How to Blog With a Purpose

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

Do you want to write a blog? Do you have something make sure you have something to say that others may find interesting?

It’s not easy, but it doesn’t have to be so hard, either. Start with the basics.

First, there’s a lot of competition. There are so many blogs out there that online marketing experts cannot even pinpoint an accurate number. Estimates range from 31 million to more than 200 million. With so many other blogs out there, how will you make yours stand out?  In a word, content.

Content is king, and brevity is your friend.

What’s a blog, anyway?

A blog is a collection of posts that can be educational, informational, controversial or personal, and is updated on a regular basis. You can blog daily, weekly, or as often as you choose. You can write a blog to share personal information, opinions, or for business purposes.

Here are a few of wow’s top tips to help you make your blog stand out:

1)   Keep it simple

2)   Make sure it is focused.

3)   Write it short

4)   Follow the 3 C’s: Make sure what you write is clear. Concise. Consistent.

5)   Think of your blog as a marketing tool; it’s generally not poetry.

To master the art of blogging, you’ll need to write with your intended audience in mind; you’ll also need to write it well.

Ask yourself:

·     What do you want readers to know after they are done reading your blog?

·     Why?

·     Who are you writing for?

After you have answered these three questions, delve a bit deeper:

·     What can you teach you readers that they cannot get elsewhere?

·     What do you want your readers to do, think, know, or buy after reading your blog?

Odds are pretty good that if you are reading this article, you are an expert about something. That means you already have great content at your disposal.

You probably have a lot of content, too. There’s no need to create new stuff, or to reinvent the wheel. Do an assessment of what you have. Recycle and get the job done! It is probably better than you think it is.

Want to Learn How to Blog With A Purpose?

Find out what it takes to write a blog with a purpose in Wow’s upcoming Business Communications Seminar, beginning May 15 through June 30. In this self-guided, online seminar, we’ll talk about what a blog is, and what it is not, and how yours can be used effectively to increase sales, raise money or build a brand. We’ll also talk about why every blog writer should be able to answer these questions: What is your message? Why? And who is your audience? Includes a 60-minute private consult with Wow President Kim Lifton, plus step-by-step guidelines and planning documents.  Register below.

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

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic writing and communications firm. 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 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!

The Most Common College Application Essay Mistake

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop
Kim Lifton can get a story out of anyone writing an effective college application essay
Lifton: Don’t make the same college application essay mistakes we see year after year.

Every year, college reps tell Wow Writing Workshop that the biggest mistake students make in their application essays is not answering the prompt.

Take the example of Katie, who came home from school one day, flustered over a seemingly simple English class assignment: Write a personal statement for college.

Her father had never seen this side of his daughter. She could always manage her schoolwork on her own. Not this time. The teacher sent students home to write the essay with no instructions. Katie, not knowing where to start or what to do, was fixated on a topic — ice-skating. And why not? She was a competitive skater. It was integral to her life. Would that topic help her stand out, she asked her father?

avoid college application essay mistake: answer the prompt

The dad, Alan, knew a little bit about the essay. He had been doing some research on college admissions so he would be prepared to guide her. In fact, a few nights before she showed him the assignment, Alan had participated in one of our online parent chats. They’re free and open to the public. We host them monthly to answer parent questions and provide tips for them to help their children.

Katie was too far ahead of herself in the process, and her dad knew it. She was thinking about a topic before she understood the prompt. The topic, he told Katie, was not as significant as the subject. In other words, the essay needed to be about Katie (the subject of the essay), not ice-skating (the topic).

Katie was about to make one of the most common mistakes colleges see in application essays. She was prepared to write about an experience, rather than what she learned from it or what that experience demonstrated about her. Katie was so focused on finding a good topic that she paid little attention to the prompt, one her teacher selected from the Common Application: 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.

Fortunately, her father was able to guide her. He asked her the one question we use repeatedly with our students to help them slow down before choosing an essay topic: What do you want colleges to know about you beyond your grades, test scores and extracurricular activities?

After a 30-minute conversation with her father, Katie decided she wanted colleges to know she was compassionate.

