Meet the Coach

Leslie teaching at McCourt HS

Teaching at Frank McCourt High School in Manhattan.       Photo by Ari Mintz

Leslie Seifert is an award-winning op-ed editor and educator who applies the best of both fields to coach writing and research skills. As a tutor for admissions essays, he has helped many students get accepted to their first-choice colleges and graduate programs, at all Ivies and numerous prestigious private and state schools. He also works with middle school, high school, college and graduate students on school writing projects and essays for applications.

A graduate of Harvard College, with a master’s in history from Columbia University, he began private tutoring after realizing that the college admissions essays that his nephews were sweating over were the same length, and had much the same mission, as the opinion pieces he was publishing. His successful collaborations with young writers from both public and private schools are modeled on the rigorous process of give-and-take that brings op-ed essays into print.

One parent describes Seifert as “a thoughtful and patient teacher” with “a way to nurture reluctant high school writers by engaging them through questioning and conversation.” Says another: “His guidance was so important. He encouraged and sparked but never instructed.” And another: “This guy was really spectacular in that he pulled the stuff out of my son but would not write it for him. So ultimately the essay came from deep down inside and he made sure that it sang.”

As an opinion editor at Newsday and Advertising Age, Seifert has published authors, professional and amateur, from around the world and won two awards from the National Association of Opinion Editors. Teaching journalism in colleges and high schools, he has engaged with writers along a wide spectrum of ages and skill levels, including top high school seniors, Ivy League graduate students, adults returning to college for bachelor’s degrees, students struggling with grades and self-esteem, and teenagers at risk of dropping out.

Besides admission essays, Seifert works with students from middle school, high school, college and graduate schools on essays for classwork, school admissions and employment and scholarship applications. He also specializes in teaching all levels of research skills, drawing on the course in investigative thinking that he created as an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he taught for 15 years.


His overall goal?

“I focus on the process as much as the product, so that students will take ownership of their work. I want them to learn, grow, aspire to excellence.”


Nearly every admissions-essay writer that Seifert has coached has been accepted to a first-choice college. Besides the eight Ivies, these include larger campuses like MIT, Johns Hopkins, Duke, and NYU, smaller liberal arts colleges like Wesleyan, Amherst, Colorado College and Carlton, and the state universities of New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Indiana, Colorado, Massachusetts and Vermont.

As a journalist, Seifert edited the Sunday Opinion section of Newsday for nine years, and bloggers and columnists for Advertising Age from 2011-2014. While teaching part-time at Columbia, he founded a newspaper publishing program driven by at-risk students at an alternative public high school in Queens. This program ran for eight years and was the subject of feature reports on CNN, WNYC radio and NY1 News. Since 2011 he has been working to create a student-driven news network inside New York City public high schools. The newspaper published by his students at Frank McCourt High School was named Best New Newspaper in New York City, 2014, by the NYC High School Journalism Collaborative, based at Baruch College.

Earlier in his career, Seifert was the arts and media reporter on the staff that launched the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS. He also taught at NYU and Fordham University. In recent years he started In Your Voice, this coaching service for students writing application essays and school projects.

He has been a guest lecturer at Hampton University, a judge of numerous journalism contests, and a consultant to the State Department, introducing foreign journalists to the United States. He wrote editorials, blog posts and columns as a member of Newsday’s Editorial Board and has published articles in The Atlantic, Education Week, The Wall Street Journal and Columbia Journalism Review. 

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