Would you like to know one thing that admissions committee members really want from applicants?
Here it is: they wish – really, truly wish – that applicants would not try to write what they imagine the adcom wants to hear but instead just be themselves. Time and time again, admissions committee members tell us they want applicants to answer the essay questions directly, and in all cases, reveal what they really want adcom readers to know about them.
Maybe it sounds simple to say, “Be yourself.” “Be authentic.” “Stand out.” But when you’re facing a blank screen. . . well, not so easy, right? Don’t worry, it’s not you – a personal statement is challenging to write!
Three ways to stand out by being yourself
How can you let your authentic voice shine through so that the person reading your essay feels they’ve met you – and wants to get to know you better?
- Write about the right experiences.
When writing your admissions essays/personal statement, choose experiences that mean something to you. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t, just because you think it will impress the adcom. Everyone has a unique set of experiences and perspectives – embrace them, and you’ll stand out.
And when you tell your story, explain why it’s significant. Go deeper than just stating what happened. How was the experience meaningful? Or how did it have impact for you and perhaps for others as well? The “other” can be an individual, a team, a group, an employer, or your company. Was this experience important or formative to your development? If so, how? How will your description of this experience and its relevance to your life’s journey add to the adcom readers’ understanding of you as an individual, a potential member of their community, and a future professional and alum?
- Be truthful.
Don’t exaggerate or falsify anything in your profile. That’s automatically not being yourself! And it’s a ticket to the “rejection” pile.
And this leads us to our final tip. . .
- Find your authentic voice.
Don’t change your voice for the sake of the essay. Believe it or not, falseness is obvious, even with readers who have never met you. It’s a huge turnoff. Authenticity is the key to being considered seriously. Some people worry about their word choice; they want to use sophisticated vocabulary to dazzle the adcom. This usually backfires, and we don’t recommend it. Your best bet, and it’s one that some of the world’s best and most admired writers know, is to write in clear, simple, direct language that sounds like you. If you don’t know those “fancy” words and wouldn’t normally use them, skip them. Along related lines, if you’re not naturally a funny person, your essay is probably not the best time to try to crack jokes.
Does your essay effectively introduce YOU?
Your unique experiences, perspective, and goals will help you stand out in a crowded field, as long as you convey what is special about you. And then you will be YOU.
Here’s a surefire way to get a sense of how effectively your essay introduces you: ask someone else to read it. We’ve read thousands of application essays and successfully coached people like you to success. We have extensive admissions experience and know which parts of your profile make you stand out for all the right reasons, and how you can present yourself as an authentic and desirable candidate. We will provide a professional evaluation of your essay and specific advice on how to strengthen it before you apply. Why not to learn more about how we can help you find your unique voice and apply successfully to your top choice program?
By Judy Gruen, former Accepted admissions consultant. Judy holds a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University and is the co-author of Accepted’s first full-length book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!