A participant in LAMP recently emailed me, “ Also, I understand the key to the essay is to link my past to my future and show how School X fits into the picture. However, talking about the future, in general, has no basis, and talking about School X does not make me unique.” He asked how he can deal with these issues.
These are great observations about the challenges facing applicants writing statements of purpose, goals essays, and to a slightly lesser extent, law and medical school personal statements. You need to talk about the future and keep it real. You also need to distinguish yourself from your competition and introduce yourself as a human being and individual to the admissions committee while discussing your reasons for wanting to attend School X. So how can you handle these challenges?
Talking about the future should have a basis. Your future goal should be based in your past experience. If you say you want to go into international business, ADR, or primary care medicine, then you better have international experience, dispute resolution know-how, or primary care exposure. If your goal has no basis, it is pie in the sky and won’t fly. (pun intended.) Also, international business, just for example, is very broad. For MBA’s in particular, specific goals are much better, and they also help you in the other fields provided they are anchored in your past. Specificity differentiates and can reveal foresight and research. Use it to your advantage.
Talking about School X in general or spitting back School X’s marketing material and mantras does you no good. But if you can write about how specific classes or seminars with particular professors whose research or specialization is of interest to you will help you achieve your career aspirations, then you have a winner. Show – not that you have read their brochure, but that you have researched their program and given serious thought to how it will help you achieve your goals. By doing so, you will also demonstrate that you belong at School X.