By Kim Lifton
President, Wow Writing Workshop
Last fall, I had an email exchange with a mom who questioned her daughter’s Common App personal statement.
How are you feeling about its quality? the mom asked.
Her daughter is a very smart girl. Driven by causes. Great mind. Incredibly mature. She wrote an excellent essay showcasing her interest in social justice; she focused her story on one conversation about food insecurity at a progressive summer camp.
Any admissions reader would know she was kind, compassionate and driven, fueled by progressive causes.
Still, the mom wasn’t so sure.
Has this ever happened to you? (No need to answer… I know the answer is yes!!!)
We’ve been in this business for a long time, and yes, this still happens to us. Even though we set expectations upfront. Even though we keep parents in the loop throughout the entire process. It’s just part of the job.
At Wow, we are respectful, but we have learned how to stand our ground.
We help our students write the best essays they are able and willing to write. We supervise our coaches; we also trust them completely. We all follow the same process, and that helps us determine when students are done. And when essays are good enough.
We judge a finished essay by its theme – and improvement. Which does not mean sentences are better. Or that the writing is tighter.
Improvement can mean more clarity. Additional insight. Or more focus.
Our goal is to help every student answer the prompt and show insight. Using their own story. Their own words. And their own voice.
When I read a second draft or a final essay, I pay attention to how a story has changed and improved, not if it is perfect.
This girl’s essay was done! I told the mom. And I told her why. Confidently.
This is a quality essay. The story answers the prompt, shows insight into who she is and is reflective. It improved phenomenally from the first draft till the last draft. It sounds like your daughter. That’s what colleges want. Best of all, she is really happy with it.
And guess what? The mom backed off.
When parents say they don’t like a student’s final essay, or it is not good enough, stand your ground. Respectfully. With confidence. Explain why the essay works, how it has improved and what it shows colleges about the student.
This review guide from Step 8 of the Wow Method will give you some insight into how we do it. It’s page 18 of a 39-page guide counselors receive at the end of the College Essay Experience training.
Free Pro Chats
Join Wow CEO Susan Knoppow for a FREE 30-minute webinar, just for counselors and consultants. She will answer your questions and share tips to help you support your students and their families through the college essay-writing process. We get together one Wednesday a month, 1-1:30 p.m. Eastern. Choose the session you prefer, then join us live or listen to the recording.
February 10: What do we mean by the Wow Factor? Ending the writing process on a positive note.
March 10: Avoiding Cliches.
About Wow Professional Training
Kim Lifton is President and Co-founder of Wow Writing Workshop, the premier college essay professional training company, offering solid, replicable college essay coaching to counselors and consultants. We’ll help you take some of the pressure out of your essay coaching practice, and show you how to teach students to write strong, effective essays, with less stress and greater confidence for you, your students and their parents. For information, visit Wow professional services.