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About the College Essay Process 

Dear Parents,

Congratulations on surviving your child's junior year! The journey continues...

As your child begins writing his or her college essays, I want to provide you with information about how I approach this stage of the admissions process.

Essay Process

At this point, I transition to meeting solely with the student, and will copy you on To Do List summaries so that you are informed about your student's required tasks and status. I have found that the admissions process is most effective when students take complete ownership of their college applications, including their resume, essays and application forms. In turn, they become more confident in their ability to manage independently, which helps ensure a healthy transition to college. To this end, I request that students sign a Student Contract for College Applications (located in the CG College Library) that discusses their responsibilities regarding writing and editing essays, setting tasks and meeting deadlines, and submitting required application items.

I will be working closely with your student every step of the way.  I will provide an overview of the applications and essays; brainstorm essay topics; review every draft of every essay; review the Common Application form; provide a mock interview with feedback; finalize the process of obtaining teacher recommendations; and create a schedule for completing all applications ahead of deadlines.

Your Input Is Invaluable

In late August/early September, please use the Online Scheduler to schedule a 90-minute Fall Status Review meeting with you and your child to review the status of the application process; finalize the College List; review which college(s) will be Early Decision, Early Action, Rolling, and Regular Decision; and address any questions.


My deadline for students to submit to me any essays they would like reviewed for Early Decision or Early Action is midnight on October 10.  My deadline for students to submit to me any essays they would like reviewed for Regular Decision is midnight on December 5. These are firm deadlines, and there are absolutely no exceptions.

Thanks for all your support through the process.  The lines of communication are always open, and I value the ongoing dialogue.  If you have any further questions about the application and essay process, feel free to contact me.

Best regards, 
Julie Raynor Gross, Founder & President
Collegiate Gateway LLC
Next Steps for Your Child:
  • Use the Online Scheduler to schedule a 75-minute appointment "Senior Year Essay Brainstorming Meeting" in July or early August. 
  • Complete the following and email the documents back to me 48 hours prior to our meeting:
    • Personal Assessment Tool - Students are asked to set aside 1-2 hours in a quiet place, and have fun with it! This tool provides a creative start to the process of generating the most effective topics for each student's essays.
    • Student Contract for Essays - Students are required to review, initial each item, and sign at the bottom. Parent's signature is required as well.

FAQs from Parents:

1. How closely should I be working with my child on the essays?  Should I suggest essay topics?  Should I read over each draft?

The most effective and successful approach is if I work directly with your child to brainstorm ideas for essays and closely edit each draft until the essay is final. At the heart of every essay is a creative vision about what that essay is meant to accomplish, such as the messages about the student, the imagery that remains in the reader's mind, the tone of the writing.  When a variety of people are involved in editing, the essay is often weakened by a conflict of messages and perspectives.  If your child would like your input on an essay, it is up to him/her to share the essay with you.  If you do provide input on an essay, the best time would be on the second draft.

2. What does it mean for you to "finalize" an essay?

I typically work with students on three drafts of each essay.  When I feel the essay is the strongest possible representation of the particular student, and satisfies my high standards for a unique, creative, articulate and personal piece of writing, I stamp it "FINAL!"  After that point, the student is certainly free to review the essay with additional people, but I have signed off on the essay and will not continue to review it.  It's time to move on to the next essay!

3. How important are grammar and word choice in the essays?

Students should adhere to proper grammatical rules and use words effectively. Certainly, the goal is to produce polished, error-free writing.  However, the most selective colleges in the country do not penalize students for occasional incorrect grammar or word choice on their college essays. Furthermore, it is extremely important that students use vocabulary that is appropriate to their age and experience. When I edit, my most important priorities are, in descending order: content that communicates unique and personal qualities, creativity, appropriate tone, effective structure, varied vocabulary and proper grammar.  This hierarchy mirrors the priorities of college admissions officers in their reading of essays.

4. What are all the aspects of the application that you review?

I believe that every component of the application must be as high-quality as possible to maximize chances of college admission.  Therefore, I review:

  • Common Application Personal Essay
  • Common Application form
  • Essays for up to eight Common App Supplements or colleges' own applications
  • College Resume 
  • Supplementary Resumes, e.g. Arts Resume or Athletic Resume, if applicable

I do not review the following essays as part of comprehensive college packages, but can arrange review on an hourly basis:

  • Merit scholarship
  • Research competitions
  • Summer programs
  • Gap year programs

5. How will you make sure my child completes his/her application responsibilities on time?

Your child will sign a contract at the first summer meeting that specifies his/her responsibilities. At the end of each meeting with me, your child and I will prepare a To Do List together, including mutually agreed-upon deadlines - and you will receive a copy.  If I do not receive your students' To Do items at least 48 hours in advance of the next meeting, we will reschedule the meeting. 

6. How often has a student of yours missed a college application deadline?

So far, never!

7. What is the most effective role that I can play in the application process?

There are various roles you can play that would be very helpful for your child:

(a) Provide emotional support: This is a very stressful stage for both children and parents. Everyone is dealing with the imminent issues of separation and transition. Everyone has his or her own hopes for particular college outcomes. Parents may feel a lack of control over their child's application process.  Students may feel anxiety over the enormity of the process and the vulnerability of being judged.  Providing your child with emotional support and showing confidence in their potential will help promote their creativity and productivity!

(b) Assist with administrative tasks:  Please upload your student's end-of-year report card, transcript and official test score reports (SAT, ACT, Subject Tests, AP scores) to your child's Dropbox folder.

(c) Arrange logistics of college visits:  If you and your child are visiting colleges during the summer or the fall, you can look up the college's schedule for Information Sessions, Tours; find out when the college is in session; confirm whether on-campus interviews are available and required; help schedule visits and interviews in a convenient way. Handling these logistics is extremely time-consuming and your child will appreciate your help!

REMINDER: Collegiate Gateway Admissions Boot Camp Sign Up!

Students can get a head start on completing college applications! There is no additional charge for these sessions!

If your student hasn't already signed up, there are still a few spots left for our Admissions Boot Camp. These workshops will consist of a combination of small group seminars and one-on-one guidance. In each 2 1/2-hour session, we will:
  • Finalize Your College Resume
  • Complete the Common Application Form 
  • Conduct Mock Interviews and Provide Feedback
  • Evaluate which test scores to report
After registration, students receive a confirmation email listing the materials to prepare in advance and more information about what to expect. 

Please sign up for one of the following sessions. Each session is limited to three students.

Sunday, August 3rd
Session 1:  2:30 pm - 5:00 pm CLOSED
Session 2: 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Thursday, August 14th
Session 3: 2:30 pm - 5:00 pm 
Session 4: 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Sign Up Today!
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