Tag: college essay

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.

Wow and Admissions Reps Share insight on College Essay

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

College essays really are a big deal!

That’s why I’m First, an online community providing first generation student
s support on the road to and through college, asked Wow to be their exclusive college essay writing partner.  I’m First invited us to discuss our secrets for mastering the college essay in a recent Google Hangout with admissions officers from top liberal arts colleges.

Here’s a link to the Google Hangout. Whether you’re first gen or not, you’ll find some great information during the session from the people who read your apps; you’ll also get insight and tips from Wow about how to find your own compelling story and turn it into an effective essay. Check out the Hangout session, and remember that while the first big deadline for college application season just passed, you still have plenty of time to finish your apps.

What Does Your Voice Sound Like?

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

VoiceEveryone talks about voice when it comes to the college application essay. Do you know what your writing voice sound like? We can help you find out!

Juniors, it’s a good time to start thinking about the essay so it is not so overwhelming when you begin filling out applications to college. Your voice is important because it is one of the biggest factors that can help you stand out inside the admissions office.

College admissions officers from every type of school tell us time and again that your voice is the only one they want to hear when they read your application essays; they often lament the numbers of essays they read year after year that are sanitized because they have been edited or “fixed” by well-meaning adults.

“If the essay is sanitized, there won’t be any value added to the application,” said Michelle Larkrith, the Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of California – Berkeley. “It won’t help you. The essay is the only opportunity we have to understand who you are. Take advantage of it.”

How can you learn to write in your own voice?

Relax and write freely, and your writing voice will shine through. To recognize and develop that voice, try this:

1. Open a new document or turn to a clean sheet of paper in your notebook.

2. Set a timer for 10 minutes.

3. Describe a place where you feel relaxed.

-Capture as many sensory details as possible.

-Write in first person, present tense (e.g., I am standing on the pier behind Melanie’s cottage, looking out on Lake Michigan.)

-Be specific, but don’t worry about making sense or sounding clever. You can write fragments, sentences, lists or run-ons.

-Don’t read your work as you go along. Just keep moving forward.

-Feel free to be candid. No one will read this but you.

4. When the timer stops, you can either stop writing or continue. You can always write for more than ten minutes, but you should not write for less.

5. Look back at your free writing, and find three segments that sound like you.

-Each one can be anything from a short phrase to a multi-sentence description.

-They don’t have to be exciting or clever; they just have to sound like you (e.g., something you always say, do or think; a phrase you like; or a description of something that screams my house! or my backyard! or my sister!)

These are examples of your writing voice. This is what you sound like when you are not trying too hard to be clever or creative. This is also the voice you should use to write your application essays.

***********************************************************************************

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.

Email
First Name
Last Name
I am interested in Wow as a:

Everything You Need to Know to Master the Common App Essay!

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

Common AppThe Common App (a streamlined college application that allows you to apply to multiple schools) just released its five essay prompts for the graduating class of 2016; there are some tweaks to existing prompts, plus an entirely new question.

And there are countless expert commentaries online about those tweaks and changes.

Juniors, you can ignore the commentary. None of it is relevant to you. It’s a lot of gibberish and hype meant for educational consultants, college admissions representatives and high school counselors.

The Most Important Piece of Advice You’ll Get: Understand the Prompt!

You do need to understand the prompt before you begin writing your essay. It’s important to learn what an essay prompt is, what it is asking, who you are writing for, and why you may be required to write one (or 10!) as part of your college application package. That way, you’ll be prepared to start writing your essays this summer as you begin filling out your college applications.

The Common App offers five essay prompts, and asks you to select one. Before you choose, answer this question: What do I want colleges to know about me? Figure out what you want colleges to know about you that is not obvious from the rest of your application.

This is your opportunity to shine, to offer readers some insight into who you are beyond your grades, test scores and activities. Write something that is important to you, and make sure it is reflective.

