Slow Down You Move Too Fast

By now, you’ve surely done several reviews of your students’ college essays – first those early apps and now regular admissions.

Whether they are in the content, structure or polish phase of the essay writing process, it’s important to review slowly.

At Wow, our message is the same for Common App personal statements, UC Personal Insight Questions, activity essays, Why College X essays and every single other type of supplement.

Slow Down.

It’s important to read every essay you receive (whether it is a first or final draft) without a red pen, or your hands on the keyboard.

Open the document.

Read it. (Remember, no pen, pencil or keyboard allowed.)

Take a few moments to digest it.

Then ask yourself two key questions:

Question 1: How has this essay improved (from idea to draft or from early draft to later draft)?

Question 2: How could it improve in clarity? (Notice that we did not say “How could it improve?” That question usually leads to “ugh! My students can’t write.” or “I wish it was more elegant.”

  • Then give your feedback.

Because if you move too fast, you are likely to overdo it. In an effort to improve the essay, you can unintentionally edit out the student’s voice. And that voice is the one thing admissions officers tell us time and again they want. It’s the thing they wish they saw more often.

We know you don’t want to do that!

About the Author

Kim Lifton is President and Co-founder of Wow Writing Workshop a premier college application essay coaching and professional training company, offering private, virtual writing coaching services to professionals and students throughout the world.  Since 2009, Wow has been leading the college admissions industry with our unique approach to communicating messages effectively through application essays, including personal statements, activity and short answer essays and supplements.  Kim leads a team of writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. Kim blogs regularly about the college essay’s role in the admission process for multiple industry publications and websites.

Want more info on essay reviews? My partner, Susan Knoppow, recorded a Pro Chat all about essay reviews. You can watch a recording here

Questions? We’ve got answers.


Pro Chats: Every month we record a new College Essay Pro Chat. Check out the last recording, or sign up for next month’s webinar. Wow CEO Susan Knoppow will answer your questions live for 30 minutes.

Free Student Classes starting in February: If you’re a school counselor who wants to help students with the basics, encourage them to sign up for my next free student class, or listen to the recording. You are welcome to sign up, too.