The Power of Sharing Your Story with the Admissions Office

Emily Coleman
Emily Coleman
ELL academic support specialist; Ph.D. candidate in Strategic Leadership and Administrative Studies with Education concentration
'What’s Your Story?’ typed on paper using a typewriter.

The Importance of Sharing Your Story

Graduate school admissions offices across the country are always looking for the best candidates for their programs. That is why it is extremely important for people applying to share their stories. Sharing your story means just that. You need to make the admissions office feel like they really know you and who you hope to become through their program. You want to share your experiences, your future goals, and how you are going to be an asset to their program.

You want to stand out through your storytelling and make the admissions office see what you will be bringing to their school. Admissions offices want to bring students into their universities who have diverse and interesting points of view. Sharing your story will create a picture of you in their minds. They need to be able to picture you in the classes and performing academically. Sharing your story will show your admissions counselor how you have overcome challenges or how you will succeed. Universities want graduate students who are the right fit for their programs. Sharing your experiences and stories through words must be executed with great thought and care. Think about what you want to share and take the time needed to write it clearly and as detailed as possible.

Strategic Storytelling Tips for Your Personal Story

Set the Scene –  Once you have decided what you want to share with the admissions office, be as specific as possible about where and when your story took place. You need to paint the picture or create a movie in the mind of the admissions counselor so that they can see you in that setting. All great stories have created specific scenes in our minds so that we are transported into the story.

Choose an engaging problem/obstacle/conflict/hardship – You want to show the admissions office your strengths and how you overcome difficulties. Be sure that you choose an obstacle that you overcame that will allow you to show the realm of your skills. Don’t choose something that was so easy that you cannot write much detail about how you overcame it. Think about your strengths, and then choose a hardship where you had success because of your strengths. Remember to think about the program that you are applying to and include the skills that are needed to be successful in that program into the story you are telling.

How did you resolve the situation – The point of sharing your personal story is so that the admissions counselor knows who you are through your essay. Be as detailed as possible when writing about how you were able to resolve the challenge or conflict that you have chosen to write about. You can think about this in steps and explain the process of overcoming the challenge. Admissions counselors want to read something innovative and that makes you stick out from the crowd. Make sure this comes through your storytelling.

What were your specific efforts and what was the outcome – When detailing your story, be sure to detail all of your energy, ideas, and strategies that you used to achieve the outcome. Show how hardworking you are through your efforts and connect those to the outcome. Additionally, explain how that was the outcome you had hoped to achieve.

Provide a clear, powerful moment of reflection/meaning/moral – Be sure to include self-reflection in your story. You need to show what you learned throughout the process. Reflect on how you felt during certain parts of the challenge. Explain where you might have changed something about yourself to adapt to the situation and how that helped you overcome the challenge. Detail the positives and negatives. List any areas that you might have done something differently. Providing these details will show the admissions counselor how you might overcome any challenges you might come across during the courses you will take in the program.

Know your audience and how your story will resonate with them specifically – Make sure that you take the time to read about the university’s mission and goals. You want to be sure to write your story in a way so that the counselor will be able to connect to it and more importantly to you. By including key words from the goals and mission of the university, the admissions counselors will be able to picture you as part of their university. You also want to make sure that you connect your story with the program that you are applying to. Be specific and explain how furthering your education through that program is going to help you be even more successful in the future.

Finally, remember who you are – Talk to past employers, family members, friends, and previous professors and ask them what they believe are your strengths. Make a list and include them in your story. Ask them about what obstacles they remember you overcoming and perhaps that will be what you choose to write about. Lastly, make sure to have someone read it over for you before you submit it. It needs to be clear, concise and organized. It has to be easy and enjoyable to read. Having another set of eyes read through it for you will make sure it is ready to be submitted.

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