Between ghostwriting books and those opinion-editorials for old-line media, we can create a niche business in the student market. That entails coaching and editing personal statements for admission to undergraduate institutions and professional and graduate programs in the U.S.
About half the assignments comes from applicants in other nations for whom English is a second language. The other half from Millennials and Generation Xers who didn't have to endure years and years of composition classes the way we Baby Boomers had to.
Every year from fourth grade at St. Boniface Grade School, Jersey City, New Jersey, through my Freshman one at Seton Hill University in central Pennsylvania I was required to write an essay weekly. Some contend we Baby Boomers were the "last educated generation." I don't know about that. What I do know is that we were trained to organize and then communicate our thoughts in prose.
So, of course, there is a demand from those who don't feel confident about their writing skills and who understand the high stakes involved in being admitted to academic institutions.
In addition, many are simply clueless what the readers of those personal essays are looking for. That's why they look to us.
Among the must-haves are:
Make it personal. The school requires that you pull up the drawbridge and remove the alligators from the moat. Show who you are. That doesn't have to have anything to do with your plan to major in computer science.
For instance, you might have played the harmonica since age four and did just that at your mother's wedding to your stepfather. How does playing make you feel? What motivated you to stick with it?
Describe overcoming obstacles. Because your father's job required lots of global moves, you almost threw in the towel on making friends. Then there was that ah-ha moment. What was the secret you discovered about the intersection of you and the world which was so often new?
Accomplishments and why so proud of them. You groomed 30 homeless dogs before a special adoption day. All found homes. You sense that part of the "selling process" was that they knew they looked great and so were more social with prospective parents.
Unique value brought to diversity of the class. Different backgrounds and points of view enhance the classroom experience. Schools want to understand what you will bring to the party. Did you grow up in a castle in Europe or a refugee camp in Syria? What has it been like living with a dad with war-induced traumatic stress? You were the youngest member in your Tucson, Arizona Alcoholics Anonymous group and your parents had to drive you to meetings.
The key to helping applicants create effective essays is to push them to step outside themselves and take a 360-degree look at what their lives have been like. In itself that can be a milestone experience. And we ghostwriters are part of it.