Should Your Child Start Writing a College Essay NOW?

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

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

While restaurants are closed.

When people are wearing plastic gloves out in public.

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

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

These are unsettling, super stressful times.

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

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

Why? Why now? Is it urgent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Started on Your College Essay – Free

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

 

The Truth About College Admission Rates

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

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

It’s a simple matter of impossible math.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Wow Writing Workshop

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

 

 

 

 

 

A Professional New Year’s Resolution You Can Keep!

Happy New Year!

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

MSU Admissions Director Shares Tips for Getting In

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

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

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

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

What is the secret to getting into MSU?

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

What’s your elevator pitch to prospective Spartans?

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

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

What do you look for in a college essay?

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

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

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

How important is AP and IB?

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

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

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

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

How can an application essay help an applicant?

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

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

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

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

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

Does Your Child Need Help Applying to MSU?

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

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

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

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

Get your copy here.

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

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

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

 

An Inside Look at College Admission from the Industry’s Top Official

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

NACAC President Stefanie Niles

Stefanie Niles, President of the National Association of College Admission Counseling, the leading national organization for college admission professionals, has worked inside college admissions offices for decades. She shared some insight with Wow to help guide parents and students who are preparing for college through the stressful process.

Niles, Vice president for Enrollment and Communications at Ohio Wesleyan University, previously held top admissions and financial aid positions at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, Hollins University in Roanoke, VA, and  DePauw University in Greencastle, IN.

I met Niles at a conference for the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling last spring. We spoke later about her career path, the importance of the college essay, and some other key issues students and parents tell me are important: tuition, what colleges want from students, getting in and how students can stand out in their application packages.

“I believe that essays will remain a critical part of the application process.”
What are the biggest challenges facing the college admission world in 2019?

“One of the greatest challenges facing college admissions (and the one that keeps me up at night) is the escalating cost of college.,” said Niles, “More and more students and their families are being pinched by rising tuition, and financial aid packages that don’t meet their demonstrated financial need. I believe that, as a nation, we are going to have to address this critical issue in the next decade, or we will continue to see more colleges close, and fewer students seeking higher education options as the market is simply too expensive.”

What do you wish parents/students and everyone else knew about college admission?

 There are so many terrific colleges options. I wish they knew that it isn’t mission critical to secure admission at a select group of 8 or 12 or 20 colleges, but that there are many places where students will be challenges, motivated, and grow the skills to be productive adults.

What do you wish parents and students knew about you and your admission colleagues – the people who say yes or no to their applications?

“Like many who work in college admissions, my overarching goal is to help as many students access a college education, regardless of where they choose to enroll. While the college admission process can be stressful, nerve wracking and challenging, 99% of the individuals who work in college admissions do so because they want to assist and support students in finding the right college fit.  You don’t have to go it alone. I have counseled many students about the college search and selection process – many of whom were interested in the institution for which I worked, but often those who were not.!

Students are often reluctant to email or call a college admission office Is it okay for a student to contact the admissions office with questions?

“Almost any college admission counselor, regardless of the institution for which they work, will sit down with a student and help them sort out their interests and needs as they relate to the college experience.”

Your career has focused on liberal arts colleges. What draws you to the liberal arts?

“I love the broad range of skills that a liberal arts education offers to students. A liberal arts education helps develop the ability to think critically and analytically, communicate effectively, solve problems, and work collaboratively with others. These skills, among others, are necessary to manage today’s challenges – and those we will face tomorrow. As many of the jobs individuals will hold 10 and 20 years from now don’t even exist today, having a background that encourages creativity, ability and flexibility – as a liberal arts education provides – will be best suited not only to fill the jobs of tomorrow, but to identify the problems we face and help create the jobs that will enable us to address them.”

What’s your message to parents who believe their child will not get into a “good” college?

“A “good” college is a place where a student will thrive; where he or she will be exposed to new ideas, new challenges, and perspectives different than their own; where the student grows intellectually and personally, and where they have the opportunity to take advantage of experiences that will open their minds to different experiences and cultures that may shape their professional journey.  My son was accepted to 10 colleges, which sounds like a lot!  But he had such a hard time choosing among them, as each offered him distinctive, interesting, challenging opportunities in settings where he felt he would both fit in, and be challenged by a new environment.  It was an eye-opening, real life example for me of how there are many great choices, not just one right fit for a student!”

How important is the essay inside the college admission offices where you have worked?

“Many liberal arts colleges find that the essay can both provide insight into how a student might fit into an institution, and if they possess the basic writing skills to excel in that environment.  I have definitely seen a poor essay, submitted with an otherwise solid application, keep a student from being admitted.  I have also seen a particularly strong essay, submitted with an application containing some red flags, tip the scale toward a positive admission decision.  The essay, in my experience, definitely matters in an admission committee’s overall consideration of a student’s admissibility to an institution.”

What else do you look for in an application essay?

“It is important to assess how well a student can write – can they construct a coherent sentence?  Can they follow directions regarding length?  Do they use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation?  Yet I also want to be sure that students address the question asked of them in a way that gives me insight into who they are.  I believe that a student should write about what is important and meaningful to them, and that feeling will shine through their essay. “

As College admission changes, where does the essay fit?

