The long awaited and dreaded deadline is approaching. You’re excited, you’re nervous, you’re scared. You’re just a general hodgepodge of emotions. You might even say you’re in a glass cage of emotion.
You’re nearly done. You’ve taken the GREs; you had your transcripts mailed (all official like); you begged, cajoled, threatened your teachers/boss for a recommendation; you’ve even filled out the application and paid the admission fee. Now what? What am I forgetting? Oh right the writing requirements.
Most are fairly straight forward. What experience have you had in the communication field? What are some newspapers you like to read? Why is this program important? Check, check, and check. However, what the hell is this Life Narrative business? I remember asking myself that same question almost two years ago. After weeks spent cultivating my Statement of Purpose BU doesn’t even want it?!
“What is a Life Narrative? Are we talking a detailed account of the direction of my life?” I desperately typed to graduate services a week before the deadline. “It’s for the purpose of getting to know you. Use it as a chance to convey who you are and what your passions are,” they dutifully responded.
Sigh. I had really been looking for specifics; a road map of sorts, straight to the committee’s hearts. Alas, they were not going to lead me by the hand. So what did I do? I got real. I relaxed. I, wait for it, had fun with it. After the nail biting and constant rephrasing of my Statement of Purpose this was almost a relief.
For those of you looking for the road map I had so desperately wanted, I must dash your burgeoning hopes right now. Giving you a set of guidelines would actually be doing you a disservice. Why? Well as graduate services told me so long ago, this really is a way for the committee to get to know you and the experiences, passions, interests you can bring to the program. Think of it as being in lieu of an interview. This is your chance to truly stand out because, let’s face it, grades and writing samples never truly convey all a person has to offer. However, I will not leave you completely empty handed (after all there needs to be a point to this blog post). Here are a couple things to help you craft your winning narrative:
- Be genuine. Don’t force anything. Just be you, not who the committee is expecting because, really, they aren’t expecting anyone. This program is composed of students from all walks of life- it keeps things interesting and you’d be amazed how much you learn from your peers alone. So Be yoU, because there is only one.
- Don’t be afraid to brag. This was the hardest part for me, having been raised to be modest and accept that no matter how awesome I am, there is usually someone who is “awesomer.” However, you’re applying to a well-respected and highly competitive program that attracts highly intelligent and talented people. You need to show the committee that you are driven, confident and self-aware. Don’t be an ass, but don’t be afraid to say “hey, I helped build a self-sustaining village in Ghana and that’s pretty freaking awesome.” NOTE: I did not do this, but that would be freaking awesome if I did. I did get peed on by a koala once, but did I put it in my essay?
- Be brave. If you have a unique approach to how you want to write this then do it or at least try it out. Get your creative on. The committee reads hundreds of Life Narratives so, if it works, it will only help you grab their attention. However, you also need to restrain yourself from going overboard. Remember, someone has to read this who probably has just spent the entire day reading other, over the top essays. You can be straight forward while still being creative.
- Pick and choose the moments and characteristics you want to write about. We’ve all lived 20 years or more and have, therefore, amassed a decent amount of experiences. Just look at Bieber who managed to “write” an entire book on just 16 years. So, obviously, you have a lot to say, but you don’t have a lot of space to say it. So, pick and choose the moments and characteristics that stand out the most to you. Ask yourself what do you want the committee to know about you? What can you offer?
I hope this helps you as you begin writing your essays. Remember: have fun, be confident, and be creative. I mean, what do you have to lose?… oh right ;-).