What’s Your Story?

Posted in miscellaneous by bluewellesleyblue on October 15, 2008

I’m getting a gigantic taste of application-process related stresses lately, between assisting my younger sister with her Early Action application to MIT – wish her luck! if she succeeds we will be a brief bus or commuter rail ride away from each other, which might be too close and will hopefully allow me to poach her older male friends as a dating pool (just kidding!) – and doing some applications of my own. Again, this is going to be a kind of self-indulgent, and very off-topic (relative to fashion) post.

Fun fact for those of you with an academic interest in international relations: the State Department application comes due at the end of October the year before you want to intern. That one is particularly difficult unless daddy dearest is an ambassador, but oh well, I must do what I must. Formatting and writing up my resume is one of my least favorite tasks in the world, even if it’s pretty much only done once a year. This begins my application season for next summer.

My personal strategy for applications in general is not a particularly lofty or exciting one, but then again, when it comes to schools and larger programs I’m always in a position where I can only really hope to be one of the under the radar candidates who rounds out the general group. It’s not a perfect strategy, but it did see my barely top 35-40% class rank and substandard GPA (relative to candidates from schools with a stronger AP or IB program) through to results just below those of some of my twenty-plus class valedictorians (which is what happens when your school does not do plus/minus on final grades or weight GPAs). It actually doesn’t involve diverging from the norm that much at all when it comes to filling out your application except when choosing a topic and style for your long essay:

Know your coherent story, keep it in mind. Within the constraints of an application and with consideration for the fact that you also do have other interests, I think all the successful people I know have very clear stories implied in everything they do. This might even be more very weak/trite/silly advice, but there’s a strong correlation between coherency and an invitation to the first interview (in the case of internship programs).

My story for college was that of a passionate high school debater who had reaped considerable collateral benefits as well as a powerful academic passion for international relations through the activity and Model UN. To show that I didn’t climb too far up the ivory tower, I also highlighted my Amnesty International involvement. I did other things here and there, but that was the overwhelming story. My sister’s hard work this application cycle goes into emphasizing all the ways she has shown a dedication to her goals in science despite a lack of the explicit lab and science experience many of her potential peers will be looking to (and I think she’s got a great story going, but it’s hers, so I won’t tell it).

Hopefully this is a positive post for everyone else reading it who happens to be in my shoes (stuff you apply for during college, unfortunately, can be just as stressful as the stuff before) or that of a high school senior! I find that I’m not too good at being encouraging, though I swear it’s what I mean to be. Also, I identify very strongly with people who feel like the odds are stacked against them, especially numbers wise, since I’ve never been in a position of having a top-notch GPA.


One Response

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  1. Little Bow Prep said, on October 16, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    My daddy wants me to apply EA to MIT next year. I’m frightened at that idea.

    Lovely post!

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