In my non-admissions life, I once went to a lecture given by a biographer whose work I admire. In the course of his talk he mentioned that while writing about genius has merit, writing about typical folks and their extraordinary achievements is more valuable. The compelling story — the inspiration, and attention grabber — resides in the tales of “ordinary people who made a difference.”
Bingo! That’s relevant to applicants. One of the most commonly asked personal statement questions I get is “What should I write about?”
You need to write about when YOU made a difference.
So if you are a Michelangelo, Einstein, Gates, or Buffett, you may be able to write about your incredible talents and how they propelled you to achieve, although you may appear arrogant if you take this approach. In any case, you geniuses can stop reading this post.
For the rest of you, please continue. Think about those times when your participation in a project, organization, business, team, or club made a difference.
• What was the situation? the problem? the challenge?
• What was your role in meeting that challenge? What did you do?
• What was the result?
You may or may not want to tie this story explicitly to your educational and professional goals. That decision will depend on many factors, but one evergreen topic for your personal statements and application essays remains: times when you made a difference.
By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted and co-author of the definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.