Author: Kim Lifton

Should Your Child Start Writing a College Essay NOW?

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

I was just wrapping up a college essay consult session with a professional client, who asked me what I thought about starting her students on the college essay now, while schools are closed.

While restaurants are closed.

When people are wearing plastic gloves out in public.

When you cannot find a roll of toilet paper at Publix or Kroger or Costco.

When the movie theater is closed. And when we cannot even sit inside of a Starbucks and chat with our friends.

These are unsettling, super stressful times.

The answer to her question, “Should we start students on college essays now?” doesn’t have a simple answer.

You need to ask yourself and your child a few more questions:

Why? Why now? Is it urgent?

Do you want to get your teen started on the essays because you want to give them something to do? Because they are bored? Because you are fresh out of ideas? Worried?

That all makes perfect sense to me, but none of these are good reasons to actually write an essay right now.

Unless the student will reliably start it and finish the essay soon, it won’t work. Unless the essay is something they can focus on – and I mean really focus on – it won’t work.

It’s hard to focus and also hard to stick to a routine.

  1. Do you have a plan for your child?
  2. Do you have a schedule to help them get those essays done, without losing momentum?
  3. Do you have a process to follow?
  4. Or were you thinking you could just wing it?

    No matter what you advise your child to do, don’t forget the fundamentals: Plan. Process. Schedule.

Make sure you have a plan so your child can finish what they start.

Make sure you have a process to follow so your child knows exactly what they are doing and WHY.

And make sure your child can stick to a schedule. Everything is up in the air right now. Help your child stay focused.

So back to that original question: “Should my child write their college essays now?”

Ask yourself the right questions, and you’ll come up with the right answer.

Meanwhile, now is a very good time to ask questions and learn more. I hope you’ll encourage your child to join me on Tuesday, April 7, at 7 p.m. ET for a free, 1-hour class, to help you prepare for your college essay. Sign up and watch us live, or get a recording later.

Get Started on Your College Essay – Free

It can be hard for students to write about themselves, especially when the stakes are so high. I’ll help you prepare now, so you can write your essay whenever you are ready. I’ll answer your questions, too. Sign up here.

Stay healthy. We’re sending warm and calming thoughts to all of you.

About the Author

Kim Lifton is President and Co-founder of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication company specializing in college admission and grad school application essay writing and professional training. She leads a team of writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. Wow’s team teaches students how to write application essays, and provides expert training on their unique approach to professionals who want to improve their essay coaching practices. Kim blogs regularly about the college essay’s role in the admission process for multiple industry publications and websites. In 2019, she was named a LinkedIn Top Voice in Education.

Before co-founding Wow, Kim worked as a reporter and communication consultant. Highlights include: Co-producing a PBS documentary about teens and depression, No Ordinary Joe: Erasing the Stigma of Mental Illness; writing “First Class,” a weekly lifestyle column about the area’s most successful businessmen and women for the Detroit Free Press; creating “A Small Business Adventure,” a 12-part monthly series about the perils and pitfalls of running a small business for the Detroiter Magazine; supervising a public relations campaign and accompanying print materials that attracted local and national print, radio, and TV media coverage for the National Council of Jewish Women’s annual convention in celebrating its 100th anniversary.

We’re getting ready to accept applications to reserve a space for college essay coaching for the Class of 2021. If you are interested in reserving a spot, email me kim@wowwritingworkshop.com. 

 

The Truth About College Admission Rates

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

The competition to get into the nation’s top colleges gets tougher every year, but that’s not because students are smarter or more qualified than they were five or ten years ago.

It’s a simple matter of impossible math.

Year after year, more kids apply for the same number of available spaces at the most selective schools. It is impossible for them all to get in.

Because it is so hard to get into the top name-brand schools (think Stanford, Harvard, UC Berkeley, MIT, Vanderbilt, Columbia, University of Chicago, to name a few), the students who are qualified for the most selective colleges look elsewhere to improve their chances. They use modern technology to apply to more schools than they might have otherwise considered.

Today, students can apply to multiple schools, whether they choose five or 15, using one of several streamlined applications that make the process almost seamless (though no less expensive). The most popular is the Common Application, which was used by nearly 700 member colleges and universities in 2017, and grows every year. The Common App makes applying to college so easy that students frequently check boxes for schools they might normally ignore if more effort were required.

