Recently we laid out two techniques that applicants often use in essays:
1) Talks about how the school they’re applying to is “the best at blah blah” or is “world renowned” or something about how it’s so set apart from its peers
2) Talks about THEMSELVES in similar language, saying that they were the only intern to get an offer
There’s nothing wrong with either of these but neither is the most effective way to go about your pitch. We discussed #1 before — comparing the schools and why touting this school as so superior is not really a useful approach.
For issue #2 where you’re comparing yourself, well…. this one is trickier. Much of your app strategy needs to be about showcasing your skills and demonstrating how you’ve been ahead of your peers, so why would you not want to say something like that? There’s a few reasons.
The first is that it always sounds better when someone else says you’re awesome, rather than you proclaiming it yourself. In fact, if you’re too heavy-handed with how you go about it, it can be a real turn-off for the reader.
How is a school “wiser” than another one?
Why is it even important that a school be “older”?
The only audience that will be in agreement with this marketing message are those associated with UNC. Everyone else sees this and says, “Hmm, but isn’t Duke a better school?”
To be fair, that’s exactly what the intention was. This campaign apparently was about increasing donations from UNC alumni, to “beat Duke.” It’s not actually about the schools themselves or how one is better. However, this also points to the problem of trying to be funny or glib when you’re writing marketing messages (and that same warning applies equally to MBA essays!).
The best place for statements of “She’s the best!” is in letters of recommendation — and even there, the recommender should be coached to please include specifics and examples and proof as to why they are saying that. Make it real, and make it credible.
If you want to talk about how you’ve outperformed your peers, then the best way to do that is to show what you have done – focus on how you brought results and what your actions were that created change. Then, let the reader decide. Let the adcom understand what you have accomplished by laying out the literal accomplishments.
They read enough apps to see how you may (or may not) be impressive in comparison to the lot.
Making your own assertions too shrilly won’t do that. Let others toot that horn for you. Stay focused on the facts of your actions and you will be far and away helping yourself to stand out from the crowd.
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