You can see this concept in action in this post where we focused on only the first few sentences of a BSer’s career goals essay.
We gave feedback to a different Brave Supplicant some time back on the goals that they submitted as part of the Comprehensive Profile Review process. This person had told us that they were thinking of trying a few things with their career – but the way they phrased it caused some concern.
Here’s what we said:
Most schools only want to see ONE set of goals in the essays; a few schools ask for an alternate plan but you volunteered separate ideas without being asked, which actually is not recommended, since it can make you seem uncommitted. Even the way you said it – “if it doesn’t materialize” – casts doubt on your candidacy, since that’s a very passive statement, as if you expect the goal to just “happen” without you working for it. We know that that’s not what you really expect, but that’s how this phrasing can sound. This is why the essays are so important (and how it’s so easy to mess up with them!) – every single thing that’s presented will affect your positioning and it can really change how the reader responds, just based on word choice and how you phrase things.
Regardless, your second choice option is also no less competitive or difficult than your first choice – in fact, it appears to be something that we have even greater doubts about, given what we’ve seen on the profile thus far. So you’ll need to be very deliberate on what you say and how you say it. [emphasis added]
Every single thing you say in the essays – and the way that you say it – totally totally matters.
Yes, you need to have solid ideas formed before you start writing your answer to the essay question. You need to know where you’re going before you begin. In the first draft or two, just getting those ideas down on the page may be the main worry.
But as you do so, and in every pass you take on your materials, you need to be on the lookout for how you’re coming across to a reader.
Being too casual in how you phrase things can be just as much of a risk to your candidacy as being too stiff and formal. The former can make it seem like you’re not really all that invested to what you’re saying you will do, that it’s just an idea that popped into your head this morning. The latter can make you come across as posturing and trying to impress. Instead you’re looking for the happy-medium, which happens to be The Real You.
Authenticity is important. The only way you can be authentic in your essays is if you know what you are saying, and why you’re saying it. So the first part is figuring that out (that’s where a lot of our App Accelerators come in, to assist you through that process of brainstorming ideas and honing in on what your core message will be). The next part is equally important, though. That’s why we harp on seemingly trivial things like no ampersands and no parenthesis. We get it, those may seem like insignificant aspects of an essay to you – but believe us when we tell you, all of it adds up to an experience of you that you’re crafting for your reader.
It’s just like when you’re reading a novel, and you’re deep in the story, immersed in the action of the events around you. You forget that you’re reading a book – until blamo, there’s a word you don’t recognize, or one that’s used incorrectly, or maybe a misspelled word. Not everybody will notice or be bothered by it, but some will.