Often times depending on which program you are applying to, the only opportunity for the admissions committee to get to know you is through your application. Most programs aren’t able to hold in-person interviews, and therefore, they rely on the application, personal statement, and recommendations to determine if the department will benefit having you as a student. As a result, it is important to make sure that each piece of the application highlights a different aspect of your personal and professional life.
Your resume or curriculum vita should highlight your academic and professional accomplishments. For the difference between a resume and CV, please refer to one of my colleague’s post. Your resume is the opportunity to explain to the admissions committee the skills and abilities that you have. It is important to highlight leadership experiences, unique educational and professional recognition, and tangible skills that you would bring to the school and educational environment at the university you are applying to. Instead of being repetitive, use the opportunity of having different experiences to list different skills and accomplishments. If you find that you have a long list of items, shorten it with only the most important and those that will really highlight you as an applicant.
Your personal statement is your “interview.” Instead of writing about cliche topics, those that are expected to be read, use this opportunity to “wow” your readers. Be personal. Let them into your life and heart to understand why you are really pursuing this degree. Everyone says, “make them cry,” and in essence, yes! You want to make an impact after the committee reads your personal statement. This being said, you may have to dig deep and write about a challenging time in your life, a situation that is uncomfortable to rehash, or a topic that is uneasy to share. Not only will such an experience help you to reflect upon your own life but it will give a personal inside look to the person you really are. To the committee member, you will become a person not just an application.
Letters of recommendations are very important. Recommendations allow the admissions committee to see how others think of you. While it is important to have a letter from an important person, it is more important to find someone who really knows you and can write to your strengths. If you have a recommendation from an important person who doesn’t know you well, you will get a very standardized letter that won’t tell the reader much about you. But if you get a letter from one who knows you well, the writer will be able to refer to specific examples and highlight the strengths and abilities needed to get your admitted.
Because the admission application is a critical piece of your admission into your dream program and school, utilize it wisely. Since there is limited space, be sure to make good use of every page without being repetitive. An application that highlights all of your strengths and abilities while giving a personal, inside look of who you are will make you a strong candidate! Good luck!