Frequently Asked Questions

How much weight do application essays have? In other words, are personal statements actually important, or are they essentially secondary factors without much influence on admissions decisions?

Picture yourself an admissions officer at a prestigious university. It’s mid-February, and for the last six weeks (since the Jan 1st application deadline passed), you have been entombed with work. Each day, with the help of a venti Caffe Americano, you review upwards of 200 students, all of whom—let’s be honest—blend into one another with stellar grades, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and test scores. You would never admit this fact to anyone, but if you see yet another straight-A student with a 34 on the ACT, two years of varsity swimming, and a history of volunteering at Fading Horizons nursing home, you may just lose it. The work you do is important, and you take your responsibility as a shaper of the future of the college seriously, but come on! How many times do you have to read an essay in which a student simply recites his or her achievements in a blatant attempt to persuade you he or she is intelligent and well-rounded?

At The Playbook, we spend a lot of time doing research, which in our field means speaking with actual admissions officers and application readers about the applications that really seize their attention. Increasingly, admissions officers cite the essay as the number one way that students can distinguish themselves from other applicants. Here’s a quote from Martha C. Merrill, a Harvard graduate and former Dean of Admissions: “The truth is that while no essay will make an unqualified student acceptable, a good essay can help a qualified applicant stand out from the competition. A good essay just might be what turns a ‘maybe’ into a ‘yes.'”

Why do students need this course? Don’t high school English classes, especially AP English, cover what students need to know?

High school English classes teach students so many valuable skills, from how to analyze novels and other forms of literature to how to construct a cohesive five-paragraph essay. However, crafting a distinctive personal statement is not the same as writing a five-paragraph essay for school. The personal statement is unlike any other form of writing students have studied or prepared for school, even texts encountered in Honors or A.P. English. Composing a memorable essay combines elements of persuasive and creative writing with autobiography, since students are, in effect, telling a story with the intent of persuading the admissions committee that they merit admission to the university. We teach students how to discover the story that will most resonate with application readers, and then we lead them through a proven, step-by-step framework for writing a personal statement that will give them a competitive edge.

Will students complete their personal statement during the Boot Camp?

Many students do. We give students all of the tools they need to complete not just the first draft, but the final draft of their application essays. Some students build their personal statement during the course; others wait until the Boot Camp has ended to begin writing. Because the entire course is recorded, students can access the content whenever they would like, even after the Boot Camp is over.

Do we need to pair this course with one-on-one coaching, or will the sessions be enough to complete the personal statement and supplemental essays?

Approximately half of our participants do seek one-on-one coaching, but there is no need or expectation to do so. Our course provides students with all the information and strategies they need to find the story that’s right for them and bring it to life. That said, many students do take advantage of one-on-one essay coaching. If you are interested in exploring private essay coaching, either as a supplement or alternative to our Essay Boot Camp, please email us at info@LearnThePlaybook.com, and we’ll be glad to schedule a free consultation.

Since the students are all learning the same writing techniques, isn’t there a danger that their essays will wind up feeling similar?

Our goal is actually quite the opposite: to help students find their unique voice and story. The narrative techniques we teach apply to (and should be used by) all students—techniques like building tension, using vivid, evocative language, and connecting with readers on an emotional level. However, the personal statements that students produce after our Boot Camp are by no means interchangeable. Quite the opposite. They’re as different from one another as the students themselves.

What are the qualifications of the instructor?

The individuals who lead our Boot Camp each have well over a decade of experience helping students hone their application essays. In fact, we share many of the essays former students have written—both the success stories and the disappointments. We don’t bore students with long lectures on the elements of fiction. Rather, we collaborate with students in lively discussions, believing that students learn best when they are fully engaged in a process. All of our Boot Camp instructors have sterling academic credentials and a deep reservoir of experience mentoring students through the college admissions process. But more importantly, all are dedicated educators whose enthusiasm and commitment to students is evident from the first moment of the course.

Aug 1 – Sep 26 Schedule

Class 1: Monday, August 1, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 2: Monday, August 8, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 3: Monday, August 15, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 4: Monday, August 22, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 5: Monday, August 29, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 6: Monday, September 12, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 7: Monday, September 19, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 8: Monday, September 26, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

July 5 - Aug 23 Schedule

Class 1: Tuesday, July 5, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 2: Tuesday, July 12, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 3: Tuesday, July 19, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 4: Tuesday, July 26, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 5: Tuesday, August 2, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 6: Tuesday, August 9, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 7: Tuesday, August 16, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 8: Tuesday, August 23, 2022, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

DEC 18 - MAR 8 Schedule

Exam 1: Saturday, December 18, 2021, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET at TMLA.

Class 1: Tuesday, January 4, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Class 2: Tuesday, January 11, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Exam 2: Saturday, January 15, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET at TMLA.

Class 3: Tuesday, January 18, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Class 4: Tuesday, February 1, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Exam 3: Saturday, February 5, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET at TMLA.

Class 5: Tuesday, February 8, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Class 6: Tuesday, February 15, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Exam 4: Saturday, February 26, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET at TMLA.

