Author: Kim Lifton

5 College Essay Myths & Facts

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop
Don’t believe everything you hear about the college essay!

It’s June, a good time to debunk some of the rumors about the college essay that spread like wildfire among the college-bound crowd and their families. Here are 5 college essay myths and facts to consider before getting started on your college essay.

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

Fact: You are impressive, not the topic. The story, not the experience, is most important. Colleges want to know what you’ve learned, rather than what you did.

One Wow student came to us confident that a trip to help the poor in Central America would stand out. We asked her what she discovered about herself on that trip. Through brainstorming, 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 it mean to you?” asked Calvin Wise, the Director of Recruitment for Johns Hopkins University. “That is what we want to know.”

Myth 2: A college essay should sound sophisticated, like Hemingway or a college professor.

Fact:  You should sound like a high school student. Not a professor or a famous writer. And not like your Mom, Dad, teacher or older sibling!

“They should be themselves,” said Andrea Nadler, associate dean of admission at Hofstra University.  “The 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 college essay. They won’t know if you plagiarized, either.

Fact: There is a fine line between getting help and getting someone else to write it for you. Admissions officers know when someone other than a student writes a story; they don’t like it, and it can hurt you!

College admissions professionals are smart, and they notice trends when they read essays. A few years ago, Erica Sanders, Director of Undergraduate Admissions for the University of Michigan, discovered two essays that sounded the same, word-for-word. Both candidates were rejected immediately without explanation.

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

Fact: Your best story will grow out of the process of writing your college essay.

There are no tricks, and no shortcuts. But the college essay does not need to be so daunting. For a college essay to stand out, tell a genuine story, answer the prompt and show reflection.

“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 college essays.

Fact: Anyone can stand out with a great story!

You do not need to rescue a child from a house fire or teach a boy with autism how to swim to impress admissions officers. In fact, 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.”

Give Yourself the Wow Advantage

Year after year, Wow students get into their top choice colleges, including the Ivies, prestigious liberal arts schools, and the best state universities. With a Wow coach as a guide, you can learn how to write great application essays and become a stronger writer. Reserve your coach now by purchasing 1 Complete Essay Package; that coach can be available to work on as many essays as you need.

college application essay
Wow President Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton, a LinkedIn Top Voices in Education, 2018, is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication company staffed by experts who understand the writing process inside and out. Since 2009, Wow has been leading the industry with our unique approach to communicating any message effectively. The Wow Method helps business and nonprofit leaders create better blogs, manage social media, develop websites and create other communication materials. It also helps students write college application essays, grad school personal statements and resumes that get results. If it involves words, Wow can help.

 

    

 

 

 

5 Things We Learned from Class of ’19

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

Lately, I’ve found myself shutting off the water when I brush my teeth. I try to not run the dishwasher until it is completely full, either.

I got this idea from one of my college application essay students who told me about a life-altering volunteer experience while we brainstormed college essay topics. My student changed her own water consumption habits after a trip to a community without clean running water. I was moved by her story.

As a college application essay writing coach, I have the privilege of finding out how my students think and what they’ve learned. Our entire team feels the same way. Student stories stick with us long after they leave for college.

College application essay
Joe Kane

Senior Writing Coach Joe Kane had never heard of VEX robotics competitions until a student competed in one. Joe became so engrossed in the college application essay story he started watching the world finals competition on YouTube. “They are a blast,” he said.

Over the years, we’ve helped countless students craft meaningful college application essays they are proud of, no matter the topic.

