Author: Kim Lifton

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.

Is Your Child’s College Essay Good to Go?

By Kim LiftoN
President
Wow Writing Workshop
Get a college essay review now
The November college admission deadline is just around the corner.

It’s Nov. 1, or deadline day for early decision and early action college applications! Have you done a thorough  review of your child’s college essay? Do you think their college essay is good?

This time of year, parents, counselors and professionals sometimes overstep their roles in the college essay review process. Everyone means well, but it can be tempting to suggest too much or to over-edit. No worries. We’re going to share our simple approach to handle a college essay review the right way, and on a tight deadline.

How to Do a college essay Review

Begin the college essay review process by letting go of any preconceived notions about what makes a good essay. We suggest replacing the word “good” with the word “effective.” It’s important to let your child write their story in their own voice using their own words.

There is no rubric for an effective college essay, but the ones that stand out all share a few common features. Regardless of the prompt, they:

  • Answer the question.
  • Showcase a positive trait or characteristic.
  • Sound like a high school student.
  • Illustrate something meaningful about the student.
  • Demonstrate reflection.

You will know if an essay is effective if it has a theme, which answers these two questions:

  1. What happened?
  2. Why does it matter?

We recommend reading without a red pen in hand, and without your hands on the computer keyboard. Just read. Make sure you know what the essay is about and why the student chose this topic. Then ask two key questions:

  • Is anything missing?
  • Is the college essay’s purpose clear?

When you review, double-check the prompt. If the prompt asks the writer to reflect on an experience and its influence on them, be sure your child has talked about both the experience and its effect.

Use the essay review checklist below to evaluate a traditional personal statement, such as the Common Application essay, the Coalition application, the University of California personal insight questions, ApplyTexas or any primary prompt from schools that use their own applications.

College Essay Review Checklist
Content Review
  • Does the essay answer the prompt?
  • Can you tell why the writer chose this topic?
  • Is the essay about the student, or is it really about the place, person or experience featured in the essay?
  • Does it illustrate a trait the student wants to share with colleges?
  • Does it tell colleges something meaningful about the writer that is not clear from the rest of the application package?
  • Does the essay sound like the person who wrote it?
 Structure Review
  • Does the first paragraph make you want to keep reading?
  • Does the essay move smoothly from beginning to end?
Polish Review
  • Does the essay use the same verb tense throughout?
  • Has the writer avoided sentence fragments and run-on sentences?
  • Is the punctuation correct and consistent?
  • Is every word spelled correctly?
  • Does the student feel confident and proud of the work?

That’s it. No magic. No special tricks.

If you would like a professional to review your child’s essay before submitting any application, we’ll read it carefully and offer specific instructions to help them make the deadline. Just submit the essay(s) before noon on Nov. 1, click “rush”, and you’ll get it back by 8 p.m.

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

 

 

 

 

Nail the U-C Personal Insight Questions

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

Nail the U-C personal insight questions. Just $39!

These days, applying to college is more competitive than ever!

Good grades and test scores aren’t enough to land a spot at a top college. But standout essays that answer 4 of the 8 University of California personal insight questions can send your application to the top of the pile.  We talk to admissions officers all the time, and we know what they’re looking for in an answer to any of the personal insight questions. It doesn’t have to be so daunting.

Joe Kane

Our College Essay Crash Course, University of California, is taught by Senior Writing Coach Joe Kane; it’s   designed to simplify the writing process, while giving you the confidence you’ll need to write genuine, meaningful answers to the personal insight questions that will get attention where it matters most — inside the University of California admissions office.

You’ll Get:
  • Step-by-step writing instructions
  • No-nonsense advice
  • Insight from our years of experience
  • Simple writing assignments
You’ll Learn:How to find a great topic
  • What colleges want
  • What mistakes to avoid
  • What your writing voice sounds like in U-C personal insight question
  • How to write your story
What are you waiting for?
Nail the U-C Personal Insight Questions

We’ve helped thousands of Wow students nail their college essays and land coveted spots at their dream schools, among them #UCLA, #UC-Berkeley and other #UC schools.

Our students write great essays, become stronger writers, and are better prepared for college and beyond. Year after year, they get into their top choice colleges, including the Ivies, prestigious liberal arts schools, and the best state universities – like UC!