This practice helps colleges increase their applicant pool. It works well for schools because it makes them look more selective. If a school can accept only 1,200 students and 6,000 apply, the admit rate — or the percentage of students the school accepts — will be 20%. If 12,000 apply, the college will enroll the same number of first-year students, but the admit rate will plummet to 10%. On paper, it will look like this college has become more selective (“We accept only 10% of applicants.”) This practice can be challenging for students like you who just want to get into a good college.

The Universal College Application, a spin-off from the Common App, is less known in the college world. But, like the Common App, it can be used to apply to multiple schools. Texas has its own application, called ApplyTexas, as do the University of California system, New York’s SUNY schools and several other state networks. There’s also the Coalition App.

Confused? Overwhelmed? Remember, all applications are used to help colleges decide which students to admit. That’s why essays are so important. With more and more students applying to the same schools, you need to help readers see beyond your grades, scores and a list of activities.

To learn more, order your copy of Wow Writing Workshop’s How to Write an Effective College Application Essay –  The Inside Scoop for Students! Parents, don’t worry, we wrote a companion guide for you, too.

About Wow Writing Workshop

Wow is a team of professional writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. The Wow Method has been used by students to write application essays and resumes; by business owners to create blogs, websites and other communication materials; and by independent educational consultants, high school counselors and English teachers to improve student writing skills. We can even help you write a great poem or short story. If it involves words, we can help!

 

 

 

 

 

A Professional New Year’s Resolution You Can Keep!

Happy New Year!

 

As a rule of thumb, we do not like New Year’s resolutions. Most are too big and fuzzy –not to mention hard to achieve: going to the gym every day; getting organized; cutting out sugar… How many times have you heard these?

 

The problem is these are huge commitments that will surely set you up to fail. Want to know what won’t set you up to fail?  Picking one thing you can get better at professionally, and then slowly working toward it. Nothing that requires 5 hours. Every. Single. Day. And certainly not, “I will never eat another slice of bread.” Like that’s going to happen.

Here’s a resolution we’d like to suggest: Improve your essay coaching practice, even just a little tiny bit. That’s doable. And I have even better news for you: We can help. We know from years of training professionals just like you that the first step is to experience the essay writing process from the inside out.  It’s how we trained our coaches, Joe and David, and it’s how we’ve been training the counselors and consultants in our Partners program for the last five years.

 

We thought, What if we took that experience and created a stand-alone opportunity for everyone? And so we did! It’s called the College Essay Experience. It’s one of the best things we’ve ever created, and if you know anything about us, you know that’s saying a lot.

 

For years, we’ve given away lots of free stuff – monthly Pro Chats, tip sheets, writing exercises and webinars in our weekly emails – and we’re going to continue on that track. We have lots to share. But did you know we also offer first-rate paid training programs that are unlike anything else you’ve experienced?

 

We do, and the counselors and consultants who have taken advantage of them regularly tell us that their choice to invest in Wow training was among the best professional decisions they’ve made. We know we haven’t always done a great job of telling you what we offer – we’re so busy giving you crazy good free resources, we’re afraid we’ve sometimes failed to remind you that there’s so. much. more. goodness and transformation waiting for you in our paid programs.

 

We’re going to fix that and start making sure you know about everything we offer – not just the free stuff. (Of course, you can have that, too!) Here’s your first chance to jump in. Come learn how to improve your college essay coaching process during a FREE webinar on Wednesday, January 15. (This takes the place of the monthly Pro Chat).

We’ll give you lots of valuable info for free right there on the webinar, and we’ll also share how you can learn even more through our new program. Again, find out how to improve your college essay coaching process during our free webinar on Wednesday, January 15.

 

Get a Taste of the College Essay Experience
You’ll get a glimpse into what it’s like to write your own essay, we’ll share some more free stuff, and we’ll introduce you to our exciting new program for professionals, the College Essay Experience. Sign Up Here Can’t make it? No problem. Just register, and we’ll send you the recording.

MSU Admissions Director Shares Tips for Getting In

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop
MSU
John Ambrose of MSU

I met Michigan State University’s Executive Director of Admissions and Recruitment John Ambrose at an industry meeting in Toronto in 2013. Over the years, we have talked quite a bit about the college essay and its role within the application process at MSU.