Ultimately, she did find a topic through her experience on the ice. In her essay, Katie showed colleges she was compassionate in a focused story about a time she taught a young child how to skate. That experience could have happened at a library, teaching a child to read, or on a nearby sidewalk, teaching a child how to ride a bike. The setting did not matter because it showed introspection into Katie’s character in a way that could help colleges get to know her better.

Our gift to your parents
Learn how to avoid making college application essay mistakes.

To learn more about writing your college essay, and how to avoid making college application essay mistakes, 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. Because we know you want to help your students, we’re gifting to you a free parent guide.

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic writing and communications firm.

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 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!

 

This Question Will Help Your Students Write Better Essays

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

A few years ago, a father, Alan, saw the effect the college essay can have on a high school student during his daughter’s junior year. Katie came home from school one day, flustered over a seemingly simple English class assignment: Write a personal statement for college.

He had never seen this side of his daughter. She could always manage her schoolwork on her own. Not this time. The teacher sent students home to write the essay with no instructions. Katie, not knowing where to start or what to do, was fixated on a topic — ice-skating. And why not? She was a competitive skater. It was integral to her life. Would that topic help her stand out, she asked her father?

Alan knew about the essay. He had been doing some research on college admissions so he would be prepared to guide her. Alan had already participated in one of the free online chats Wow hosts monthly (one for parents and another for professionals) to answer questions and provide tips to help college applicants.

Katie was too far ahead of herself in the process, and Alan knew it. She was thinking about a topic before she understood the prompt. The topic, he told Katie, was not as significant as the subject. In other words, the essay needed to be about Katie (the subject of the essay), not ice-skating (the topic).

Katie was about to make one of the most common mistakes high school counselors and colleges see in application essays. She was prepared to write about an experience, rather than what she learned from it or what that experience demonstrated about her. Katie was so focused on finding a good topic that she paid little attention to the prompt, one her teacher selected from the Common Application: 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 here is “meaningful.” Katie needed to reflect on her experience.

Fortunately, Alan was able to guide her. Similarly, you can help your students reflect so they can respond effectively to any college essay prompt. Alan asked his daughter the one question we use repeatedly with all of our students to help them slow down before choosing an essay topic: What do you want colleges to know about you beyond your grades, test scores and extracurricular activities? This is the question you can ask every student who comes into your office to talk about college application essay topics. If they cannot answer it, they are not ready to write. The answer should be a characteristic or trait, not an accomplishment or experience.

The single question about what’s important to Katie worked for Alan. It will work you’re your students, too. After a 30-minute conversation with Katie, she said she wanted colleges to know she was compassionate. She felt confident she could demonstrate that trait in her personal statement.

Alan did an excellent job encouraging his daughter to reflect upon who she is. Ultimately, she did find a topic through her experience on the ice. And, in her essay, Katie showed colleges she was compassionate in a focused story about a time she taught a young child how to skate. That experience could have happened at a library, teaching a child to read, or on a nearby sidewalk, teaching a child how to ride a bike. The setting did not matter because it showed introspection into Katie’s character in a way that could help colleges get to know her better.

How do you approach the college essay? We’d love to hear how you talk to your students when they panic, and what your biggest college essay challenges are.

***

Our Gift: A Free Book for You

To show you how much we appreciate the work you do, we’d like to give you a free electronic copy of our book: How to Write an Effective College Application Essay: The Inside Scoop for Parents. Find out how to get free books for every parent in your school, too.

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

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication and writing services company that is a leading expert on the college application essay. Kim, a former journalist, speaks with senior admissions officers from the nation’s most selective colleges all the time. Wow works directly with students, and trains school counselors, English teachers and independent educational consultants who want to improve their essay-coaching skills. Wow also offers professional communication and writing services to businesses and nonprofits.

Want to Stand Out in Your College Essay?

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

Juniors, as you prepare to start the college application process in earnest, keep in mind that the best personal statements  show insight into who you are.

Does the experience you write about have to be earth shattering? No. Does it have to illustrate an “aha” moment? Not at all. It is a reflection on something that has meaning to you. It doesn’t matter what that is. There’s no magic answer. No secret sauce. Not even a shortcut. The essay is one (very important) piece of a holistic admission process.

