work on colleges, too?

– Mattie