John sat in on a college essay training we conducted for the Detroit College Access Network; he was such a good sport he let us ask him a question during the training.  A few years ago, he convinced me to run  an essay writing workshop during our busy season for his favorite nonprofit serving underrepresented youth: Midnight Golf. It was a morning presentation; I stayed all day reading essays for his students.

He inspires me. I hope he inspires you, too. Here is some of John Ambrose’s best advice for families who have students who want to apply to MSU:

What is the secret to getting into MSU?

Be your most authentic self! Students put a lot of effort into trying to convince admissions officers who they think we want to see. Authenticity is always appreciated.

What’s your elevator pitch to prospective Spartans?

MSU is looking for people who care about making a difference in the world. The SPARTANS WILL speaks to the heart of who we are as SPARTANS and the attitude we have about developing world changers.
What advice do you give to parents who say college is so competitive today they would not be admitted to the colleges they attended?

Each year the application pool changes from the size to the strength of the academic profile. MSU is no different we have watched our application counts grow along with the academic profile. A number of students in our entering class begin at MSU with college credits they earned while they were in high school and that’s one of the biggest changes from then to now.

What do you look for in a college essay?

The college essay is the one thing that can separate you from everyone else in the application pool. I look doe genuineness of character, unique flair of personality, identifiable traits of a leader or follower, team player and someone who has the capacity to add to the rich diversity of our campus and our traditions as a SPARTAN Nation.

What’s the typical GPA of an admitted MSU student?

Our freshman profile at the 50th percentile ranges from a 3.5 – 3.9 GPA, and 1130-1300 SAT Composite and a 23-29 ACT.

How important is AP and IB?

We encourage students to challenge themselves and take the highest level of preparatory coursework available. AP and IB students gain a wealth of academic texture and contextual rigor that provides them with a wonderful sense of preparedness prior to enrolling in college or university. I think it is very important to the academic experience that a high school student can choose from.

What are the top factors you consider for admission to MSU?

1. GPA
2. Test Score
3. Rigor
4. Grade trend

We also consider the personal statement, senior year schedule, and extra-curricular activity as a part of our holistic review.

How can an application essay help an applicant?

In the essay, take the opportunity to show us your authentic self and try really hard not repeat things that are already apart of your application. I wish students spent more time on their essay.

What advice would you give to a prospective student whose grades and test scores are not a sure thing for MSU?

If they want to be at MSU, we want them to be here, too. Transferring into MSU is competitive but not at the same volume as entering with the freshman class. Students have a strong opportunity to transfer who have 28 earned college credits, completed college algebra and college writing, while maintaining a 3.0 or better cumulative grade point average.

How do you respond to a student who thinks the MSU campus is too big?

You can always make big things smaller, and we have done that by offering living and learning programs that give the student a small college feel in a large university setting. Additionally, we have compartmentalized the campus into geographic pockets we call neighborhoods by decentralizing some key support services, so you don’t have to travel across campus to go to tutoring or the health clinic. Those services are available in each neighborhood. Come see us, and we will be happy to show you around the campus!

Does Your Child Need Help Applying to MSU?

We are super busy now that the Class of 2020 is back in school for senior year. But we’re still accepting students for this college application season. Click here to reserve your spot before our spots fill up.

Have Your Read our Book for Parents?
The only college prep book you’ll need

Success on the essay begins at home. Learn how to support your child with their college essay without taking over in our book for parents, How to Write an Effective College Application Essay: The Inside Scoop for Parents. 

How to Write an Effective College Application Essay is a simple, straightforward guide offering insight from our decades of experience as writers and writing teachers; it provides tips so you can prepare your child to respond to any college application essay question. In the book, we clarify the mixed messages that confuse parents and students, to help families like yours make sense out of the noise surrounding the essay.

Get your copy here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim Lifton can get a story out of anyone writing an effective college application essay
Wow President Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton, President and Founder of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication company, leads a professional team of writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. Kim teaches students how to write application essays for college and graduate school and adults how to write anything that involves the written word (such as books). Recently, she was named a Top Voice in Education by LinkedIn.

Before co-founding Wow, Kim worked as a reporter and communication consultant. Highlights include: Co-producing a PBS documentary about teens and depression, No Ordinary Joe: Erasing the Stigma of Mental Illness; writing “First Class,” a weekly lifestyle column about the area’s most successful businessmen and women for the Detroit Free Press; and creating “A Small Business Adventure,” a 12-part monthly series about the perils and pitfalls of running a small business for the Detroiter Magazine.

