Last week I wrote, "Shhh…I’m going to tell you a personal statement secret" and I perhaps popped a few bubbles about admissions readers. Since I told you then what admissions people are not, I am going to tell you now what admissions people are: human beings. That’s right human beings.
"What!" you are saying, "Stop telling me stuff I already know!!!!"
I will stop telling you stuff you know, when you all write essays reflecting that knowledge. At the moment, many, many of you write as if you don’t know that admissions committees are made up of individual homo sapiens. Like you and me. What does the sheer humanity of admissions staff imply?
- Human beings like stories. Tell them your story. Not your cousin’s story. Not the story of some mythical perfect applicant And not the story of the person you would like to be, but your story.
- Human beings, being idiosyncratic individuals, will not react uniformly to your essays. Some may love them, and some may not love them. That unpredictability reflects a reality of writing. It also means that you can’t get into the head of the reader, because there are multiple readers reading your essay. Don’t even try to guess what they think and believe. You don’t know and it will differ depending on the reader. You do know, however, your story. They all want to hear your story. Tell them your story.
In answering the essay questions, use anecdotes when possible. These short stories illustrate points, reveal desirable qualities, engage the reader, distinguish you from your competition, and make your writing come alive. I like to call the application essay or personal statement a human interest story about you. Human interest stories, which fill the popular media, are full of anecdotes and personal elements. They are hold the readers attention and persuade. That’s exactly what you want your essay to do.
For more information on writing your human interest story about you, please see the sections of Accepted.com for your area of study or check out the following resources: