Having financed his undergraduate education at Columbia University, Robert Marko spent the next decade honing his skills as an editor, advisor, collaborator, partner—with students, graduate applicants, artists, orators, advertisers, novelists, anyone looking to discover and develop her voice through the written or spoken word.
After managing the growth of a small press to a major independent publisher, he decided to take the LSAT (attending law school had, until then, felt like a very expensive dream). On the strength of his 98th percentile score and his application essay, however, he received a full scholarship to Brooklyn Law School.
There, Robert continued to pursue his love of writing and editing. As Editor-in-Chief of the Brooklyn Journal of Corporate, Financial and Commercial Law, Robert’s skill for bringing out the best in other people’s writing came into sharper relief, winning him awards, commendations, as well as the respect of his classmates and mentors. His collaborators ranged in experience from students and peers to legal professionals and eminent scholars. But in many ways, the process and techniques were the same as those he’d developed when he started working with anyone who’d pay him in his Columbia days: helping writers say what they have to say, in the way they say it, better.
Like most editors, Robert is a student of usage, grammar, rhetoric and style. But unlike them, his specialty is bringing out the writer’s own voice, and developing a process that works for them; one they use for their rest of their careers. Rather than imposing an editorial template, Robert’s passion lay in helping people discover their own best writers.
And the ideal time to solidify those skills is right before college. Modern high schools provide few opportunities to express our individual written voices or develop our writing processes. Yet these are precisely the skills most prized throughout college regardless of the discipline.
The enigmatic college application “Personal Essay” provides the ideal incubator for honing these most important skills (though other projects like term papers, theses, and other essays can often work just as well). Over the years, Robert has developed a reliable and proven technique—a young writer’s lab of sorts—with the personal essay as its focus and product.
Collegiate experts and research agree that the essay provides two important data points greatly valued in admissions decisions yet absent from elsewhere in the application: 1) what kind of person the applicant joining the college’s community is; and 2) the quality of the applicant’s writing. In other words, who are you and can you write? The essay doesn’t get you in, but it gets your application noticed.
Over a number of sessions, Robert and the student work through every phase of the essay process. The least of the rewards of that work is an essay that will get an application a serious look. The far more lasting benefit is that the students emerge with a method for writing—in their own voices—that they apply time and again once they’re accepted.