How to Get a Great Story out of Your Students

I love having lunch with my friend, Ella, who recently retired after years of serving as a great high school counselor here in metro Detroit, where I live. When we last met in person, we had just started going out again post-lockdown. It felt like a million years had passed.

We started talking about her previous job as a sales manager in the textile industry. I peppered her with questions about her job, what she did, what she liked. I asked, How do people pick colors for clothes or fabric for furniture?

How do you know which colors will be trendy?

How does someone know which color paint will be most popular next year on a car or truck?

She told me they have a system, analytics; it’s quite interesting, and it works, year after year.

I wanted to know who decides if red will be the in color for the season, or how long capris might be cool. She didn’t know, but she said there were people inside the industry who use data to predict that, too.

I couldn’t help myself. I love great stories. I find everything so interesting.

I like people. I like hearing their stories. Who are they? What’s important to them? Why? While Ella has been out of the textiles field for a long time, she appreciated that I was interested in her. I asked questions; I listened to her answers. We had a conversation. It was normal, natural.

Then something clicked.

“Hey Ella,” I said.

“Y-e-e-e-s,” she said.

“You know how to get a great story out of a kid who is writing a college essay? You do what we just did.”

  • Have a conversation.
  • Show the student you are interested in them.
  • Be curious.
  • Listen to what they have to say.
  • Ask questions.

That’s it. Yep. That’s the big secret.

That’s how you get a great story out of a student who needs to write a college essay.

My message: At Wow, we understand that essay coaching can be the hardest part of your job as a college counselor, whether you are a brand new counselor or have decades of experience.

But we also understand it doesn’t have to be that way.

Whether you feel confident or nervous, confused, or clear about the college essay, we love to share our expertise to show you how to teach students to write strong, effective essays with less stress and greater confidence for you, your students, and their parents. Email your questions to