Tag: admissions

There’s No Such Thing as Writer’s Block!

By Joe Kane
Senior Writing Coach
Wow Writing Workshop
Writer's block
Joe Kane

Does this scene sound familiar? Your child is sitting down, staring at a blank screen, hands poised over the keyboard, but not writing anything. It can happen for an AP Language paper or a college essay. Your child feels stuck and calls it writer’s block.

Many of my college essay and creative writing students have shared a version of this story with me before starting the writing process.

It’s Really Not Writer’s Block

No matter what the writing task may be, when students feel stuck, they often doubt their basic writing skills. That makes getting started even harder. The student feels trapped; the parent feels helpless. Anxiety creeps into the home. As a result, students tend to avoid writing the first draft by continually searching for “better” topics. This won’t work. It’s not writer’s block.

When this happens with your child, give yourself permission to take a step back. First and foremost, it’s important for you to understand that writing skills and topics are not the culprits. Nor is writer’s block. Students are not really stuck; they’ve just jumped the gun. They are unprepared to write a first draft because they’ve skipped important beginning steps in the college essay writing process.

Find the Real Starting Line, Forget Writer’s Block

The famous author Flannery O’Connor said: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” This quote reminds me that writing is a great tool for exploring ideas and clarifying thoughts. This is true with any kind of writing project, and it’s especially true for the college essay.

Admissions readers want to see stories that are personal and reveal meaningful traits and characteristics about the writer. They want to know something real about each applicant.

To do that, students need to take the time to clarify their own feelings about the story they want to write. At Wow, we usually assign two or three brief writing exercises before tackling the first draft, to give students low-stakes opportunities to gather details, organize their thoughts, and warm up their minds. After all, this is a thinking task, even more than it is a writing task.

writing exercise

• Set a timer for 10 minutes.
• Think of the story you want to tell your best friend.
• Write down any detail about that story that comes to mind.
• While writing, keep your mind open to physical details (what you saw, heard, touched) as well as emotional details (what you were thinking and feeling).
• You don’t need to write in chronological order or even use complete sentences. It’s okay to be messy. Just write down every detail that comes to mind as fast as you can until the timer runs out.

This exercise works because it removes the pressure that’s often associated with writing a draft. The time limit is important. The feeling of racing against the clock help to turn off the second-guessing and self-editing parts of our brain is real; when that happens, it’s amazing to see what kinds of details students come up with. I’ve never heard a student say they couldn’t do this exercise due to writer’s block.

When the timer goes off, your teen will have spent 10 minutes refreshing their memory about the story they want to tell, and they’ll have a stockpile of details they can draw from when they write their first draft.

Is Your Teen Feeling Stuck on the College Essay?

If your child thinks they have writer’s block, it might be time to call in a professional. A Wow coach can guide your child, and help keep things calm in your home during this stressful time. We’re still taking private coaching students for the 2018-19 season, but our coach slots are filling up quickly. Reserve your spot now. 

Has your teen already written a draft? You might want to get some professional feedback before clicking send.  We’ll be happy to give your child a professional  essay review.  We will provide comprehensive written feedback, notes on what works, plus suggestions for improvement. We pay attention to items that matter to admissions officers, like reflection, theme and flow, and comment on technical issues, including grammar, spelling and sentence structure.

About the Author

Joe Kane is Wow’s Senior Writing Coach. A poet and editor, Joe coaches Wow’s college essay, ACT/SAT writing and creative writing students, and he teaches Wow’s intensive, online workshop, Be a Better Writer. He is also a program director of SLANT, which provides creative writing opportunities for Nashville area teens. In all he does, Joe has never complained about writer’s block.

Writer's block
If it involves words, Wow can help!

Wow Writing Workshop is a strategic communication company staffed by experts who understand the writing process inside and out. Since 2009, Wow has been leading the industry with our unique approach to communicating any message effectively. The Wow Method helps business and nonprofit leaders create better blogs, manage social media, develop websites and create other communication materials. It also helps students write college application essays, grad school personal statements and resumes that get results. If it involves words, Wow can help.

Tips to Overcome College Essay Writing Anxiety

By Joe Kane
Senior Writing Coach
Wow Writing Workshop

Every writer feels nervous in the moments when they are revising, starting over or drafting a new piece of prose. So it’s not surprising when even students who are well-prepared, understand the college essay prompt, and have a great story to tell also get the first-draft jitters, or writing anxiety.

