It was one of the last things Jessica Peyton Roberts said to me during her interview but I wouldn’t be expressing the passion behind her creation if I didn’t begin this article with her parting words. Where was she when I was applying for schools?
Roberts is a minority female business owner (a member of the Cherokee tribe), with an M.A. from Harvard and a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame. She is a godsend to prospective students staring at college essays with trembling fear. Her service, Aim High Writing, is an applications coaching program that reaches out to students who are self-motivated and have clearly defined education goals.
“I see writing as a tool for education reform and as a way to kind of level the socioeconomic playing field for students,” says Roberts. “If you can express yourself in a way that comes across as a mature young adult, I think it has the ability to transcend whatever,barriers, perceived or real, you think there is to you being respected and accepted by an institution.”
The creation of an inspirational application coaching program was not part of Roberts’s original plan for life. The young scholar fell in love with Russian History at Notre Dame and planned to enter into the world of teaching as a college professor. But during her PhD studies at ASU, Roberts became disillusioned with the life of a scholar, which often crowds out teaching in favor of personal research and publications. During the program. she derived the most satisfaction from helping undergraduate students with their writing. She also realized there was a real need to strengthen incoming college students’ writing skills.
What is Aim High Writing?
The purpose of Aim High Writing is “to provide a premium service for students and non-profits who are prepared tocollaborate on developing the most competitive school, scholarship and grant applications.”
“My objective is to use the application as a means of setting the student up for long-term success,” Roberts states.
Through one-on-one collaboration, Roberts works with students or non-profit leadership teams who seek her out by their own initiative. The program is not meant for people who require a lot of pushing and coercion to participate; instead Roberts seeks clients that are high performing and simply want a little extra guidance. The goal is not to retain clients.
“You only need me as much as you need me – I don’t get anything out of making up reasons for you to retain me so let’s figure out what you need.”
What is the Process?
Aim High Writing prioritizes providing flexibility and accessibility for clients. While Roberts prefers meeting in person, she also conducts sessions via Skype, phone, or even working exclusively email. After an initial consultation, Roberts works directly with the student (although she is happy to report on the student’s progress to the parents) to lay out goals and go through the process of applying to school or for a non-profit grant. She approaches students as young adults to build their confidence in their own decision-making abilities and foster independence before they enter college or graduate school.
“I set students up for long-term success, and I want parents to understand that applications coaching isn’t a band aid,” says Roberts. “No matter what school (the student) gets into, your student is going to understand better how to perform at the college level before they even get there.”
- College and Graduate School Searches
- College and Graduate School Applications
- Grant/Scholarship Applications
- How to make connections with professors and academics
- Essay Writing (Note: Students write their own essays)
Outside and Beyond
In her time at Aim High Writing, Roberts has begun partnering with organizations whose mission and values intersect her own, especially in reforming educational modalities and curriculum to adapt to the student, rather than the other way around.
Her most recent passion has focused on free university seminars for young women. At the University of Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran University, Roberts co-hosted a free seminar with Ashley Looker of Unique Holistic Happiness for a sorority entitled, “Surviving College.” The presentation covered tips for gaining a professor’s respect, as well as overcoming writer’s block and finding funding for graduate school. Roberts also addressed, “The Imposter Syndrome,” a phenomenon of never feeling good enough despite a proven track record of accomplishments.
“There were so many times, especially in academia, where I felt like I was never going to be good enough, that I wasn’t smart enough, like I was just stupid and waiting for someone to find me out, especially when I was studying at Harvard,” remembers Roberts. She now makes a point of addressing the Imposter Syndrome with her clients in an effort to stop young people from feeling Inadequate. “You might have failed at something, but you’re not a failure.”
Roberts’ future goals for Aim High Writing include publishing a guide designed to evolve with the student from the initial college search, excelling in university, and preparing for the post-graduate world. It is meant to be a source for those students who don’t feel they need personal sessions and want to apply the strategies themselves. She also intends to continue working with the military community; Roberts is married to Ben Roberts, an Army Captain and a second-year resident at Madigan Army Medical Center, who she calls her number one supporter.
“(Military) kids are at risk for not being connected with an academic counselor because they are being moved all the time. These are kids that could do great but they need someone to show them when and where and how in terms of the applications process,” Roberts explains.
Eventually Roberts hopes to systematize the strategies and satellite the program at a national level. But for now, she’s happy helping students succeed in more ways beyond writing.
“If you’re self-motivated and high performing, great, now I’m going to make you confident in your own abilities and I’m going to make you confident in your ability to advocate for yourself in a graduate or undergraduate environment.”
If you are interested in Applications Coaching through Aim High Writing, you can contact Jessica Peyton Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss if your student is a good candidate.