It is finally that time of year again: everything has settled down, almost all applications are in, and we at DC College Counseling can reflect on the entire admissions cycle while everything is still fresh in our minds. Without question, the best decision that we made for the Class of 2019 was to undergo training in the WOW Writing Workshop method. As soon as I finished, I knew that we had to put it into use immediately, which we did! I’m happy to report that it was wildly successful, resulting in the best set of college essays I have ever seen - truly.
We are absolutely certain that this tried and true approach is the single best way to coach students to build essays that will result in acceptance letters from their top-choice schools, and I am excited to share a bit more about it here. Students with a variety of writing skills and abilities are able to craft thoughtfully written stories that showcase who they are and why colleges should select them. Best of all, it’s not a painful process in the slightest!
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the WOW Writing Workshop is its focus on using the student’s voice - not mine, the essay coaches in our office, or their parents. I know firsthand that undergraduate admissions departments can instantly spot an essay that a student did not actually write (check out this article from the New York Times for more on that topic). Through the WOW Writing Workshop, on the other hand, all students are given the command to use their own voice and truly sell themselves in an authentic way.
The guided step-by-step program begins with understanding the essay prompts, such as those belonging to the Common Application and the Coalition Application. This first step is critical to writing a series of captivating essays, as students can often miss the mark when they just jump right in to outlining the story they wish to tell.
The subsequent steps that lead up to the actual writing of the essay include brainstorming exercises, story ideas and themes centralized around what the student wants the admissions office to learn about him or her beyond test scores, activities and awards. Instead of students regurgitating information seen in other parts of their application, the essays that allow students to stand out and shine, displaying unique aspects of their personalities, leadership styles or defining moments that shaped who they are or what they wish to study in their undergraduate curriculum.
Each step of the WOW Writing Workshop is matched with a video and set of exercises to keep each student on task and accountable. This ensures that by Step 5, “Write Draft 1,” students are confident that they are answering the prompt correctly and to their best ability. After the first draft is written, the remaining steps of the workshop focus on polishing and refining.
When it comes to revisions, the WOW Writing Workshop trains students to see their essays with a fresh set of eyes. Alongside the students, the essay coaches and I will ask questions to fill in any potential storyline gaps and encourage additional detailed descriptions to really set the scene before tackling grammar and spelling corrections. In the final two steps of the program, we will examine the essay and its prompt with a fine-tooth comb. At the conclusion of the process, students will hold an exceptionally written essay that exhibits the “WOW factor.”
I have to admit that the last benefit of this program was somewhat unexpected. I have heard from a number of senior parents this year who felt that the process actually helped their students become better writers as a whole; not only were their students taking the steps needed to maximize the likelihood of acceptance letters from the schools of their dreams, they were simultaneously developing much-needed skills for the future. We are very excited to continue WOW with our next crop of students in the Class of 2020!