Author Deborah Davis - Manuscript Consultation

College Essay Writing Workshops and Coaching

"Ms. Davis was patient and understanding throughout the entire process, which allowed me to openly express my ideas and thus reach my full writing potential—and gain admission into eight top colleges and universities. I know that my newly strengthened writing skills will enable me to achieve success in future writing endeavors."

-- 2012 Berkeley High School graduate, attending Pomona College

"I felt I could not help [my daughter] in the way she needed, and you pulled that off. Could we have done it without your help? Probably not in the time frame and without the stresses it might have caused. Many thanks."

-- Parent of College Applicant

"We really benefitted from your knowledge and support throughout this important and challenging process."

-- Parent of College Applicant

Why work with a coach?

College-bound teens need essay coaches in the same way that all writers do—to offer constructive feedback for revising, and to ensure that the writing is focused, succinct, engaging, and on topic. That kind of assistance doesn’t have to come from a paid college essay coach, but an experienced coach may be more knowledgeable about what makes a standout essay.

I offer individual essay coaching and college application essay workshops. In both, I teach writing skills not only for college essays but also for use during college and beyond.

If you can't or don't want to hire a coach, many web sites offer terrific guidance about writing college essays. For instance, check out the extensive essay info at And read the Stanford Magazine article about attention-grabbing opening lines, ''Let Me Introduce Myself''.

College Application Essay Workshop

My three-day workshop is for rising seniors, fall semester seniors, and current college students looking to transfer. In this workshop, you will:

  • examine successful application essays
  • learn the key elements of an outstanding essay
  • brainstorm your own essay ideas
  • develop two strong essay drafts to use for the main Common Application and UC application essays
  • receive feedback on your writing every day, at every stage
  • strategize how to write and manage multiple essays
  • gain skills and increased confidence to write additional outstanding essays on your own
  • receive follow-up feedback on both essays within two weeks of the workshop

Workshop size: Maximum 10 students per workshop (4 minimum)
Cost: $375
Location: North Berkeley

2014 Workshop Dates:

Session 2: Three days--June 30, July 1, & July 2, 1:00 - 4:00 pm

The workshops include:

  • Individualized Instruction: Each day, Deborah is available during writing time to answer questions, help students overcome writer’s block, offer on-the-spot feedback, and otherwise offer prompt individual attention.
  • Prompt feedback: At the end of each day, students leave their day’s writing with Deborah and receive feedback at the beginning of the next day’s session.
  • Workshop Follow-Up Support: Workshop participants receive feedback on their two essays within two weeks of finishing the workshop.
  • Workshop Bonus: Workshop participants are guaranteed future individual essay coaching throughout the application season. Participants who start individual coaching by September 1st will be charged $100 per hour instead of Deborah's usual rate of $120.

Individual Essay Coaching

How the coaching process works:

Our work together begins with a one-hour meeting to build confidence and generate essay ideas based on the student's interests, taking into account the requisite college essay prompts. We'll cover the key elements of a strong college essay, including the importance of an attention-grabbing opening line; the use of specific, concrete details; how to show, not tell; how to start "small" and end "big"; and how to be self-revealing in a constructive, personable, engaging way. (Students who have taken the 5-day workshop will already know much of this.) We'll also look at application deadlines, make a strategy for streamlining the essay writing process, and create a tentative schedule for completing all the required essays. Your student leaves the meeting with essay topic ideas, a writing assignment, and a first draft deadline.

After the first meeting, the student sends me essay drafts by email or via an online essay organizer, and I provide constructive feedback—in writing, by phone, or both, usually within 72 hours or less. If the student gets bogged down at any point in the essay writing process, we'll talk through the obstacle. Our work together is fluid; I offer support and prompting as needed.

Where and how we meet:

Meetings usually take place in my home in North Berkeley, near Solano Avenue. Please note that I have two cats, so if your student is allergic to cats, we can arrange to meet elsewhere. I recommend that we meet in person for the first meeting. If you're not able to come to my home, we can meet via Skype. After that, meetings can take place in person or over email, phone, or Skype. When my schedule allows, I can meet at your home, but I do charge my regular hourly rate for travel time. 


My fee is $100 per hour if you begin before August 1st, 2014 and $120 per hour if you begin on or after August 1st, 2014. I ask for a $360 non-refundable retainer at the first meeting to cover the first three hours. For additional hours, I’ll send you invoices every two weeks. You may pay by check or with a credit card via PayPal. A 3% charge is added to PayPal payments.

I aim to spend no more than 2 to 6 hours on one essay, but the actual amount of time needed will vary depending on each student's writing abilities.

I am happy to work with limited budgets. If you let me know, for instance, that you can spend only $500 total, I will advise you and your student about how to get the most out of that amount.

Your student can do this!

Please keep in mind that I'm a teacher and coach, not a ghostwriter! For most people, strong college essay writing requires considerable rewriting and revising. I will offer comments and suggestions and ask questions. I'll give praise and encouragement. What I won't do is write students' essays for them.

I'll also ask your student to set realistic deadlines for completing new essay drafts. As college application deadlines approach, I'll have my own firm deadlines by which I need to receive new drafts in order to provide timely feedback. If we decide to work together, we'll discuss at the outset how involved you as a parent want or need to be in helping your student meet deadlines.

Workshop Cancellation Policy

100% minus $25 registration fee up to five weeks prior to start of workshop. 75% minus registration fee up to four weeks prior. 50% minus registration fee up to three weeks prior. 25% minus registration fee up to two weeks prior. No refunds given within 7 days of start of workshop.

For more information please call (510) 541-2199 or contact Deborah online.

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