Tag: college essay

What Do Colleges Really Want in an Essay?

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

When it comes to the college essay, parents and other well-meaning adults often focus on the beauty of the prose, the “hook” and the topic. Be careful. That’s not what colleges want.

It’s August, the month our phones ring off-the-hook every year. Students are nervous or stuck, and their parents do not know how to calm them, or help them with application essays.

The first college application deadline is just months away, and many rising seniors are still unsure of what’s expected. They don’t know where to start, or even why colleges are asking them write one essay or five. Do you know what colleges want? We can help.

The College Essay is About Reflection

At its core, the college essay is all about reflection; it’s a thinking task. Readers are not looking for perfection. Colleges want insight into your child’s character. Will they fit in? The essay should put a face to that huge pile of paper and help round out the application package.

“It’s value-added,” says long-time admissions professional James Cotter, the Dean of Admissions at Michigan State University. “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.”

College admissions pros are delighted when they read narratives that highlight positive personal traits and characteristics, but they get frustrated by essays that detail experiences or brag about accomplishments.

“What does the experience mean to you? Why was it important? That is what we want to know,” explains Calvin Wise, Director for Recruitment, Johns Hopkins University.

To stand out, applicants need to follow the instructions and share some genuine insight. You can help your child get ready for the essay, but be careful because it is easy to overstep your role – even unintentionally.

We’ve been doing this a long time and have never worked with a student who was not up to the task. We can teach your child how to brainstorm for ideas, and how to answer any type of prompt using their own words and own voice so college admissions officers will want to read it. Our students get into their top choice colleges, year after year, including all the Ivies, and dozens of selective public and private schools. Your child should, too.

The application essay is not as easy as students would like it to be, but it does not need to be so difficult, either.

“Answer the question,” says Shawn Felton, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Cornell University. “Since so many students don’t do that, you could actually stand out by doing that very basic thing.”

Is your child prepared for the journey? Do they know how to get the right kind of attention inside the admissions office?

Wow can help your child succeed on the college application essay, no matter where you are in the journey. Check out our free and paid services.

How to Write an Effective College Application Essay

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

Every summer, moms and dads just like you call us in a panic, asking for help understanding college application essays. They’re worried about the competition to get into college – and the amount of work required to stand out and get noticed. Most of all, they’re concerned that their children are not done writing yet.

Whether they are home or away for the summer, it’s time to make sure they’re moving on those college application essays. The essay is the most daunting part of the application process for many students, and you don’t want your child to wait until the last minute to start.

We wrote the only book you’ll need to prepare your children for this journey, and keep things a little calmer for your family at home. Yes, it’s time to start writing, but there’s no need to agonize over it. We just updated our popular guide, specifically for helping parents get a handle on the essay. The book, How to Write an Effective College Application Essay: The Inside Scoop for Parents, just $9.99 and now available in paperback, will help you walk your child through the writing process – and feel good about it. You’ll also learn how to guide them through the essay without taking over.

In this 2017 edition, we’ve explained what all the Common Application prompts mean, including the new and revised questions, plus we’ve added tips from top admissions officers. We also explain the various types of prompts you can expect.

Parents tell us they are tired of being told to step away and back off. They want to help. They just don’t know how. We will never suggest you write an application essay yourself or edit an essay so heavily it loses your child’s personality and voice. However, we believe you can play a critical role in the writing process.

You don’t need a 300-page book to help your child write a 600-word essay. But you can benefit greatly from a how-to guide, with some context to keep the process in perspective. How to Write an Effective College Application Essay is that guide. It’s short, easy to follow and has everything required to teach your child how to reflect on life experiences so they can write great essays.

At its core, the college essay is about reflection. That’s challenging because most 17-year-olds have very little practice with this type of thinking and writing. You are more prepared to help your child learn this important skill than you may even know. We’ve seen other parents do it, and they are always surprised by how straightforward it is. Many are also surprised by how wrong they were initially about their role in the process.

At Wow, we’ve been teaching students how to write essays that stand out inside the admissions office for years. With Inside Scoop as your guide, your son or daughter can approach essay writing calmly and confidently, and get a better shot at admission to their dream school.

