Category: Blog

Help Your Child Get Started on the College Essay

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

We hope you and your family are healthy and staying safe. As we move into application season for the Class of 2021, there are a lot of uncertainties; life right now can seem quite unsettling. Because it is.

We parsed all of the Common App prompts for 2021…and more. Get yours on Amazon.com.

College essays can seem overwhelming, too, but they don’t have to be. And neither do family discussions about essays.

Has a simple conversation in your house ever been ruined by a seemingly innocent suggestion?

That harmless conversation could start something like this…

Parent, relaxed, smiling and with a super sweet tone:

I was thinking, it would be so great if you wrote a college essay about how your great-grandpa invented the frozen custard machine. He was a real trendsetter in his day. You could talk about what an example he’s been to you and how that influenced you on student council.

Child, looking down, sighing:

Really??! Just please leave me alone!! 

Child leaves without another word. Bedroom door slams.

Parent, clueless, wonders, What was that? 

Even now – with all eyes and ears on the Coronavirus – this kind of thing happens. Parents think we know what’s in our kids’ heads, but we don’t. We think we’re helping; our children find us annoying.

We don’t want you to go through this type of scenario when college essays come up. It’s too stressful. And there’s enough stuff going on right now to distract, bore and annoy even the most dedicated, brilliant student.

The college essay can be daunting on its own. Why? Because it matters. A lot.

JOin me for a free webinar for students; parents are welcome, too.

Next up: WEDNESDAY, JuLY 8 at 7 pm  E.T.

My business partner Susan and I have been in the college admissions business for more than a decade. We have written three books – go-to guides for parents, students and counselors. We stay current on the college essay and industry trends by speaking at conferences and staying in touch with admissions officers.

We’ve always been a virtual company, working remotely with students all over the world. The Wow Method is the most effective process out there because we’ve spent 10 years perfecting it. We challenge ourselves every day. We hire the best coaches. We ask questions and dig deep.

Our process is our magic. 

We know the word “process” isn’t particularly sexy. But sexy or not, it works – year after year, with every type of student in every type of situation.

We have a small team, and during college admission season, we work with a select number of students from all over the world using an online system we developed nearly a decade ago. Our writing coaches use our online communication tools to streamline the process and make it easy for students to succeed.

The rest of the year we train independent educational consultants, counselors and other professionals who are on the ground, working with students every day.

We provide an environment that is designed for success. One that is calm. Nurturing. Quiet.

What’s our secret? We are teachers and writers who understand this industry inside and out. We talk to admissions officers all the time. We know what they want, and we know how to deliver it. We are process-driven. Our mantra: Process. Plan. Schedule.

Stick with us, and we’ll help take some of the pressure off, no matter what’s going on in the world. That’s because we teach students how to write strong, effective essays, with less stress and greater confidence.

To help you get there, join me for a free webinar for students. Parents are welcome, too. Just sign up for the live event, or watch the recording later. I answered a lot of questions during the last webinar about COVID-19 and the college essay. Watch it here. 

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

Kim Lifton is President and Co-founder of Wow Writing Workshop a premier college application essay coaching and professional training company, offering private, virtual writing coaching services to professionals and students throughout the world.  Since 2009, Wow has been leading the college admissions industry with our unique approach to communicating messages effectively through application essays, including personal statements, activity and short answer essays and supplements.  Kim leads a team of writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. Kim blogs regularly about the college essay’s role in the admission process for multiple industry publications and websites. In 2019, she was named a LinkedIn Top Voice in Education.

Building a College List for Student-Athletes

By Katie Andersen and David Stoeckel
The Student-Athlete Advisors

The process of building a college list for any student requires listening to your client’s wants and needs and gathering relevant information. Independent educational consultants (IECs) learn about grades and test scores as well as a client’s goals and wish list for college, including size of school, location, setting, public/private, major, social environment, financial needs, and any other factors that might be important to the decision-making process.

