Tag: writing

Is Your College Essay Good?

By Kim Lifton
President
Wow Writing Workshop

As your child starts to wrap up their college applications to meet the Nov. 1 deadline, they may ask you, “Is my essay good?”

How will you know?

In its simplest form, a good personal statement will have a theme that answers these two questions:

1) What happened?
2) Why does it matter?

Many other types of application essays, such as the Why College X? prompt, activity, creative or community essays, can be judged by these criteria as well. While the story will naturally take center stage, readers should also know why the writer chose to share it.

Admissions officers will not get excited over a piece of writing that beautifully details an experience, then adds a generic sentence at the end, stating that the writer learned something significant. Nor will they enjoy a five-paragraph essay with an introduction, thesis statement, supporting paragraphs and a conclusion. For college admission, the story needs no introduction or conclusion.

You can search the Internet for the “best” ideas, or read samples, but it won’t help. There is no best idea, shortcut or structure to imitate for the college essay. The best essays emerge from the writing and thinking process; they answer the question, show some insight and illustrate a positive trait about the applicant.

A few years ago, one of our students illustrated his determination with a simple story about memorizing the parts of the gastrointestinal intestinal tract to ace his anatomy final. Another girl wrote about finding her passion for nature in a community garden while pulling weeds. A boy with an autism spectrum disorder blew us away with a powerful story about his problem-solving skills. He forgot his cello for an orchestra concert and improvised his performance with a bass guitar. His story impressed admissions officers at his top-choice school, and the admission letter even praised the essay.

While these stories were beautiful, none was perfect. The college essay is not about perfection.  Not even the most selective colleges expect brilliant prose from a teenage applicant. They know they are dealing with kids, so they often will cut applicants some slack. At the same time, they don’t appreciate students throwing together sloppy essays the night before the deadline. They want to see some effort and a healthy respect for the rules of written English.

The essay is the best place to show colleges who your child is. We encourage every student to reflect and honor their voice so they can confidently share their stories.

It’s hard for students to write about themselves, especially when the stakes seem so high. But handled properly, college essays can make or break any application package. As a bonus, writing them can leave students feeling empowered, confident in their abilities and certain of their words.

Would you like to make sure your child’s essay is effective? Is their theme clear? Does the essay illustrate what they want colleges to know? Before your child clicks send on that application, find out if they’ve hit the mark with a professional review from a Wow Writing Coach.

This article comes from Chapter 1 of Wow’s popular book, How to Write an Effective College Application Essay: The Inside Scoop for Parents. Have you read it yet?

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.

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