Wow can help your child succeed on the college application essay, no matter where you are in the journey. Check out our free and paid services.

We Wrote the Only College Application Guide You’ll Ever Need!

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

At the end of every school year, moms and dads call us in a panic, asking for help understanding college application essays. They tell us they are worried about the competition to get into college – and the amount of work required for their children to stand out and get noticed inside the admissions office.

We will never suggest you write a college application essay for your child, or edit an essay so heavily it loses your child’s personality and voice. But we believe you can play a critical role in the preparation process. Who else would go to the moon and back for your child?

For more specific tips, check out our popular book, How to Write an Effective College Application Essay – The Inside Scoop for Parents; it was just released in paperback ($9.99). The book takes less than an hour to read and provides everything you need to help your child write meaningful college application essays that admissions officers will want to read.

Parents have called the book engaging, informative and a must-read for any parent with a child applying to college. Here are a few reviews:

Debbie Logan, from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, read the book before her second daughter applied to college. (She now attends Columbia University.) Logan said the book helped her keep a healthy distance from her second daughter’s application, particularly the essay. “This book gave me insight into the parent’s role in the process. I had no idea what colleges were looking for or where my job ended. The insight is priceless.”

Rebecca Gold, from Providence, Rhode Island, was about to start working with her third child on the college application journey when she read the guide. She said it was easy to follow, well-written and more helpful than any other college-related book for parents. “Rather than telling me what to do, the authors helped me understand what my son needed to be successful in this essay writing process, and what I could do to support him.”

Mark Cornillie, from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, thought his background in public relations and journalism would be valuable when his sons applied to college. The book gave him a reality check. “I thought I had some wonderful ideas about the essays my son should write and how he should write them. This book convinced me to step back, and empowered my son to remind me whenever my conviction faltered. The essay he submitted was wholly his own, and not only did he achieve admission to his top-choice school, but his essay was among a handful referenced in a letter by the Dean of Admissions to incoming students. I doubt my envisioned ‘perfect’ essay would have achieved that.”

Our Go-to Guide Parses all 7 Common Application Prompts

How to Write an Effective College Application Essay includes a complete list of the new Common App prompts; we’ve even parsed all 7 prompts to make your job easier. You’ll find chapters with useful resources, information on our unique approach to writing the essay, and additional access to writing exercises we use with our own students.

The essay is the most daunting part of the college application process for many students; you won’t want your child to wait till the last minute to start. Start now. Parents who read our book and follow our advice are always surprised by how straightforward it is. Many are also surprised by how wrong they were about their role in the process.

When students learn how to reflect before they start writing, they write more meaningful college essays. With our book as your guide, you can help your child approach the college application essay calmly and confidently, and get a better shot at admission to their dream school.

Get your copy of How To Write An Effective College Application Essay now. It’s just $9.99.

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than 500 Colleges Still Have Spots — and Money!

The number of colleges still accepting applications for Fall 2017 continues to grow.

More than 500 institutions have openings, financial aid, and housing available to qualified freshmen and/or transfer students, according to NACAC’s College Openings Update.

When survey was first posted on Thursday morning, the list included 414 colleges and universities. Since that time, dozens of additional schools have added their information. The update, which includes public and private institutions located here and abroad, will continue to be modified by colleges and universities through July 30.

Students still looking for a school can use the College Openings Update to refine their search. Admission is contingent upon each institution’s review of application information.

Explore NACAC’s College Openings Update and learn more about the resource.

This story was reprinted from the National Association of College Admissions Counseling newsletter.

Wow is accepting students now for the Class of 2018! Reserve your space now to guarantee a coach throughout the season. To get started, Just sign up for one Complete Essay Package. An email with instructions will follow. 

What You Need to Know About the New Common App Essay Prompts

By Susan Knoppow CommonApp_logo
CEO
Wow Writing Workshop

Have you seen the two new essay prompts on the Common Application? Every few years, the Common App, a tool used by more than 700 colleges to help students apply seamlessly to multiple schools, updates 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 added two new prompts; they also tweaked 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 revisions to prompts 2, 3 and 5 clarify the purpose of those questions, while the new prompts provide a few more options.