5 more reasons to love our college application essay students
  • “When I encouraged a student to point her college application essay in a new direction, she (respectfully) said no. I complimented her for her strength and confidence, and together we found a way to save the material she felt was most important, while revising the essay to demonstrate her positive characteristics.” Susan Knoppow
  • college application essay
    David Bersell

    “I try to acknowledge that applying to college and trying to express yourself in writing can be stressful. Meeting a student where they are is more beneficial than pushing them to be someone they’re not.” David Bersell

  • “I learned a new word from one of my students who spoke English as a second language. The word was “bosk,” and it means a thicket of bushes. I think she landed on such an interesting word because she would write her first college application essay drafts in Chinese and then translate them into English. It’s such a simple, lovely word, and it was perfect for her story. I’m excited to add it to my lexicon.” Joe Kane
  • “I had a student who wanted to make a case in his college application essay for a broken Electoral College. I pulled out all of my tried-and-true techniques, peppering him with questions during our brainstorm session to move him toward something personal and away from an intellectual argument. He nailed it. He made a controversial essay topic work in a way that amazed me when he focused on himself and shared insight.” Kim Lifton
  • “When I told a student who wanted to build his essay around being born September 11 that his idea was too clever (and not really relevant), he trusted me, jumped back in and wrote a stand-out piece about creating a political club from scratch at his high school. And he did it by showing us the day he received the club’s new T-shirts.” Susan Knoppow
    college application essay
    Wow CEO Susan Knoppow

    Year after year, Wow students get into their top choice colleges. This year was no exception. The majority of our students were admitted to their top choice schools, including the Ivies, prestigious liberal arts schools, and the best state universities.

Congratulations to the Class of 2019! You deserve to stand out and get noticed, too, with meaningful college application essays. We’d love to help!

What’s your story? We cannot wait to hear it!

 Give Your Child the Wow College application essay Advantage

Our skilled college application essay writing coaches book up quickly each season. We would be happy to save a spot for you now, and you can start your essay later. With a Wow coach as a guide, you can learn how to write great application essays and become a stronger writer.

Reserve your private writing coach now by purchasing 1 Complete Essay Package; you can start working on your essay as soon as you are ready – after AP tests, prom, when school gets out, or over the summer. Your coach will be available to work on as many essays as you need. Click here to reserve your spot.

About the Author
college application essay
Wow President Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton, a LinkedIn Top Voices in Education, 2018, is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication company staffed by experts who understand the writing process inside and out. Since 2009, Wow has been leading the industry with our unique approach to communicating any message effectively. The Wow Method helps business and nonprofit leaders create better blogs, manage social media, develop websites and create other communication materials. It also helps students write college application essays, grad school personal statements and resumes that get results. If it involves words, Wow can help.

 

 

 

Trust Yourself During the Journey to College

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop 

At Wow, before we start working with our students, we tell them:  Trust yourself! This is your journey, so own the process. When you are done, you will be a more confident, empowered writer, ready for college and your future.

We want to share the message with you. It does not matter where your story takes place, how large or small it is, or what you experienced. You matter. Why you did something matters. What you learned matters. How it changed or affected you matters.

Trust yourself.

Answer any college application essay prompt with a story illustrating the trait you want to share in a way that shows how you think, offers insight into your character and helps admissions teams round out your application package. You should trust your own words, style and voice.

Every year, we work with students who tell us they cannot write; they don’t believe in themselves. We know better. We challenge them to follow our approach. It works. Every time. Why? With instructions, anyone can learn how to write. Think you can’t write?Nonsense.

If you can think, you can write

Meet David, who was one of many students who lacked the confidence to write his essay when he started the college admissions process. Applying to college was stressful; writing the essays paralyzed him. He came to Wow convinced he just couldn’t write.

David had good grades in math and English, and scored well on the ACT. He spoke clearly and articulately. He had good reasons for wanting to study business in college. The boy who said he could not write was a sports reporter for his high school newspaper (and an exceptional varsity hockey player).

Like so many students feeling pressure to get into college, David’s fear of writing this essay prevented him from getting the job done.

“Can you think?” we asked him.

“Um, yes,” he said.

“Well, then, you can write.”

If you can think, you can write, too.

What matters to you? Why does it matter?

We talked about what mattered to David, and why. Why did he want to go to college? What did he want admissions to know about him? What made him tick? He said everyone thought of him as a gifted hockey player. But he had another side few could see. He was kind and compassionate, with a soft spot for special needs children. That, he said, would be a nice thing for colleges to know.

