In the admissions process, you have a straightforward job to do: market yourself. This job does not include assessment of other applicants, or (figuratively speaking) stepping into the admissions war room to cozy up to faculty and staff. Here are some key reminders:
-Avoid direct address, second person or honorifics (yes, we’ve seen it all before). Your job is to concretely present your story without reaching out for your audience. (Imagine if, on your first appointment, your therapist reached out to dry your tears, give you a hug or shake you. Awkward, no? Distance in both cases creates neutrality and trust, and makes room for an open “conversation”.)
-Never compare yourself to another applicant. “While I’m sure you’ve read stories about…” or “while my peers may have more experience, they do not have my…” This is akin to telling a prospective employer how they might better manage their company.
-Generally speaking, any attempt to reach across the admissions table should be avoided. Phrases like “while I know admission to XX is extremely competitive” aren’t just a waste of space, they come off as desperate and green.
Ultimately, your essay should feel like a conversation, but not in the most traditional sense. You should never acknowledge your reader, but your stories should (subtly) indicate awareness of what they are looking for. Positioned but tempered and balanced.
Imagine yourself on a first date: “So tell me about yourself.” The skillful daters among us (that’s you!) can make a brief monologue feel like sharing by seamlessly balancing objectivity, subjectivity and thoughtful reflection. The second you begin to reach or fail to meet this balance – on a first date, or in the admissions context – is the second you begin to lose your audience.
Ivy Eyes Editing