An IEC advising a student-athlete will also need to collect information about the student’s sport, position, teams (high school and club), personal statistics specific to the sport/position, awards, expectations for the level of college competition, reasons for wanting to pursue college athletics or an athletic scholarship, and athletic goals

for college and beyond. High school guidance counselors may review a student-athlete’s transcript for academic eligibility, but it’s a good idea to double-check the requirements for NCAA Division I and II and NAIA to verify that your student-athlete is academically eligible.

The student should be prepared to send an email to college coaches with an attached student- athlete profile and a recruiting video (depending on the sport) to highlight his or her athletic and academic achievements.

The final element of initiating the college athletic recruiting process is building a recruiting list with coach contact information. Unlike a purely academic college list, a recruiting list should address primarily athletics and academics.

Athletic Fit

We recommend starting this process in the middle of an athlete’s sophomore year with an initial recruiting list of up to 70 schools to provide a range of athletic competition. This list is only a starting point. As you will see, the process will help narrow the list of schools and you will revise the list as you get more feedback along the way.

Which schools offer each sport? A simple place to start your search for which schools offer each sport is the NCAA Directory at https:// web3.ncaa.org/directory or the NAIA Member Schools Search on www.NAIA.org.

Which athletic level of competition is right for my student-athlete?

Start by asking for feedback from the student-athlete, parents, coaches (club and/or high school), and trainers to get a feel for the level of competition that might be right for the student-athlete. This is a starting point, and the student-athlete will get better feedback as college coaches respond (or don’t respond) to their efforts.

Athletic rankings are a crucial aspect of a recruit’s college list because they help define the competitive level of recruiting at each school. A ranking system used in many sports is known as rating percentage index (RPI), a calculation based on wins, losses, and strength of schedule. The following sites will give you athletic ranking and conference standings for most sports:

NCAA: www.ncaa.com NAIA: www.naia.org ESPN: www.espn.com

If you can’t find enough ranking information on those sites, each sport usually has at least one website dedicated to complete college athletic rankings. Search for “college [sport] rankings” for more detailed lists.

Here are a few sites we use frequently for various sports:

Cross Country/Track & Field: www.ustfccca.org/team-rankings- polls-central
Soccer: www.topdrawersoccer.com
Swimming: www.collegeswimming.com

Tennis: www.collegetennisonline.com

Academic Fit

As with all college seeking students, student athletes must also incorporate academic fit in their search and consider GPA and test score requirements, location, selectivity, undergraduate size, and major. Most of those factors are listed on scholarshipstats.com. GuidedPath users can easily export these details about each school by creating a tagged list. Alternatively, CollegeBoard.org allows you to search for academic, financial, and social factors as well as athletic programs at the Division I, II and III, NAIA, intercollegiate, and club levels.

In some cases, especially for high-academic athletes, simply focusing on a few key athletic conferences like the Ivy League and Patriot League (NCAA Division I) or NESCAC and UAA (NCAA Division III) will help you identify the academic reach schools quickly. Keep in mind that too much information can be overwhelming for families when presented as a list of 70 schools, so we recommend presenting these details only if they provide meaningful context.

We caution against allowing academic factors to limit your list too aggressively in the early stages of the recruiting process. Although academic fit is an important part of the recruiting process, this is one area where IECs can consider a more flexible range of schools because some student-athletes may be admissible with grades
and test scores on the lower end of a school’s admissions criteria. Typically, a college coach will ask a prospective recruit for his or
her transcript and test scores to verify the student’s admissions probability with the liaison in the admissions department before the formal application process.

Group and Sort Your Data to Add Context

Once you have a list of schools that represent a reasonable
range athletically and academically, it’s time to add coach contact information. Your client should send an email to the head coach or assistant/position coaches when appropriate. The easiest way to find a single page on a school’s athletic website that contains all college coach contact information is by searching for “athletic staff directory [school name]”. If you don’t mind paying for a list, go to College Coaches Online at www.collegecoachesonline.com.

We caution against allowing academic factors to limit your list too aggressively in the early stages of the recruiting process…. Some student-athletes may be admissible with grades and test scores on the lower end of a school’s admissions criteria.