Here’s just a sample…

Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Northwestern, Georgetown, University of Chicago, Washington University, Rice, Johns Hopkins, Case Western, Tulane, Duke, Middlebury, Tufts, Wesleyan, MIT, Caltech, University of Michigan, UC Berkeley, University of Florida, University of North Carolina, University of Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech

You can get into your dream school too!

Wow Writing Workshop is a strategic communication company led by writing coaches who understand the writing process inside and out. If your challenge involves words, Wow can help.

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 Common App  essays and other personal statements, supplements,  grad school personal statements and resumes that get results. In addition to guiding clients from around the world, Wow’s founders, Kim Lifton and Susan Knoppow, have authored several books and collaborated on an award-winning PBS documentary, “No Ordinary Joe: Erasing the Stigma of Mental Illness.” Kim and Susan speak to high school, parent and professional groups about the role of the college essay within the competitive admissions world.

Nail the U-C Personal Insight Questions

Tips to Review College Essays

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop
Get a college essay review now
The November deadline is just around the corner.

It’s October, and the early college application deadlines are just around the corner. What do you do when your students show you application essays that just don’t seem ready to go?

This is the point in the process when professionals and other well-meaning adults can overstep their roles. No worries. We’re going to share our simple approach to reviewing essays on a tight deadline.

This time of year, we get countless requests to review essays before students submit them as part of their applications. We know students have poured a lot of time into the essays; we know they want to be done; we also know there is limited time to make any major revisions.

How to Review a College Essay

Begin by letting go of any preconceived notions about what makes a good essay. In fact, we suggest replacing the word “good” with the word “effective.” It’s important to let each student write their story in their own voice using their own words.

There is no rubric for an effective college essay, but the ones that stand out all share a few common features. Regardless of the prompt, they:

  • Answer the question.
  • Showcase a positive trait or characteristic.
  • Sound like a high school student.
  • Illustrate something meaningful about the student.
  • Demonstrate reflection.

You will know if an essay is effective if it has a theme, which answers these two questions:

  1. What happened?
  2. Why does it matter?

We recommend reading without a red pen in hand, and without your hands on the computer keyboard. Just read. Make sure you know what the essay is about and why the student chose this topic. Then ask two key questions:

  • Is anything missing?
  • Is the college essay’s purpose clear?

Double-check the prompt. If the prompt asks the writer to reflect on an experience and its influence on them, be sure your child has talked about both the experience and its effect.

Use the checklist below to evaluate a traditional personal statement, such as the Common Application essay, the Coalition application, the University of California personal insight questions, ApplyTexas or any primary prompt from schools that use their own applications.

College Essay Review Checklist

College Essay Review Checklist

Content Review
  • Does the essay answer the prompt?
  • Can you tell why the writer chose this topic?
  • Is the essay about the student, or is it really about the place, person or experience featured in the essay?
  • Does it illustrate a trait the student wants to share with colleges?
  • Does it tell colleges something meaningful about the writer that is not clear from the rest of the application package?
  • Does the essay sound like the person who wrote it?
Structure Review
  • Does the first paragraph make you want to keep reading?
  • Does the essay move smoothly from beginning to end?
Polish Review
  • Does the essay use the same verb tense throughout?
  • Has the writer avoided sentence fragments and run-on sentences?
  • Is the punctuation correct and consistent?
  • Is every word spelled correctly?
  • Does the student feel confident and proud of the work?

That’s it. No magic. No special tricks. If you have more questions, let us know. We have more good information, and we’re always happy to share.

want more insight to help you inspire your students?

Wow’s third book is out, and we wrote this one for you! Have you ordered your copy? How to Write an Effective College Application Essay, the Inside Scoop for Counselors  ($9.99 on Amazon.com) is full of resources that speak directly to the needs of counselors and other professionals who work with students from all sorts of schools – large and small, public and independent, well-funded and those struggling to make ends meet – from all across the US.

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

Kim Lifton 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.

NEW College Essay Book! The Inside Scoop for Counselors

By Kim Lifton and Susan Knoppow
Co-founders, Wow Writing Workshop
Wow’s NEW book for professionals

In the high-stakes world of college admissions, you will meet countless people who can tell you what schools want in a college essay. Most will not (or cannot) show your students how to write those essays. You’ll find outlines and templates for what the finished CommonApp essay or U-C personal statement should look like. Or books with sample essays, and videos with limited instructions promising to get your students into the Ivies. Some will even tell you to follow a template based on what type of experience or story the student wants to share.

Here’s the real scoop on the college essay: Gimmicks, templates and shortcuts won’t help because they don’t work.  At Wow, we teach an approach, not a cookie-cutter template.

