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This is another in a series of posts about some memorable applicants, their stories, and how we found them together.

Mia was shy, very, very shy. While she had friends and participated in many extra curricular activities, it was hard for me to draw her out and help her discover what she should write her personal statement about. Mia and I struggled through two torturous phone calls which consisted of me asking questions, then waiting for her one-word answers. I’ve had challenging applicants before. Some were, like Mia, very shy. Some weren’t sure what to say or how to engage with a stranger about something as important as their college application essays. But Mia was different. I just could not get her to open up. By the end of the third phone call, I was debating calling her dad and telling him he might have better luck wither another essay tutor. Then I found an opening. I asked Mia if she had siblings and she quickly (and in a tone I took as sad) said, “no.” I know people think being an only child is awesome because that child gets all of the attention, but I also knew that wasn’t always the case. “Being an only child has to suck,” I said to her. And I was right. Mia started to open up talking about how awful it was, how lonely she found herself, and how she often wished she had siblings. Mia then told me that many nights, sitting at her desk in her bedroom studying, she would peer out her window and watch her sibling-neighbors next door laughing and playing. I got Mia to tell me other stories about feeling lonely and isolated. She totally opened up to me. Then Mia told me something that helped her essay come into focus.

Mia had a teacher who she loved. This teacher knew Mia was an only child and desperately wanted a sibling connection. The teacher suggested Mia tutor science. At first, Mia declined. But the teacher never let up. After a few weeks, Mia finally said yes, becoming a tutor for the middle school kids who were having trouble with the subject.

Mia made new friends, all younger. She got animated telling me how great this made her feel. And, how much satisfaction she received from watching the kids she tutored get better at science. Her whole world changed.

Mia’s essay was all about how being a tutor filled a hole in her life. She was so proud of her essay, and I was proud of her.

Mia: Yale, Class of 2023.