Reflection Matters Most

Just released in paperback

The changes reinforce the message we share with our students and in our popular book, How to Write an Effective College Application Essay, which was just released in paperback. At its core, a personal statement is all about reflection. An effective essay shows insight into a student’s character because it answers two central questions: 1) What happened? and 2) Why does it matter?

Why a topic matters to a student (the reflection) is more important than what happened (the experience, the activity, the idea, the concept, or the person who influenced that student).
Here are 4 simple steps to help you understand any Common App prompt so you can choose a meaningful topic that demonstrates both what happened and why it matters.

  1. Review the instructions
    Most students skip straight to the prompts and miss the important information built into the instructions. Make sure you read this first: “The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response.”
  2. Ask one more question
    Before choosing a prompt or exploring topics, ask yourself: What do I want colleges to know about me that they wouldn’t otherwise know from the rest of my application? Think about traits and characteristics, not accomplishments.
  3. Review the prompts
    Look closely at the seven prompts once you know which characteristic(s) you want to share. (We’ve tackled #6 and #7 below.) Do not dive into topic ideas until you’ve confirmed that you understand the 7 options.
  4. Brainstorm ideas
    The goal is to find a topic that best illustrates the trait or traits you want to share, and which also responds directly to the prompt. If you choose a story but can’t explain why it makes a strong Common App topic, or how it demonstrates something meaningful about you, you’re not ready to write a draft.

The New Prompts: What Are They All About?
Just to confirm that we understood the purpose of the changes, we went straight to the source – Scott Anderson, Senior Director of Education and Partnerships for the Common Application. He said:

Scott Anderson – The Common App

The prompts have changed slightly, but the instructions remain the same: What do you want application readers to know about you? 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. Students should pick the prompt that supports and gets them excited about the story they want to tell about themselves.

Here’s our take on Prompts #6 and #7, which have generated the most questions from our students and industry colleagues:

Prompt 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?

The key word in this prompt is “engaging,” but even that word can seem overwhelming. Remind yourself that the essay is not about the topic, idea or concept; it’s about the applicant. You don’t have to impress with big ideas. Try asking yourself questions like these: Why is this topic, idea or concept so engaging? How does it make me feel? Who do I talk to about these ideas? Where do I go to research new concepts? What have I learned about myself?

Maybe you care about social justice. Perhaps you’re captivated by humor or technology. You can explore the concept overall or share an example of that concept in action. Whether you collected clothes and toiletries for a local family who lost their home in a fire or attracted ten thousand followers by tweeting a daily joke, why did you do it? How does that activity demonstrate how you think, problem-solve or process information? What did you learn about yourself? How did the idea affect or change you? If you want to focus on the big picture, make sure you know how you want to approach the concept before starting to write a first draft.

Prompt 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.

The key word in this prompt is “choice.” While #7 appears to be different from the other prompts, the purpose is the same. Yes, applicants can submit any essay they want in that 650-word space, but as the overall instructions clearly state, even an A+ paper must still illustrate something meaningful about the student.

Suppose you want to submit a critical analysis you wrote for Honors English about a character in Jayne Eyre. Could it work? Maybe. Ask yourself what the essay demonstrates about you. Do you yearn for more than what traditional society allows, like Jane? Does the paper demonstrate how the book propelled you toward political activism? Does it show how the book changed you? After admissions officers read the paper, will they learn something new about you? If not, it won’t work as a college essay, no matter how well-written.

Both new prompts do exactly what the old ones did – maybe better.

Parents, find out how you can help your child respond to any prompt in our next monthly Parent Chat. It’s June 6, and it’s free. If you cannot make it, sign up anyway, and we’ll send you a recording.

Counselors and other professionals, find out TOMORROW how you can help your students respond to any prompt in our monthly pro-chat. It’s a free 30-minute session just for you, too. Join us live or listen to the recording.

The Only College Application Guide You’ll Ever Need!

