One of most important pieces of advice I can give you regarding your personal statements and application essays is this: Show, don’t tell.
Here are three tips to help you achieve this must-have writing goal:
1. Show the steps you’ve taken.
If you are writing about a goal you achieved or a project you completed, providing the step-by-step process you followed will add depth and validity to your claims. “Within six months I was promoted to Junior Account Manager” is not nearly as compelling as spelling out the specific measures you took to obtain the recognition that landed you your fast-tracked promotion. Similarly, don’t just tell the adcom that you have overcome your weakness of procrastination; instead, show them by giving concrete examples of specific things you’ve done to become a more efficient person.
2. Provide examples of strengths and skills.
You say that you are creative, mature, and an excellent leader. But how? What have you done specifically and what impact have you made on your teammates/co-workers/company/community/world-at-large? Saying that you’re creative won’t cut it; instead share a story or paint a picture (with words) that truly depicts the creative workings of your mind.
3. Offer details whenever possible. Your story of success will be more believable and more memorable if you provide a few details. Remember, when showing instead of just telling about your achievements, your readers are going to want to see a picture of who you are and what you’ve done. Add vibrant details – talk about the number of people on your team; the amount of money you raised; the eager and nervous feelings you experienced while launching your new product; the fear you felt, followed by the extreme remorse, and then the resolve to do better that you experienced when you botched a project – all these details will add color and life to the picture you’re painting for the adcom.
Boastful claims like, “I am a team leader” or “I have excellent communication skills” won’t do much to convince the adcom of your strengths if they’re not backed up with evidence. Remember when writing your essays: show, don’t tell.
By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted and co-author of the definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.