There is a new term surfacing in the college application process — coach. Be extremely careful about a coach's credentials. The college application process is fraught with parental and student anxiety. I am a professional, fully licensed and accredited 7 — 12 English educator with over 30 years of classroom experience and many more years as a private tutor, and I have taught college writing. I hold a B.A. and an M.A. in English/Education, and an M.S. in Learning Technology. I also have over 120 credits in English/Education above and beyond those degrees. I am a dedicated educational professional with proven results.

Tutors have the unique responsibility to interact with a child, and together — as a team — to achieve certain goals and benchmarks. Tutors need not only to deliver content, they need to motivate, challenge and provide feedback. The goal of every tutor should be overall progress, which is measured in academic success, improved self-esteem and increased confidence as a learner. Hiring a tutor should be approached in the same manner as hiring any other professional: ask questions, look carefully at references, and use your instinct.

Inquire About

  • Credentials
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • An Educational Plan
  • Fees — including rules about missed appointments
  • Location

Teacher recommendations are an important part of the application process; so be sure to ask a teacher/coach who believes in you. Most colleges will request two teacher recommendations. The teacher's point of view will give the college an idea of your strengths as a student and of your potential for growth and development, as well as provide observations about your personal qualities.

For this reason, teachers should be chosen carefully, and they should know you well. Ideally, they should be from an 11th or 12th grade class, and should be from an academic area (English, math, science, social studies or foreign language). If you are planning to apply to a specialized department, such as: Art, Dance, Music or Athletics, a teacher's recommendation from those areas is appropriate.

Be sure that if a teacher agrees to write a recommendation for you, the letter will be helpful. If she/he cannot write a strong letter, the teacher may suggest that you ask another teacher — do so. Once you have asked a teacher, and they have agreed, give them your resume right away. You need to give them a stellar resume. Colleges are looking for leaders. They are not as interested in "clubbers," who are serial joiners of school organizations that never lead to leadership positions. Colleges are looking for a level of commitment.

There are key words that you should include in your resume so that your teacher can include them in his/her letter of recommendation. Certain words are clues to some colleges; you may want to make sure that they are in your letter.

From the Teacher's Point of View

I cannot count the number of letters of recommendations that I have written over the years. The responsibility usually falls upon the 11th or 12th grade teachers; many colleges require the letter to be from an 11th grade English teacher — so, be nice to him or her!

Once I agreed to do a letter of recommendation for a student, I needed pertinent information. The range I received was amazing. Some students told me everything they had ever done since birth, while others handed me a "resume" with a few hand-scribbled lines on it. This recommendation is important; please make sure that you give the teacher a fighting chance to write a great letter by providing all your data. I often suggest to freshmen, to keep a log of all their activities.

  • Read. Read. Read.

    Strong comprehension skills are imperative for success on the ACT/SAT, or any standardized tests. As any English teacher will tell you — the best way to improve both your vocabulary and your writing is to read.

  • Take the PSAT.

    It is a good preparation, and it is used to qualify students for a number of scholarships.


    You should take both the SAT and the ACT; once in Junior year and once in Senior year.

  • Believe in Yourself.

    Do not think a school is too far out of reach to apply. You never know.

  • Be Enthusiastic!

    Do not do things just to make your resume look good; instead, think about doing things you are interested in.

  • Be Optimistic!

    It is very stressful, but you can get through this. Remaining optimistic is a key point.