In John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address on Friday, January 20, 1961, he said something which quickly made its way into all high school history and civics textbooks. As one of the most well-known presidential sound-bites, I’m sure you’ve heard it:
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
In honor of JFK’s birthday (today, May 29th), I thought I’d take this famous quote and admissions-ize it.
And so, my dear applicants, I urge you: ask not what do the admissions committees want to read – ask what do you want the admissions committees to know.
This is such a common application essay blunder, and so easy to avoid. Your goal in writing your admissions essays, whether for college, grad school, law school, med school, or business school, is not to fashion your words so they fit the cookie cutter recipe for applicants – including you — think readers like reading, but to express those most important qualities, experiences, and perspectives that you want to share.
If you think it’s important for the adcom to know about your passion for astronomy or the thrill you get from volunteering in the ER or your recent trip to the Ukraine where you led a summer camp for underprivileged youth (and it answers the question), then that is what you should write about. That story will become exactly what the admissions committees want to read.