I have recently begun doing some private tutoring, outside of my “day” job. beyond the obvious financial benefits, it’s been rewarding to work as a “freelancer,” flexing my skills and helping students on my own. The other day I ran into an interesting challenge. As I entered the home of my student, his mother beseeched me. “Rick,” she said, “My baby wants to go to Northeastern. He’s in love with the school.” I smiled; it was a little weird for her to greet me like this. “Can you please get my baby into college?” She paused, and then said: “No pressure.”


I felt my smile falter and begin to slip. I looked down to recover my composure. As I looked up, I told the mother, “I’ll do my best.” I smiled as I said it to reassure her. I think I need some reassuring myself. I’m not one to make brash claims about my tutoring and teaching ability. I recognize that I have some skill and experience that makes me better than some. But does my ability go so far as to guarantee a college acceptance? I don’t know.

The type of tutoring I do is intense. One-on-one sessions allow for in depth responses to specific issues. Students’ abilities increase incrementally, but also noticeably. This particular student is a good writer but he doesn’t know it yet because he lacks confidence in his ideas and writing. The task of getting “her baby into college” is two-fold. I not only have get him to write a well-crafted personal essay, I also have to get him to trust his ability to write.

No pressure.

The braggart in me couldn’t be more confident about being able to get this done. He’s looking forward to telling Gage and his other writer friends about how he single-handedly got this kid into college. It’ll be another point of pride, one more thing that makes Dash awesome. However, the realist in me is freaking out. Across the board, college applications are up and spaces are still limited. There are several factors that go into a college application beyond a personal essay. How could I possibly promise that I would get him into college?

No pressure.

Who am I kidding? I’ve never been more excited to meet this challenge. Sure, I can’t guarantee that I’ll get him into college, but I can promise that his personal essay will be the best and tightest 500 words he’s ever written.

No pressure.