Author: David Bersell

How To Help Without Taking Over

Parents often ask us, “Isn’t there a fine line between editing your child’s essay and writing it for her?”

It’s a common dilemma, especially for parents who would do anything to help their children get into the schools of their dreams. We all want our children to succeed; college is critically important. But the truth is, you should not heavily edit your child’s application essays, and you most definitely should not write them yourself.

So how can parents be helpful without crossing the line? Read more

College Essays: Six Common Mistakes You Must Avoid

by Kim Lifton

Do you know what college admissions committees want to see in college essays? Do you know what makes them cringe? Make your college essays stand out by avoiding these common mistakes:

1. Featuring someone other than yourself. You might genuinely admire your football coach, love your dog or dream of growing up to be just like your great uncle who won a Nobel Prize, but do you think college admissions committees care about them? Nope. They want to learn more about you. You can write about your dog or your favorite relative as long as you explain how that relationship or experience helped you discover something about yourself.

2. Not answering the question. If the prompt specifies that you write a story about an experience during the last year, and asks you to explain how it has prepared you for College X, don’t talk about getting cut from the soccer team when you were a freshman. If the prompt asks for a reflection about your plans to serve the community in the future, don’t focus on your favorite book. Read the prompt before, during and after you write your draft, then ask someone else to tell you whether or not you responded to it. Read more

The College Journey: Advice from the Pros

by Kim Lifton

Despite what you may have heard, there is a college for everyone.

In fact, a recent National Association for College Admission Counseling survey supports that statement:  On average, four-year institutions accept nearly two-thirds of their applicants.

“It’s not that hard to get into college,” says Marie Bigham, one of the nation’s leading authorities on college admission.

A former admissions officer at Washington University, Bigham, now Director of College Guidance at the Greenhill School in Addison, Tex., and a national board member of NACAC and ACCIS, will bring years of know-how about the admissions process to parents, counselors and students in our newest (and FREE!) webinar series, Get Ready! Get Set! Get In! Starting The College Journey, this Thursday, Feb. 6, at 9 p.m. ET.

“Be open-minded,” she adds. “There is no one perfect school.”

Joining Bigham will be another leading college expert, Ralph Figueroa, Dean of College Guidance at Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico. Figueroa rose to national prominence as the Wesleyan University admissions officer featured in the bestseller, The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College.

He is Past President of the Rocky Mountain Association for College Admission Counseling, former member of The Common Application Board of Directors, and The Common Application Outreach Advisory Committee.

“As stressful as this college process is, and as overwhelming as it seems, it is manageable,” Figueroa says.

Our esteemed guests will discuss what you really need to know about starting your journey to college, how you can tell good information from bad, the importance of the college essay, and much more!

Register now. This is a rare opportunity to learn, and ask questions, from the best and most experienced admissions pair in the U.S.

What Do You Want Colleges to Know About You?

By Kim Lifton

Recently, I asked a group of Wow students what they wanted colleges to know about them after reading their application essays.

One boy blurted out, “I’m inquisitive.” A girl said, “I don’t give up.”  Another boy said, “I’m hard working.” Several students stared blankly at me; they couldn’t answer the question. Read more

Wow Featured in Metro Parent Magazine

In the competitive world of college admissions, other businesses have sprouted up – includingKim Lifton's Wow Writing Workshop, based in Royal Oak. After decades of reviewing her friends' kids' college applications around the dining room table, Lifton launched Wow in 2009.

"Our company teaches students how to prepare to write their college essay and the essay portion of the ACT," explains Lifton, who launched the business together with Susan Knoppow. "The essay portion of the application gives admissions representatives the opportunity to see who the student really is."

Read more

Fastweb Publisher Shares Top 6 Favorite College Scholarships

Mark Kantrowitz

By Kim Lifton

It’s hard for financial aid guru Mark Kantrowitz to imagine why a student wouldn’t apply for college scholarships; more than 1.5 million scholarships worth some $3.5 billion are awarded annually by donors, philanthropists, foundations, corporations and other charitable organizations.

“Kids say it is too much work. They don’t like writing the essays,” said Kantrowitz, publisher of Fastweb and author of Secrets to Winning a Scholarship. “Well, once you finish half a dozen, the rest get easier.” Read more

Stay Calm and Plan for College

by Kim Lifton

As high school seniors put finishing touches on college applications, the rest of you –  freshmen, sophomores and juniors – might be thinking about your own journeys beyond high school. Stay calm. There is a college for each of you.

Yes, many four-year colleges will like it when you take honors, advanced and AP classes – if you can do well in them. They are happy with regular classes too – as long as they are challenging enough for you.

If you excel in Spanish and want to try French, go ahead. If you have always enjoyed running, consider joining the cross country or track team.  And if you like to build things, robotics might just be a perfect fit.

But be careful you don’t overdo it in the name of the college resume. Read more

How to Shorten Your College Application Essay Without Ruining It

by Kim Lifton

A few weeks ago, I reviewed a student’s third draft of a personal statement for Michigan State University, which requires each student to “submit a short essay of up to 400 words from a list of designated topics.”

The draft, which he assumed was ready for a final edit, was 751 words. That meant 351 words had to be cut. He didn’t think he could shorten it.

Nonsense, I told him. Anything can be cut. At Wow, we read and suggest cuts to students every day; we’ve never seen a personal statement weakened by the editing process. Some admissions insiders say limits are strictly enforced, while others suggest a few words too many or too few will not matter.

We say it is not worth the risk, so just follow the directions. Answer the question within the specified word count, and you will not need to worry.

Here are five simple tips for trimming your stories without destroying content.

  1. Circle or highlight all adverbs. Take them out. These include “very” and many “ly” words, such as really, extremely, completely and absolutely. Read more