'Tis the season of giving and sharing, and so I will share an admissions secret with you. Ready?
Admissions committee members are human beings. They are people, just like you and me.
While this may seem obvious to you, I happen to know from reading piles of application essays and personal statements, that while you may understand this concept on one level, your writing does not always reflect this knowledge.
So what does the sheer humanity of admissions people imply? How does the fact that they are humans (and not robots and not monsters and not aliens) affect your personal statements and application essays?
- Humans like stories, which means that the adcom humans would appreciate if you told them yours. And it should go without saying that true, real-life stories are the way to go—they can be just as compelling as fiction and won't get you automatically dinged.
- Humans don't all respond the same way, which means your story will have to appeal to a wide audience. Don't try to imagine, "What will my reader think of this?" because, frankly, there's no way for you to know what a single individual will enjoy. Write from your heart without worrying about a single end reader. Some people who read your essay will love it and other may not; your writing will appeal to the greatest number of people if you write honestly. (Just note: One thing all adcoms do have in common is their mutual dislike for typos and sloppy writing.)
Your human interest piece should come alive with personal anecdotes. It should engage your reader not because you wrote it for your particular imagined reader, but because you wrote it wholeheartedly, genuinely, and thoughtfully.
Present your humanity as you would like another human being to read it. Not a machine, not a monster, and not an alien.
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