We brainstormed ideas based on what David wanted colleges to know about him. David was afraid to write about hockey. “Everyone” told him not to write about sports. We explained that a college essay was not about an experience; it was about him – his insight into the experience, any experience. If David had a story about sports that demonstrated his kindness and compassion, then it might work.

In the end, David focused his essay on the moment his cousin with Down Syndrome, who regularly attended his hockey games, held up a homemade sign to cheer him on during a game. “I just wanted to score one for my cousin,” David said.

Show insight and share something meaningful

David’s story about his relationship with his disabled cousin turned into an insightful essay that illustrated something meaningful to David that colleges would never have known about him. He used it for two different college applications. It was his genuine story, his idea, and no one else could possibly duplicate it. He was admitted to both schools.

That night, David’s mom called. She had never seen her son this excited about anything other than girls or sports. He finally believed he could write.

David listened to his writing voice, and he liked what he heard.

You can do the same.

Trust yourself during your journey to college.

Give Your Child the Wow Advantage

Year after year, Wow students get into their top choice colleges, including the Ivies, small liberal arts schools, and large public universities. With a Wow coach as a guide, your child can learn how to write great application essays and become a stronger writer. Reserve your coach now by purchasing 1 Complete Essay Package; that coach can be available to work on as many essays as you need. 

Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication and writing services company with a team of professional writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. Kim helped create the company’s signature Wow Method, which has been used by students to write application essays and resumes; by business owners to create blogs, websites and other communication materials; and by English teachers to improve student writing skills.  You can email Kim any time at Kim@wowwritingworkshop.com. 

Top College Essay Writing Tips From The Admissions Office

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

Last fall, during the National Association of College Admission Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, Duke University Dean of Admissions Christoph Guttentag told me he would like students to answer questions, rather than write beautiful prose in a college admissions essay. He and I had been chatting about all the misinformation on the Internet, inside the schools and elsewhere about the essay when he shared this insight.

The hook gets in the way; the writing gets in the way
Christoph Guttentag, Duke

After I told him I was a journalist before starting this company, he shared that he has an ongoing disagreement with his wife (also a journalist) about the college essay. She thinks college admissions essays should resemble gorgeous prose; Guttentag just wants the students to write the essays themselves – and show some reflection.

“Students are often so focused on writing beautiful pieces of prose that they fail to answer the question and do not write authentic, meaningful personal statements,” he said. The hook gets in the way; the writing gets in the way.”

At Wow, we talk to college admissions officers like Guttentag all the time. Whether they work at large, small, public, private or Ivy schools, admissions representatives tell us time and again they want reflective stories written by the student, in the voice of a 17-year-old student.

Colleges use essays to find out if a student is compatible with the educational environment on their campus. They want to know how a student thinks, what they’ve learned, how they’ve grown. Will they add value to the campus? Will they fit in? The essay provides admissions with additional insight to help them make admissions decision.

Your job is to write a college essay that colleges will want to read and will help you make an impression on your reader. We can teach you how!

Meanwhile, here are some more tips direct from college admissions offices throughout the U.S.

Heath Einstein, Dean of Admission, Texas Christian University

Don’t get hung up on the right topic. Most 17-year-olds haven’t scaled Kilimanjaro, so don’t worry about finding an angle that hasn’t been tried before. Write about what you know. If the most meaningful experience to you has been serving as a camp counselor, it doesn’t matter that other students have addressed it. People will try to talk you out of certain ideas, but trust your gut. Ultimately, be yourself, and that will be good enough.”

Tamara Siler, Senior Associate Director of Admission & Coordinator of Minority Recruitment, Rice University

“Sometimes an essay can be the conduit for a student to reveal something to the admission committee that we would never have thought to ask. In terms of selective admission, personal statements are very important in adding needed texture to an application file. Quantitative factors such as transcripts and test scores only tell part of the story; a personal statement can provide context and truly show why a certain student is a better match than other clearly capable applicants.”