Shawn Felton, the Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Cornell University, reviews thousands of applications each admissions cycle. That’s a lot of entrance essays. What delights him? A story that rounds out an applicant’s package, and an essay that helps him understand who the person is.

“We want to put a face to the pile of paper,” Felton explains. “It is part of a number of identifiers that deliver who you are as a person.”

What turns him off? Stories that are not genuine, do not answer the prompt, or fail to give him any insight into the applicant’s character. He does not like it when students try too hard to impress him, or write essays that seem forced or inauthentic.

“The essay is not something to be cracked,” he cautions.

Essays won’t get a student who is not qualified into any college. However, they can help a qualified applicant get a better shot at admission to that dream school. Yes, the essay can help you.

“A poorly written essay can take an applicant out of the running, but conversely a great essay can certainly help. A fantastic essay can absolutely give the applicant a bump up. Even after reviewing a mediocre transcript or seeing a limited activities list, I can be swayed to admit a student who writes an essay that 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 a someone who would be highly valued in our campus community, that could tip the scales.”

Gregory Sneed, Vice President for Enrollment, Denison     University

 

Colleges want some insight into your character. What did you do? What did you learn about yourself? Why does it matter? A girl who went on a volunteer trip to Central America to teach students to read learned more about herself on that trip when she jumped off a 30-foot cliff into the ocean. She wrote a riveting piece about feeling brave in an attempt to overcome her fear of heights. That experience would have been relevant if it took place down the street or around the world. It wasn’t impressive because it happened in Belize. It was impressive because it demonstrated reflection and growth.

Click more information to find out how Wow helps students just like you stand out in your college essay.

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

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop. Wow’s team of professional writers and teachers 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. If it involves words, we can help. Email kim@wowwritingworkshop.com.

 

6 Quick Ways to Boost Your ACT Score

By Rachel Brandt
Magoosh

If time’s running out before your official ACT, don’t worry! Even if you haven’t had the chance to prepare for this college entrance exam as well as you’d have liked, there are still a few things you can do in the last two weeks (or even better, in the last month) before your exam to improve. Take a look at a few of the key short-term test prep strategies to boost your ACT score.

For the ACT and SAT writing tests, try one of Wow’s test prep packages!

1.   Learn the ACT test format. One of the best things you can do before ACT (or SAT) test day (even if test day’s tomorrow!) is to go over the format, especially if you haven’t taken a practice test before. Why? One of the hardest things about the ACT can be the time pressure—you may have less than a minute to answer a question. Because of this, knowing the instructions in advance alone can give you the chance to maximize your scores.

2.   Get the most out of your ACT practice tests. A lot of students don’t realize that it’s not enough just to take the exams and take a look at your scores. Go back over your ACT tests and spend several hours (yep, hours) reviewing the answers—both what you got right and what you got wrong. How has your progress been? Where are you still scoring lower than you’d like? When time’s short, you need to focus on the most pressing areas before test day.

3.   Know how to approach multiple-choice questions. Another quick way to boost your score fast is to use the multiple-choice test format to your advantage. If you don’t know the answer, eliminate any answer choices you can and then guess. There’s no penalty for wrong answers on the ACT, so it won’t hurt and it might help!

4.   Read through the free Magoosh ACT study guide. If you want a thorough yet readable way to learn about what you’ll see on the ACT, and master some of those question types that have been bugging you, this is the guide! If you can take a few weeks to work through it, all the better—but it’s not so long that you couldn’t read it in a day if pressed.

5.   Check out apps to help with your test prep. It’s one way to bring ACT prep with you everywhere, and the best apps are mostly free or very cheap. What should you check out? Flashcards and this test prep app. You want to brush up on a particular subject before the ACT? Yup, there’s an app for that.

6.   Be realistic. Your score won’t shoot up 15 points overnight. On the other hand, a lot of students will notice an appreciable increase in their score by taking the test again. Why? There’s time to prepare for it, for one thing. For another, now you know exactly what to expect. So go into your exam knowing that you’ll do your absolute best, but that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t hit your ACT score range for your dream school on the first test.

There are ways to prep for the ACT in a matter of days and ways to prep for it in a matter of months. However, these short-term strategies can help push your score and might just make the difference between a disappointing score and a score you’re proud of. And remember: no matter how little time you have, there’s always something you can do to boost your ACT score—even if it’s just to relax and get a good night’s sleep!

