Local writers help students write winning college essays


Cutler Bay resident Adrienne Sylver has joined with fellow freelance public relations writer Laura Pincus to form The Writing Coaches, a business geared to helping high school seniors write winning essays for their college applications.

“We decided to start The Writing Coaches after watching kids struggle specifically with the college essay during the application process, but also because we know so many students feel they aren’t good writers,” Sylver said. “Most students don’t know where to start. Often they’re thinking of a standard English essay. It’s not. It has to be a story.”

Also, many students don’t have access to a good college counselor and, if they do, the counselor might not have time to help them individually with the essay. Figuring out what to write about is half the battle.

“With a little coaching, however, students can develop their skills and write insightful, organized essays,” Pincus said. “We focus on helping students bring out their story. Each kid has something unique to tell, we just have to get at it. We take them through all the steps — from finding a topic to writing, revising and refining.”

Sylver brainstorms with the students to see what topics they should use to capture the imagination of the college admissions team.

“They tend to rehash what the colleges already see,” Sylver said. “It’s not the time to rehash. Make it a story; make yourself standout.”

In the brainstorming sessions, they can winnow the ideas down to one idea or three ideas that they can try writing and see which one turns out to be strongest.

Sylver loves the brainstorming part of the planning because she learns so much about the student. She said she has worked with a student who has a love for Disney. So the student is writing an essay on how she viewed Disney growing up.

“She’s taking it along the line of the Disney princesses and how she learned from each one,” Sylver said.

Last year the topics included how wearing a back brace changed a young man’s life; an engineering candidate wrote about deconstructing famous buildings, and another girl wrote about how visiting Wynwood helped change her life and her art.

“There are students I’ve worked with on one essay and students I’ve worked on with on four or five essays,” Sylver said.

After they have determined a topic, Sylver helps the students map out the format of the essay. She also helps with proofreading and improving the writing. The coaches don’t write the essays for the students, even when the students struggle.

“For some students, writing is not a natural process. We can teach them certain techniques to take the dread out of every assignment,” Pincus said. “With a little coaching on language, structure and flow, the improvement can be dramatic.”

Their work has been successful. Every student The Writing Coaches worked with was accepted into college. The schools included the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Boston University, Tufts, Maryland and NYU.

“They are very happy and all starting as freshmen at these schools,” Sylver said.

Summer and fall are busy for the coaches. There’s also a rush for those kids who send in last-minute applications.

Sylver has a bachelor’s degree in English/journalism from Ashland University in Ohio, and a master’s in magazine journalism from Ohio University. Pincus has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from the University of Miami and taught in public schools.

For more information, send email to Sylver at adsylver@bellsouth.net.

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