Wow’s guide embraces parents, rather than pushing them away.

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

Every August, moms and dads just like you call us in a panic, asking for help understanding college application essays. They’re worried about the competition to get into college – and the amount of work required to stand out and get noticed. Most of all, they’re concerned that their children are not done writing yet.

Whether your child is back in school or about to enter senior year, it’s time to make sure they’re moving on those college essays. The essay is the most daunting part of the application process for many students, and you don’t want your child to wait till the last minute to start.

The Go To Guide to Help Kids Write College Essays 

Yes, it’s time to write, but there’s no need to agonize over it. We just released our first guide specifically for helping parents get a handle on the essay. The eBook, How to Write an Effective College Application Essay: The Inside Scoop for Parents, will help you walk your child through the writing process – and feel good about it. You’ll also learn how to guide them through the essay without taking it over.

Parents tell us they are tired of being told to step away and back off. They want to help. They just don’t know how. We will never suggest you write an application essay yourself or edit an essay so heavily it loses your child’s personality and voice. However, we believe you can play a critical role in the writing process.

You don’t need a 300-page book to help your child write a 650-word Common App essay or to write a 350-word response to one of the University of California’s new personal insight questions. But you will  benefit from Wow’s short parent guide that gives you simple instructions so you can help your child  write an effective essay, and put it into perspective.  It’s easy to follow and has everything required to teach your child how to reflect on life experiences so he or she can write great essays.

At its core, the college essay is about reflection. That’s challenging because most 17-year-olds have very little practice with this type of thinking and writing. You are more prepared to help your child learn this important skill than you may even know. We’ve seen other parents do it, and they are always surprised by how straightforward it is. Many are also surprised by how wrong they were initially about their role in the process.

Find Out How Parents Can Help

At Wow, we’ve been teaching students how to write essays that stand out inside the admissions office for years. With How to Write an Effective College Application Essay: The Inside Scoop for Parents as your guide, your son or daughter can approach essay writing calmly and confidently, and get a better shot at admission to their dream school.

Everything in this guide comes from what we’ve learned from working with students and talking to admissions officers. We’re glad to share this valuable insight to help you understand the college admissions industry. And, because we care so much about writing, we’re practically giving away all of our secrets in the Inside Scoop for $9.99.

Please join me tomorrow night for our 30-minute monthly parent chat; you can ask me anything about the college essay and its role inside the admissions world. It’s FREE! 8 p.m. ET, Aug. 2. Can’t make it? No problem. Sign up, and we’ll send you a recording. 

 

How to Write a Stand-Out College Essay

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

Cornell’s Shawn Felton and Wow Featured on Money.com

A good personal statement, or college application essay, can help you get accepted to the school of your dreams, but a bad one can sometimes prevent it. That’s why it’s more important than ever to take the college essay seriously, and learn how to do it well.

We can help you do that! To clarify what colleges want in an application essay, and help you deliver it, we compiled some of our best advice for you and your parents. We’re also attaching a recent video clip featuring Money.com’s interview with me following the National Association of College Admission Counseling’s annual meeting in San Diego last fall, where I moderated a panel discussion on the college essay.

Check out the video, How to Write a Better College Essay; you’ll get additional information from Cornell University’s Director of Undergraduate Admissions Shawn Felton and Bucknell University’s Dean of Admissions Robert Springwell.

Six Tips for a Better College Essay

1. Understand how the essay is used in the admissions process. The college essay, or personal statement, is a tool that helps admissions teams round out the application and put a face on a packet of paper. Most colleges do not do face-to-face interviews, so this is your interview.
2. Be clear about what colleges want to know. The essay is your opportunity to decide what colleges need to know about you. Tell them using a story about you that is focused, reflective and answers the prompt.
3. How should you start? Ask yourself, what do they know about me from the rest of my application? Then add, what else do I want them to know? Why is it important? Think traits and characteristics, not accomplishments.
4. Keep it simple. A message that is delivered clearly in straightforward, everyday language will do. Big words do not impress admissions officers.
5. Keep it personal, authentic. This is your story. Write it yourself in your words. Use your voice. Write about you, a smart 17-year-old high school student who is ready for college. Colleges aren’t thinking about admitting your mom, dad, or your great Aunt Rose who saved a bunch of orphans from a house fire. They’re considering you, so you are the person they want to learn about.
6. Don’t bore the admissions office! During a recent panel discussion for high school counselors, admissions officers confessed that between 50 and 75 percent of essays submitted to their universities failed to show any reflection. The essays were boring. You can distinguish yourself from the piles of applications at the school of your dreams by writing about what you learned, and not what you did. This is an opportunity. Take it. A little bit of insight will go a long way.

