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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you trust yourself? Do you believe you cannot write well enough to get into college?
Year after year, we work with students just like you who tell us they cannot write, or they despise it. We don’t believe them. And we won’t believe you, either. We know better.
Before we start working with our students on the college essay, we remind them that this is their journey and they should own the process. We also assure them that when they are done, they will be more confident, empowered writers, ready for college and their futures.
“Trust yourself!” It’s important that you trust your own words, style and voice.
Here’s an excerpt on that subject from our new book, How to Write an Effective College Application Essay, The Inside Scoop for Parents:
With instructions, anyone can learn how to write. In all of Wow’s years working with students, we have never had a student who could not follow our guidance and complete an application essay.
David was one of those students who lacked the confidence to write his essay. Applying to college was stressful; writing the essays paralyzed him. He came to Wow convinced he just couldn’t write.
David had good grades in math and English, and scored well on the ACT (in writing, too). He spoke clearly and articulately. He had good reasons for wanting to study business in college. The boy who said he could not write was a sports reporter for his high school newspaper (and an exceptional varsity hockey player!).
Like so many students feeling pressure to get into college, David’s fear of writing this essay prevented him from getting the job done.
“Can you think?” we asked him.
“Um, yes,” he said.
“Well, then, you can write.”
Our mantra: If you can think, you can write. We talked about what mattered to David, and why. Why did he want to go to college? What did he want admissions to know about him? What made him tick? He said everyone thought of him as a gifted hockey player. But he had another side few could see. He was kind and compassionate with a soft spot for special needs children. That, he said, would be a nice thing for colleges to know.
We brainstormed ideas based on what David wanted colleges to know about him. David was afraid to write about hockey. “Everyone” told him not to write about sports. We explained that a college essay was not about an experience; it was about him – his insight into the experience, any experience. If David had a story about sports that demonstrated his kindness and compassion, then it might work.
In the end, David wrote about the moment that his cousin with Down Syndrome, who regularly attended his hockey games, held up a homemade sign to cheer him on during a game. “I just wanted to score one for my cousin,” David said.
David’s story about his relationship with his disabled cousin turned into an insightful essay that illustrated something meaningful to David that colleges would never have known about him. He used it for two different college applications. It was his genuine story, his idea, and no one else could possibly duplicate it. He was admitted to both schools.
That night, David’s mom called. She had never seen her son this excited about anything other than girls or sports. He finally believed he could write.
David listened to his writing voice, and he liked what he heard.
We talk to admissions officers all the time at large, small, public, and private colleges. Just in the last few months, we’ve checked in with Michigan, Barnard, Indiana, Northwestern, Cornell, Michigan State, Columbia and UC-Berkeley. Their advice is worth listening to.
Time and again, these and other admissions officers (who can decide a student’s fate) tell us exactly what they want in the essays. No matter the type of college essay or whether it’s 50 or 650 words, they want to read meaningful narratives that:
Answer the prompt
Are written by the student
Demonstrate insight into who the student is beyond grades, scores and accomplishments
At its core, a college essay is all about reflection. At Wow, we offer many services (including free ones!) to help parents and other adults teach reflection. Meanwhile, here are some of our favorite tips direct from our friends inside the admissions office:
Shawn Felton, Cornell University, Director of Undergraduate Admissions
“What are we looking for? We are creating a class. We look at numbers, grades and test scores. But there’s more to it. We are trying to put a face with all of this information.”
Christina Lopez, Barnard College, Director of Admissions
“The whole application process is one big “Match.com” process. The students are creating their ‘profile’ within their application and reflecting in the essays on who they are as scholars and people.”
Tamara Siler, Rice University, Senior Associate Director for Admission
“Students think it has to be a discussion of their most traumatic experiences. If you have a relatively peaceful existence, that is fine.”
Jan Deike, Vanderbilt University, Assistant Director of Admissions
“Sometimes students feel that because they haven’t found the cure for cancer, they have nothing to share. Life is truly lived in the smaller moments, and that can be a powerful essay.”
Jim Cotter, Michigan State University, Director of Admissions
“The essay is value added. At a moderately selective school, it can pull a student on the cusp up. At a highly selective school, a poor statement can make the difference between being admitted or not.”
Christoph Guttentag, Duke University, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions
“By the time (the application) comes to us, many of them have gone through so many hands that the essays are sanitized. I wish I saw more of a thoughtful voice of a 17 year-old.”
