stress dismissed

Writing is a forgotten child. It doesn’t fit very well onto bubble sheets, and it’s complicated to grade fairly. As a result, the essays we write for school tend to be pretty formulaic and often halfhearted. Yet despite this fact, essays are a critical component in a university application. Make no mistake; this isn’t like anything you’ve written before. A factory-produced essay won’t raise any eyebrows.
Application essays draw their power from a simple truth:  before reading your essays, universities don’t know who you are. They know things about you – numbers and bullet points – but there’s no personal connection. Essays are a golden opportunity to flip the script, adding depth and nuance to your application. Higher Ground Learning has the experience to not only recognize a good essay when we see it, but also to help you build it, piece by piece. 

Writing is a forgotten child. It doesn’t fit very well onto bubble sheets, and it’s complicated to grade fairly. As a result, the essays we write for school tend to be pretty formulaic and often halfhearted. Yet despite this fact, essays are a critical component in a university application. Make no mistake; this isn’t like anything you’ve written before. A factory-produced essay won’t raise any eyebrows.
Application essays draw their power from a simple truth:  before reading your essays, universities don’t know who you are. They know things about you – numbers and bullet points – but there’s no personal connection. Essays are a golden opportunity to flip the script, adding depth and nuance to your application. Higher Ground Learning has the experience to not only recognize a good essay when we see it, but also to help you build it, piece by piece. 

So....

What makes a great essay?

Personal character

It’s all about you – the real you. The one that doesn’t ink onto paper easily. Not your class grades, resume items, or test scores. A great application essay transcends the data and brings your unique character to life. When admissions officers finish reading your essay, they should be picturing a person – not a paper.   

Captivating narratives

Everyone has stories to tell; we gather them from experiences along the way. Some are about nothing. Some are about everything. The best stories teach us something about ourselves, or about others. Yet somehow, no two stories are quite the same. After all, we tell them in countless different ways – perhaps that’s why they’re so captivating. Whether your story is best told as a campfire tale or  commencement address, we’ll help you make it your own.

Strong technical writing

A gem doesn’t shine unless polished! An application essay should be a demonstration of well-developed fundamentals, which means it’s worth getting right. That doesn’t mean you can’t break the rules: many great writers do! However, you should do so on purpose – not on accident. Collaborative editing is a powerful tool to ensure your application doesn’t end up a diamond in the rough.  

So....

What makes a great essay?

Personal character

It’s all about you – the real you. The one that doesn’t ink onto paper easily. Not your class grades, resume items, or test scores. A great application essay transcends the data and brings your unique character to life. When admissions officers finish reading your essay, they should be picturing a person – not a paper.   

Captivating narratives

Everyone has stories to tell; we gather them from experiences along the way. Some are about nothing. Some are about everything. The best stories teach us something about ourselves, or about others. Yet somehow, no two stories are quite the same. After all, we tell them in countless different ways – perhaps that’s why they’re so captivating. Whether your story is best told as a campfire tale or  commencement address, we’ll help you make it your own.

Strong technical writing

A gem doesn’t shine unless polished! An application essay should be a demonstration of well-developed fundamentals, which means it’s worth getting right. That doesn’t mean you can’t break the rules: many great writers do! However, you should do so on purpose – not on accident. Collaborative editing is a powerful tool to ensure your application doesn’t end up a diamond in the rough.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Good question. Application essays aren’t like most school projects; they don’t receive letter grades, and there isn’t much credit given for mere completion. A great application essay is a performance piece – a work of art. An essay is complete when the student is proud of their masterpiece. 

That said, we look at the writing process in 3 stages: conceptualization, drafting, and polishing.  We like to be involved early – a final coat of paint only goes so far if the foundation is crumbling – but we’re happy to help at any stage of the process, whether it’s offering final touches or building from the ground up.

As such, time spent can range anywhere from a couple hours to several months of regular meetings (especially if we end up getting into supplemental essays as well). 

In short? Early. It takes time to build a great essay! Your best work is produced by dedication through every stage: planning, writing, and editing. This isn’t a literary analysis for English class. You can’t write it overnight. Not to the best of your ability, anyway. 

Many students get started with application essays in the summer between Grade 11 and 12, which we think is ideal; with other school assignments at a minimum, it’s easy to sink some hours into the application process. If you’re not an early bird, however, don’t panic – it’s possible to bang out an essay in just a couple weeks if necessary. More stressful? Sure. But doable, too. We can structure a game plan to fit whatever timeline you’re on.

Yes. Crafting an application essay is both personal and cumulative, which means it’s essential to build a working relationship with your tutor. You need to infuse the essay with your personality, and the best advice will come from someone who’s taken the time to learn your story. We start the conversation with a (free) consultation, then pair each student with a personal tutor. From there, it’s a partnership – you’ll see the same face during every session. 

Absolutely! Supplemental essays can be nearly as important as the big personal statement. Prompts like “why do you want to attend our school?” require a slightly different approach; universities ask different questions for different reasons. We’re well versed in the intent and execution behind a wide variety of supplemental prompts. Remember, just because they’re shorter doesn’t necessarily make them less valuable – every prompt is a critical opportunity to show off your unique personality!

To be completely honest, nobody knows for sure. The pandemic has pushed many schools to go “test-optional” or even “test-blind,” which almost certainly influences the shape of admissions. Nobody knows exactly how that will play out – but it’s a good bet that essays will be more important than ever. Without test scores available, universities are looking for other ways to identify exceptional students, and application essays are definitely part of that conversation.

No. Your application essay should be something you’re proud of – which means that first and foremost, it has to be yours. A brilliant essay is like music: deep, nuanced, and evocative. We can help you refine the melodies, tighten the harmonies, and streamline the fingerings. Ultimately, though, you have to play it.

Let us know!

We know that everyone’s a bit scattered right now, which means that even schedules designed for a particular school don’t necessarily fit your circumstances – or time zone.

Not to worry!
We have several different options to prep the SAT this fall, including group courses in various time zones. We also offer 1-on-1 tutoring, which is almost infinitely flexible. If you’re having trouble lining up a schedule, please don’t hesitate to reach out; we’ll arrange a (free) consultation to help craft a personalized game plan – whatever your timeline.

If you have any questions about our courses or the SAT in general, please don’t hesitate to contact our International Coordinator at colton@highergroundlearning.com.

Planning on taking the ACT as well?

Students in Egypt face some (seriously unfair) obstacles around the SAT. Over the past couple years, students from Egypt have suffered from cancelled exam dates and even cancelled scores – which means many students are proactively planning to take both the SAT and ACT, just in case one exam falls through. 

If you’re hoping to prepare for both exams, consider adding the ‘Online Tutoring Package’ to your enrollment

The scheduled group classes will be geared towards the specific nuances of the SAT, but the majority of the content and strategies for the SAT apply to the ACT as well. As such, students transitioning from the SAT prep course towards ACT preparation are welcome to use the 5 hours of follow-up tutoring for ACT-specific prep. Our tutors are very experienced in both exams and can help students re-apply the concepts from the SAT class towards success on the ACT down the road. Plus, follow up tutoring provides the opportunity to cover ACT-only topics like the “Science” section.

If you have any questions about either exam or about the prep course in general, please contact Colton Wright, our International Coordinator, at colton@highergroundlearning.com.

We're prepared.

Like hundreds of schools and businesses around the world, we faced some pretty abrupt changes in Spring 2020. Luckily, we already had a strong background in teaching 1-on-1 test prep online – which meant we were well poised to adapt to all-online programs.

We always strive to provide the most effective prep possible, so moving a course online involves more than a Zoom meeting link. If a course does end up online, we take full advantage of the opportunities created. Free from geographic restrictions, online classes can utilize longer timelines, smaller class groups, and multiple instructors. Our classes this spring are spread over 6 weeks rather than 3 and sort students into classrooms of 5-7 students, providing a more relaxed pace and making sure students can still connect with their instructor – even if they never get to shake hands.  

  We believe strongly that it’s everyone’s responsibility to proactively manage the spread of COVID-19, so we’re prepared to move any course online if necessary. If that happens, we still maintain our flexible refund policy (10 days prior to the originally scheduled start date). 

If you have any questions about our courses or the SAT in general, please don’t hesitate to contact our International Coordinator at colton@highergroundlearning.com.