Former Jamaica Gleaner Writer Publishes Ebook for University Applicants

University admissions consultant and Columbia University alum, Shawna-Kaye Lester, last Friday published a workbook to help college and graduate school applicants set themselves apart from their competitors through writing. How to Write a Memorable Personal Statement in 8 Steps is now available online, and includes tools Lester has used over the past eight years to help scores of students gain admission to some of North America’s top universities— including the University of Pennsylvania, Amherst College, and the University of Chicago—and win millions of US dollars to fund their studies. The methods featured in the book help applicants to identify the unique value they would add to the school of their choice, and the step-by-step instructions enable them to write their application essay within 90 minutes.

“I created this workbook so that university applicants who need to stand out through writing have a reliable, affordable resource to show them how to,” Lester explains. “There isn’t one way to write a memorable essay or personal statement, but there are ways to write about yourself so that people remember you. I have seen these tactics work in hundreds of essays.”

Lester, a former head girl of Immaculate Conception High School, became a Gleaner writer while in fourth form at the all-girls institution. Three years later, she was awarded the 2003 Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in journalism. So it was not surprising that as a student at Bates College, friends would seek her advice on how to improve their writing. The number of requests increased throughout the years, especially after Lester became a Senior Admissions Fellow, interviewing and assessing prospective students on behalf of admissions deans, and later won a Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholarship valued at US$300,000.

Lester worked as a college admissions advisor before using the Cooke scholarship to pursue a Master’s in journalism and another in public health, both at Columbia University. While in graduate school, she encountered such a steady demand for writing assistance from her peers that she started to charge for her services.

“People who knew me or were referred to me would ask for my help with writing personal statements or coming up with interview answers that would make them stand out,” Lester says. “I would get excited because I could think of so much about them that was impressive and how to communicate how amazing they were, but they would be complaining that they had nothing worth saying. That’s how I knew I had a knack for helping others to sell their accomplishments,” she continues.

Lester has recently rebranded the business she began at Columbia, now calling it Memorable Essay. She hopes How to Write a Memorable Personal Statement in 8 Steps will give university applicants a jump-start to write their way to their dream educational opportunity. The workbook is available at

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