College application season is in full gear, and just like every season, we see a lot of students who have difficulty starting their first drafts. That’s okay. Don’t panic. We know how to calm them.

Some students think that their nervousness is a sign that they’re inadequate writers or that they’re doing something wrong. It isn’t. College essays have high stakes. Feeling a little anxiety is normal, even healthy.

I am a college essay coach, and also a creative writer and teacher. I regularly attend an annual writers’ conference that attracts big names in fiction and poetry, plus thousands of aspiring writers and publishers, for a weekend of readings and craft discussions. At my first conference, I was surprised to hear how openly authors talked about their own writing anxiety.

Even authors with four or five books already on the best seller list said that they feel a bit anxious every time they start a new writing project. Their previous works might have been hits, but what should they do about the half-written chapters on their kitchen tables? How do successful writers manage those nerves?

Here are three strategies for managing writing anxiety that work for the pros, and help our Wow college application essay students:

Keep the Faith; calm the anxiety

Accept that some anxiety is normal and trust yourself to write the first draft.  Moments of doubt require a little faith. When you’re feeling nervous, just keep writing and don’t stop until the draft is finished. Successful writers keep writing even when they are feeling unsure of themselves.

Trust the Process
It's important to trust yourself when coping with writing anxiety
We tell each Wow student: Trust Yourself

Take comfort in revision. No one gets it perfect on the first try. Refining your ideas over several drafts is an essential part of the writing process. That also means there is less pressure on you to perfect your first draft. You don’t need to worry about finding the right words in your first draft because you’ll reread and revise anything you write (hopefully more than once). It’s okay for first drafts to be messy. They’re supposed to be. Just get your ideas down on paper. You’ll be able to polish your words later.

Get Advice from Someone You Trust

Every successful author has a go-to person who reads their work before anyone else. It might be a relative, friend, another writer, or an editor. You can usually find that person’s name listed on the acknowledgments page at the beginning or end of a book. A trusted reader can offer valuable big-picture perspective, and also catch small mistakes that are hard to see when you’ve been looking at a piece of writing for a long time.

Finding the right reader can be a little tricky with college essays because the world of college admissions is always changing. At Wow, we have ongoing conversations with admissions officers across the country to make sure that we offer the best college essay advice that reflects what admissions readers are hoping to see.

Let Wow’s Experts Guide You
Anxious? Stressed? Sign up now for $39!

We’d love to be your guide. A Wow coach can show your child how to write for college admissions officers without a pre-designed structure, without reading sample essays and without so much added stress, wherever you are along the journey. To learn more,  click private coaching services or Crash Course to get the best of Wow in our 1-hour video course designed to help you nail that Common App.  

About the Author
Meet Wow's Senior Writing Coach Joe Kane
Joe Kane

Joe Kane is Senior Writing Coach for Wow Writing Workshop, which is still accepting essay coaching students who are applying to college and graduate school this fall. Wow’s team of professional writers and teachers understand the writing process inside and out. The Wow Method has been 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. If it involves words, we can help.

 

 

Top 5 Common App Essay Myths & Facts

Common App
Common App goes live Aug. 1

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

The Common App opens August 1 for the Class of 2019. With that in mind, let’s debunk some of the rumors about the Common App essay (personal statement for college) that often spread like wildfire among the college-bound crowd and their families.

With that in mind, here are our Top 5 college essay myths and facts:

Myth 1: A Common App essay has to be written about an impressive topic.

Fact: The student is impressive, not the college essay topic. The story, not the experience, is most important. Colleges want to know what an applicant has learned, rather than what they did.

One Wow student came to us confident that it was her trip to help the poor in Central America that would stand out in her application essay. Not at all. While brainstorming ideas with a writing coach, she discovered her most important moment during that trip occurred when she overcame her fear of heights by jumping off a cliff into the water.

“What does the experience mean to you?” asked Calvin Wise, the Director of Recruitment for Johns Hopkins University. “That is what we want to know.”

Myth 2: A Common App college essay should sound sophisticated, like Hemingway or a college professor.
Don’t fall victim to the myths! Get the facts!

