During the summer, after a terrible thunderstorm throughout southeastern Michigan that triggered “take cover now” warnings, one of my college essay coaching students jumped through hoops to show up for a scheduled brainstorm appointment.
That was so inspiring to me.
His home had lost Internet and Wi-Fi service; he tried to use the hot spot on his phone. But the connection wasn’t strong enough.
He didn’t cancel the meeting. He didn’t send any urgent emails. The dog did not eat his homework. He didn’t come down with some mysterious cold. No excuses.
He showed up, ready to brainstorm.
This incredible student drove to the nearby library, where he knew there was power. He asked for a private room, but they were booked. It was only 10 a.m.; our appointment was for 10:30. He had some time.
At this point, he really could have rescheduled.
But he didn’t. Instead, he looked around the library until he found a quiet spot. And he logged onto the meeting.
And just like that, this young man was prepared for the meeting.
Everything seemed normal on my end. I noticed a cool-looking glass ceiling and lots of windows behind him; it looked like he was working inside a greenhouse. So I asked where he was. It was meant to be an icebreaker.
Whispering, he told me he was sitting at a table inside the library; he found a spot quiet spot to join this meeting.
He was looking around to see if anyone could hear him. He was starting to get nervous. I think he knew library rules forbid patrons from talking on the phone or holding video meetings in public areas.
He explained his dilemma. There was nowhere else to go.
I wanted to reach out through Zoom to hug him.
I praised my student for his efforts, and then gave him a free pass. I said we could reschedule for the next day, reminding him that we needed a more private space – a place that wouldn’t kick him out, either. He laughed, quietly of course. He seemed relieved.
We rescheduled for the next day.
I never tire of hearing student stories that showcase the positive traits they want to share with colleges. They fuel me. They remind me why we do this work. They motivate me.
There was something so amazing about witnessing this student’s sheer determination and problem-solving skills in the moment. In his prework, this student had already picked determination as a trait he wanted to share with colleges.
As your students return to the classroom and college app season moves into high gear, I hope you can set aside some time to think about and hopefully share some of the positive traits your students bring to this process, and the genuine stories they want to share with colleges.
Who wants to chime in?
When have you been inspired by a student? I’d love to hear about it.
p.s. Here’s a blog I wrote about a positive message we share with students; it includes a link to get a free book to share with your students, too.
Kim Lifton, is the President of Wow Writing Workshop. Her articles on the college essay appear regularly in print and on the web, and her work has been featured in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and online publications. Kim is a former newspaper reporter and corporate communications manager with a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University. You can email Kim anytime about the college essay email@example.com.