Chandra Mitchell, Interim Director of Freshman and International Admissions, University of Florida

Admissions is competitive. Having a strong essay that stands out is important. Tell a story from your life, and demonstrate your character. It is your story, and we want you to speak in your own voice. Make it unique to you. If you want to impress us with content, you don’t have to use big words.”

Shawn Felton, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Cornell University

“What are we looking for? We are creating a class.  We look at numbers, grades and test scores. But there’s more to it. We are trying to put a face with all of this information.”

Gregory Sneed, Vice President for Enrollment Management, Denison University

“Even after reviewing a mediocre transcript or seeing a limited activities list, I can be swayed to admit a student who writes an essay who really blows me away. The topic of the essay doesn’t need to be mind-blowing (in fact, the most mundane topics are often the most relatable and enjoyable), but if it reveals someone who would be highly valued in our campus community, that could tip the scales.”

Leonard Satterwhite, Senior Associate Dean of Admissions, Washington & Lee University

“How authentic is the voice in the writing? What issues does the student tackle in the essay? Is the writing memorable, and does it illuminate vividly the student’s personality, perspective and/ or background? Does the writing reveal deep intellect and the potential to be an academic leader at W&L?”

Jan Deike, Vanderbilt University, Assistant Director of Admissions

“Sometimes students feel that because they haven’t found the cure for cancer, they have nothing to share.  Life is truly lived in the smaller moments, and that can be a powerful essay.”

Robert Springall, Vice President for Enrollment Management, Muhlenberg University

“At Muhlenberg, we use the essay to get a better sense of the person behind the application. For strong students, it helps us gauge potential fit with one of our honors programs and eligibility for scholarships. For candidates in the middle of the applicant pool, the essay can help us form better impressions of an applicant’s potential to excel at Muhlenberg.”

Kim Bryant, University of Michigan, Assistant Director of Admissions

“This is your interview. Let me know who you really are.”

Our Gift to You: Our Book for parents
We know what you don't! Get a Wow coach now to help your child write a college essay that will get him into college!
There’s Susan Knoppow with our paperback books, written just for parents!

At last. A guide that brings parents into the college application essay process, rather than pushing them away!  And it’s free to you for a limited time only.

How to Write an Effective College Application Essay: The Inside Scoop for Parents is for moms, dads, grandparents and other adults who want to help their children get into the colleges of their dreams. Parents approach us all the time, asking for help understanding college admission essays. They want to guide their children, but they’re not sure how. They are tired of being told, Back off; it’s not your journey!

Parents can – and should – help. And the task doesn’t have to be so daunting. As national experts on writing and application essays, with access to top admission officers from around the country, Lifton and Knoppow have answers.

Get a free electronic copy of our book here. You can purchase a paperback for $9.99 on Amazon.com.

Kim Lifton, a 2018 Top Voice in Education, LinkedIn, is President of Wow. We are 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 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!

Everything You Need to Know About Student Loans (and DEBT!)

By Andrew Rombach
LendEDU
Guest Blogger for Wow

If you’re getting ready to apply to college, chances are good you have a few questions about the rising cost of college student loans.

  • How much will college really cost?
  • Do I really need a loan? What about scholarships?
  • What types of loans are available?
  • Should I get a private loan or a federal loan?
  • When do I have to start paying my loans back?

The cost of college has risen significantly over the years, and loans can be a helpful tool to combat the rising costs of tuition at every type of schools across the country.  There are a variety of student loan options available.

It can be confusing trying to understand student loans, but there are ways to sort through the muddled information. There are plenty of resources and ways to get help while you are still in high school.

First, make sure you get accurate information because student loan debt is a real thing for more than 40 million students. Trying to keep track of the various loan types, repayment options, and servicers can be overwhelming.

 where to  find the help you need

Your High School Guidance Counselor. Reach out to your guidance counselors with questions. Part of their job is to help you succeed when it comes to preparing for college. You school may even have a dedicated college counselor who would be a perfect source for help.

