College Essay Writing Workshop Part 3

The Wow Method: Ten Steps to a Great College Essay

20 minutes

The Wow Method: Ten Steps to a Great College Essay

  • There are ten steps to writing a great college essay … and you don’t even get to the first draft till step #5.
  • We will be following the 10-step Wow Method in this workshop, focusing on steps 1-4 today. You will have an opportunity to finish the remaining steps with me in the coming days and weeks. We’ll talk more about that at the end of today’s session.
  • Briefly review the handout.

Discuss what and why

  • Write on board: WHAT WHY
  • Ask: What is a college essay? And why are you writing one (or two or ten)?
  • Record student responses on the board
  • Be sure to cover the items below
  • Write on board next to WHAT: A STORY ABOUT YOU
    • An essay is a story about you
    • You are not writing about a topic.
      • Each person is writing about an experience and what he/she learned/gained from it.
      • The essay is not about the vacation, the job, the illness.
      • It is about why you would be a good student, what you learned from an experience, etc.
  • Write on board next to WHY:
    • To illustrate something about yourself
    • To demonstrate your writing skills
    • To show that you are a good fit for this school

Discuss who

  • Write on board: WHO
  • Emphasize the importance of knowing your audience
  • Choose an experience one of the students shared from their “Who Am I?” handout to illustrate your point.

Example: My trip to Belize was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life because I learned that being afraid of dirt, bugs and the unknown didn’t have to limit my experiences.

  • Encourage students to identify three different audiences and purposes for this story. Write them on the board. Examples:
  • Audience= Parents

Purpose = Let me go on another adventure next summer

  • Audience= Best friend

Purpose = You should go on an adventure too

  • Audience = Admissions counselor

Purpose = I am an interesting person who takes life-enhancing risks and learns from my experiences

  • Write on board next to WHO: COLLEGE ADMISSIONS COUNSELOR
  • In this case, your audience is the college admissions counselor. Keep that audience in mind at all times.
  • Briefly review what we know about a typical college admissions counselor:
    • They read college applications all day.
    • They read them quickly.
  • Tie this discussion back to the previous segment on voice.
    • Point out that everything they write is for the admissions counselor.
    • With that in mind, each essay should be …
      • Specific
      • Clear
      • Direct
      • Unique (but that does not mean it has to be something that no one else has ever seen or done)
  • Your voice will differentiate you!