One of the most important pieces of advice you can receive regarding your personal statements and application essays is this: Show, don’t tell.
But you might have been given this advice before and are wondering how to go about it. Let’s dive into how to show effectively.
Here are four tips to help you achieve this essential writing goal:
- Show the steps you’ve taken.
If you are writing about a goal you achieved or a project you completed, spelling out the process you followed will add depth and validity to your claims. “Within six months, I was promoted to Junior Account Manager” is not nearly as compelling as “After completing my training in record time and then doubling sales in my territory, I was promoted to Junior Account Manager after only six months on the job.” Explaining the specific measures you took to obtain the recognition that landed you your fast-tracked promotion adds so much to your essay..
Similarly, if asked about a weakness, don’t just tell the adcom that you have overcome your weakness of procrastination; instead, show them by giving concrete examples of specific steps you’ve taken to become a more efficient person. For example, do you now plan your projects when you get them and stick to the schedule you set for yourself? Do you check your calendar at least twice daily to ensure you don’t miss a task, call, or appointment? Then show the results you’ve achieved: You haven’t pulled an all-nighter since you implemented these changes.
- Provide examples of strengths and skills.
You say that you are creative, mature, and an excellent leader. But how? What have you done specifically, and what impact have you made on your teammates/coworkers/company/community/the world at large? Saying that you’re creative won’t cut it; instead, share a story or paint a picture (with words) that truly depicts the creative workings of your mind. And if you claim to be a leader, a quality highly valued by most graduate schools, provide an example of your leadership and impact.
- Offer relevant, compelling details whenever possible.
Your story of success will be more believable and more memorable if you provide supporting details. Remember, when you are showing your achievements rather than just telling about them, your readers are going to want to see a picture of who you are and what you’ve done.
Add vibrant details – talk about the number of people on your team; the amount of money you raised; the butterflies you felt while launching your new product; the fear you experienced when you botched a project, followed by extreme remorse, and then the resolve to do better. All these details will add color and vitality to the picture you’re painting for the adcom.
- Tell a story that reveals your strengths.
Admissions committee readers are human beings. Like all human beings, they love a good story. One of the best ways to make a point is with a story that illustrates it.
A good story has a problem with some emotion or tension, a main character who addresses and sometimes struggles with the problem, and a resolution. For application essays, that resolution usually shows how the main character, typically the applicant, solved the problem, benefited others, and restored emotional equilibrium.
If you can tell a story that includes the steps you took, reveals your strengths, keeps the reader engaged with a juicy detail or two, and maintains a certain level of tension up to the point that the resolution is revealed, your essay is well on its way to enhancing your admissions chances.
What’s ineffective “telling”? Boastful claims such as “I am a wonderful team leader” or “I have excellent communication skills” will fail to convince the adcom of your strengths if they’re not backed up with evidence. Claims without a reinforcing story, example, or detail are “telling” and perilously bland and unpersuasive.
Now that you know how to do it, remember: When writing your essays, show, don’t tell.Do you need help showing the adcom what you’re all about? Our experienced consultants can show you the way! Explore our Admissions Consulting & Editing Services and work one-on-one with your personal advisor to create the application that will get you ACCEPTED!