Don’t Fret Over Writing Test!

Try one of Wow’s test packages; we’ll use simple, engaging exercises to help you master the elements of writing and rhetorical analysis that ACT and SAT rubrics demand. Well beyond simple grammar tips, these lessons will change the way you think about reading and writing. Learn what test readers want to see and make the most of your time on test day.

The Best College Essay Prompt

By Kim Lifton
President, Wow Writing Workshop

Junior year is winding down; it’s time to give some serious thought to the college application essay prompts.  What do colleges really want to know about your child?

We’re going to give you some of our best tips and insight from years of working inside the college prep industry to help you understand how to understand a prompt. With any luck, this will alleviate some stress and help prepare your high school junior for the last phase of this journey to college.

Tip 1: Colleges want to know how your child thinks
How do you think?
Your story will show how you think.

Beyond grades and test scores, colleges want to know who your child is, how they think, and what makes them tick. The best place to share this: the college application essay. An effective response to any college essay prompt will show insight into a student’s character because it answers two central questions: 1) What happened? and 2) Why does it matter?

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

 Tip 2: There is no perfect college essay prompt

In many cases, students are given choices of prompts. For example, the Common Application asks students to select 1 of 7 prompts. The University of California asks students to respond to 4 out of 8 questions.

Admissions officers do not care which prompt your child selects. Given a choice, any prompt will do. Make sure your child picks the prompt they like best. Wow offers a range of services to help your child from the beginning till the end of the process. 

“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 an essay prompt

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.

Your child could respond to this prompt by sharing any type of story – a description of a meaningful conversation, a moment when they realized something important about themselves – anything that truly and vividly demonstrates who they are.  The experience does not have to be particularly impressive; your child does not have to share a story about climbing a mountain or rescuing three children from a burning building. They could 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 something meaningful. They should choose a moment, then explore it in detail.

What does this mean for high school juniors who are about to start the journey to college? They can start preparing for the essay. Now.

What are you waiting for?

We wrote a book that is full of tips to teach your child how to select a prompt and write 

The only college prep book you’ll need

meaningful answers to any question. Chapter 2, “Understanding the Prompts,” delves deep into that topic.  We also explain every Common App prompt in detail. You can order a copy of How to Write an Effective College Application Essay, the Inside Scoop for Parents on Amazon.comIt’s just $9.99 – and we’ll gift you a free eBook with your paperback purchase! (We also wrote a companion book for students.)

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

 

 

 

Admissions Decisions Are Out. Don’t Believe Everything You Hear!

By Kim Lifton
Early admissionsPresident
Wow Writing Workshop

Final admissions offers are rolling out, which means the season for rumors is in full swing. Whether you’ve been waitlisted, or outright rejected, you might be better off ignoring the rumors about why.

The competition to get into the nation’s top colleges gets tougher every year, and 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 students for the same number of available spots at the most selective schools. It’s impossible for them all to get in. Year after year, we hear the rumors, too.

Here are a few tall tales floating around now among the country’s high school seniors (and their parents.)

  • The kid with a 4.0 and 34 ACT score didn’t get admitted to the top school in her state. Everyone knows they don’t like our school.
  • It is harder to get into the University of Florida than Harvard.
  • Colleges only want well-rounded students.
  • Only the leaders get into the good schools.

Just because you are qualified does not guarantee admission to any school on your dream list. Don’t believe everything you hear!

What do you really know about that kid who says she has a 4.0 and 34 ACT and got rejected from your state’s top public university? You might not really know her GPA; she might have exaggerated. Did you see her ACT score, or did someone share the information with you?

Colleges want a well-rounded student body, not well-rounded students. They want leaders and followers. Colleges and universities do not discriminate against certain high schools. It is possible that a student with a high GPA and test score was caught drinking a beer by police, got suspended or simply turned the application in after the deadline.

Marty O’Connell, the former executive director for Colleges That Change Lives, offers great perspective on the rumor mill. “Things are not always as they appear,” she said during a speaking engagement several years ago at Michigan State University. If she listened to every rumor, O’Connell might believe “no one is getting into college. It’s just not true.”