“Certainly, at liberal arts institutions, I believe that essays will remain a critical part of the application process.  Good writing is a skill that will stand the test of time, and liberal arts colleges will continue to require that their students use their writing abilities to express themselves effectively.  A strong college admission essay is the first step on a long path towards securing a high-quality college education and developing the skills necessary to be successful in one’s future career.”

What’s your No. 1 tip for students writing any type of college admission essay?

“Have someone else review your work.  No matter how good a writer you are, it is important to have another set of eyes on your work to avoid any errors – big or small – that you might overlook.”

What are the biggest mistakes you see in the college admission essays you read?

“I’ve seen lots of careless mistakes, like misspelling the name of the major you wish to pursue.   I’ve also seen too many students write an essay as if they were writing a text, without capitalizing words and using little punctuation.  But the biggest mistake is not putting in the appropriate effort to write the very best essay you can.  An essay doesn’t have to be long to be a high-quality piece, but care needs to be taken to answer the question you are asked, and to be thoughtful in both what you say and how you say it.”

What else would you like students and parents to know about the college application process?

“Start the process early, ask questions, visit campuses if you can, and talk to current students, recent alumni, faculty members, coaches, and staff members who work at the schools you are considering.  You will learn a lot by keeping your eyes and ears open, and by interacting with the individuals who know the institution the best – members of the campus community.”

Our Gift to You: Free Book
The only college prep book you’ll need

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

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

Get your copy here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton, President and Founder of Wow Writing Workshop,  leads a professional team of writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. Kim teaches students how to write application essays for college and graduate school and adults how to write anything that involves the written word (such as books). Recently, she was named a Top Voice in Education by LinkedIn. Kim supervises Wow’s business communication services, including running online seminars for small business and nonprofit leaders interested in blogging and social media.

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

We’re still accepting students from the Class of 2020. Visit Wow for more information.

Contact Kim anytime at kim@wowwritingworkshop.com.

How to Write Great Supplemental College Essays

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop
The Why Us? Essay is Critical

When it comes to college essays, the personal statement most often comes to mind. But many colleges also require supplemental essays. Top of the list: The Why Us? college essay.

Just like any piece of writing required as part of your application package, the Why Us? college essay is an opportunity to share something meaningful about you that you want that college to know. The essay is your interview – your elevator pitch to state your case for admission.

Why should College X pick you?

Many schools ask students to respond to a Why Us? college essay prompt like one of the following:

  • Please describe why you are interested in attending Tulane University.
  • Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests?
  • We would like to know more about your interest in We are particularly interested in knowing what motivated you to apply to NYU and more specifically, why you have applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and/or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please tell us why you are interested in each of the campuses, schools, colleges, or programs to which you have applied. You may be focused or undecided, or simply open to the options within NYU’s global network; regardless, we want to understand – Why NYU?
  • What excites you about Tufts’ intellectually playful community? In short, “Why Tufts?”

Lots of students misunderstand the prompts and miss an important opportunity to stand out. I just reviewed a typical essay that missed the mark: It was a beautifully written story from a student answering the “Why Us?” prompt for a Big Ten university.

Full of descriptive details about the school’s location and football stadium, the story painted a vivid picture of the long drive to and from the school in the family car with his dad, an alumnus. This boy was clear he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, he was comfortable inside the stadium, and he was certain he would feel at home at this university.

Unfortunately, this story did not respond adequately to the prompt. He focused on his dad and a football stadium, not on himself. Your task is to focus on YOU!

To get moving in the right direction to answer any Why Us? prompt, consider what you want the college to know about you that is not evident from the rest of your application package. How do the college’s curriculum, clubs, and campus life support your interests? Why are you a good fit for the institution?

This task can be difficult, even for students who spent their childhoods wearing sweatshirts emblazoned with their parents’ alma maters. Most students have no idea what a school offers academically, socially, or culturally. The prompt is also challenging for students who want to tell admission officers how much they love the big city, how badly they want to escape their small towns, or how much they love the old buildings on campus.

Be careful! This is not what admission officers are looking for. In your Why Us?  college essay, they want to know why you are a good fit for their campus, whether you have the chops to succeed academically, if there are clubs and activities to support your interests, and if you are likely to graduate from this institution.

After speaking with admission officers from small liberal arts colleges, elite universities, and state institutions, I’ve found that regardless of size, status, or essay prompt, they all offer similar tips:

  • Don’t overthink it.
  • Tell us (admission officers) what you want us to know about you, not what you think we want to hear.
  • Answer the prompt honestly.
  • Make sure your essay is focused and written in your own words and your own voice.

You should never be thinking, “What are they looking for?” The better question is, “What do I want them to know about me?” They know how great they are; your job is to let them know how great you are and why you are a good fit for their school or program.

Get the Wow Advantage on your college essay!