 

Top 5 Common App Essay Myths & Facts

Common App
Common App goes live Aug. 1

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

The Common App opens August 1 for the Class of 2019. With that in mind, let’s debunk some of the rumors about the Common App essay (personal statement for college) that often spread like wildfire among the college-bound crowd and their families.

With that in mind, here are our Top 5 college essay myths and facts:

Myth 1: A Common App essay has to be written about an impressive topic.

Fact: The student is impressive, not the college essay topic. The story, not the experience, is most important. Colleges want to know what an applicant has learned, rather than what they did.

One Wow student came to us confident that it was her trip to help the poor in Central America that would stand out in her application essay. Not at all. While brainstorming ideas with a writing coach, she discovered her most important moment during that trip occurred when she overcame her fear of heights by jumping off a cliff into the water.

“What does the experience mean to you?” asked Calvin Wise, the Director of Recruitment for Johns Hopkins University. “That is what we want to know.”

Myth 2: A Common App college essay should sound sophisticated, like Hemingway or a college professor.
Don’t fall victim to the myths! Get the facts!

Fact:  A high school student should sound like a high school student. Not a professor. Or a famous writer.

(Students should) “be themselves,” said Andrea Nadler, Associate Dean of Admission at Hofstra University.  “The college essay should allow us to use our senses to see, feel, taste and experience the kinds of things that are important to these students. If writing about a book they have read, we want to feel like we are in it with them. If writing about a meal they have had, we want to taste it.”

Myth 3: Admissions officers will never know if anyone helped too much with a Common app college essay. They won’t know if the student plagiarized, either.

Fact: There is a fine line between helping your child and writing or over-editing the Common App essay for them. Admissions officers know when someone other than the student writes all or part of a story; they don’t like it.

“If a student has an adult write it, the admissions committee can tell,” said Jim Cotter, Director of Admissions for Michigan State University.

Many schools will automatically reject a student’s application, without an explanation, even if they merely suspect plagiarism.

Myth 4: There is a right way and a wrong way to write a college essay.

Fact:  An applicant’s best story will grow out of the process of writing the Common App essay. To stand out, they must tell a genuine story and show insight.

Despite what you might hear, there are no tricks and no shortcuts. No magic formula. The essay doesn’t need a killer opening line or a tight conclusion. Trust the process; the college essay will emerge through the process of reflection, writing and revision.

“The key is to show genuine passion, commitment and that they have what it takes to survive at the school,” said Lorenzo Gamboa, Senior Associate Director of Admissions for Santa Clara University.

Myth 5: Only superstar students will impress admissions officers with their common app essays.

Fact: Anyone can stand out with a great story in a Common App essay.

An applicant does not need to rescue a child from a house fire or teach an autistic boy how to swim to impress admissions officers. One Wow student wrote about the moment he forgot his cello for an orchestra concert and improvised his performance with a bass guitar. His problem-solving skills impressed admissions officers, and one college sent him an offer of admission that praised his college essay.

“Sometimes students feel that because they haven’t found the cure for cancer, they have nothing to share,” said Jan Deike, Vanderbilt University, Assistant Director of Admissions. “Life is truly lived in the smaller moments, and that can be a powerful essay.”

Learn How to write common app essay for $39
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Wouldn’t it be great to get that Common App essay out of the way? And without breaking the bank? We can help! Sign up for our one-hour video course, and you’ll be good to go. Just $39. Write that essay any time, anywhere…

 

Kim Lifton can get a story out of anyone writing an effective college application essay

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication and writing services company that is a leading expert on the college application essay. Kim, a former journalist, speaks with senior admissions officers from the nation’s most selective colleges all the time. Wow works directly with students, and trains school counselors, English teachers and independent educational consultants who want to improve their essay-coaching skills. Wow also offers professional communication and writing services to businesses and nonprofits.

 

 

 

College Essay Writing Tips from the Admissions Office

By Kim Lifton
President, Wow Writing Workshop

A college application essay is an opportunity to share something meaningful about yourself. Just how you do that could influence admissions committees more than you might know!

At Wow Writing Workshop, we speak all the time to admissions professionals at top universities across the entire country, and we know what they are looking for. One thing’s for sure: They don’t want you to write a story about something you think they want to hear. They do want to read a story you want to share with them. It’s your story. Your voice. Your words.

college essay writing tipsAs Michigan State University Director of Admissions Jim Cotter puts it, the essay is value added. If an adult writes it, the admissions committee can tell.

