Four Ways to Highlight Your Strengths in Your Application Essays

By - Mar 11, 06:31 AM Comments [0]

One of the most important pieces of advice you will ever learn regarding your personal statements and application essays is this: Show, don’t tell

It’s a classic writing lesson, and you’ve probably heard it before, perhaps many times. But how do you actually “show, not tell,” in your essays? 

Simply “telling” is ineffective, because it usually involves boastful claims such as “I am a wonderful team leader” or “I have excellent communication skills.” These are not convincing if they’re not backed up with evidence. Empty claims are perilously bland and unpersuasive. 

Instead, show your strengths through vibrant, compelling details. Here are four tips to help you do just that:

1. Lay out the steps you’ve taken.

If you are writing about a goal you achieved or a project you completed, spell out the process you followed. This will add depth and validity to your claims. The statement “Within six months, I was promoted to Junior Account Manager” is generic and “blah.” Consider this rewrite: “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.” There, isn’t that better? Explaining the specific measures you took to obtain that promotion shows how you did it.

Similarly, if you are asked to discuss a weakness, don’t just tell the adcom what your weakness is and state that you have overcome it. Instead, show concrete examples of specific steps you’ve taken to improve. For example, let’s say the weakness you are highlighting is a tendency to procrastinate, and you have worked hard to become more efficient. 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 that you don’t miss a task, call, or appointment? Show both your system for success and the results you’ve achieved, such as the fact that you haven’t pulled an all-nighter since you implemented these changes.

2. Provide examples of strengths and skills.

You say that you are creative, mature, and an excellent leader. But what have you done specifically that proves it? What impact have you made on your teammates, coworkers, company, or community? Remember, simply claiming that you’re creative isn’t convincing. Sharing a story or painting a picture (with words) that truly depicts the creative workings of your mind is. Leadership is a quality that is highly valued by most graduate schools, so make sure to provide an example of your leadership and impact for these programs.

3. Offer relevant, compelling details.

Supporting details make your success story more believable and memorable. These supporting details show your achievements at a much higher level than just telling about them would, and they help fill out the picture of who you are and what you’ve done.

Details can include the number of people on your team, the amount of money you raised, the butterflies you felt in your stomach when launching your new product, the fear you experienced when you botched a project, followed by extreme remorse and then the resolve to do better. These specifics make your story come alive. 

4. Tell a story that reveals your strengths.

Admissions committee readers are just like you and me: they love a good story. And at its core, a good story needs a problem – one with some emotion or tension. It needs a main character who confronts the problem, struggles with it, and finds a resolution. In application essays, you – as the applicant – are the main character coping with a challenge or problem. You reveal your strengths by showing how you figured out a solution – or a path to a solution – to your challenge or problem. In doing so, you might have benefited others and set yourself on a path to further personal and professional growth.  

When you tell a story that spells out your initial challenge or dilemma, includes the steps you took to resolve it, reveals your strengths, and keeps the reader engaged with colorful details, your essay will greatly enhance your admissions chances.

If you’d like additional help showing the adcom what you’re all about, our experienced consultants can show you the way! Discover how to create an application that will get you accepted! Schedule a free consultation with an Accepted admissions expert. 

Judy Gruen

By Judy Gruen, former Accepted admissions consultant. Judy holds a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University. She is also the co-author of Accepted’s first full-length book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!

Related Resources:

The post Four Ways to Highlight Your Strengths in Your Application Essays appeared first on Accepted Admissions Blog.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

[0] Comments to this Article