Tag: tips

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. 

 

 

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.

 

Score More Points on the SAT/ACT!

Our friends at StudentAdvisor.com provide valuable FREE resources for college-bound students. This guest blog is a few years old but still relevant; it will help you learn how to map out critical reading passages on the upcoming SAT (and ACT too!)

How to Tackle the SAT Critical Reading Section

By Rory Hatfield
StudentAdvisor.com

When I went grocery shopping. I didn’t know quite what I needed; all I knew was that I ran out of food and needed to buy some. So, I drove to the supermarket, picked out a cart, and went shopping without a list, a budget or any specific guidance. Despite my best efforts at buying nutritious, wholesome food, my grocery cart looked like this:

SATNeedless to say, shopping without a list didn’t pan out. I bought a lot of stuff I didn’t need, neglected to get things I did need, and frittered away my money and time. Pretty silly, right? Well, when you map out passages on the SAT and ACT without a plan, you’re doing the same thing.

Approaching a Critical Reading passage with an attitude of “I’m going to read it and take notes” is exactly like going to the supermarket thinking, “I’m going to buy food” – the right idea, but can easily backfire if you don’t know what you’re specifically looking for. This is especially important given the strict time limits on both tests – ACT reading sections allot forty minutes to read four passages, and SAT reading sections are only twenty-five minutes long.

There is simply not enough time to retain all the information in a passage – thankfully, you won’t need to! Detail questions give students a lot of clues right in the stem – their paragraphs, their line numbers, sometimes even the actual details themselves! Since the SAT and ACT give you that information up front, you don’t have to write it into your passage map.

So what is necessary? Here’s what you should understand from every reading section on Test Day:

  • The thesis
  • The topic sentence and main idea of each paragraph
  • Author’s opinion
  • Keywords that project the author’s opinion (“therefore”, “however”, etc.)

Getting this information gives you an overview of the passage that you can’t get from just reading the details – you’ll be better able to answer “big picture” questions that require you to understand the main ideas. Even though those questions often give you the same clues that Detail questions do – line numbers, quotes – they’re not enough to answer those questions by themselves. Knowing where a detail is won’t tell you its purpose, or what the author is implying; you can only get that information by reading for the gist, taking brief notes, and using them to find the right answer!

Treat this information as your “Test Day grocery list” – no matter what the passage is about, you’ll be prepared to get the most useful information. You’re no longer wading lost through the text – you’ll be reading with purpose.  In short, write down the gist of every paragraph, the thesis, and the author’s opinion. Fill up your cart with the good stuff on Test Day – good luck!

SAT, Rory HatfieldRory Hatfield teaches pre-college classes (SAT/ACT/PSAT) for Kaplan’s Live Online division full-time; and is also a student at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, where he is earning a Masters in Instructional Design. He has taught numerous courses and events for Kaplan, including sample classes on college admissions, writing an effective personal statement, and whether to take the SAT, ACT, or both.

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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.

Curious About College?

College CuriousAre you a high school freshman, sophomore or junior? It’s time to start planning for college!

“Break it down, step-by-step and year-by-year. You do not need to face the whole huge path at once,” says Ralph Figueroa, Dean of College Guidance at Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico. “As stressful as this is, and as overwhelming as it seems, this process is manageable.”

Figueroa, a former member of the Common Application Board of Advisors, was one of Wow’s featured guests in the webinar: Get Ready! Get Set! Get In! Starting Your Journey.

An industry insider, he understands the process from every possible angle; as Associate Dean of Admission at Wesleyan University, Figueroa was the central figure in the New York Times bestseller, The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College.

His friend, Marie Bigham, Director of College Guidance at Greenhill School in Addison, Texas, joined Figueroa on the webinar. A board member for the National Association for College Admission Counseling and the Association of Counselors in Independent Schools, Bigham also worked inside the admissions office as an Associate Director of Admissions at Washington University in St. Louis.

“It is not that hard to get into college,” Bigham says.

Join Wow for FREE to find out what Bigham means by that, and get specific tips and advice on what to do in Grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 so you can stay calm and focused on the path to college.