When you have an overview of the resources available to help you create an athletic recruiting list, it’s time to group the data so it has context and helps the student-athlete more accurately target the types of schools where he or she might be recruited. Figure 1 is a sample NCAA Division I list that we created for a high academic (4.3 weighted GPA, 32 ACT) women’s soccer player. This is only a sample to demonstrate the range of options within the 337 NCAA Division I schools that offer women’s soccer. This list is sorted by women’s soccer rank. Since all the schools are top-tier academic institutions, their SAT math, ACT, and GPA ranges all look the same, but there is variety in women’s soccer rank, size and location.

After your student-athlete has contacted coaches by emailing a student-athlete profile and a properly prepared recruiting video, the next phase of the recruiting process begins. Student-athletes must follow up on all coach emails in a timely manner. Once communication is established, consider visiting schools to learn more, but research the schools and athletic programs carefully before taking unofficial visits (paid for by the parents) or official visits (paid for by the school). Understand the rules about the limitations and timing of those visits before you go so that you make the most of your trips.

Use Your Resources

The athletic recruiting process can be nuanced and confusing. We encourage all IECs who work with student-athletes to join the IECA Affinity Group for IECs Advising College-Bound Student-Athletes (https://network.iecaonline.com/communities) to learn more.

It’s a valuable resource for IECA members to ensure that they have the information about rules and so much more when advising student athletes. The group meets in person at the IECA fall and spring national conferences and holds virtual roundtable meetings using Zoom (online) between the conferences.

Marvelwood students want to achieve.

And because they are surrounded by peers with a matched level of grit and teachers with an unparalleled commitment to their success, they do. The transformations we see in our students over their years with us are nothing less than astounding. The source of this success? Resilience. Our students graduate with enduring courage, compassion, and confidence for their futures.

What does success look like?

CORNERSTONES

  • Experiential and hands-on curriculum
  • Support for all types of learners, including Orton-Gillingham and Wilson Reading-trained teachers
  • Connections program for social skills training
  • Weekly community service
    • International exchange, service, and exploration programs
  •  Competitive athletics
  •  Vibrant arts programming, including Film Studies and performing arts
  • Year-round gardening program

This article was reprinted with permission from the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), which published this piece in its April/May  2020 Insights newsletter. 

Katie Anderson

Katie Andersen can be reached at katie.andersen@ collegefitoc.com.

David Stoeckel can be reached at david@thestudentathleteadvisors. com.

Dave Stoeckel

 

 

 

 

 

Wow Writing Workshop is a premier college essay coaching and professional training company, working with students and training professionals throughout the world.

We operate on three principles: Process, Plan and Schedule.

Process: At Wow, our process is our magic. Our approach is simple, with clear instructions to help you succeed. We use the same process to work with students as we use to train professionals through our College Essay Experience, Partners program, college essay consults, plus our monthly free Pro Chats.

Plan: We’ll help you plan ahead so students can calmly write essays that will enhance their application.

Schedule: We follow a proven schedule that can adjust to meet the needs of our professional colleagues and our students. We make it easy to get it all done.

For more information about Wow’s coaching services for professionals and students, contact Kim Lifton kim@wowwritingworkshop.com.

Should Your Child Start Writing a College Essay NOW?

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

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

While restaurants are closed.

When people are wearing plastic gloves out in public.

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

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

These are unsettling, super stressful times.

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

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

Why? Why now? Is it urgent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Started on Your College Essay – Free

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

 

The Truth About College Admission Rates

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

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

It’s a simple matter of impossible math.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Wow Writing Workshop

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

 

 

 

 

 

MSU Admissions Director Shares Tips for Getting In

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

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

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

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

What is the secret to getting into MSU?

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

What’s your elevator pitch to prospective Spartans?

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

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

What do you look for in a college essay?

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

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

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

How important is AP and IB?

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

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

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

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

How can an application essay help an applicant?

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

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

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

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

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

Does Your Child Need Help Applying to MSU?

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

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

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

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

Get your copy here.

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

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

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

 

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

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

NACAC President Stefanie Niles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else do you look for in an application essay?

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

As College admission changes, where does the essay fit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get your copy here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim Lifton

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

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

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

Contact Kim anytime at kim@wowwritingworkshop.com.

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.