About Me

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Showing the next generation the path ahead

College Advising Background

I am passionate about working with young people and helping them with the intellectual and emotional challenges of the college application process.  In addition to working as an editor and college advisor, I have taught at the high school and college levels, including twenty years of experience in Advanced Placement English Literature.   It was in my A.P classes that I first began helping students with admissions to elite universities.  80-90% of my students in AP were applying to competitive universities, and as a way to deal with their terminal application distraction every fall,  I introduced a unit on college applications and the college essay in the mid-90’s.

After working with counselors and applications officials at multiple universities, I opened shop as a college applications advisor in 2001 and began my CollegeAppJungle blog site in 2009.  My focus is results-oriented, and I build my approach on data to help students and parents construct a good list of prospective colleges, and then on helping students develop truly superior supplemental materials, through my editing ability and expertise.

The CollegeAppJungle is a very information-dense site that offers detailed analysis and advice on the college applications process, from how applications are evaluated down to granular analysis of each year’s important application essay prompts.  I recommend that you pay it a visit as you learn about me—the majority of the content is free and public (and it is all produced by me).

My Philosophy

I have helped hundreds of students with the application process and in developing a winning package of supplemental materials.  When you enlist me, I am your advocate, helping you to find the best information to guide you choices, offering the best advice to help you navigate the often opaque process of finding and applying to the right colleges, and I am a superb editor: my goal is always to help my clients create winning essays that clearly convey their own, best voices. My goal is always to help you present your best self to the college applications officers.  

I work to help you realize your dreams, while helping you create a winning package of applications so that you can feel confident in getting a seat at a good school while reaching for those schools that represent your personal ideal.  And above all, I see myself as a guide and confidante, your navigator through the complex and always changing challenges of the application process. I always value and protect your confidentiality—I run a closed shop, sharing your information with nobody.  While I do retain some clerical services, I handle all of the analysis, planning and editing myself.

My Services

In order to help people with the process, you must understand the process.  In order to help people write, you have to be able to write.  I can do both, and I know, from editing over twenty years’ worth of college applications essays, what works.  These are not like the essays that students write for high school classes.

Through my college advising service, University Gates Advising,  I can help you with anything from editing single essays to creating complete application portfolios.  My services facilitated successful applications to a range of selective universities last year, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Northwestern, Berkeley, U.C.L.A., the University of Chicago and other elite schools.   I also helped students gain admissions to some of the hundreds of lesser-known schools that offer superb educations, by focusing on both overall environment and on specific majors and programs—some little known and out-of-the-way colleges compete with or exceed the big names in specific areas, and these schools are known by employers and academics.

I work to get you going by narrowing down and finding good “fit” schools while helping you go for it on the most challenging admissions.  My support is very detailed when necessary, as with the development of essays, where I offer very specific help in development and polishing, including line-editing that is granular and aimed at getting the best picture of you down on paper.  At other times, I help you ask the right questions and come up with the answers that you need—I will help you define your goals and come up with the means to make them real.


My clients outperform the statistical averages for admissions to elite schools by a factor of magnitude—in 2013-2014, of the twelve clients who listed Stanford as their top choice for the most recent application season, six were admitted. For a comparison, that year, 5.7% of overall applicants to Stanford were admitted.  So far this year, of the 8 clients for whom Stanford was the top priority, 3  reported acceptances.  While all of my clients admitted thus far brought excellent stats and solid extracurriculars to the table, I think the math speaks for itself, though I add that more students are turning away from Stanford as a first choice, even with its generous early admission policy, because of the low probability of admissions. Let me add some free advice as a public service:  for every super-selective elite school on your list, include one school for which you are at the average in GPA and ACT/SAT, and one additional school for which you are above the average (75th percentile or above).

My role

While you can actually do most of the college advising process by yourself, through hands-on research via college sites and data sites like College Navigator, supported by reading books on the process and plenty of phone hours, I can save you significant time, headaches and anxiety by assisting you at any stage in the process, from selecting schools to putting the final polish on your essays. And my essay editing, while assertive, retains the student’s voice but enhances the essay greatly–and those who work with me on a longer sequence of essays show clear improvement as writers over the process–one of the “growth” bonuses of the arduous and often seemingly thankless task of completing college applications.