Fact:  A high school student should sound like a high school student. Not a professor. Or a famous writer.

(Students should) “be themselves,” said Andrea Nadler, Associate Dean of Admission at Hofstra University.  “The college essay should allow us to use our senses to see, feel, taste and experience the kinds of things that are important to these students. If writing about a book they have read, we want to feel like we are in it with them. If writing about a meal they have had, we want to taste it.”

Myth 3: Admissions officers will never know if anyone helped too much with a Common app college essay. They won’t know if the student plagiarized, either.

Fact: There is a fine line between helping your child and writing or over-editing the Common App essay for them. Admissions officers know when someone other than the student writes all or part of a story; they don’t like it.

“If a student has an adult write it, the admissions committee can tell,” said Jim Cotter, Director of Admissions for Michigan State University.

Many schools will automatically reject a student’s application, without an explanation, even if they merely suspect plagiarism.

Myth 4: There is a right way and a wrong way to write a college essay.

Fact:  An applicant’s best story will grow out of the process of writing the Common App essay. To stand out, they must tell a genuine story and show insight.

Despite what you might hear, there are no tricks and no shortcuts. No magic formula. The essay doesn’t need a killer opening line or a tight conclusion. Trust the process; the college essay will emerge through the process of reflection, writing and revision.

“The key is to show genuine passion, commitment and that they have what it takes to survive at the school,” said Lorenzo Gamboa, Senior Associate Director of Admissions for Santa Clara University.

Myth 5: Only superstar students will impress admissions officers with their common app essays.

Fact: Anyone can stand out with a great story in a Common App essay.

An applicant does not need to rescue a child from a house fire or teach an autistic boy how to swim to impress admissions officers. One Wow student wrote about the moment he forgot his cello for an orchestra concert and improvised his performance with a bass guitar. His problem-solving skills impressed admissions officers, and one college sent him an offer of admission that praised his college essay.

“Sometimes students feel that because they haven’t found the cure for cancer, they have nothing to share,” said Jan Deike, Vanderbilt University, Assistant Director of Admissions. “Life is truly lived in the smaller moments, and that can be a powerful essay.”

Learn How to write common app essay for $39
Get Common App essay crash course for just $39
Anxious? Stressed? Learn to write Common App essay for $39!

Wouldn’t it be great to get that Common App essay out of the way? And without breaking the bank? We can help! Sign up for our one-hour video course, and you’ll be good to go. Just $39. Write that essay any time, anywhere…

 

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

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication and writing services company that is a leading expert on the college application essay. Kim, a former journalist, speaks with senior admissions officers from the nation’s most selective colleges all the time. 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.

 

 

 

Want to Stand Out in Your College Essay?

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

Juniors, as you prepare to start the college application process in earnest, keep in mind that the best personal statements  show insight into who you are.

Does the experience you write about have to be earth shattering? No. Does it have to illustrate an “aha” moment? Not at all. It is a reflection on something that has meaning to you. It doesn’t matter what that is. There’s no magic answer. No secret sauce. Not even a shortcut. The essay is one (very important) piece of a holistic admission process.

Shawn Felton, the Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Cornell University, reviews thousands of applications each admissions cycle. That’s a lot of entrance essays. What delights him? A story that rounds out an applicant’s package, and an essay that helps him understand who the person is.

“We want to put a face to the pile of paper,” Felton explains. “It is part of a number of identifiers that deliver who you are as a person.”

What turns him off? Stories that are not genuine, do not answer the prompt, or fail to give him any insight into the applicant’s character. He does not like it when students try too hard to impress him, or write essays that seem forced or inauthentic.

“The essay is not something to be cracked,” he cautions.

Essays won’t get a student who is not qualified into any college. However, they can help a qualified applicant get a better shot at admission to that dream school. Yes, the essay can help you.

“A poorly written essay can take an applicant out of the running, but conversely a great essay can certainly help. A fantastic essay can absolutely give the applicant a bump up. Even after reviewing a mediocre transcript or seeing a limited activities list, I can be swayed to admit a student who writes an essay that really blows me away. The topic of the essay doesn’t need to be mind-blowing (in fact, the most mundane topics are often the most relatable and enjoyable), but if it reveals a someone who would be highly valued in our campus community, that could tip the scales.”

