Wall Street Journal

New E-Businesses Help Students Write, And Rewrite, Their Admissions Essays

January 10, 2002

Hoping to major in marine biology at a top university, a wealthy Massachusetts girl laced her application essay with smiley faces and wrote that she once visited an aquarium, “sort of liked fish” and thought the movie ” ‘Free Willy’ was so cool.”

Sanford Kreisberg, the founder of Cambridge Essay Service, wasn’t amused. He advised her to research her field more thoroughly, gave tips on how to write more effectively and told her to “get the smileys out.” Otherwise, “it would have been really damaging,” he says. “This was just giggly and immature.”
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“The reason you hire an editor is the same reason you don’t teach your own child to drive. It is just better done with a third party,” says Cambridge Essay’s Mr. Kreisberg, 55 years old, who taught a course on writing personal essays to Harvard College freshmen from 1981 to 1989.

What a service can do best is “stop the applicant from saying something damaging or politically incorrect,” Mr. Kreisberg says. He advises students to steer away from “outward bound” or “climbing the mountain” essays. He says an essay can go back and forth 30 times before he and the client are satisfied.

Sidebar :

Here are examples of essays submitted to Cambridge Essay Service and the revisions.

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A Harvard Business School applicant has refined the opening drafts of an essay in which he is asked to discuss a recent leadership experience. The essay editor, Sanford Kreisberg of Cambridge Essay Service, advised the applicant to be “less prissy and more vulnerable” if he wanted to break out of the field of “high-scoring, blue-chip applicants.” Mr. Kreisberg asked him to use a distinctive voice, quotes, real testimony, self-revealing details and drama. It took eight drafts, but he got in. Company names have been changed.


In my capacity as both a second year venture capital associate and leader of Elmbank Industries’ [a portfolio company] 18 Employees, all of whom were older than me, I coordinated the creation and implementation of E-Elmbank, an Internet sales channel. Developing a strategy and project scope for E-Elmbank required innovative thought and initiative, and implementing the plan within the legacy business would prove a greater challenge.


During my first trip to the headquarters of Elmbank Industries as a second year venture capital associate, Sam Rhodes, my supervisor, introduced me as the E-Elmbank.com project manager. Then he asked me to say a few words. I swallowed hard and started by asking the group of 18 for help. My self-effacing humor was overdone. I rambled. I patronized these workers, all of whom I would desperately need. Later, Sam waited until we were alone, touched me slightly on the shoulder, and said it was “a great start.” My nervous and rambling speech had been a disaster, but my boss was sticking with me. I had just witnessed great leadership.