When Joey came to Wow last fall for help writing his college admissions essay, he told me: “I just can’t write. I don’t know what to write about.”
While he had good grades, scored well on the ACT and earned a letter in varsity hockey, he could not get that pen to move in any direction on his piece of paper; he could not even write one word to express his feelings. Like so many other high school students feeling pressure to get into college, Joey’s fear of writing this essay prevented him from getting the job done.
“Can you think?” I asked him.
“Um, yes,” he said.
“Well, then, you can write.”
I’ve been helping kids write college essays for 20 years, and I hear similar lines every time I begin working with a student. My partner and I launched Wow Writing Workshop to teach students how to relax, brainstorm ideas, and write stories in their own voices, in their own words. We help them tell their stories using the written word.
I asked Joey many questions to help him start the brainstorming process. At first, he talked, but he didn’t write anything down. I gave him writing prompts, and then I just peppered him with questions. Soon, he started telling me about the time his cousin with Down Syndrome attended his hockey games. At one game, his cousin held up a home-made sign to cheer him on at his hockey game. “I just wanted to score one for my cousin,” Joey told me.
I grabbed his notebook to jot down his words. When I read it back to Joey, he looked at me in amazement. He said the beginning of the piece was good, and he wanted to use it if I didn’t mind. “Great,” I said. “You wrote it. These are your words, not mine.”
That night, I got a voice message from Joey’s mom. She had never seen her son as excited about anything other than girls or sports. He finally believed he could write.
Joey’s story about his relationship with his disabled cousin turned into a powerful essay about diversity for two different college applications. It was his story, and no one else could possibly duplicate it.
Joey was accepted to the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, and he credits Wow for helping him do it.
Come hear more stories like Joey’s, and learn about the importance of the college essay, during a series of free parent/student information nights scheduled for next month. Click here to see our spring class lineup,calendar, and to get workshop registration information.