If you are a junior or the parent of a junior, in addition to some final activities over the coming months,  the essays are a great, and last, chance to make an impact in the twelve to fifteen pages of material that a college applications officer will see.  The coming months are vital as you finish out the picture of yourself that you will start putting into a computer by the end of August.  Because your application result will, in the end, be determined by the self that shines through in those few pages or windows on a computer screen.  Getting the right picture in that space is vital.  And I can help you get it right.  For sophmore and freshman students, this is the time to get an overview of the whole process, which I can accomplish in a single meeting of 1.5-2 hours.

Contact me for details at:


Testimonials from 2014

Dear Sean,

After a long and tedious journey of college applications, I want to thank you for your patient support.

With your help I was admitted to the following Universities:
University of Pennsylvania
Duke University
Georgetown University
Johns Hopkins University
University of Notre Dame
Vanderbilt University
New York University
University of Southern California
UC Berkeley
UC San Diego
UC Los Angeles
Santa Clara University
Pepperdine University

I was also accepted to, and will be attending, Columbia University in the fall!

Thank you for sharing in the process.


Hi Sean,

It went well luckily. I got into Stanford! I was also wait-listed at Harvard and UPenn. Thanks again, for all the solid editing.

Hi Sean,

I actually got in early decision to the Wharton school at Penn so I didn’t have the challenge of choosing a college 🙂
Naturally I am pretty pleased with the overall result and am thankful for all your help along the way.

Hi Sean!

Thanks for checking in! I was going to inform you about this earlier but I was bogged down by my senior workload (I took 6 AP classes, not the smartest choice haha). I ended up making a few more small changes to the essay after the final edit and can send that if you want, but anyways, I used that for my college application. I did early decision to Duke and ended up getting accepted and I’m actually registering for classes right now! Thank you so much for your help on my essay, it changed so much from start to finish and I was finally able to be satisfied with it.

Hello Sean,

Applications went quite well! After much consideration, and going on a couple college visits, I applied ED to Washington University in St. Louis and got accepted, so that’s where I’m going in the fall. When I applied I felt really good about it, mostly because you helped me make my essay much better! I’m definitely looking forward to going to college in the fall. Hope you have a wonderful summer!

Testimonials From 2012


We felt overwhelmed by the process until we started working with you.  Thanks so much for everything you did.  Joseph  did receive early acceptance to  Columbia and will be going there, but it was worth it to go through the application process for all of the schools on the list and the three tiers you used with us was very helpful in focusing the effort.



Hey Sean–

Without a doubt, the questions you asked and your editing totally changed Hema’s essays and she did get accepted to all of the schools on the final list.  We are glad it’s over but really thank you for what you did.




Thanks for checking back in with us.  Your expert guidance with essay ideas and editing played a big role in my daughter’s acceptance to many top colleges including  UCLA, MIT, Cornell, Princeton, etc. I especially appreciate your fast response, reliable service, reasonable pricing, your easy and secure payment method, not to mention your the free editing sample!  

 It was a lot of work to write college essays, but in the end, I think the effort was worth it  My daughter has not only improved her writing skills, but had to reflect deep into all aspects of her life –her  dreams and aspirations, strength, interests, beliefs….   Thanks a lot for providing many suggestions and probing questions to help her convey clear message and addressing the prompt.  I’ll definitely recommend your service to my friends.



–Hello Sean

Just wanted to thank you again for working with Jim.  He did get in to Princeton and all the UCs he applied for, and Harvey Mudd.  Your help on the essays was invaluable.  I just wish we had found you before he applied to M.I.T., which was the only place he was not accepted.

Thanks again for all your work.



The results were great.  We were surprised when Claire chose Stanford over Harvard,  but as you said, the kid has to take the wheel at some point, and we think that  for the kind of work she wants to do  she is right to be near Silicon Valley.  Your help on the essays was transformative, and that article you talked over with Claire for her essay really seemed to help her decide which school to choose as well as with the essay. I will be recommending your services to our friends whose kids are applying this year.


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