 College Financial Aid Counselors. Contact the financial aid department at your target college(s). School counselors specialize in financial aid, so they should be well-versed on the subject. They may also know specifics pertaining to your specific college. Most financial aid departments have websites with a list of frequently asked questions and answers. These FAQs are a great place to look if you have any questions. You may be able to get answers without having to reach out to an individual.

Independent Online Resources. There are a host of websites and organizations that literally specialize in producing helpful guides and resources. Many of these websites can be found by simply searching a question online, offering access to a wide variety of educational resources and answers. However, keep in mind that these are third-party online sources. They may not be able to offer face-to-face, tailored information such as a counselor. Their strength in flexibility and brevity may also be a weakness in terms of providing specific and helpful answers.

Student loans can be confusing, but they don’t need to be. With a little research and some initiative, you can get all your questions answered—before you get overwhelmed.

About our Guest Blogger
Andrew Rombach

Andrew Rombach, a content associate from LendEDU , a consumer education website & resource,  has been paying off his own student loans since graduating from college in 2016. He’s learned plenty of helpful tips along the way! 

About Wow Writing Workshop

Wow Writing Workshop is a strategic writing and communication company staffed by 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 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!

 

Top Secrets From Financial Aid Pro

By Jodi Okun

Wow Writing Workshop
Jodi Okun

Are your families worried about paying for college? Are they confused about securing the best financial aid packages? They are not alone.

Regardless of income or financial circumstances, most parents have one of these concerns:

  • They make too much to qualify for aid.
  • They make too little to afford college at all.

No matter what their financial situation, there are plenty of opportunities to help them pay for college. Before starting the search, they need to understand how financial aid works, whether they’ll qualify for any – and know where to turn for help when it gets confusing.

Managing college financial aid strategies – from scholarships to work study jobs to student loans – is challenging. But it does not need to be overwhelming for your parents and students.

I begin the process by asking parents to answer these three questions:

  1. How can you afford college for your child?
  2. How can you navigate this complicated financial aid system?
  3. And how will you make the best decisions for your family?

While no single answer is right for everyone, you’ll be able to help them find an answer that is right for them. I help parents navigate the process, but I cannot give them a step-by-step manual of what to do; I would need to update that manual daily. Useful information will help them move in the right direction to secure the funding they’ll need for their child’s post-secondary education.

Meanwhile, encourage them to try to stay calm, and to not let fear get the best of them. You know that college is a lot of work, and it costs a lot of money. But most parents and students I know feel that a college degree is well worth the effort.

Jodi’s Top 3 Tips to Help Navigate Financial Aid Process
  1. Start early 

    Don’t wait till senior year before making financial plans. If you do, you’ll be limiting your options. The more information you acquire early, the better off you will be.

  2. Involve Your Child in the Process

    I’ve seen parent exclude their students from the financial aid decision-making process, and then turn around and complain that their child doesn’t understand anything about money. Everyone involved should know the facts behind the decisions made; it helps them understand how to be financially responsible.

  3. Maximize free money

    Use scholarships, grants, and other awards that don’t need to be paid back.

About the Author

Jodi Okun, founder of College Financial Aid Advisors and a former financial aid consultant at Occidental and Pitzer colleges, has helped thousands of families successfully navigate the financial aid process, no matter what their financial situation. She is the bestselling author of Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro, and is recognized by the Huffington Post and other media outlets as a top social media influencer. She blogs, speaks to industry and parent groups, and hosts #CollegeCash Twitter chats that connect families with higher education professionals – and receive more than 10,000 impressions each week! Wow’s Kim Lifton has been a frequent #CollegeCash guest.

About Wow Writing Workshop

Wow is a strategic communication company, working with students, businesses, nonprofits and individuals who want to communicate their messages effectively to any audience.  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 English teachers to improve student writing skills. We can even help you write a great blog, presentation or book to market your company. If it involves words, Wow can help! For more information, email Kim Lifton at Kim@wowwritingworkshop.com or visit Wow business services.