Want more insight about admissions? Watch this video clip from Kimberly Bryant, Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Michigan.  Get a free copy of our book, How to Write an Effective College Application Essay, the Inside Scoop for Parents. 

Kim Lifton is President of 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 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!

Ignore the Rumors Over College Rejection

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

This morning, I got an email from Robert McCullough, the Director of Undergraduate Admission from Case Western University, alerting college admissions professionals that applicants will find out admission status by 8 p.m. ET tomorrow night.

He also provided his phone number and email if any student, parent or high school counselor needs assistance.

It’s the season for final admissions offers of acceptance, and denials – and often the most confusing, the wait list. You’ll hear rumors (if you haven’t heard them yet!) about what to do if you get wait listed, or how you might be able to get a college to change its mind if you are rejected. There’s only one sure way to dispel rumors.

After more than a decade inside this industry, and following a career as a journalist and communications specialist, this much I know is true: It’s best to get your information direct from the source. Rumors are rumors. You’ll be better off if you ignore them, but I know that’s hard to do.

ON the Waitlist? Follow the Instructions

To help you put this all into some perspective, the University of Chicago sends instructions to students who are offered a spot on the wait list. Follow the instructions. If you want to pursue that option, give them what they ask for, no more and no less. That awesome video in which you plead your case for admission will not help if the school does not want it. Send a video only if the school tells you it is okay.

Case Western says to contact the office with questions. You can do that. You can ask them what is acceptable.

It’s a simple matter of Impossible Math

Keep in mind, the competition to get into the nation’s top colleges gets tougher every year, but that’s not because you are smarter or more qualified than any student was five or ten years ago.

It’s a simple matter of impossible math.

Year after year, more students apply for the same number of available spots at the most selective schools. It’s impossible for all of you to get into the same selective school. Just because you are qualified does not guarantee admission to any school on your dream list.

By the way, we hear the same rumors that you do. In fact, here are a few of these tall tales floating around now among the country’s high school seniors (and their parents.)

  • “Everyone” from one school got deferred from the University of Michigan.
  • Northeastern University rejected everyone.
  • My son didn’t get into (PUT NAME OF SCHOOL HERE) because they want more demonstrated interest on the application.
  • The kid with a 4.0 and 34 ACT score didn’t get admitted to the top school in her state. Everyone knows they don’t like our school.
  • It is harder to get into the University of Florida than Harvard.
  • Colleges only want well-rounded students.
  • Only the leaders get into the good schools.

What do you really know about that kid who says she has a 4.0 and 34 ACT and got rejected from your state’s top public university? She might have exaggerated. Did you see her SAT score, or did someone else share the information?

It’s important for you to know that colleges want a well-rounded student body, not well-rounded students. They want leaders and also followers. Some want demonstrated interest; others don’t care. Colleges and universities do not discriminate against certain high schools. And it is possible that a student with a high GPA and test score was caught drinking a beer by police, got suspended or simply turned the application in after the deadline. Or that student forgot to get the required recommendations.

Some of this is out of your control. While few students do get into the nation’s most selective schools, there are schools for everyone. We like to remind our students that the best school is the one they get into, attend and graduate from. It does not need to be a big name to be good.

Things are not always as they appear

Marty O’Connell, the executive director for Colleges That Change Lives, offers great perspective on the rumor mill. “Things are not always as they appear,” she said during a speaking engagement several years ago at Michigan State University. If she listened to every rumor, O’Connell might believe “no one is getting into college. It’s just not true.”

Want more insight from a senior admissions rep? Watch this video clip from Kimberly Bryant, Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Michigan.

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop. Wow is a team of professional writers Kim Lifton can get a story out of anyone writing an effective college application essayand 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! Email Kim@wowwritingworkshop.com.

The Secret to Social Media: It’s Social!

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

I met Pulitzer Prize winning journalist George Anders at a college admissions conference in San Diego a few years ago. I had no idea he was sitting in the back of the room while I was moderating a panel on the college application essay. But I did know who he was; I followed him on social media, and I suggested he cover the event.

The next day, George published a fantastic article on Forbes.com featuring our panelists, and my company, Wow Writing Workshop. My business partner and I were ecstatic. The article was just what we needed to bring some attention to our small company.

