Schools are looking for applicants who can show that they have strong leadership qualities and experiences, and demonstrate that they will actively contribute to their student/alumni communities, not to mention to the greater community and society. Yet grandiose, declarative statements and promises to be a superlative do-gooder are unpersuasive.
So how can you show what you will do in the future? Point to the past. Most admission committees are firm believers that past behavior reveals abilities and interests and is a good predictor of the future.
Here are four tips to help you relay the message that you plan on achieving greatness by contributing to your school/community/world-at-large, by highlighting your impressive past.
1. Share the story of past achievements and quantify if possible the impact you had.
By showing how you’ve already contributed, you demonstrate that you have the initiative, people skills, and organizational talent to make an impact in the future.
2. Discuss skills you’ve developed that will aid to future contributions.
You can show the adcoms that you’re prepared to give back by proving that you have the appropriate skills and the tools needed. Use evidence to support your skill development by talking about how you’ve worked to build your skill set (by taking a course or through work experience, etc.). Analyze your success and failures (when asked for the latter) to reveal that you are a thinking, growing, dynamic individual. And when asked about failures or setbacks, discuss what you learned from the tough times. Demonstrate a growth mindset.
3. Show how your skills are transferable.
To contribute to your classmates or school, you’ll need to show how your unique talents or experiences can be shared with your classmates, professors, or work colleagues. Talk about how your skills, understanding, and ethics can impact those around you.
4. Mention how your target school will help.
Now the adcom readers know that you’ve got skills and that you’re ready to share them. Next, you need to reinforce the idea that their school is THE PLACE to accelerate your upward trajectory.
A good essay on your contributions will cover each of the above topics – what you’ve done in the past, how you’ve developed your skills, how you plan on sharing that knowledge, and how your target school will help you effect change. Remember, the past reveals much about the future, so share the story of what you’ve done and how you’ve reached this point and you’ll be well on your way to proving that you’ve got what it takes to contribute in the future.
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