 

NYU Med School Offers Full-Tuition Scholarships to All Students

Inside Higher Ed’s Scott Jaschik reports that New York University‘s medical school in August stunned the world of medical education with the news that it had raised enough money to offer full-tuition scholarships to all students (more than 400 across classes) going forward.

While other medical schools have been moving to reduce tuition paid by students (and the debt many of them accrue), the NYU effort was the largest and most dramatic to date. With the tuition sticker price at NYU topping $55,000 (similar to the tuition of other top private medical schools), the question for many was whether NYU, already seen as a leading medical school with no shortage of applicants, would see significant gains in its applicant pool.

The answer is an unqualified yes.

Total applications to NYU’s medical school increased by 47 percent, to 8,932.

But another key factor is who is applying.

After NYU’s announcement, the medical school was criticized by many who said that the move would help those who are wealthy (or who with an M.D. would quickly get wealthy). An essay in Slate said, “While it’s hard to fault a school for offering its students a free education, this dramatic gesture is, at best, a well-intentioned waste — an expensive, unnecessary subsidy for elite medical grads who already stand to make a killing one day as anesthesiologists and orthopedic surgeons. It would be a pity if other top medical schools decided to imitate it, rather than use their resources in other, more helpful ways that might solve more of the problems NYU claims to be worried about.”

There is no telling yet what those eventually admitted to NYU will do in medicine, but there is evidence that the shift this year is significantly increasing the diversity of the applicant pool.

NYU Med saw a 102 percent increase, to 2,020, in applications from those who are a member of a group that is underrepresented in medicine (including black, Latino and Native American students). The largest percentage increase was among those who identify as African American, black, or Afro-Caribbean. Applications from this group went up 142 percent, to 1,062.

Medical schools have pushed for years to attract a more diverse student body, and have in some respects succeeded. But the biggest gains in recent years have been among Asian Americans, and black enrollments have largely been stagnant, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Medical School Matriculants, Percentages by Race

Group 1980 2016
American Indian and Alaska Native 0.4% 0.3%
Asian 4.0% 21.3%
Black 6.0% 7.1%
Latino 4.9% 6.3%
White 83.7% 51.5%

Experts on medical education have repeatedly cited the high debt that many medical students must take on. Historically, many medical schools have assumed that graduates could earn substantial sums after they start practicing. While this assumption has been criticized for years for discouraging medical graduates from working in important, nonlucrative fields (general medicine in low-income areas, for example), many experts now say debt levels are too high for just about everyone.

According to the AAMC, among those who graduated from medical school in 2017, the average debt was $181,179 for those who attended public medical schools and $190,694 for those who attended private institutions.

The New Yorker reported last year on the increasing number of African Americans who are opting to study medicine in Cuba, where they do not pay tuition.

The application numbers at NYU raise the question of whether other medical schools will follow suit.

An October survey of medical school admissions leaders by Kaplan Test Prep found widespread praise for NYU’s move, but relatively few institutions saying that they would follow it. More than two-thirds (68 percent) say they have no plans to adopt a similar tuition-free policy over the next five to 10 years; 4 percent say they do plan to adopt a similar program. The rest aren’t sure. The Kaplan survey did find that a majority of medical schools said that they were worried about student debt levels and were increasing financial aid. But many called the NYU plan “unrealistic” for institutions without the donor base of NYU or a few other institutions.

Of course what remains to be seen is whether NYU has a higher yield of its top applicants.

C. Michael Gibson, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, is among those who have been using social media to test the power of NYU’s free tuition offer. The results may not be scientific, but they suggest NYU may have a strong yield this year.

If you are applying to medical school, you will need to write at least one personal statement. Wow can help. Click Medical School Personal Statement to learn more. 

Prep for the Journey to College

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

This is the time of year many high school juniors (and even sophomores!) start to get nervous about the journey to college. Seniors are either done, or at the end of the college admissions process; some have been admitted to their dream schools, while others were deferred or rejected. College talk is all the rage.
The journey to college can be overwhelming. Confusing. Distressing. But there’s no need to panic. We want you and your parents to get through this process with minimal stress.

