Your General BS/MD Interview Cheatsheet

There’s a lot to do to prepare for BS/MD interviews. Depending on the school, you may have either one or two rounds of interviews (except for Brown University’s PLME, which has no interview at all). If you have two separate rounds of interviews, then the first round is usually with the undergraduate school and the second round is with the medical school. If, on the other hand, you only have 1 interview, then you will likely interview with both the undergraduate school and the medical school on the same day. There’s some general advice that can apply to both interviews, but there is also specific advice on what to do during each individual interview. For now, I’ve focused just on the general advice so make sure to follow along and hopefully you will find it eye-opening!

General Advice

Always act professional

One of the biggest misconceptions about interviews is that you are only being “assessed” during your specific interview slot. In reality, though, you are constantly be judged and evaluated. This includes during the breaks you have in between interviews and during any social situations (such as dinners or after-interview parties). Basically, the moment you step foot on the university campus, you must always be prepared to put your best self forward for the entire duration of your stay. Thus, try to always maintain a relatively professional demeanor because someone is always going to be watching and taking note of how you act in different situations, and the selection committee will make use of those notes when discussing applicant qualifications.

Talk and be cordial to current students in the program as well as with other applicants

One of the most important aspects of being a doctor is the ability to communicate and relate to other people, even if they are complete strangers (and in this case, your competition!). But for the means of the interview, you have to forget that you’re competing against all these students around you. Instead, try to find common ground with them and talk about other interests and hobbies. As stated above, you are constantly being judged throughout the interview day, and your ability to be social is of great importance. Try to avoid going off into one corner and doing your own thing or shutting yourself off to other people, because that will all negatively affect your chances of being selected into the program.

Do all the “optional” things

Sometimes during your BS/MD interview day/weekend, there are going to be optional activities offered to you. But if they’re there and listed in your itinerary, you should never assume them to be “optional”. In reality, these optional activities are there to test your enthusiasm and interest in the school. For example, one of the universities that I interviewed at had an optional school tour because it was freezing outside and didn’t want to force anyone to walk out in unbearable cold. But think about it; if someone decides to opt out of a school tour simply because the weather is a bit harsh, what does that say about that student? You could potentially be spending the next 4-8 years there with those exact same weather conditions, so should the weather really deter you? Of course not! The weather may not be ideal, but it’s a hurdle you should choose to face if you want to really prove your interest in the university and their program. Similarly, if you are offered any other optional activities (such as Q&A sessions, educational seminars, lecture visits, or overnight stays), always partake in them. It’ll show your genuine interest in the school.

Ask the right questions

When you get to campus and meet with the current students of the program, it’ll be tempting to unload a number of questions about them in regards to the specifics of the interview. But speaking from my experience as a current BS/MD student, I can tell you that that is extremely unappealing. There is no problem in asking a few interview related questions that you are genuinely interested in knowing the answer to, but in general, avoid asking about topics such as acceptance rates. Instead, ask about our majors or our interests and involvements on campus. These questions help show us that you’re a real student who’s actually interested in getting to know more about the school and the people there as opposed to simply getting into the program. It’s natural to worry about acceptance rates and curve ball questions, but those are worries that you should address before you get to the interview day rather than addressing them on the interview day itself.

Have a “cheat sheet”

Before you leave home to travel to campus for your interviews, it’s important for you to write down a little cheat sheet that you can easily carry with you and access during your stay. On this cheat sheet, you can include your main talking points, questions you want to ask, or even little words of encouragement for yourself. During the interview process, you’ll probably be overwhelmed with feelings of both excitement and nervousness, so it’ll be easy to forget to mention certain points you had in mind. If, however, you’ve got a piece of paper with all those points written down, then all you have to do is take a quick glance at it and you’ll instantly remember what thoughts and questions you had. This is especially helpful to do right before your interview slot. I recommend getting to the interview room about 10 minutes early and using that time to refresh your mind and go over your cheat sheet once more. That way, you’ll minimize the chances of forgetting important notes you wanted to mention, and with that, you’ll likely feel more comfortable and confident during the interview itself.

Smile and relax!