Gregory Sneed, Vice President for Enrollment, Denison     University

 

Colleges want some insight into your character. What did you do? What did you learn about yourself? Why does it matter? A girl who went on a volunteer trip to Central America to teach students to read learned more about herself on that trip when she jumped off a 30-foot cliff into the ocean. She wrote a riveting piece about feeling brave in an attempt to overcome her fear of heights. That experience would have been relevant if it took place down the street or around the world. It wasn’t impressive because it happened in Belize. It was impressive because it demonstrated reflection and growth.

Click more information to find out how Wow helps students just like you stand out in your college essay.

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

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop. Wow’s team of professional writers and teachers understand the writing process inside and out. The Wow Method has been 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. If it involves words, we can help. Email kim@wowwritingworkshop.com.

 

You’ve Been Deferred. Now What?

By Kim Lifton
President, Wow Writing Workshop

You’ve been deferred from your top college choice. Now what?

Rest assured, you are not alone. And there’s good news: you are qualified, and your application will be re-evaluated for regular decision.

Is there anything you can do while you are waiting? Should you send more information? Write a new essay? Call the admissions office?

To help answer these questions, we polled a few of our favorite admissions officers and college counselors to give you the most accurate information on this subject.

When you are deferred, you may be asked to submit mid-year grades. In most cases, you are allowed to share new information, such as additional leadership positions and standardized test results, an updated resume, a new letter of recommendation, and updates on honors and awards.

Some schools, like Cornell and Johns Hopkins, allow for additional written personal statements that support your interest. But some colleges do not want to hear from deferred students. Do your homework to find out. Start by looking at the school website. If you don’t know, or cannot find out, talk to your high school counselor.

Keep in mind, while every college and university is different, most will allow you to submit a deferral letter. To give yourself an advantage, check out Wow’s Deferral Letter/Consulting Package. Our experts can help you gather the right content and write a compelling letter that gives you the best chance of standing out, and hearing YES from your favorite school!

Here’s a sampling of what the college experts have to say:

Cornell University DeferredShawn Felton

Cornell University
Director of Undergraduate Admissions
Ithaca, NY

“I usually encourage deferred students to craft an email that lets the committee know of continued interest – I call it checking in. It should not begin as a dirge. Avoid: ‘I am deeply disappointed that I was not offered admission during Early Decision…’ Felton suggests students stay positive in their deferral letters, and share why they want to be a part of the Cornell community.

Kim Bryant DeferredKimberly Bryant
University of Michigan
Assistant Director of Admissions
Ann Arbor, MI

“Send your most recent grades,” and contact your admissions counselor to let him/her know you still have a desire to attend the University of Michigan.

Marie Bigham DeferredMarie Bigham
Director of College Counseling, Isidore Newman School, New Orleans

“Deferrals are more of an indictment of the bloated process, rather than decisions about individual students.”

Bigham suggests:

  • Stay in contact with the college(s) that deferred you. Let them know what’s new and why you should be admitted.
  • If a college is your first choice and you know for sure that you would attend, tell the representative that!
  • Ask the school rep if visiting (perhaps again) will help.
  • Don’t overdo it and be a pest.

Jenny Umhofer DeferredJenny Umhofer
Colledge, College Admissions Counseling, Founder
Former Assistant Director of Admissions, CalTech
Pasadena, CA

“The single most important first step a student should take when they have been deferred and would still like to be considered is to contact the college directly as soon as possible.”

Umhofer advises students to:

  • Call rather than email, and ask to speak to the admissions officer who is assigned to their territory or region.
  • Be gracious and be prepared with questions when the admissions officer picks up the phone.
  • Ask about the deferral process. Find out what new information they might like.
  • You can also ask for feedback on the college’s decision to defer YOU, and ask why they made that decision. They may be more forthcoming than you might expect.

Patrick O'Connor DeferredPatrick O’Connor
Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School
Associate Dean, College Counseling
Bloomfield Hills, MI

“Make sure to keep your current grades up.  Colleges will often call counselors to get updates on the current grades of deferred students – and since those calls can come as late as March, this is no time to let senioritis take over.”

Do you want to increase your chances of getting off the deferral list and into the school of your dreams? Click here to work with a Wow writing coach on a deferral letter that can help you stand out and get in.