Here’s our No. 1 tip to help you start preparing for this exciting journey to college: Writing a college essay is all about reflection. You need to learn how to reflect!

How to Reflect

Despite what you might believe, writing is not the most challenging part of the essay. The tough part comes at the beginning, when we ask our students what matters to them and why. We suggest you explore how you exhibit your most significant traits or characteristics at the beginning of the journey to college. That’s the first step toward reflection.

We know that most high school students spend a lot of time thinking and talking about friends, moving out of the house, figuring out life, choosing a career and deciding which college to attend. If you can take the time to reflect on your life experiences before the next admission cycle starts in late spring, you will be better prepared for the last phase of this journey to college. Colleges want to know what’s important to you and why.

good news for you

You are more than ready for this challenge.

At Wow, when we help our students reflect and focus up front, the rest of the process moves much more smoothly. Too many students start in the wrong place. They come to us full of ideas about topics, with little consideration of the essay’s purpose.

All too often, students look for activities that might lead to stories, and they waste a lot of time talking about their experiences and their accomplishments. When they do this, they do not answer the prompt, which, no matter how it’s worded, is really asking students to show some insight into those experiences or accomplishments. That’s reflection.

No matter what you do, please start at the beginning of the process – a conversation with a parent, friend, favorite teacher. They know what’s amazing about you; let them help you figure this out.

What are you waiting for?
Everything you need to get started on your college essay!

We wrote a book that is full of tips to teach you how to reflect. In fact, Chapter 2, Understanding the Prompts, delves deep into that topic. You can order a copy of How to Write an Effective College Application Essay, the Inside Scoop for Students on Amazon.com. It’s just $9.99 – and we’ll gift you a free eBook with your paperback purchase! (You’ll also see a link to our companion book for your parents or other favorite adults.)

If you can reflect, you will be ready to continue the process of discovery – and will be prepared to write those essays this spring or summer.

About the author
Kim Lifton can get a story out of anyone writing an effective college application essay
Wow President Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton, named one of 10 LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Education, 2018 , is President of Wow Writing Workshop,  a strategic communication company staffed by experts who understand the writing process inside and out. Since 2009, Wow has been leading the industry with our unique approach to communicating any message effectively. Click the Wow Method to find out how we help students write college application essays, grad school personal statements and resumes that get results. We also help business and nonprofit leaders create better blogs, manage social media, develop websites and create other communication materials.  If it involves words, Wow can help.

 

Top Tips to Trim College Application Essay

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

Get College Essay Review Tips from Wow

Early applications to college are in, and now many students are scrambling to finish personal statements and essay supplements for regular admissions, beginning Jan. 1.

Whether you are writing a personal statement for the Common App, Coalition App, or a supplement for an Ivy, private liberal arts college or public university, make sure you follow the directions and stick to the word count!

Recently, I reviewed a student’s personal statement for the Common App that he assumed was ready for a final edit; it was 1,560 words –that is 910 words above the 650-word limit. He did not think he could cut his story, and he did not think it mattered. Yes, it matters.

We read and suggest cuts to our students’ essays every day, and we’ve never seen a personal statement or supplemental essay weakened by the editing process.

While some admissions insiders say limits are strictly enforced, others suggest a few words too many will not make a difference. In any case, it’s not worth the risk. Just answer the question within the specified word count, and you will not need to doubt yourself.

6 Tips for trimming your college essays
  1. Circle or highlight all adverbs. Take them out. These include “very” and many “ly” words, such as really, extremely, completely and absolutely.
  2. Look for a single word or short phrase followed by a comma. These include because of this, in fact, first, last, hopefully, to be frank, quite frankly and in conclusion. Highlight the words or phrases, then read the sentences without them. Take out the ones that do not enhance your story.
  3. Delete helping verbs. Example: Replace “is going to be attending” with “will attend.”
  4. Delete to be verbs. Rather than saying “I am a voracious reader,” try “I read voraciously.”
  5. Circle “transition” words and phrases used to begin a sentence, such as “similarly,” “as such” or “moreover.” Take out the ones that do not enhance your story.
  6. Turn some nouns into verbs: “I concluded” is better than “I came to the conclusion.”