FREE ebook: Write Your Way Into College. Sign up for Wow free, and stay in the loop! You’ll get our popular ebook, Write Your Way into College, plus video tips from top admissions experts, and other great resources. We’ll help you stand out where it matters most – inside the admissions office. Sign up here.

 

Parents of Juniors: Help Your Child Get a Jump Start on the College Essay

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

Whether you will be sending your first or last child to college next fall, now is a great time to start thinking about the application essay, which is often the most stressful part of the entire college admissions process.

It’s never too early to prepare.

At Wow, we teach students how to think about and write their college essays so they have the best shot at getting into their dreams schools. We also teach parents just like you how to assist their children in a way that works best for each family.

We know it can be hard for kids to write about themselves, especially when the stakes seem so high. We also know there’s a fine line between helping, telling your child what to write, and writing the essay yourself. Done right, college essays can make or break applications. They can also leave students feeling empowered, confident in their own abilities and certain of their words.

As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. We want to show you how to guide your child through this journey without overstepping your role.

Help Your Child Reflect

Think of yourself as a cheerleader, but not the coach. Be encouraging, but not critical.

Ask your child one question: “What do you want colleges to know about you beyond test scores, grades and extracurricular activities?”

Most students have trouble answering this question. Prod, but do it gently. Ask open-ended questions to avoid ‘yes,’ ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’ answers. The answer to this question is the key to reflection.

  1. What are your child’s best traits? Is he funny? Is she serious? Compassionate? A voracious reader? Resourceful? Studious? Point out the traits you recognize, and then ask how your child views himself. Keep the conversation moving.
  2. Think characteristics, not accomplishments. Telling your child you have noticed how hard she works in everything she does is a good start. Pointing out the time she scored the winning goal is not.
  3. Praise, but don’t nag.
  4. Be positive.
  5. Stay calm. Remember to breathe.

This is an opportunity to engage in a meaningful conversation about your child’s self-perception. You might be pleasantly surprised at the valuable insight you will discover when you point out your child’s positive characteristics.

When you are done with this exercise, your child will be ready to brainstorm for college essay topics.

Five Tips to Trim Your College Essay!

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

 Think you can’t shorten your college essay to fit the word limit? Nonsense!

At Wow Writing Workshop, we’ve never seen a college application essay or grad school personal statement weakened by the editing process.  Here are five simple tips for trimming your stories without compromising content.

1) Before you begin editing, open a new document. Instead of cutting and pasting your original essay, print it out or open it in another window, then retype it so you can really see your work. You will be more likely to notice redundancies, passive voice and unnecessary words.

2) Now search for adverbs. These include “very” and many “ly” words, such as really, extremely, completely and absolutely. Highlight them. Make sure you really need them. Take out the rest. You can always put them back later.

3) Cut helping verbs and replace them with shorter, active descriptions. Example: Replace “I am going to be attending” with “I will attend.”

4) Delete “to be” verbs. Rather than saying “I am a voracious reader,” try “I read voraciously.”

5) Use active voice when you can.  Start by turning some nouns into verbs: “I concluded” is better than “I came to the conclusion.”

When you are done editing, don’t forget to proofread. Read your essay out loud; read it backward. Whatever you do, don’t rely on spell check. You can tell a great story in a few hundred words.

Would you like a professional review just to be sure you’ve got it right? We know what colleges want; let a Wow writing coach give it a thorough  essay review before you click  send, We’re offering same-day reviews from now till the end of the season.