Here’s the continuation of the very useful Success Story (with West Wing references!) we started last week – with steps #6 – 9 of this former Brave Supplicant’s process to admission at four great schools.
- I tuned out the noise when it was time to write. Between June 2014 and June 2015, I read everything I could on my target schools and the application process. The EssaySnark strategy guides and the blahg’s category and search features were particularly useful, but I also checked out other sites, including, of course, the sites maintained by the schools themselves. But I made sure that writing time wasn’t research time, and when it came time to write I put all my research away in order to focus solely on A) answering the question, and B) bringing my own, authentic voice to my responses. “Authenticity” is a slippery concept, but I think you have to be very selective about whose voice/advice comes creeping into your essays. Some good friends and talented writers offered me some well-intentioned advice that I had to recognize was just not appropriate for the essays I wanted to write. The same holds true for kinds of advice offered by certain admissions consultants (eg, “Nobody gets into School X unless they write about risk-taking/creativity/overcoming adversity/teamwork/etc.”). Anyone who actually tries to heed all of the advice floating out there in cyberspace is going to end up with The Homer. I think most people would be a lot better off simply trying to address the prompt as honestly, thoughtfully, and parsimoniously as they know how. (On a related note: I didn’t try to shoehorn any school’s values into my essays. Frankly, my worst essays were those written in response to prompts where, IMHO, the school had tried to shoehorn its own mission/values statement into the prompt.)
- I bought a nice suit (and shirt!). It’s worth the investment.
- I prepared for my interview by focusing on my stories, not my “selling points.” If you’re able to tell half a dozen stories (“tell me about a time when…”) succinctly and enthusiastically, you’re probably going to be fine.*
- I was mentally prepared for rejection. My MO was a Sinatra-esque, “If I’m going to get rejected, I want to get rejected my way.” I don’t mean to suggest that I was stubborn (though I was a bit) or closed off to all advice (just some advice), just that I far less afraid of being rejected than I was of being rejected for trying (and failing) to sound like somebody else. I think the distinction is important—if your only goal is to get accepted, you’re going to lose your soul in the process. You’ll end up sounding like a shell of a person—someone who’s trying too hard to be what you think an adcom wants you to be instead of an actual human being. That scared me a hell of a lot more than simple rejection.
If you hadn’t already figured it out, mine was a mostly DIY approach. I wasn’t interested in hiring an expensive consultant who would coach me from A-to-Z and assign me a “brand.” Personally, I couldn’t imagine writing an essay or making it through an interview if I had gone this route. That’s why I liked EssaySnark so much. They emphasize quality writing and clear thinking (vice “brand management”) and keep the onus on the BSer to dig deep and be self-critical. Their a la carte approach to consulting services allowed me to seek informed advice where I wanted it (career goals, resume editing) and gave me the space to find my own voice where I needed it (the essays). Even though I didn’t use their essay editing services, the blahg—which I think is more honest, insightful, and helpful than anything else out there—profoundly shaped my thinking about how these admissions committees operate and how I could/should go about essay writing.
So thanks for everything, EssaySnark and good luck to all you BSers!
THANK YOU, former BSer! And congratulations once again for the wins that you racked up last year! We took a gander at that essay you’d submitted to the school you ended up at, and we can certainly understand why they decided to admit you. Very nicely executed. And to you current-season Brave Supplicants: In case you haven’t already figured it out, we’re strong proponents of the DIY approach!! We are available to help you out in whatever way is most appropriate to your own needs and process. GOOD LUCK to all of you starting to tackle your Round 2 applications!!