After trimming that essay, there’s one more thing to do before clicking send: review it! Would you like a professional review to make sure it is ready to submit to college?

Wow’s trained writing coaches pay attention to factors that admissions officers tell us matter to them, like reflection, theme and flow. We know how to help untangle that messy essay. We also make sure all the “I”s are dotted and “t”s are crossed.

About the author
Kim Lifton can get a story out of anyone writing an effective college application essay
Wow President Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton, named one of 10 LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Education, 2018 , is President of Wow Writing Workshop,  a strategic communication company staffed by experts who understand the writing process inside and out. Since 2009, Wow has been leading the industry with our unique approach to communicating any message effectively. Click the Wow Method to find out how we help students write college application essays, grad school personal statements and resumes that get results. We also help business and nonprofit leaders create better blogs, manage social media, develop websites and create other communication materials.  If it involves words, Wow can help.

 

 

Don’t Ruin Thanksgiving? Untangle that Messy Essay Before Admissions Deadlines

By Kim Lifton
Wow President

Get those college essays done; survive!
Untangle that Messy Essay

The clock is ticking for students applying to school for next fall as the regular college admissions deadlines loom.

Are your essays stressing you out? Are they done? Do the essays you’ve already written look messy? Or is something missing from the story?

We don’t want your college application journey to ruin Thanksgiving. Want to feel calm and have a peaceful home for the holidays? Pay close attention!

Key is knowing that at its core, the college essay is all about reflection. And we’re giving you some tips so you can master the college essay with meaningful content. We know it is arguably the most daunting task of the application process, and we’d prefer to give you some peace of mind.

How do you do that? First, make sure you understand why students asked to write essays, and know what you can do, and what your parents should not do, to help.

We talk to admissions officers from every type of college all the time, and they tell us the same thing over and over. They use the essays to:

  • Find out something that is meaningful to the student and is not apparent in the rest of the application package.
    • Gain insight into an applicant’s character.
    • See if the student is a good fit for the university.

“There’s a misconception about what we do inside the admissions office,” cautioned Calvin Wise, Johns Hopkins University’s Director of Recruitment. “We are trying to predict future potential. We need to dig deeper where the essay comes into play. That’s where we find out more about the student.”

The admissions essay is an opportunity to support a student’s application – to help you show who you are. It is a chance to speak directly to the admissions office.

Make sure those essays are written by you, not your mom or dad, sister, or another well-meaning adult. Wise (and every admissions officer we’ve ever asked) says he can tell when essays are over-edited or written by someone else.

Christoph Guttentag, the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions for Duke University has similar advice. He would love to see more personal statements that are authentic.

“By the time the application comes to us, many of them have gone through so many hands that the essays are sanitized,” Guttentag said. “I wish I saw more of a thoughtful voice of a 17 year-old.”

Your parents love you and you have a vested stake in your success. So their role is critical. The best gift they can give you is helping you reflect so you are prepared to write a thoughtful answer to any type of essay prompt.

You might have a vision and ideas, but you will need to be willing to be surprised and open to ending up somewhere you didn’t expect. Tell your parents to allow themselves to be surprised, too. Their job is to be supportive; that’s it!

Make sure your Mom’s voice does not show up in the essay. Tell Dad to leave it alone. Any adult who is guiding you should drop the word “editing” from their vocabulary. They are reviewers, not editors. This is a challenging distinction. It means they should sit on their hands and hide their red pens.

Wherever you are in the process, we would love to add you to our list of success stories. Our students get into their top choice colleges, year after year. You should too. We’ll give your essay a professional review to make sure it is ready to submit. We know how to help untangle that messy essay.

Have a peaceful Thanksgiving.