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 Interim Executive Director of Admissions and Recruitment John Ambrose at an industry meeting in Toronto six ago. 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.

 

 

 

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!