The Program

A college applicant’s ability to tell a good story matters a lot. Grades, scores, teacher recommendations—these, of course, are all important aspects of a strong application. But the essay—the student’s personal narrative—is likely the only opportunity they will have to introduce themself to application readers in their own voice.

At College Application Camp, the focus is on writing. We use a proprietary, multistep, evidence-based, and time-tested process to coach each student from a blank screen or sheet of paper to an advanced draft of an essay that reflects their unique voice, passions, and personal outlook on the world, while meeting the specifications of the Common Application. And we provide daily one-on-one coaching support. Our coaches have MFAs in writing and are highly experienced writing instructors. Their role is to help students develop, draft, and revise their personal essays. 

Writing Steps

  • Identifying a rich topic with one-on-one assistance from a writing coach
  • Mining experience, strengths, passions, and opinion for narrative elements
  • Writing fluidly during daily blocks of extended time
  • Revising the narrative to Common App specifications with coaching support. Note that our approach can accommodate other application platforms, such as the Universal College Application and the Coalition Application.
  • Finalizing essay during post-camp coaching call

We use classroom time and workshops to present, in a group setting, basic concepts and general insights about the application process, and to offer exercises related to our three focus areas—the essay, the interview, and the résumé/activity sheet. Even so, at College Application Camp we put a premium on the privacy of each student—another reason we offer opportunities for one-on-one coaching within each camp day. 

Note: While College Application Camp provides structure and support, student progress relies on individual focus and initiative. 


Our goal is for students to leave College Application Camp with:

  • A polished draft of a 650-word personal essay 
  • A résumé/activity list of academic and extracurricular achievements
  • Interview practice and feedback
  • Senior year plan of action


In 2018, College Application Camp will be on the campus of Montclair State University, in Montclair, New Jersey, conveniently located near the intersections of NJ routes 46 and 3 and not far from Interstate 80. For New York City residents, there is a direct NJ Transit train from Penn Station as well as a DeCamp Bus route (#66) out of Port Authority, both of which have Montclair State University stops. 

Students will have access to state-of-the-art MSU classrooms, study and lounge spaces, WiFi, and dining facilities, as well as the time and space to think and plan and create.

Why Montclair State?

The reviews of College Application Camp alumni support our theory that a university campus is the ideal place to hold a program dedicated to moving high school students closer to college. Alumni told us the MSU campus was the “perfect setting,” that it felt “professional” and was “less distracting.” Working in campus spaces helped them “stay focused” and “more motivated” to work “because it wasn’t someone’s home or a classroom [they were] used to.” During the course of the day and depending on the focus of any given block of time, students are able to move around—making use of study spaces, lounges, and dining facilities on the MSU campus. 

College Application Camp will hold two nonresidential camps in 2018—June 25 to 28 and July 30 to August 2—all on the campus of Montclair (NJ) State University.



Camp founder and essay coach Pat Berry will lead a team of instructors who are nonfiction experts and instructors, with masters degrees in writing and years of experience teaching writing and coaching college applicants.

Not only will students who attend College Application Camp develop their application essays, they’ll also learn to write personal narratives, a skill most high schools don’t teach and many college professors (and employers) report is missing from the skill sets of their students (and employees). After all, the ability to communicate through personal narratives is not just useful for writing applications. It's also a life skill.