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Prep Your Child for the Journey to College

By Kim Lifton
Wow Writing Workshop

This time of year, every year, many moms and dads with high school juniors (and even sophomores!) start to get nervous about the journey to college. Seniors are either done, or at the end of the college admissions process; some have been admitted to their dream schools, while others were deferred or rejected. College talk is everywhere.

The journey to college can be overwhelming, confusing and distressing. But there’s no need to panic. We can help you get through this process with minimal stress.

Here’s our No. 1 tip for students setting out on the  journey to college: Writing a college essay is all about reflection.

How to Teach Reflection

Despite what you might believe, writing is not the most challenging part of the essay. The tough part comes at the beginning, when we ask our students what matters to them and why. We suggest you help your child explore how they exhibit their most significant traits or characteristics too. That’s the first step toward reflection.

We know that most high school students spend a lot of time thinking and talking about friends, moving out of the house, figuring out life, choosing a career and deciding which college to attend. If you teach your child how to reflect before the admission cycle starts in late spring, you will all be better prepared for the last phase of this journey to college.

The good news: You are more than ready for this challenge.

At Wow, when we help our students reflect and focus up front, the rest of the process moves much more smoothly. Too many students start in the wrong place. They come to us full of ideas about topics, with little consideration of the essay’s purpose.

All too often, students look for activities that might lead to stories, and they waste a lot of time talking about their experiences and their accomplishments. When they do this, they do not answer the prompt, which, no matter how it’s worded, is really asking students to show some insight into those experiences or accomplishments. That’s reflection.

Encourage your child to start at the beginning of the process – a conversation with you. You know what’s amazing about your child; help them figure it out too.

What are you waiting for?

We wrote a book that is full of tips to teach your child how to reflect: How to Write an Effective College Application Essay, the Inside Scoop for Parents. In fact, Chapter 2, Understanding the Prompts, delves deep into this topic.  If you can get your child to reflect, they will be ready to continue the process of discovery – and will be prepared to write those essays this spring or summer.

How to Trim a College Essay

By Kim Lifton
Wow Writing Workshop

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

Early college applications are in, and many students are scrambling to finish personal statements and essay supplements for regular admissions, beginning Jan. 1. Whether you are writing a personal statement for the Common App, or a supplement for an Ivy, private liberal arts college or public university, make sure you follow the directions and stick to the word count! Do you know how to trim a college essay?

Recently, I reviewed a student’s personal statement for the Common App that he assumed was ready for a final edit; it was 1,560 words –that is 910 words above the 650-word limit. He did not think he could cut his story, and he did not think it would make a difference in the quality of his college application. Our message: yes, it matters.

The essay is an important piece in today’s holistic college application process.

At Wow, we read and suggest cuts to our students’ essays every day, and we’ve never seen a personal statement or supplemental essay for a college application weakened by the editing process.

While some admissions insiders say limits are strictly enforced, others suggest a few words too many will not make a difference. In any case, it’s not worth the risk. Just answer the question within the specified word count on any college application, and you will not need to doubt yourself.

Here are 5 Tips to trim a college essay and any supplemental essays without destroying their content:

  1. Circle or highlight all adverbs. Take them out. These include “very” and many “ly” words, such as really, extremely, completely and absolutely.
  2. Look for a single word or short phrase followed by a comma. These include because of this, in fact, first, last, hopefully, to be frank, quite frankly and in conclusion. Highlight the words or phrases, then read the sentences without them. Take out the ones that do not enhance your story.
  3. Delete helping verbs. Example: Replace “is going to be attending” with “will attend.”
  4. Delete to be verbs. Rather than saying “I am a voracious reader,” try “I read voraciously.”
  5. Turn some nouns into verbs: “I concluded” is better than “I came to the conclusion.”

After you trim a college essay, there’s one more thing to do before clicking send: review it! Would you like a professional review of your college application essay to make sure it is ready to submit?

Wow’s trained writing coaches pay attention to factors that admissions officers tell us matter to them, like reflection, theme and flow. We know how to help untangle that messy essay. We also make sure all the “I”s are dotted and “t”s are crossed.

Wow Writing Workshop is a professional writing services and strategic communications company with a fully trained staff of teaching writers. We are experts on the college application essay, plus graduate, professional and fellowship school personal statements and resumes. We also offer writing services for businesses and non-profits. If it involves words, Wow can help. Would you like to learn more? Email 



Tips for High School Resume Writers

By Susan Knoppow
CEO, Wow Writing Workshop

Are you preparing a resume for class, college admissions, a job? Creating a high school resume is a great way to keep track of your top accomplishments and experiences. Essentially, your resume is a quick advertisement of who you are. 

Here are Wow’s tips for writing a resume that will stand out.

List your experiences.  Start by making a chronological list of key jobs, volunteer experiences and other responsibilities. Include accomplishments, awards and extracurricular activities.

 Decide what you want readers to remember about you. Think about your best characteristics, not your accomplishments. What stories or examples can you share to demonstrate those characteristics?

Keep it simple. A clean, uncluttered format will help you stand out more than fancy design.

Say no to the thesaurus. When you want to be heard, it’s important to send clear, understandable and straightforward messages to your intended audience. A resume that sounds like a thesaurus won’t impress anyone.

Stick to one page. Even an adult with 15 years of experience should be able to limit their resume to one page. Don’t feel the need to fill empty space.

Know your audience. Are you applying for a job? A summer program? A volunteer opportunity? Who will be reading your resume? Write a short cover letter to complement your resume that speaks directly to the position, the audience and the qualifications they are looking for.

Let us know if you would like assistance with your resume.

How to Nail Your College Applicant Interview

By Susan Knoppow
CEO, Wow Writing Workshop

Wow CEO Susan Knoppow

A college applicant interview can be a great opportunity for students to learn more about a school and to demonstrate their interest. Here are Wow’s top tips for great interviews.

 Be prepared. Are you clear about the interview’s purpose? Some colleges make it clear that your interview is an opportunity for you to learn more about the school, and the interviewer has no influence over admission decisions.

Consider what they already know about you. Has the interviewer read your resume? Do they have access to your application file? You do not need to repeat information they can get elsewhere.

Decide what you want readers to remember about you. Think characteristics, not accomplishments. What stories or examples can you share to demonstrate those characteristics? Practice sharing brief anecdotes aloud. You won’t have time for long, detailed stories.

Be curious. Ask questions about the college, program, etc. People like to share their expertise, and interviewers are no different. Your questions should be genuine and specific. Will you be meeting with an alumnus? A student? Your questions should be relevant to the interviewer’s experience as well.

Ask to follow up. Find out the best way to communicate with your interviewer in case you have additional questions.

Say thank you in writing. A handwritten note is always appreciated, though a warm, personal email can be fine too. If you do not have a personal address, you can send a handwritten note in care of the admissions office.

Do you need help polishing your resume or practicing for interviews? Wow can help. Contact Susan Knoppow at