This month, we are pleased to announce the publication of our third book; this one is written for you. How to Write an Effective College Application Essay, the Inside Scoop for Counselors is full of resources that speak directly to the needs of counselors who work with students from all sorts of schools – large and small, public and independent, well-funded and those struggling to make ends meet – from all across the US.  It also speaks to similar needs of other professionals who work with students applying to college. You can order your paperback on Amazon.com for $9.99; we’ll give a free electronic copy with each paperback purchase!

why we wrote this book for you

Over the years, many counselors and consultants have come to us, asking for tips to guide students through the college essay writing process. They want to help their students, but they’re not sure how to use their limited time most effectively. We have been talking to admissions officers and school counselors about essays for years, and we’ve developed a simple approach that really works. In the book, we share our approach, strategies for helping your students, and answer the questions we’ve been asked, including:

  • What are the best topics for college essays?
  • What do colleges look for in the essays?
  • How to help average students write an essay that reveals something special about them?
  • How should students structure their college essays?
  • How to help students brainstorm ideas?
  • How much help is too much?

Whatever challenges you may face, you might be surprised at how straightforward (and manageable) our solutions are. We know you have a lot to juggle – busy students, worried parents, English teachers who assign college essays but don’t always give students good guidance.  We also know there are limits to what you can accomplish, whether you are at a private school with loads of resources or a public school with hundreds of students or an independent counselor with a heavy load of students.

after reading wow’s college essay guide, you will be prepared to:
  • Help students understand how to approach college essay writing.
  • Teach students to read and break apart any essay prompt so they can understand and respond effectively.
  • Help your students reflect on who they are and what they want readers to know about them.
  • Quickly review student essays and provide meaningful feedback they can use on their own.

We’ll show you how to get your students to write for college admissions officers without a pre-designed structure, without reading sample essays and without so much added stress. We’ve been working with students for a long time, and we’ve learned everything in this guide from our experience — and from our students’ successes.

about wow

Year after year, Wow students get into their top choice schools. Yours should too. We hope How to Write An Effective College Application Essay – The Inside Scoop For Counselors puts you and your students on the path to getting the results you want. With this book, you also get access to worksheets, tips and blogs to help you and your students navigate the college essay process. 

Wow is 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.

Get your book here.

 

 

Wow’s 3 Best Pieces of College Essay Advice for Parents

College Essay Advice for Parents
Best College Essay Advice

Here is an excerpt from Wow’s book by Kim Lifton and Susan Knoppow, How to Write an Effective College Application Essay, the Inside Scoop for Parents; it includes three of our best pieces of college essay advice for parents.

Parents who have engaged their college-bound children in discussions about what matters to them and why (reflection!) tell us they are delighted by the results. They boast about seeing a whole other side to their children, along with a level of maturity. In the end, parents who are successful with this approach note that their children are more prepared for college than they had imagined.

At Wow, we really don’t believe you need to stay away, no matter how many college admissions experts advise you to keep your hands off everything because it’s your child’s journey, not yours. We’re in this together.

Before your child moves into the revision phase of the college essay, you might want to study our three-point mantra for reducing stress and increasing student confidence during the college essay writing process:

College Essay Advice for Parents
  1. Slow them down

    Our students come to us all the time with topic ideas. We tell them that’s the wrong approach. The essay topic is secondary; the subject (your child) is most important. Start them at the beginning, with reflection. A great topic will emerge more freely if your child starts in the right place.

  2. Offer encouragement

    Be supportive, not critical, like a cheerleader on the sidelines. When it comes time to start writing, encourage your child to use his or her own voice and words. No one needs superpowers to get into college. We give our students writing activities that help them hear their own voices and feel good about their word choices, and their final essays reflect that confidence.

  3. Be realistic

    Sometimes well-meaning parents (just like you!) expect more from an application essay than admissions officers do. Be kind. We know what colleges want. We get our information direct from the source. They don’t expect perfection from kids.

Whatever your parenting style may be, or how studious, motivated or engaged your child is about college, you might feel pressure to do more, rather than less. The pressure comes from outside forces you may not even recognize. If you follow our suggestions, we believe you’ll like working on the reflection process so much you’ll forget about the outside noise and trust yourself and your child.

Get the Best College Essay Advice

Have you read our book? It’s full of insight, tips and even explanations of every Common App prompt  for the 2018-19 admission cycle. Get yours paperback today on Amazon.com. It’s just $9.99. We also wrote a companion guide for your child. 