Are you industrious? Funny? A leader? Shy? Outgoing? Curious? Are you a risk taker? A passionate reader? Once you know what you want to share, look at the prompts. Then find a story that best illustrates the trait you want to share, and also answers the prompt.

Look at prompt #1, for example: “Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.”

The key word in this prompt is “meaningful.”

Ultimately, your essay is not about your background, identity, interest, talent or experience; it’s about you. What did you learn about yourself? What made the experience meaningful?

Admissions officers read these essays to find out something they don’t already know about you. They already know a lot. But they don’t know how your experiences affected you, or why someone or something is so important to you. They have no idea how you have changed and why you might be a good fit for their school. You can share these insights in your essay.

Your experience does not have to be particularly impressive; you do not have to share a story about climbing a mountain or rescuing children from a burning building.

You could write about something mundane, like babysitting or making meatballs with your grandmother. Just find a story that illustrates something meaningful.

Is an “A” English Paper a College Essay?

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

Year after year, students send us college application essays to review that were written for English class. Most of the essays earned A’s.

Unfortunately, we’ve rarely read an essay written for English class that was ready to submit to college.

Danny sent us a beautifully written piece recounting many fabulous trips overseas; his essay offered vivid descriptions of buildings and places and emphasized how much he loved traveling. The sentences flowed; the spelling was perfect; the essay had a beginning, middle and end. This boy knew how to write.

While his essay was excellent by high school standards, it lacked reflection and needed more focus to catch the attention of an admissions officer.

It’s important to keep in mind that the application essay is not an English paper; it is an opportunity to show admissions officers who you are, that you will fit in, and that you can write well enough to succeed at their school. The admissions team that is responsible for making recommendations for next year’s class reads a lot of applications. So be careful: You don’t want to bore them or submit a piece that is simply uninspiring.

Forget about rubrics and grades. Ditch the five-paragraph essay format. Just write something genuine that is reflective, and that will make the person reading your essay smile and want to know more about you.

Danny used our 10-step Wow Method and turned his broad story into a more insightful piece about a single night out in Spain when he realized how much culture and community mean to him. Getting there took time and reflection, which we encourage. It was all worth it when he landed a coveted spot at his first-choice college, one of the most competitive public institutions in the nation.

Think of that college essay you write in English class as a draft, just as Danny did. He wrote it for his teacher – a person who already knew quite a bit about him. He later revised it for the admissions counselor. Don’t assume the college essay you give to your teacher is finished and will cut it for college.

 

Does Anyone Really Read College Application Essays?

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

Juniors, by now you should be thinking a lot about college. What schools sound interesting to you? Do you have any campus visits scheduled during spring break?

Whether you are busy with a spring sport, school play or selecting your classes for senior year, don’t forget to carve out some time to get ready for your first-choice college. Consider the things that are important to you, and explore what you’ve done beyond going to school, taking the SAT or ACT, or both, and participating in extracurricular activities.

College application essay
Will your essay stand out from the pile?

Before you know it, you’ll be writing a college essay – or four! And, if you want to stand out in the piles and piles of applications inside the admissions office, you’ll need to find a way to incorporate something you’ve learned during the past few years into a meaningful and personal statement.

Because we are national experts on the application essay, students, parents, and educational professionals come to us for help. As you can imagine, we get peppered with questions on the subject.

This is one of the most common questions we get: Does anyone really read the college application essay?

Of course admissions officers read the essays!

They wouldn’t ask you to write something they did not plan to read.

Admissions professionals want to read your story, the one you feel it’s important to share with them. It’s your story. Your voice. Your words. What they don’t want is to read a story you think they want to hear; they want to read a story about YOU that you want them to know!

Every essay is an opportunity!

At the September 2014 National Association for College Admissions Counseling’s annual conference in Indianapolis, we polled about two dozen admission representative to find out if they really read the essays. The collective answer: yes!

“Last year we received 25,000 applications, and we read 25,000 essays,” says Amy Hoffman, Assistant Director of Admissions at Miami University of Ohio.