Coincidence? No way. This article was the direct result of old-fashioned networking done well, using modern-day tools: social media.

I love meeting new people. I like to get to know them, too. I have always been this way.  Curious and friendly. Chatty, too. That’s why I love social media. It allows me to stay in touch with friends I already have, engage in conversations with people I might otherwise never meet and brand my company on a scale much larger than I could have ever imagined.

I met George through Twitter. I followed him. He wrote a piece about a company I knew (but did not like), and I emailed him, telling him why. I kept my thoughts private out of respect for a fellow writer. But I did not expect a response. To my surprise, George responded almost immediately with a phone call. He appreciated my honesty and wanted to know more. He listened as I shared my views. We bonded.

A year after that phone call, George wrote an article that ultimately helped my small company gain credibility inside the massive college admission industry. And it all happened because I followed – and engaged with – him on Twitter.

How do you use social media? Do you spend too much time in the clouds, searching blindly for leads, only to be disappointed with the results? If you are a small business or a nonprofit, you can’t always plan the results you might expect using free online networking tools, but you can certainly do a lot to build your brand without breaking the bank.

We spend 2 hours a week posting and engaging under the Wow brand. You can do a lot in 2 hours a week, too.

Here are my Top 9 tips for making free social media tools work for you in 2 hours a week:

1.    Be social

2.    Share more than you sell

3.    Engage with followers: Don’t just post; “like” and comment on other people’s posts

4.    Develop a plan that is part of an overall marketing strategy

5.    Create a social media calendar with monthly themes

6.    Pre-schedule your posts using a bulk scheduler

7.    Use photos, videos and gifs

8.    Understand what social media can and cannot do

9.    Make sure the person in charge of your posts actually likes social media

Not everything is a sale or a party on social media. And you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars a month, plus countless staff hours, running a successful social media program for your nonprofit or small business. But you do need an online presence. Want to learn more? I’m running social media and blogging seminars this spring and summer. Join us to find out how you can use these tools more effectively too.

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication and writing services company. Kim has been reporting the news, blogging, coaching & writing for business and nonprofits, and teaching students how to tell their stories for three decades. For more information, visit Business Communication Institute.

Perspective to Help Your Students Write Better Essays

By Susan Knoppow
CEO
Wow Writing Workshop
Wow CEO Susan Knoppow

We all know that 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’s impossible for them all to get in.

Sharing some perspective with our students can go a long way toward helping them see how their essays fit into the larger application mosaic. Many pieces of that mosaic are already in place: They took AP Chemistry or they didn’t. They wrote for the school paper or they didn’t. They played tennis since age 4 or they didn’t. No matter what the mosaic looks like, most students are thinking about topics to wow you, and the admissions teams, rather than what they want to say. And they might be freezing up because they believe they cannot live up to our expectations.

The more we raise the stakes for our students, the more stuck they feel. You can lower the stakes by encouraging your students to think about their best characteristics first, before they fixate on topics. Once they figure out how to demonstrate those characteristics, they will relax and just write. Even average students can write compelling, effective essays that stand out when they focus on their traits and characteristics. Why? Because those essays are genuine, and they answer the prompt.

Demystifying Admissions

We try to help our students understand the admissions industry overall. I hope that sharing our approach will give you some new talking points to calm your students and their parents. I can almost guarantee that this will help your students write more effective essays.

Here’s how we explain the situation:

  • 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.
  • The Common Application and other platforms make 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%.
  • To see how ease of applying affects the admit numbers at popular colleges and universities, look at the University of Michigan, which began accepting the Common App in 2010. That year, applications jumped by 25%. Five years later, applications to U-M surpassed 50,000, and the admit rate plunged to 26.3%.
Get a FREE book for you, and for every parent in your school!

For more insight into how we talk to students, get a free electronic copy of How to Write an Effective Application Essay: The Inside Scoop for Parents. High school counselors, find out how to get a free book for your parents, too.

Susan Knoppow is CEO of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication and writing services company that is a leading expert on the college application essay.  Wow works directly with students, and trains school counselors, English teachers and independent educational consultants who want to improve their essay-coaching skills. Wow also offers professional communication and writing services to businesses and nonprofits.