How We Can Help with our Two Pass essay review process and Cost

By Rajkamal Rao  

High school students already know that the most crucial subjective part of their college application is, without a doubt, the college essay.  

How We Can Help

As described by the English Department at Brown University, good writing is made of key elements: Idea, Motive, Structure, Evidence, Explanation, Coherence, Implication, and Presence. Lack of one or more of these essential elements results in a poor essay.

In our experience as professional reviewers of student essays, we find several recurring patterns. Most students overestimate their ability to write and are unwilling to accept genuine criticism of their writing.
If you are having a writer's block, follow these excellent steps from Purdue Global. Or if you want to discuss your creative ideas about what to write, please book an appointment and we will be glad to give you pointers to help you build an outline.

Two-pass review process

Our structured essay review process is designed to get you to upload a very high-quality essay. Our two-pass review method - replicates the environment of a traditional college admissions team when two members independently review student essays - has helped students get into the most elite colleges.

We only hire the best creative writers. On our team are three reviewers pursuing or with degrees at Stanford and one reviewer at Duke. Rajkamal Rao, our lead counselor, uses his years of experience as a columnist and 17-years of management consulting experience oversees review operations and edits each essay before final delivery to the client.
First-pass (Creative or Structural Review). When you submit your essay draft to us we will provide you with genuine feedback on your essay.

Essays are about conflict and how you go about addressing it (but not always solving it). They should be personal experiences, with specific and concrete instances supporting your narrative. A good essay should reflect - meaning it should show what you learned and how you intend to apply your experiences, even if subtle.

  • Keep it simple. All New York Times articles are written for someone who has passed the 7th grade.
  • According to William Zinsser’s perennially popular 1976 book On Writing Well: The secret to good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what—these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence.

  • The lead paragraph is often the most difficult because it sets the tone for the essay. We find that the second or third paragraph can sometimes do better as a lead than the current lead. 

  • Avoid controversial positions (gun control, abortion, immigration, election integrity, war) – because you do not know the reader’s ideological bent. A college essay is not a forum for your political advocacy.

  • Is the prose consistent?
  • Are you duplicating ideas or being redundant (generally a major shortcoming)?
  • Worse, are you contradicting yourself?
  • Are the examples or context too narrow?
  • Is the theme too broad?
  • Are you abruptly shifting your narrative?

  • Rather than summarizing your thoughts, try reflecting.
Along with inline comments, we also provide a summary at the end. When you receive our detailed feedback, please address each comment, although you don't have to accept each comment. Your essay is, after all, your work!

First-pass (Creative or Structural Review) Sample. Here's the actual original submission of a high school student answering Prompt #3 of the Common App. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 

The student had submitted two variations of their response that was structurally similar but asked us to pick the better response and explain our rationale. 

Here's our actual detailed first-pass review with inline comments and a summary at the end of each version of the submission, plus our vote at the end. 

This student is now pursuing their pre-med pathway at Johns Hopkins University. 

Second-pass (Technical Review & Presentation). During the next pass, you will send us the revised essay for us to professionally edit and enhance. We do an end-to-end review of every word and punctuation, citing as our favorite 2018 story, the $5-million dollar comma. In 2021, an Australian court allowed a defamation suit to proceed because of a missing apostrophe.

As the last step during the second-pass, we use Grammarly Premium to check your essay for correctness, clarity, engagement, and delivery - and for the all-important plagiarism checks. We don't return your essay until we earn at least a 99/100 on the Grammarly score. At that point, your essay is complete. You would review it one last time and then upload it to your college application. If you make any changes to the essay, we ask that you return it to us for one last Grammarly check. We hate for your change to fail the plagiarism test or generate a silly grammar error after all the hard work!

Here is the "Before" essay of a student, the "After" essay following our review and edits, and an offer of admission the student received from Dartmouth, an Ivy League school. Our students have entered several selective colleges, including Princeton, Brown, CMU, Duke, Cornell, Penn, and Columbia.

We generally return reviewed essay versions in 48 hours or less. Please see our fees here.


So, how much money should you have to allocate for your student this college admission season?

This will depend upon how many supplemental essays are required and how much of the developed essay content can be safely reused across institutions.

Every student’s list of desired colleges and majors is different. Some want to apply for honors programs. Others want to apply to scholarships. Every student’s ability to write is different.

Our essay reviews are billed to you at the same hourly rate as traditional counseling. A rule of thumb is that it takes us 1 hour to produce a professional-grade essay of about 300 words (both passes included).

So, the Common App essay (650 words) and ApplyTex essay (700 words) each takes us a little over 2 hours. Luckily, you can reuse the ApplyTex Topic A essay verbatim to suit the Common App essay (Prompt #5 or Prompt #7). So, you're getting two essays for the price of one.

A UT Austin Short Answer essay (300 words) takes about 1 hour. For some tricky supplements, such as, "Why is an odd number odd?" it will take longer. On rare occasions, we will need to talk to you briefly to understand what you want to say - and this discussion will also be billed at the hourly rate.

With so many variables, a package pricing model is sub-optimal, but,
see our fees post here for more details and an estimate for Texas public universities.

Please contact us for more information.

A Note About Rao Advisors Premium Services
Our promise is to empower you with high-quality, ethical, and free advice via this website.  But parents and students often ask us if they can engage with us for individual counseling sessions.  We offer world-class SOP and essay reviewing services for a reasonable fee, starting at $99/hour.

Individual counseling is part of the Premium Offering of Rao Advisors.  Please contact us for more information.