Lorenzo Gamboa, Santa Clara University, Senior Associate Director of Admissions
“Students do not need to compile an entire season into an essay. Just give us one place, one time, one moment, and that will do it for you. The key is to show genuine passion, commitment and that they have what it takes to survive at the school.”
Calvin Wise, Johns Hopkins University, Director of Recruitment
“I never run into a colleague’s office and say ‘look at this 4.0 GPA.’ I will run into an office with a good essay to share; that excites me.”
Kim Bryant, University of Michigan, Assistant Director of Admissions
“This is your interview. Let me know who you really are.”
Want to learn more? Join us for a free parent chat, where we’ll answer questions and share our latest tips.
Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communications and writing services company that is a leading expert on the college application essay. Kim, a former journalist, has made it her mission to know everything about college admissions, and the essay’s role within it. She speaks with senior admissions officers from the nation’s most selective colleges almost every day. 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.
Are you taking the ACT on April 8 or the SAT on May 6? If you have a disability and need extra time, a reader, or space in a separate room to take either test, you should not have any trouble getting accommodations.
Both the College Board (which administers the SAT) and ACT Inc. have increasingly faced criticism and questions from the U.S. Department of Justice for testing practices that allegedly put students with disabilities at a disadvantage compared with students without disabilities.
But at the end of 2016, high school counselors and families with 504 and IEP plans got some welcome news: Both the ACT and the College Board loosened restrictions that critics believed made it too difficult to receive special accommodations. As a result, students with documented learning disabilities who have special education plans at school will automatically receive testing accommodations.
This move follows years of complaints by counselors and families who said the testing companies unfairly rejected requests for accommodations from students with learning challenges – even for those with school accommodations already in place.
At Wow, we guide with students of all abilities through the college essay writing process, and we are delighted by this positive news. Here are some articles and links to accurate sources that explain the news in greater depth:
Paul Yellin, director of the Yellin Center for Mind, Brain, and Education in New York City, blogged about the SAT and ACT Changes, cautioning families that this is not foolproof and they need to pay attention to the requirements.
Learn How to Ace the ACT & SAT Writing Tests
At Wow, we know what it takes to succeed on any writing test. Sign up for a private workshop with a Wow coach to learn how to ace the SAT or ACT writing test. We teach students how to read and evaluate the prompts; how to organize their thoughts; and provide valuable tips for writing quickly, clearly, and effectively on either test.
Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communications and writing services company that is a leading expert on the college application essay. Kim, a former journalist, has made it her mission to know EVERYTHING about college admissions, and the essay’s role within it. She speaks with senior admissions officers from the nation’s most selective colleges almost every day. 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.
High school counselors, what approach do you use to help your students craft application essays? Would you like some new time-saving techniques that can help you reach students who have difficulty with the college essay process (and make your job a little bit easier)?
Wow CEO Susan Knoppow will join the Pennsylvania Association for College Admission Counseling (PACAC) next Wednesday, February 8th, to present: “I’m 17 – and I’m Not Hemingway! A Realistic Approach to College Essays,” an online professional development workshop for Secondary School Counselors.
The workshop is for high school counselors and independent educational consultants throughout the U.S. who want resources for students and colleagues. Pennsylvania counselors can get a ertificate of Attendance to submit for ACT 48 credit through your district/IU. (Note: counselors must be registered and loggedin to the Online Workshop individually for the entire hour and a half to receive the certificate.)
Susan has 20 years experience working with students of all ages. She has an MFA in Writing from Vermont College, a BA in Psychology from the University of Michigan, and has taught college and high school creative writing and composition.
In 2009, she co-founded Wow Writing Workshop and developed the Wow Method, an approach 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.
When: Wednesday, February 8th, 11am-12:30pm EST (1.5 hours)
Cost:FREE for PACAC Members. Non-Members: $10
**Join PACAC today ($25 individual annual membership) and attend online workshops for FREE!
Every few years, the Common Application, a tool used by more than 700 colleges to help students apply seamlessly to multiple schools, makes noticeable changes to its essay prompts. The changes are based on feedback from students, parents, high school counselors, educational consultants and member schools following each admissions cycle.
This year, the Common App has added two new prompts for the next group of college applicants; they also clarified some of the current questions.
What does it all mean for high school juniors who are about to start the journey to college? Nothing, really. The task is the same. The purpose is the same, too. Some of the existing prompts are more specific, and the new questions simply provide a few more options for students.