Class 7: Tuesday, March 1, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Class 8: Tuesday, March 8, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Oct 27 – Nov 20 Schedule

Class 1: Wednesday, October 27, 2021, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 2: Saturday, October 30, 2021, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET

Class 3: Wednesday, November 3, 2021, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 4: Saturday, November 6, 2021, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET

Class 5: Wednesday, November 10, 2021, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 6: Saturday, November 13, 2021, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET

Class 7: Wednesday, November 17, 2021, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 8: Saturday, November 20, 2021, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET

100 THINGS MOST TEENAGERS WOULD RATHER DO THAN PREP FOR THE SAT OR ACT

1. Visit the orthodontist. 2. Watch PBS. 3. Go an entire week without rolling their eyes at their parents. 4. Watch C-SPAN. 5. Retake their AP Chem final. 6. Intern at a local CPA’s office. 7. Turn off their cell phone. 8. Mop the kitchen. 9. Clean their bathroom. 10. Renounce social media. 11. Write a 10-page history paper. 12. Get a bunch of allergy shots. 13. Wait in line at the post office. 14. Watch the Weather Channel. 15. Be abducted by aliens. 16. Attend a clarinet recital. 17. Tour a Soviet-era nuclear plant. 18. Eat a healthy and nutritious dinner. 19. Do calisthenics. 20. Bake snickerdoodle cookies for that guy who’s always loitering by his van. 21. Watch a black-and-white foreign film without subtitles. 22. Clean out the rain gutters. 23. Pretend they’re 42 and recently divorced. 24. Listen to NPR’s Weekend Edition. 25. Read a newspaper. 26. Visit the DMV. 27. Eat crispy fried tarantulas (considered a delicacy in Cambodia). 28. Serve as a “breath odor evaluator” for a toothpaste company. (Yes, this job actually exists.) 29. Go on a double date with their parents. 30. Undergo dental surgery. 31. Babysit their annoying stepbrother. 32. Empty Mr. Whisker’s litter box. 33. Take out the trash. 34. Clean the rain gutters. 35. Tell their parents they’d like to sit down to discuss the Birds n’ the Bees. 36. Stare at a blank television screen for several hours. 37. Be fitted for orthodontic headgear. 38. Organize their closet. 39. Vacuum their entire house. 40. Eat that substance their school cafeteria claims is Sloppy Joe. 41. Kiss Tucker Carlson. 42. Make origami turtles for the residents of a local nursing home. 43. Do a few hundred burpees. 44. Try Uncle Morris’s beef stew. 45. Watch Hillbilly Handfishin’ on Animal Planet. 46. Eat “bird’s nest” soup, which sounds kind of scrumptious unless you know the broth is made from bird SALIVA. 47. Set up an Facebook account for Grandma. 48. Start a backyard garden. 49. Dust home furnishings. 50. Do an exercise known as the “Bulgarian Split Squat.” 51. Help Dad trim his back hair. 52. Hunt for spare change between the sofa cushions. 53. Hunt for leftover Cheez-Its between the sofa cushions. 54. Mow the lawn. 55. Learn how to knit. 56. Research Wikipedia’s entry on the history of Q- tips. 57. Count how many times they can blink in one hour. 58. Compose a haiku. 59. Do one of the American Dental Association’s oral disease-themed jigsaw puzzles. 60. Watch televised bowling. 61. Give Grandpa a foot massage. 62. Give Grandma a foot massage. 63. Play tea party with their six-year-old stepsister. 64. Read The Red Badge of Courage. 65. Browse Burlington Coat Factory’s fall collection. 66. Floss. 67. Listen to The Scarlett Letter on audiobook. 68. Watch televised bowling. 69. Lie really, really still and pretend they’re deceased. 70. Join their twelve-year-old sister and all of her friends for a dance party!!! 71. Wash their parents’ minivan. 72. Journal about their feelings. 72. Give themselves a haircut. 73. Make homemade kombucha. 74. Learn to crochet. 75. Get a head start on their LinkedIn profile. 76. Watch a black- and-white movie marathon. 77. Visit the library. 78. Run a relay race. 79. Eat slimy san-nakji, which is considered a delicacy in Korea. 80. Eat khash, a traditional dish in Southeastern Europe that is so disgusting you’re just going to have to Google it to find out what it’s made of. 81. Eat the Swedish delicacy blodpättar, which kind of sounds like what it is. 81. Eat bat soup, a traditional dish in Micronesia. 82. Eat harkarl, rotten shark meat that is considered a delicacy in Iceland. 83. Eat the Scottish dish known as haggis. 84. Eat escamol, a Mexican dish that kind of looks like it’s made of rice but definitely isn’t. 85. Eat “Rocky Mountain Oysters,” which, despite the name, may not be from the Rocky Mountains and definitely are not oysters. 86. Wrestle an alligator. 87. Be a “professional apologizer,” a person whose actual full-time job is to apologize on behalf of other people. 88. Be an ostrich babysitter, which is apparently something people do in South Africa. 89. Ponder what life would have been like if they had been born in Kazakhstan. 90. Take a transatlantic flight on Biman Bangladesh Airlines, widely considered the worst airline in the entire world. 91. Eat fugu, a potentially lethal blowfish. 92. Do a form of running exercise known as “laps of misery.” 93. Walk the neighbor’s dog. 94. Clean their room. 95. Frolic naked through the mall. 96. Do a handstand on two fingers. 97. Do one-armed chin-ups. 98. Do a form of exercise known as a “flying human flag abdominal crunch.” 99. Watch the 2011 movie Tree of Life. (Trust us, it’s booooring.) 100. Use sock puppets to practice their future networking skills.