How to Trim a College Essay

By Kim Lifton
President
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 Kim@wowwritingworkshop.com. 

 

 

College is Coming Soon … is Your Teen Ready for the Journey?

What to do NOW to prepare your child for college

By Kim Lifton

College Essay Expert Kim Lifton will show you how to help your child in Unstoppable Teen interview series
College Essay Expert Kim Lifton

Is your child ready for the college journey? Are you? What are you doing to help keep the peace at home during this unusually stressful time?

Today’s teens are under SO much pressure to succeed!   Every spring, parents call us in a panic, wanting help with the college essays because they are worried that their children will not get into college.

While the fear is unfounded, it often feels real. What’s more, the essay can make the process even more daunting, and it should feel like an opportunity, not a burden.

Writing an effective college essay is more important than ever, and doing it right does set students apart inside an increasingly competitive admissions business. But if students take the time to learn HOW to write it, from beginning to end, anxiety levels should decrease in your house.  We can help calm your teen, and you, during the college admission season. We wrote a book for you so you know how to get your child prepared, and we can teach your child  how to write that essay.

Our students get into their top choice colleges year after year; your child should too. To learn more about what it takes, check out my interview with Dr. Maggie Wray, a leading educational psychologist from Atlanta, for her 3rd annual Unstoppable Teens Online Interview Series.

I loved my interview with Dr. Wray. She asked fantastic questions! We talked about what the essay is, our new book for parents like you, why your child needs to write 1 or 10 essays, what admissions wants, and how to knock it out of the ballpark so admissions will notice your child.

3rd Annual Unstoppable Teens Online Interview Series
Helping parents empower their teens to excel in high school, college, and beyond!
 June 14-24

Please join me. Grab your FREE seat here. 

This online interview series was designed to help parents empower  teens with the skills they’ll need to get into a great college (get our NEW book, How to Write an Effective College Application Essay – The Inside Scoop for Parents, to learn how to help your child write a stand-out college essay), AND How to excel once they get there.

During this event, some of the top experts in education, college admissions, parenting, and psychology will be sharing their insights and strategies about how to help your teen…

  • Write outstanding essays (that’s me!)
  • Better grades with less stress
  • Ace their SAT and ACT tests
  • Find a college that’s a GREAT fit for them
  • Win more college scholarships
  • Successfully transition to life as a college student
  • Start thinking about career choices

…and so much more!

I’m honored to be one of the featured speakers on this series and am looking forward to sharing this information with you!

I’ll look forward to seeing you there! Thanks & best wishes.

 Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication and writing services company. Wow was founded by professional writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. The Wow Method has been 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. To reserve a space for the upcoming season, sign up now for one Complete Essay writing package. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secure Your Spot at a Top College

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

College, James CotterHigh school students, Michigan State University’s Director of Admissions James Cotter has an important message to share with you about where you will get into college.

“Everyone can be admitted somewhere,” said Cotter, a 30-year veteran of the college admissions office. “Don’t worry so much about getting in; worry about getting out. Where can you be admitted that you can succeed?”

During his tenure, Cotter has accumulated quite a bit of first-hand knowledge about what it takes to get into college, as well as what it takes to succeed once you get there.

First, you have to be qualified. Make sure your grades and test scores match the school’s requirements. And always keep in mind, the college application essay can help you!

“It’s value-added,” Cotter told Wow. “At a moderately selective school, the essay 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.”

Join Wow for FREE today to find out more about what Cotter has to say about getting into the Big 10 and other colleges, how admissions officers choose prospective students, and whether or not there is one perfect school for each applicant.

MSU Listed as a Top 10 College for Video Game Design Studies

Hey there, high school students: Do you spend hours each night playing X-box and Wii? Are you first in line at the store the day a new video game is unveiled? Read more

Check out Wow Writing on Facebook! We are Now Linked to Colleges

Wow Writing workshop has updated our Facebook page to help make the college admissions experience a little bit easier for you.

Using the newest Facebook updates for fan pages, we’ve added several links to pages containing information on colleges; we uploaded a few specific sites for information about admissions.

We will continue to add universities and useful links to assist you with your college admissions journey. Please LIKE our page, follow Wow Writing Workshop on Twitter, and suggest your friends LIKE us too!