“At a moderately selective school, it can pull a student on the cusp up,” added Cotter, a 30+-year industry veteran. “At a highly selective school, a poor statement can make the difference between being admitted or not.”

 

Here are a few additional tips direct from admissions offices to help you write an essay that says “wow!” and also improves your chances of getting noticed, and getting in:

college essay writing tipsKeep it simple. “I think sometimes students feel that because they haven’t found the cure for cancer they have nothing to share,” said Vanderbilt University Assistant Director for Undergraduate Admissions Jan Deike. “Life is truly lived in the smaller moments and that can be a powerful essay.”

 

 

Calvin WiseKnow your audience. “There’s a misconception about what we do inside the admissions office. We are trying to predict future potential,” said Johns Hopkins University Senior Associate Director for Undergraduate Admissions Calvin Wise. “The essay is a student’s opportunity to speak directly to the admissions office. We need to dig deeper, and that’s where the essay comes into play. That’s where we find out more about the student.”

 

Understand the prompt. “Answer the question,” said Shawn Felton, Cornell University Director of Undergraduate Admissions. “Since so many students don’t do that, you could actually stand out by doing that very basic thing.”

 

 

lorenzo2Focus on one moment. “Students do not need to compile an entire season into an essay,” according to Lorenzo Gamboa, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Santa Clara University. “Just give us one place, one time, one moment, and that will do it for you. The key is to show genuine passion, commitment and that they have what it takes to survive at the school.”

 

BrentKeep it positive. “What message are you sending to colleges if you write about how much you dislike your father? said Brent Benner, Director of Enrollment Management, University of Tampa. “If this story demonstrates something positive about you, then use it. But be careful. Every kid has had a hardship, but life is about problem solving and conflict resolution. I want to read anything that paints a picture of moxie, drive, determination and courage; those are compelling, and tells me how someone problem-solves.”

Want help NOW with writing college application essays? Find out about our FREE parent program, a do-it-yourself with a little bit of help package, private essay coaching, and professional review services.

 

These College Essays Will Stand Out Inside Admissions Office!

By Kim Lifton

College EssayWhen I swim, I look at the black line at the bottom of the pool and think about my college essay student who also swims. He envisions little people racing along that line. That makes me smile.

At Wow, we’ve been thinking a lot about our students’ stories.  There’s the girl from a busy family in Washington, DC, who relaxed under the stars at summer camp with her best friends.  Read more

Let the 17-year-old Voice Take Center Stage in College Essay

This post by Dr. Rebecca Joseph, who developed the app All College Application Essays, originally appeared in the Huffington Post. Wow collaborates with Dr. Joseph and uses the app – a one-stop tool to help students collect and organize their college application essays – all the time. 

By Dr. Rebecca Joseph

Recently, I saw a private coach inside a Starbucks using a thesaurus to help a high school senior make a college application essay sound “more mature.” Another counselor encouraged one of my students to write about a troubling failure without focusing on the lessons learned. This season, yet another of my students couldn’t explain to me what different sections of her story meant because her tutor, a screenwriter, had added examples into her essay that were unfamiliar to her.

I am tired of watching college applicants disappear as their adult advocates take over.

Admissions officers tell me they desperately want essays written authentically by the applicants, featuring stories, themes, and language that reflect the applicant’s actual writing. Yet college coaches, tutors, counselors and parents at times take the opposite approach. They are over-editing by telling students what words to use and what to write.

My appeals to privilege the teenagers’ voices grow stronger every day of college application season. What message are we sending our young people if we over-edit their essays so much that their originality and authenticity fade away?

It is time to let the 17-year-old voice take center stage.

As a national expert on college application essays, I travel around the country speaking to parents, schools, and communities about college application essays. I work with under-represented students to help encourage them to write application essays that communicate their stories, and I coach more privileged students individually.

No matter what their background, all teens need to learn that they have powerful stories to tell. While they usually don’t have experience writing admissions essays, they can all write powerful essays if provided with brainstorming, drafting, and revising strategies.

Applying to college is an audition process; only the student can set foot on the stage and perform. College application readers look at student’s grades, test scores, and recommendations, as well as essays. They are experts, and they can see disconnects. They can also see the other essays each student writes and can observe wild shifts in style and tone.

