Author: Kim Lifton

Want Money for College? Write a Compelling Scholarship Essay

Last week, Wow’s Kim Lifton interviewed homeless women at the Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS) using the same principles our college-bound students use to write their college and scholarship essays. COTS will use the stories to make this year’s annual report more appealing to supporters and prospective donors.

What does this have to do with you and other college-bound high school students?

Whether you are writing an essay for a $250 college scholarship from the local rotary club or to secure a full ride to the university of your dreams, you need to sell yourself to scholarship decision makers in the same way COTS needs to sell itself to donors. Beyond good grades and test scores, how do you do that?

Think about this: A compelling story about a homeless person who turned his or her life around with the help of COTS might hook a new donor. Similarly, a compelling story about you might hook a scholarship committee so you get some cash for college.

If you’re feeling stuck, contact Wow Writing Workshop. Wow’s  writing coaches are ready to help you compose a great story about you so you can wow your audience and secure some financial help for college.

Young Writers Inspire Wow Founders

As the sixth graders entered the computer lab for Wow’s blogging workshop last week, three boys  sunk into their chairs with long, sullen faces. They were upset; each wished he had been placed in radio personality Mike Stone’s sports writing session. They were not interested in blogging.

Wow’s Susan Knoppow and I, along with an impressive group of local professionals, were at Hillel Day School for the first annual Real Life Writers’ Conference. Susan taught two sessions on how to craft a memorable greeting card, Mike taught them how to create a 40-second sports radio spot, and I introduced them to the world of blogging.

I looked at the boys slouching in the front row. “You can blog about sports,” I told them. “I am sure Mike Stone’s class will be great, but you can write about sports in many different ways.”

I asked the students what they like about writing.  To my surprise, just one boy out of the dozen participants said “nothing.” (We had to peel him away from the computer at the end of the session because he wanted to write more.)  One boy said he liked to write because it was creative; a girl said she liked writing as a tool to express herself. These kid were excited. I was blown away.

Together, we looked at three blogs (sports, fashion and music) written by teens. Then, one by one, the kids talked about their own  blog ideas: music, theater, travel, reading, politics, soccer, hockey. By the end of the session, each student had written a first draft of a blog, complete with fantastic details.

One of the boys who pouted because he was not in the sports session included scary details about a moment during a hockey game when a player got kicked off the ice for chasing him with a hockey stick. A girl who likes musical theater described how it felt being on stage, and a boy who likes superheroes created a new one in his own name.

Thank you to Hillel’s sixth grade teachers Lauren Sterling and Marjorie Jablin for believing in your students and giving them the tools to write – and to like it! Your young writers inspired us.

Want a Scholarship? Apply by Nov. 1

Looking for college funds? Want to be considered for a merit scholarship?

Many schools (including the University of Michigan and Michigan State University) recommend you get your application in by Nov. 1 to be considered for competitive scholarship review. Your application for admission serves as your application for merit scholarships as well.

The MSU website says: Michigan State University uses rolling admission; however, the number of qualified applicants has exceeded available space in recent years. For maximum scholarship consideration, seniors should apply by November 1. (Students applying after November 1 may qualify for scholarships if funds are still available.)

Nov. 1 is also the early action deadline for U of M, and the date to be considered for merit scholarships.

Need last minute help finishing up those essays? Contact Wow Writing Workshop for a professional review before you click send.

Tell Us YOUR Story

Recently,  a student sent us an admissions essay for the Ross School of Business undergraduate program at the University of Michigan. He talked about the building, and said he got this feeling that he just belonged there.

We asked him why he thought he belonged there, and we kept peppering him with questions until something specific came up in the conversation.  He couldn’t recall a single business idea he had as a child, and he wasn’t sure what type of business he dreamed of running. But he was sure he had the smarts and the know-how to learn – plus he was already doing the job of CFO for his youth group.

Aha. That was his story. He first realized he had skills and interests that would serve him well in the business world while overseeing the finances of this organization. He helped build up the group’s savings account, managed the checkbook, tracked expenses and assets, made sure every cent was accounted for.

Turns out, he did have a story to tell, and it was  specific. There is no magic window to peer through and get inside the admissions officer’s head to find the perfect essay topic. There is no perfect story to tell. But you do need to tell a story about you, and it has to be in your voice.

We don’t have any secret access either; no one does. But we listen to what admissions officers say, and we talk to them.  They want stories. They want to know who you are. They want you to show them who you are with compelling stories written in your own words, in your own voice. You don’t have to survive cancer or climb a mountain to have something real to share.

At Wow, we help our students focus on meaningful moments that illustrate what they want readers to know about them. Our business school prospect wanted to show he was smart and ready to succeed in business school.  He told the story of doing a finance job to illustrate his point. It was focused and poignant – far better than the story about the building and feeling like he belonged there. The specific story caught our eye.

So remember: People love to hear stories, real stories – not generic statements.  Tell us about YOU. Admissions teams want to know you too.

    Writing We Love: Joseph Lichterman

    Michigan Daily News Editor Joseph “Yossi” Lichterman put a local spin on the Egyptian conflict last week, and we LOVE how he told the story.

    Using a straight news approach, he made a complex story easy to understand. It is clear Yossi knew his audience; he interviewed university experts who helped him localize an international story for college students.

    “University experts say the ultimate outcome of the conflict is ambiguous at this point and that the protests in Cairo could prove to have greater effects by possibly sparking riots in other countries in the region,” he wrote before quoting the university’s provost for international affairs as well as a lecturer in the communications department.

    Knowing your audience is a critical component of any writing task. In this case, Lichterman was writing for college students. College essays need to be written for college admissions officers. Thanks, Yossi, for illustrating good writing and the importance of knowing your audience.


    TODAY: Optimist Essay Contest Deadline

    The deadline for Royal Oak Optimist Club’s essay contest is today, Jan. 31. See the link below for information on writing and submitting essays.

    This year’s topic is “How my Education is the Key to a Successful Future?” Contestants must submit a written 700-800 word essay on that topic to the Royal Oak Optimist Club: c/o Jason Parrott 412 Edmund Royal Oak, MI 48073.

    Good luck.

    Essay contest