Getting a Jump on the 2011 Admissions Season

By Ryan Hickey + updated on September 13th, 2011

College Applicants

What sets you apart?  What do your friends say is the best thing about you?  Their answer to this question may well offer a very good idea of what to develop in your personal statement for college.

Even more important: Do your research! Go to the websites of the colleges to which you hope to apply and find out what they most value in applicants.  Think about the type of essay that you can develop that will not just distinguish you as a candidate , but that will also play to

Medical School Applicants

Your life in 5300 characters with spaces: It is a tall order.  But it can help to take it in pieces.

What can you offer as an anecdote that sets you apart? If you cannot think of one, it might not hurt to ask family members or friends what they think of when they think about you becoming a doctor, and those of your qualities that align best with a future in medicine. It is by no means a requirement to open your AMCAS essay with an anecdote, but if you can offer a good one, it is often the best approach.

What is the strongest element of your resume? Think about how you can develop that one element into one or two paragraphs that best play to your strengths as a candidate for medical school.

MBA Applicants

Most business school applicants must develop multiple essays as part of their applications. Think of any general personal statement or statement of purpose as being you chance to explain where you have been, and how this has led you to want to attend business school. You will also probably need goal-focused essay of some type, which demands a concise rendering of what you hope to achieve in business.  In addition, you may also have to develop essays about leadership, past mistakes, and specific accomplishments. In what settings were you most effective as a leader? When did you make a mistake whose resolution actually served to reflect favorably upon you? What are the accomplishments in your life that are most valuable to you?  Keep in mind that these do not have to be in business.  If you reconciled a conflict between family members or business colleagues, it would not be inappropriate to offer this as a valued personal accomplishment.

Law School Applicants

Law school applicants must do one thing: they must present an argument that is concise, clear, augmented with evidence, and irrefutable.  Nothing is more advantageous to a law school applicant than brevity.  Nothing is more dangerous to a law school applicant than a tone of overconfidence.  What is the best argument that you can make that they should bring you into their program? What is the evidence that you can present?

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Ryan Hickey

Ryan Hickey is Managing Editor of Peterson's & EssayEdge and an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants. He enjoys sharing his knowledge to aid others in achieving their educational goals and, when he gets a break, loves hiking and fly fishing with his wife and two border-collie mixes.

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