Wow students get into their top choice colleges, including Ivies, and the best liberal arts and public universities. With a Wow coach as your guide, you’ll learn how to write great personal statements and supplemental  essays and become a stronger writer. Coaching slots are filling up quickly; reserve your coach now!  

about the author
Kim Lifton

As President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication company, Kim Lifton leads a professional team of writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. She teaches students how to write application essays for college and graduate school, and adults how to write anything that involves the written word (such as books). Kim also supervises Wow’s business communication services, including running online seminars for small business and nonprofit leaders interested in blogging and social media. Contact Kim at kim@wowwritingworkshop.com.

“The best part about the Wow program was how manageable each of the steps were, and how effective they were, too.” Sarah, student

The Best College Essay Prompt

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

It’s time to give some serious thought to the college essay prompts.  What do colleges really want to know about you?

This month, we’re sharing some of our best tips and insight from years of working inside the college prep industry to help you understand how to respond to a college essay prompt. With any luck, this will alleviate some stress and help prepare for the last phase of this journey to college.

TIP 1: COLLEGES WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU THINK

Your story will show colleges how you think.

Beyond grades and test scores, colleges want to know who you are, how you think, and what makes you tick. The

best place to share this: the college application essay. An effective response to any college essay prompt will show insight into your character because it answers two central questions:

  • What happened?
  • Why does it matter?

Why a topic matters to you (the reflection) is more important than what happened in your life (the experience, the activity, the concept, or the person who influenced you).

 TIP 2: THERE IS NO PERFECT COLLEGE ESSAY PROMPT

In many cases, you will be given choices of college essay prompts. For example, the Common Application asks students to select from 7 options. The University of California asks students to respond to 4 out of 8 personal insight questions.

We talk to admissions officers all the time; they tell us they do not care which college essay prompt you select. Any prompt will do. Make sure you pick the prompt you like best and that you feel comfortable responding to.

“The prompts simply serve to help students approach that question from as many angles as possible, whether it be maturity, identity, curiosity, pastimes, aspirations, community, relationships, or anything else,” according to Scott Anderson, Chief of Staff, the Common App. “Students should pick the prompt that supports and gets them excited about the story they want to tell about themselves.”

TIP 3: HOW TO PARSE A COLLEGE ESSAY PROMPT

Next, we are going to teach you how to parse a prompt. To start, take a look at Common App Prompt #1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

The key word in this prompt is “meaningful.”

Ultimately, your essay is not about your background, identity, interest, talent or experience; it’s about you. What did you learn about yourself? What made it meaningful? Admissions officers read these essays to find out something they don’t already know about you.

They can tell from your application that you are on the lacrosse team or in the school orchestra. They know you worked as a researcher or a hospital aide or a bagger in a grocery store. And if your transcript says you took American Literature, they can assume you read books like A Raisin in the Sun, The Crucible or The Bluest Eye.

They don’t know how those experiences affected you, whom you met along the way or why a particular piece of music is so important to you. They have no idea how you have changed and why you might be a good fit for their school. You can share these insights in your essay.

You can respond to this prompt by sharing any type of story – a description of a meaningful conversation, a moment when you realized something important about yourself – anything that truly and vividly demonstrates who you are.  The experience does not have to be particularly impressive; you do not have to share a story about climbing a mountain or rescuing children from a burning building. You can write about babysitting or making meatballs with grandma, navigating an icy highway or playing basketball with friends. The big challenge is to find a story that illustrates a positive characteristic.

Now is the time to start preparing for the essay.

GIVE YOURSELF THE WOW ADVANTAGE

Every year, Wow students get into their top choice colleges, including Ivies, and the best liberal arts and public universities. With a Wow coach as your guide, you’ll learn how to write great application essays and become a stronger writer. Reserve your coach now to ensure a spot for the season.

“Wow has been such a valuable resource for me. The best part about the program was how manageable each of the steps were, and how effective they were, too. The skills will definitely be useful for me in the future.” Sarah, student

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

As President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication company, Kim Lifton leads a professional team of writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. She teaches students how to write application essays for college and graduate school, and adults how to write anything that involves the written word (such as books). Kim also supervises Wow’s business communication services, including running online seminars for small business and nonprofit leaders interested in blogging and social media. Recently, LinkedIn named Kim a Top Voice in Education. 

Don’t Write a Bland Medical School Personal Statement

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow WritingWorkshop

Your personal statement, whether for undergraduate admission, medical school or any professional school, is the first opportunity to share something meaningful with the people evaluating your application. Simply repeating experiences you’ve already listed on your resume or sticking to a generic outline won’t cut it.

Don’t start with a cookie-cutter formula. Start by answering this question: “What do I want to share with the medical school admissions committee that they will not know from the rest of my application?’”

Think critically about which stories you choose to include when writing your personal statement or any other essays. Personal statements should demonstrate why you would be a good doctor and how certain qualities m

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

ake you unique.

St. George’s University interviewed me for an article about personal statements for medical schooladmission; the advice I shared with St. George’s mirrors advice we share with any applicant to college, grad school or professional school. Here is the original story:

If you are applying to medical school or another graduate level program, Wow can help! Click here  to learn more.

5 College Essay Myths & Facts

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

It’s 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.