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The Rise of an Essay Coach

Updated: Jun 22

While applying for a master’s degree in clinical psychology at Columbia University, the initial draft was to focus on the future, rather than the past. “Margo helped me understand that you can’t walk away from your experiences and who you are.”

April 27, 2007 By Ben Goss

When applying to a master's-degree program in clinical psychology at Columbia University, Maura Plante chose to focus on her future rather than her past. In the first draft of her application essay, she wrote of her desire to move away from the corporate life-- she had spent 13 years in various marketing positions-- to pursue a passion from research on depression and domestic violence.

But then she hired Margo Bartsch, who called for a rewrite. Ms. Bartsch is an essay coach who lives in Burlington, VT and operates a Web site called College Essay Coach. She worked with Ms. Plante, then living in Florida, via phone and e-mail for several hours over the course of the month.

Ms. Bartsh got Ms. Plante to see that her adult experiences-- her marketing career, her unfulfilled early desire to join the Foreign Service, her mastery of Mandarin Chinese and Spanish -- had been driven by a deep need to connect with people. In the final version of her essay, Ms. Plante spoke proudly of her past and how it had prepared her for the close interactions that she would have as a clinical psychologist. Ms. Plante was admitted to Columbia's program and will graduate next month.

"Margo helped me understand that you can't walk away from your experiences and who you are," says Ms. Plante, who never met with Ms. Bartsch in person. "I made clear to the admissions committee that I'm older, and bring different things to bear. It would have been a mistake not to talk about my past."

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