TeenLife Blog

Supporting teen success, one post at a time

Author: Sara Nolan

Educator, writer, and college essay coach, Sara Nolan loves that she now hears on national news what she’s seen for decades: that teens aren’t taking any BS, and that they have something to say. Based in Brooklyn, N.Y., she teaches teens to write personal essays for college admissions and beyond (and feel good in the process) through Essay Intensive: Write the Essay of Your Life.

Posted Dec. 3, 2018, 8 a.m. by Sara Nolan | View Comments
young man of mixed race shrugging shoulders

Have you, like thousands of students all over the country, waited a bit too long to start your college essay? Did you procrastinate? Did wishful thinking assure you that a brilliant perfect essay would just appear at the right moment like Sentence Clause (yeah, that kind) from a proverbial chimney? Now you have to crank out an essay, brilliant or not. If you’re reading this, you’re not actually screwed. You have to adopt a game-time mindset, and get on with it. Anyway, all working writers will tell you that good writing is tricky; there’s no one best timeline. And some ...

Posted Nov. 12, 2018, 8 a.m. by Sara Nolan | View Comments
Blurred hands moving really quickly over a computer keyboard.

Are you stuck on your college essay draft? Or don’t even know where to start? Are you sure that you have nothing of interest to say? Bogged down by wordiness and obfuscations? Or are you trying to write too many essays at once? Freewriting has the cure for what ails you. Here’s why and how to do it, and some prompts to get you started. First, freewriting is cherished by almost all writers as one of the best (and tried and true) ways to become unstuck and make discoveries, and also to force yourself to JUST WRITE SOMETHING. It doesn’t ...

Posted Sept. 20, 2018, 8 a.m. by Sara Nolan | View Comments
Frustrated female student doing homework on laptop and holding a notebook

The realization might start to gnaw at you while you rewrite a draft, or slam into you while you are walking to class: I HATE my college essay! Now what? As your elementary school teacher might have cautioned, hate is a strong emotion. It is no fun to feel like you hate your college essay at any point, especially as nerve-wracking deadlines loom. And, the point of the essay is to make the college admissions committee fall in love with you and your incredible personality and distinctive writing style. Your stomach drops and you lose all hope of a bright ...

Posted July 25, 2018, 8 a.m. by Sara Nolan | View Comments
Woman's hand holding ballpoint pen and writing in notebook.

Here’s the deal: When it comes time to write your Common Application college personal essay, it’s not really about the prompt. It's what you do with it, and how deep you go. Each prompt is a doorway into a story you want to tell, something distinctive you want to share You have to know a few things to pull this off: What the genre of personal essay requires of you generally (general purpose of the essay); what each Common Application prompt is asking for (decoding the question); what possible responses are available to you (your life experiences and what you’ve ...

Posted June 19, 2018, 8 a.m. by Sara Nolan | View Comments
Blonde teenage girl arguing with her mother.

The notorious college essay can become a battleground of underlying stress and tension for parents and teens. They both care about the outcome, but (or because of this) communication about it easily goes haywire. Every parent-child relationship is different, and you have your own complex history that this post cannot address fully enough. Certain struggles, however, are common. From my years as a college-essay coach, I offer these suggestions for effective intra-family communication to help you navigate the college essay writing process productively, skillfully and with your relationship intact. Teens and parents have said these made all the difference! Why ...

Posted May 22, 2018, 10:38 a.m. by Sara Nolan | View Comments
Teenager's legs in striped stockings showing amidst a field of flowers in summer.

As a college essay writing coach, I have some counterintuitive college essay writing advice for you: Don’t put a hardcore focus on writing your college essay during the summer. First, do yourself a favor, and have an actual summer – like you see in the movies. Not just an extension of school and school stress: That’s fake summer. Make a list of all the things you associated with summer as a child, and let yourself relive some of them, even being bored. Why? Because reprieve is good for stamina, creativity and focus and you’ll need all of those come fall. ...