In addition to Hoffman, we have interviewed dozens of admission officers from around the country. Watch the video interviews here. If you are not already a member, get FREE access to our video library by signing up for Wow today.

FREE Writing Resources: What Does a Top STEM School Want to Read in the College Application Essay?

Sign up for Wow FREE, and stay in the loop! You’ll find out what University of Miami College of Engineering Director of Admission David Poole wants to read in a college essay, plus get video tips from many other top admissions experts.

How to Write the “Why College X?” Application Essay

By Kim Lifton
President, Wow Writing Workshop

It’s never a good idea to write that you bleed maize and blue in your University of Michigan supplemental college essay.

Many schools ask students to respond to a prompt like one of the following:

University of Michigan: Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests?

Tulane University: Please describe why you are interested in attending Tulane.

New York University: Whether you are undecided or you have a definitive plan of study in mind, what are your academic interests and how do you plan to explore them at NYU?

Tufts University: Which aspects of Tufts’ curriculum or undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short, “Why Tufts?”

**********

I read a beautiful story from a student answering the “Why College X?” prompt for a Big 10 university.

Full of descriptive details about the school’s location and football stadium, the story painted a vivid picture of the long drive to and from the school in the family car with his dad, an alumnus. This boy was clear he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps; he was comfortable inside of the stadium; he was certain he would feel at home at this university.

Unfortunately, this story did not answer the prompt. We see this a lot at Wow.

To get them moving in the right direction, we ask our students to consider what they want the college to know about them that is not evident from the rest of the application package. How do College X’s curriculum, clubs and campus life support their interests? Why is this student a good fit?

“A student should never be thinking, “What are they looking for?” There is no monolithic “they,” said Margit Dahl, director of undergraduate admissions for Yale University. “A student is in the drivers seat for this portion of the application and should never relinquish that control. The essay is a chance to decide what to share with admissions officers. A student has the best sense of what to share.”

(To hear more from Yale’s Dahl, register for our webinar, Get Ready! Get Set! Get In! Applying to the College of Your Dreams, also featuring Universal College Application’s Chris Warner.)

We understand that this task can be difficult — even for students who spent their childhoods wearing sweatshirts emblazoned with their parents’ favorite college logos. Most students have no idea what a school may offer academically, socially or culturally. The prompt is also challenging for students who want to tell admissions officers how much they love the big city, how badly they want to escape their small towns, or how much they love the old buildings on campus.

Be careful! This is not what admissions officers want to know. They want to know why you are a good fit on campus, whether you have the chops to succeed academically, if there are clubs and activities to support your interests, and if you are likely to graduate from this institution.

“We do not want broad statements (the brick pathways and historic buildings are beautiful) or a rehash of the information on our website (College X offers a strong liberal arts curriculum),” said Calvin Wise, the Associate Director of Admissions for Johns Hopkins University. “All institutions have similarities. We want you to talk about our differences.”

We regularly check in with admissions officers from small liberal arts colleges, elite universities and state institutions. We’ve found that regardless of size, status or essay prompt, they all offer similar tips on all college essays:

  • Don’t over-think it.
  • Tell us what you want us to know about you; not what you think we want to hear.
  • Answer the prompt honestly with a story about you.
  • Make sure your story is focused and written in your own words and your own voice.

You’ll find all kinds of advice online about writing admissions essays, and much of it inaccurate or confusing. As you delve into the college application and essay writing process, be careful whose advice you follow, and make sure you know your sources.

For more tips on mastering this and other college application essays, sign up for Wow Writing Workshop. You will receive Wow’s free eBook, Write Your Way Into College. Wow students get into their dream schools year after year. Find out more at www.wowwritingworkshop.com.

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!

College Essay is More Important than Ever

A just released survey of independent college consultants confirms the college essay is more important than you may know. This year the college essay moved up to the Independent Educational Consultant’s Association’s Top 10 list of what colleges are really looking for in applicants. Read more