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0.6 - Five Potential Life-Changing Workshop Moments

I know. Putting “life-changing” in the title is a lot to promise. I thought about changing the title.

Then I thought: Don’t personal statement workshops hold life-changing potential for both students and counselors? They absolutely do.

And aren’t there specific moments that I can name where a potentially life-changing moment happens? There are.

So I challenged myself to pinpoint these moments, and I did, and I’ll share them with you in a moment.

You’re likely reading this before you’ve read the guide, so I won’t go into detail just yet, but here are five moments that have the potential to change a student’s life.

1. The Warm-Up Exercises

I call these exercises “vulnerability training” for a reason, and many students won’t have had much practice being vulnerable. During this time, students will often share something that they never would have imagined sharing. And that’s just five minutes into the workshop.

2. The Values Exercise

Most people have a vague sense of what’s important to them, but most people don’t have a very clear sense. Think about it: when was the last time someone asked you to name your Top 5 values? Think your students can name theirs? Doubt it. By the end of this exercise they’ll have a clearer sense of what in their life they’d be willing to fight for.

3. The Feelings and Needs Exercise

This has been called the “15-Minute Therapy Exercise,” which makes sense. It asks students six personal questions and then encourages them to make connections they may have never made before. It can bring up past experiences that may have been long-buried, forgotten, or ignored--experiences, in some cases, of incredible adversity. But by the end they’ll see how these experiences made them who they are. “[This] exercise blew my mind,” a student told me recently.

4. The Paired Sharing Exercise That Follows the Feelings and Needs Exercise

After a break, students will be asked to share the personal stories that they uncovered in the previous exercise with a partner. The partner will be asked to use reflective listening and share with their partner what they heard. If you rated the life-changing potential of the Values Exercise on a scale of 1-10 and gave it a 4, I’d give this one about an 8.

5. The Story-Sharing Time at the End of a 3-Day or 4-Day Workshop

This one is a 10, and it’s my very favorite experience--which is why I’ve devoted an entire Lesson to it (see 5.6). During this exercise (which, like all of the exercises, is optional), students are invited to read their personal statements with a larger group. Some of my most profound moments of connection (not just with students, but with humans) have taken place during this experience. I highly recommend it.

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A Note on How to Use This Guide

You may, of course, choose to skip one or several of these exercises. I’d encourage you to do what feels right for your group. But I’d also encourage you to lean into and question your own discomfort. Ask yourself: Why do I feel this way? See what you can learn about yourself.

This is a workshop not only for the students but for us, their teachers, counselors, and mentors, as we too are works-in-progress.

I wish you all the best as you lead your workshops, and I welcome your feedback on this guide.

Please email me at: [email protected]

And thank you for your good and important work. It matters.

Ready to get started? 

Let’s do this.