What do you think might be the most important element of an essay that professes to talk about your “passion”?
Why don’t we start with excitement??
What’s missing from nearly every single instance of a “passion” statement in any essay we’ve literally ever reviewed is a sense that the person CARES about the thing they’re claiming they care about.
For what is “passion” if not emotion?
Psyched-up jazziness and WOW??
When you tell the adcom you’re “passionate” for change, whelp, that passion best be coming through in spades in the ways that you describe it.
We actually recommend real caution on what you say you’re passionate about in the first place. “Change” is a concept. Same is “making a difference.” It’s pretty difficult for even a skilled writer to prove that she’s “passionate” for a concept. If you’re TRULY “passionate” for change, then what you can do is simply show the reader what you’ve changed. Then, the passion will come through, loud and clear, without you even saying the word.
Here’s the most sophisticated approach: Try writing your essays without using the word “passion” at all*. Instead, let the content presented in your essays speak for themselves. That’s truly the essence of this advice to “show, don’t tell” — instead of making empty claims to your reader that you have this quality or that one, you give evidence, pulled from the details of your life, and let the reader form her own opinions about you.
What really does not work is claiming to be “passionate” for personal development, and then going into a nearly depressing-sounding account of your own family’s background about being economically disadvantaged or having troubles.
Can those things work together?
Well, yes, if you use them in a thoughtful way to prove out your answer.
It’s also tricky to say that you’re “passionate” about something like bitcoin. We get it, crypto is an obsession in itself, and perhaps you want to share that part of your life with the adcom. That’s a legit idea. Your expertise in literally ANYTHING can be useful in your applications. If you go home from work and then spend the rest of your evening lost in researching some hobby, (in most cases) we can see how that might be worth a mention in an app. At least you can include it in the last bullet on the resume where you mention your hobbies and interests. It might even be worth building out as a story for an essay, depending on which school and which prompt (and which hobby we’re talking about; there are some things happening out there on them interwebs that defy explanation, and you may not choose to get mired into trying to explain your involvement to the adcom – ya know? we won’t ask).
A quagmire that some applicants find themselves in is when they try to explain how they came to be passionate about the whatever-it-is they’re claiming that they care about. That’s usually done when the object of said passion is a concept (see warning above) and it’s usually attempted by including some autobiographical tidbit or another. This is a common approach for, say, Harvard or Stanford’s main essays, and applicants often struggle in executing this well.
Such autobiographical information may fit somewhere in such an essay but it’s needs to be targeted to answer the question as stated in your opening.
If you include autobiographical info, you must test it.
How does this factoid or snippet of data from your life show the reader what you are most passionate about?
If the connections are not defined, then it’s not logical. It’s not there for a purpose; it’s just there. And the reader reads it and goes, “So?”
Giving an answer and then veering off to talk about your parents is not really helping to make the case for what makes you excited in life. Essays written like this can end up feeling very forced and overly architected, rather than allowing any passion to come through.
We also see issues when applicants try to artificially connect their “passion” to the school they’re applying to. This often rings hollow or even can backfire.
The only way that a reference to the school would be effective in the context of such a topic as “passion” is if the thing you’re passionate about is legit a bschool thing too — and if it is, then it’s going to be suspect that you chose that thing to write about because you thought it would sound good and impress your reader. So it’s instantly going to raise “authentic?” questions. It ends up sounding just a tad too convenient, to toss out a mention of the school at the end. There needs to be substance to the comment in the context of the entire essay. Often it degrades such an essay when a tie-in to the school is attempted.
Admittedly, this “passion” thing is a bit of an EssaySnark pet peeve — mostly because the word is so darned overused and abused by BSers. If you want to stand out in the application process, then you’ll not come across as a same-ol’ same-ol’ candidate. You’ll avoid doing the things that everyone does. That’s what we harp about here on the blahg, because we’ve seen it all. That’s the value of digging deep into the ‘snarchives and reading up on the advice from years past. (That lil widget in the right column that highlights posts from this time last year is meant to help you do just that!) When we’ve created an actual tag on the site to track “passion” posts you know it’s a “thing” for us, and something to watch for as you build out your pitch.
It’s not illegal to mention “passion” in your essays. But if you do, be prepared from some eye-rolling and almost guaranteed some pushback if you submit those essays to EssaySnark for critique.
*The exception to this “don’t use the word” advice? If you’re answering an essay prompt that asks you to talk about your passion. In that case, if you omit the word entirely from your essay, there’s a real risk the reader will assume you wrote the essay for some other school. Always answer the question. That’s the first rule of essays and it dominates over all other advice.