Dr. Pat Wilk

Dr. Pat Wilk spent most of her career as a high school writing teacher at Paramus High School in Paramus, New Jersey. She earned an Ed. D. in English Education, with a concentration in the teaching of writing, from Teachers’ College, Columbia University, in 1996.

In 2005 she was one of 15 teachers chosen to participate in a summer  reading and creative writing seminar at The New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. In 2004, she wrote a grant for a research project pairing experienced mentor teachers with new teachers, and received funding through Montclair State University and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. In 2003, she was awarded a full-tuition scholarship by the Dodge Foundation for a poetry workshop at the Fine Arts Work Center, a writer’s community in Provincetown, Massachusetts. In 2002, she was chosen by the Paramus school district to receive the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at the high school level.

She has worked as a newspaper reporter, written a nonfiction how-to book about antique cars, published some poetry, and taught both undergraduate and graduate courses at the college level. She has more than 25 years of teaching experience.

Mostly, she’s been working with high school kids on improving their writing. Every year, dozens of students came to her scared, stuck, angry, or blank, and asked for college essay help. They all left happy. They got into great colleges, they were proud of their essays, and they learned something about writing.   

College Essay Boot Camp began as a suggestion from Paramus High School students who were coming back after school every afternoon to work on their essays. College Essay Boot Camp was created in 2008.  Dr. Wilk hired one of her most tech-savy students to  design the first web site.  An art student drew a boot footprint logo. Her buddy Dennis Dalelio--a fabulous photography teacher--shot the images. 

Now Dr. Wilk no longer teaches full time. She lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in a house  a couple of blocks from the edge of the Williams College campus. Her miniature dachshund, Ellie, is an AKC Grand Champion, who  had her first litter of puppies on March 3, 2020. Dr. Wilk also has four backyard chickens and a huge vegetable garden, and is working on her own writing,  She is an elected member of the Library Board of Trustees. 

Dr. Wilk personally teaches every  College Essay Boot Camp workshop. 

What exactly happens at the workshop?


We start with introductions (there are no more than four people in each class) and some journal writing about who you are. 

We talk about what a college essay is supposed to accomplish. 

We spend the morning doing loose writing activities in response to the Common Application  essay prompts. We break each one apart and reflect on what it means, and what it implies. You do NOT share your writing. 

We take breaks, and have fruit, Trader Joe's snacks, and bottles of water. 

We read some fabulous essays aloud and discuss the writing techniques which make them so successful. 

You get advice about how to decide which topic is the best one for you. 

You outline your favorite topic. 

We get lunch. During lunch, Dr. Wilk reads every word you wrote in your journal, and prepares to give you some intelligent advice. 

The afternoon is all one-to-one coaching as you work on your laptop to draft the essay. 

You suffer but you persevere. You may need some candy or peanut-butter- stuffed pretzels in order to continue.  

You finish! Dr. Wilk does a final line-by-line edit of your essay, and takes it down to no more than 650 words. You are exhausted but proud. You are relieved, and you can't wait to show everybody your essay.