As admissions consultants, we sometimes review first drafts of a client’s essays and are impressed with what the applicant has accomplished or are moved by a particular story, but we still have to let them know that their response needs to be overhauled. When this happens, our comments are usually along the lines of, “This is great, but . . . you’re not actually answering the essay question.”
Believe it or not, this is one of the most common missteps we see as extraordinarily talented candidates pull their materials together. They might be so intent on positioning themselves in a particular way or highlighting a certain achievement that they fail to directly respond to what their target program has asked, either completely or partially.
For example, Stanford inquires, “What matters most to you, and why?” In our view, the “and why” part is more important than the “what,” but many applicants overlook it when they begin to outline their responses. Kellogg asks, “Tell us about a time you have demonstrated leadership and created lasting value. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn?” We find applicants usually have lots to say about a time they’ve shown leadership, but they forget to mention the setbacks they had to overcome in the process or include a summary of what they learned from the experience.
So as you put the final touches on your Round 1 materials or get ready to buckle down for Round 2, take a step back and make sure you’re actually answering the adcom’s questions.
Until next time,
The team at Stacy Blackman Consulting
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