Teachers, coaches, parents, do what good mentors and editors do: guide and question, but do not rewrite. If you are reviewing a student’s work, it is important that you understand that colleges do not want to hear your stories or read your mature writing styles. They want to hear fresh stories that reveal the unique experiences of students growing up in their era, not yours.

Also, anyone who helps students should be a mentor and a guide — not a ghostwriter. Drafting essays takes time and is often painful, requiring students to find the allegorical stories that share powerful evidence of how they will enrich a campus. External advice, not rewriting, can be very helpful for your students. Remember, they have never done this sort of writing before. Help them see drafting as an authentic means of sharpening their voices.

And students, please understand that colleges want to hear from you and only you. When they want to hear from an adult, they will ask, usually in the form of a letter of recommendation.

Colleges want to read a story in your voice that tells them about an event or experience, quality or place that reveals what you, and you alone, can offer. What does the experience mean to you? They don’t want manufactured grand stories that would belong in The New Yorker, unless you are a brilliant author who has already been published and who can demonstrate a portfolio of similarly written pieces. The process of thinking about the messages you want to send colleges in your essays can take weeks. There are no shortcuts.

As the holidays and college application deadlines approach, let’s all give admissions offices a gift — essays that enable the applicants’ voices to pop off the page with originality and authenticity.

 Rebecca Joseph is an Associate Professor of Curriculum and Development at California State University, Los Angeles. Dr. Rebecca Joseph believes that college should be an option for all and devotes her teaching, research, presentations, evaluations, and service to helping all students receive a high quality, college ready education. 

Wow Featured on MoneyWatch: 6 Tips to Winning College Scholarships

Tip: Write a scholarship essay that stands out. Susan Knoppow, a cofounder of WOW Writing Workshop has been a judge on many scholarship panels and she notes that most essays that she's read were mediocre. Just like college admission essays, too many of these writing samples are boring and written like a standard high school English paper, which is not what scholarship sponsors want. Sponsors want teenagers to write an entertaining essay with a great opening line that shares the writer's genuine voice.

Read more

Answer Prompt to Stand Out in College Essay!

By Kim Lifton

Shawn Felton, Interim Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Cornell University at NACAC 2013

Last week, I reviewed a student’s “Why College X?” essay for a Big 10 university. The prompt asks applicants to share why the program appeals to them and how the school’s curriculum will support the student’s interests.

This boy’s story focused on the many Saturdays he drove 250 miles from his hometown to the college football stadium with his father, an alumnus. His memories were great; he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps; he felt at home inside the stadium.

Will the admissions team like this story? (Unlikely) Will it stand out? (Probably not) More importantly, does this story answer the question? (No)

Your job on the essay – your only job – is to answer the question.

The “Why College X?” question for any school is not intended to prompt a story about your father, your mother, your obsession with the school mascot or the football team. In general, institutions that ask this type of question want to know how their curriculum, clubs and campus life will support your academic and extracurricular interests.

Will you fit in? Do you have what it takes to graduate from this particular institution? Read this blog post to find out what the University of Michigan prefers, and this one to learn more about what New York University and Kalamazoo College like to read. These tips apply to other universities as well.

What Does Admissions Committee Want?

“Answer the question,” said Cornell University’s Interim Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Shawn Felton, during a recent interview with Wow. “Since so many students don’t do that, you could actually stand out by doing that very basic thing.”

At Wow, we regularly check in with admissions officers from small liberal arts colleges, elite universities and state institutions. Regardless of size, status or essay prompt, they all offer similar tips:

  • Don’t over-think it.
  • Tell us what you want us to know about you; not what you think we want to hear.
  • Answer the prompt honestly with a story about you.
  • Make sure your story is focused and written in your own words and your own voice.

You’ll find all sorts of advice online about writing admissions essays, much of it inaccurate or confusing. As you near the end of your college application process and put the finishing touches on your essays, be careful whose advice you follow, and make sure you know your sources. You can always count on Wow for accurate, timely information, direct from the admissions office.

Kim Lifton is president of Wow Writing Workshop. You can read Kim’s blogs and get useful writing tips by signing up for Wow’s newsletter. Wow is also on Facebook and Twitter. Check our schedule to sign up for webinars and workshops that will help you and your students write great college admissions essays. Remember this: YOU are your perfect college essay subject.