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Writer, editor and teacher Pamela Toutant offers a highly successful college admissions essay writing process that results in original, well written essays that reflect a student’s strengths and authentic voice. Pamela coaches students applying to college for the first timetransfer applicants, and students applying to graduate school and professional school (business, law, and medical).

Students’ College Acceptances
High Schools Served to Date

The College Essay Composition Process

The process begins by meeting with the student to discuss his or her college essay goals, and to identify interests and personal strengths.  A brainstorming session leads to a short list of essay topics, as well as ideas for imaginatively focusing his or her essay(s).  Ms. Toutant and the student then discuss a list of guidelines on both the attributes of and methods for writing a winning college admissions essay.  Finally, we develop a schedule for bringing the student’s work to completion.

For this initial meeting, the student should bring specific essay questions from colleges to which he or she plans to apply (if known), as well as a calendar for planning.  Depending on the range of tasks the student needs to accomplish, this initial meeting typically lasts from one to two hours.


The college application essay is your opportunity to give admissions officers insight into who you are beyond your standardized test scores and grades.  The essay should reveal what inspires and motivates you and present a slice of life that is meaningful to you.


  • Be your authentic self; write in your own voice.

  • Focus on your strengths; highlight your growth; write about how you have evolved emotionally and/or intellectually.

  • Even if you choose a common theme, take a fresh approach.

  • Demonstrate your quality of thinking; go beyond surface observations.

  • Make every word count; write clear, concise sentences.

  • Organize your material; open and close with compelling sentences; vary sentence structure.

  • Use active rather than passive voice.

  • Edit for grammar, punctuation and spelling.


  • Although your essay should be personal, avoid confessionals.

  • Avoid overusing the thesaurus; your prose should sound like you speak.

  • Avoid cliché; use vivid, specific details, events and facts.

  • Don’t repeat information found elsewhere on your application; take the opportunity to add value to your application.


Brainstorming Questions

  • What are your favorite activities and hobbies?  Why do you enjoy them?

  • What are your talents and skills?  Why did you learn them?  Who taught you?

  • Who have been the most influential people in your life?  The most memorable?  The most interesting?  Who have you disliked the most?

  • What was your best day?  Worst?  Funniest?

  • How have you changed in the past four years?

  • What was the most memorable experience you had with your parents?  Brother or sister?  Best friend?  Teacher?

  • Of what accomplishment are you proudest?

  • What makes you special or unique?

  • What is your strongest quality?

  • What is something about you that is surprising or that other people would not expect?

  • What is a strong belief or philosophy that you hold?

  • What have you done over the past four summers?  Which summer was the most memorable?

  • What is the most difficult or challenging thing you have done?

  • When and how have you shown leadership?

  • What is the most pressing issue that our society faces?


"Ms. Toutant was an invaluable resource for writing compelling essays for my initial applications. Even more remarkable, was her ability to help me write transfer essays that reflected my transformation and goals." The Potomac School

“I can’t tell you how much you have decreased the stress around our house. I am so happy my son chose to work with you!”  Walter Whitman High School parent

"Thank you for your support and patience. We received a large envelope from our daughter's first choice school today with a handwritten complimentary note about her essay!"

“You were so helpful in brainstorming ideas and getting me organized.  Your feedback on my essays helped me produce my best work.”  Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School student

“Thank you so much for your support and help throughout our son’s college application process. It made a huge difference!” Jewish Day School parent

“Thank you for helping our daughter with her essays. Your advice and encouragement have certainly helped her self-confidence.” Montgomery Blair Science, Mathmatics, and Computer Science Magnet Program parent

“Your help made all the difference.” Landon parent