How to Get a Great Story out of Your Students

A few months ago, I had lunch with my friend, Ella, a great high school counselor here in metro Detroit, where I live. It feels like a million years ago, back when high school counselors were actually working inside high schools…

We started talking about her previous job as a sales manager in the textile industry. I peppered her with questions about her job, what she did, what she liked. How do people pick colors for clothes or fabric for furniture? I asked.

How do you know which colors will be trendy?

How does someone know which color paint will be most popular next year on a car or truck?

She told me they have a system, analytics; it’s quite interesting, and it works, year after year.

I wanted to know who decides if red will be the in color for the season, or how long capris might be cool. She didn’t know, but she said there were people inside the industry who use data to predict that, too.

I couldn’t help myself. I love great stories. I find everything so interesting.

I like people. I like hearing their stories. Who are they? What’s important to them? Why? While Ella has been out of the textiles field for a long time, she appreciated that I was interested in her. I asked questions; I listened to her answers. We had a conversation. It was normal, natural.

Then something clicked.

“Hey Ella,” I said.

“Y-e-e-e-s,” she said.

“You know how to get a great story out of a kid who is writing a college essay? You do what we just did.”

  • Have a conversation.
  • Show the student you are interested in them.
  • Be curious.
  • Listen to what they have to say.
  • Ask questions.

That’s it. Yep. That’s the big secret.

That’s how you get a great story out of a student who needs to write a college essay.

Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop. Perceptive, resourceful and curious, Kim can get a story out of anyone. Kim is a former newspaper reporter and corporate communications manager. With Susan Knoppow, Wow’s CEO, Kim developed the Wow Method by combining her journalistic training with Susan’s organization and instructional design skills. She holds a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University. Kim’s articles on the college essay appear regularly in print and on the web, and her work has been featured in a variety of newspapers, magazines and online publications. Kim and Susan have co-authored three books – How to Write an Effective College Application Essay (The Inside Scoop for Parents, Students, Counselors). They are members/affiliates of the Michigan Association of College Admission Counseling (MACAC), the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA).
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