About wow

Wow Writing Workshop is a strategic communication company led by writing coaches who understand the writing process inside and out. If your challenge involves words, Wow can help.

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. We provide free college essay advice and resources to parents, while also teaching students to write college application essays and other personal statements, supplements, grad school personal statements, plus resumes that get results.

In addition to guiding clients from around the world, Wow’s founders, Kim Lifton and Susan Knoppow, have authored several books and collaborated on an award-winning PBS documentary, “No Ordinary Joe: Erasing the Stigma of Mental Illness.” Kim and Susan speak to high school, parent and professional groups about the role of the college essay within the competitive admissions world.

There’s No Such Thing as Writer’s Block!

By Joe Kane
Senior Writing Coach
Wow Writing Workshop
Writer's block
Joe Kane

Does this scene sound familiar? Your child is sitting down, staring at a blank screen, hands poised over the keyboard, but not writing anything. It can happen for an AP Language paper or a college essay. Your child feels stuck and calls it writer’s block.

Many of my college essay and creative writing students have shared a version of this story with me before starting the writing process.

It’s Really Not Writer’s Block

No matter what the writing task may be, when students feel stuck, they often doubt their basic writing skills. That makes getting started even harder. The student feels trapped; the parent feels helpless. Anxiety creeps into the home. As a result, students tend to avoid writing the first draft by continually searching for “better” topics. This won’t work. It’s not writer’s block.

When this happens with your child, give yourself permission to take a step back. First and foremost, it’s important for you to understand that writing skills and topics are not the culprits. Nor is writer’s block. Students are not really stuck; they’ve just jumped the gun. They are unprepared to write a first draft because they’ve skipped important beginning steps in the college essay writing process.

Find the Real Starting Line, Forget Writer’s Block

The famous author Flannery O’Connor said: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” This quote reminds me that writing is a great tool for exploring ideas and clarifying thoughts. This is true with any kind of writing project, and it’s especially true for the college essay.

Admissions readers want to see stories that are personal and reveal meaningful traits and characteristics about the writer. They want to know something real about each applicant.

To do that, students need to take the time to clarify their own feelings about the story they want to write. At Wow, we usually assign two or three brief writing exercises before tackling the first draft, to give students low-stakes opportunities to gather details, organize their thoughts, and warm up their minds. After all, this is a thinking task, even more than it is a writing task.

writing exercise

• Set a timer for 10 minutes.
• Think of the story you want to tell your best friend.
• Write down any detail about that story that comes to mind.
• While writing, keep your mind open to physical details (what you saw, heard, touched) as well as emotional details (what you were thinking and feeling).
• You don’t need to write in chronological order or even use complete sentences. It’s okay to be messy. Just write down every detail that comes to mind as fast as you can until the timer runs out.

This exercise works because it removes the pressure that’s often associated with writing a draft. The time limit is important. The feeling of racing against the clock help to turn off the second-guessing and self-editing parts of our brain is real; when that happens, it’s amazing to see what kinds of details students come up with. I’ve never heard a student say they couldn’t do this exercise due to writer’s block.

When the timer goes off, your teen will have spent 10 minutes refreshing their memory about the story they want to tell, and they’ll have a stockpile of details they can draw from when they write their first draft.

Is Your Teen Feeling Stuck on the College Essay?

If your child thinks they have writer’s block, it might be time to call in a professional. A Wow coach can guide your child, and help keep things calm in your home during this stressful time. We’re still taking private coaching students for the 2018-19 season, but our coach slots are filling up quickly. Reserve your spot now. 

Has your teen already written a draft? You might want to get some professional feedback before clicking send.  We’ll be happy to give your child a professional  essay review.  We will provide comprehensive written feedback, notes on what works, plus suggestions for improvement. We pay attention to items that matter to admissions officers, like reflection, theme and flow, and comment on technical issues, including grammar, spelling and sentence structure.

About the Author

Joe Kane is Wow’s Senior Writing Coach. A poet and editor, Joe coaches Wow’s college essay, ACT/SAT writing and creative writing students, and he teaches Wow’s intensive, online workshop, Be a Better Writer. He is also a program director of SLANT, which provides creative writing opportunities for Nashville area teens. In all he does, Joe has never complained about writer’s block.

Writer's block
If it involves words, Wow can help!

Wow Writing Workshop is 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.