I asked Scott Anderson, the Senior Director of Education and Partnerships for the Common Application, what he would advise students so they do not overthink the changes.
“The prompts have changed slightly, but the instructions remain the same: what do you want application readers to know about you?,” Anderson told me. “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.”
Anderson added, “Students should pick the prompt that supports and gets them excited about the story they want to tell about themselves.”
The best prompt is always the one the college applicant prefers.
No prompt is better than any other. And, despite what you may have heard or read in the past, or what you might hear in the coming months, colleges that use the Common App do not prefer any particular prompt.
At Wow, we talk to admissions officers all the time; they confirm what Anderson told us: they are more interested in what a student has to say than which prompt the student chooses.
At its core, the college essay is all about reflection. No matter what the prompt, we approach every one the same way. We tell our students an effective essay will answer these two questions:
Why does it matter?
Why it matters to a student (the reflection) is more important than what happened (the experience, the activity, or the person who influenced that student).
Here are the 2017-2018 Common Application Essay Prompts
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. [No change]
2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]
4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. [No change]
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]
6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. [New]
Parents, find out how you can help your child respond to any prompt in our next monthly Parent Chat. It’s Feb, 21, and free. If you cannot make it, sign up anyway, and we’ll send you a recording.
Counselors and other professionals, our parent chats have been so popular we are offering free 30-minute sessions for you, too. Sign up here. Join us live or listen to the recording.
Last August, Wow’s Kim Lifton was the featured expert on #CollegeChat, a live Twitter chat hosted every Thursday night by Jodi Okun; we shared our expertise on the college and scholarship essay (the process is the same!) that evening. We asked Jodi to share her best tips about paying for college in this guest blog. Contact Wow to learn how to write a standout scholarship essay.
Worried about paying for college? Confused about securing the best financial aid package? You are not alone.
Regardless of your family’s income or financial circumstances, most parents like you have one of these concerns:
You make too much to qualify for aid.
You make too little to afford college at all.
No matter what your financial situation, there are plenty of opportunities to help you and your family pay for college. Before starting the search for financial opportunities, you’ll need to understand how financial aid works, whether you’ll qualify for any – and know where to turn for help when it gets confusing.
Managing college financial aid strategies – from scholarships to work study jobs to student loans – is challenging. But it does not need to be overwhelming.
Begin the process by asking yourself these three questions:
How can I afford college for my child?
How can I navigate this complicated financial aid system?
And how will I make the best decisions for my family?
While no single answer is right for everyone, you’ll be able to find an answer that is right for you. I help parents navigate the process, but I cannot give you a step-by-step manual of what to do; I would need to update that manual daily. Useful information will help you move you in the right direction to secure the funding you’ll need for your child’s post-secondary education.
Meanwhile, try to stay calm, and don’t let fear get the best of you. College is a lot of work, and it costs a lot of money. But most parents and students I know feel that a college degree is well worth the effort.
Jodi’s Top 6 Tips to Navigate Financial Aid Process:
Start early – Don’t wait till senior year before making financial plans. If you do, you’ll be limiting your options. The more information you acquire early, the better off you will be.
Involve your child in the process – I’ve seen parents exclude their children from the financial aid decision-making process, and then turn around and complain that their child doesn’t understand anything about money. Everyone involved should know the facts behind the decisions made; it helps them understand how to be financially responsible.
Maximize free money – Use scholarships, grants, and other awards that don’t need to be paid back.
Pay as much as you can out of pocket – This includes savings, contributions from parents and relatives, 529 savings plans, part-time jobs, and work-study programs.
Borrow with caution – Maximize federal loans first, and then use private student loans – only if necessary.
Talk about money with your child – One of the reasons why student debt is at an all-time high is that parents fail to talk about money and student loans with their children before college. Student loans can have lifelong financial consequences if they are not repaid. Make sure your child understands the amount of money borrowed and who is responsible for repayment.
Jodi Okun, founder of College Financial Aid Advisers and a former financial aid consultant at Occidental and Pitzer colleges, has helped thousands of families successfully navigate the financial aid process, no matter what their financial situation. She is the bestselling author of Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro, and is recognized by the Huffington Post and other media outlets as a top social media influencer. She blogs, speaks to industry and parent groups, and hosts weekly #CollegeCash Twitter chats that connect families with higher education professionals – and receive more than 10,000 impressions each week. To learn more about navigating financial aid for college, sign up for a free financial aid strategy session with Jodi.