The interview process is extremely nerve wracking and stressful, but the best thing you can do is to put yourself at ease and forget the stakes. Remember that as a doctor, you’ll be dealing with pressure situations on a daily basis. What’s important is that you can keep your composure and react appropriately to the situation. Similarly, with these interviews, it’s important for you to keep your calm and maintain a relaxed demeanor. The outcome of the interview is out of your control, so the only thing you can do is present your best self and hope that it’s enough to get selected. Even if something goes wrong or you think an interview didn’t go as well as you had hoped for, don’t let it ruin the rest of the day/weekend. You can’t always interpret what others think of you, so instead of stressing over that, focus on the positives and enjoy the process. A relaxed composure is a sign of confidence and, if anything, it’ll help improve your chances of getting selected!

Some of these tips may have given you a new perspective while others told you nothing you didn’t already know; regardless, they’re all good reminders to keep in mind during your interview. In the next blog post, I’ll go more in depth on what specific tactics to apply during the individual undergraduate interview and medical school interview, so stay tuned!

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Preparing for a BS/MD Interview: What to Do Beforehand

If you make it through to the interview process of BS/MD programs, then congratulations! You’ve successfully made it past the most competitive portion of the process, so it’s definitely something to be proud of. For all programs, the number of students competing for BS/MD slots in the interview stage is considerably less than that during the general application stage, so unfortunately, the competition is likely going to get more fierce. I can speak from personal experience that students who I met during the interview process of BS/MD programs are some of the most accomplished and impressive students I have ever met! It can be inspiring and motivating to be around them, but their presence can also just as easily feel threatening and discouraging. It’s all about how you choose to interpret the situation, so try your best to keep a positive mindset and avoid negative feelings. After all, you too got an interview invite, so you are just as competitive of an applicant as them. In fact, that is perhaps single-handedly the most important point of advice to keep in mind during the interview process.

At the interview stage, everyone is on an even playing field. Your accomplishments and achievements on paper have no impact on your acceptance; your selection into this program is entirely dependent on how you interview.

So even if that kid next to you seems like he’s got a resume that’s twice as long as yours don’t let that psyche you out. Everything boils down to how you prepare for the interview and how you present yourself on to the faculty and students of the program.
Since this stage of the BS/MD application process is of such great importance, I’ve separated this blog post series into three different parts: Before, During, & After the Interview. Each section consists of vital advice that I believe was instrumental in my success, so I hope sharing it with you all will help bring similar successes!

Before the interview

Prepare a list of questions and practice your answers

The best and most effect strategy for success with BS/MD interviews requires planning out a list of question, preparing your answers, and then reciting those answers over and over and over again. Some of the questions you get are going to be very routine, like “Why do you want to be a doctor” or “What are your strengths and weaknesses.” And because these questions are so predictable, how you answer them is going to be telling of how prepared you are for the interview and how seriously you take this process. For other questions that perhaps catch you off guard, practicing is going to help you better construct and articulate your thoughts under pressure situations. Either way, the more you practice answers to potential interview questions, the better prepared you’ll be overall for your interviews.

Below, I’ve written a list of questions that I had answers to for all my interviews. I had put them on a Google doc and referenced them the night before each interview, so make sure to write down your answers in an easily accessible place.

  • Tell me about yourself:
  • Why Medicine?
  • When were you a leader?
  • Why BS/MD?
  • Characteristics you look for in a person?
  • What 3 words describe you best and why?
  • What is your greatest achievement?
  • What are your weakness?
  • Talk about a time that you failed and what you learned from it?
  • What’s the last book that you read?
  • What makes a good doctor?
  • What is the most pressing problem in medicine today?
  • What do you like least about medicine?
  • Who/what has influenced your life the most and why?
  • What makes you special? Why should we choose you?

Take undergraduate alumni interviews beforehand

A lot of the general, non-medicine related questions that are asked during your BS/MD interview are likely going to be similar to those that are taken during the alumni interviews. The alumni interviews will be relatively more casual than your medical school interviews, but they will help you become more comfortable discussing topics outside of medicine. Thus, schedule your alumni interviews earlier (preferably in first semester) so that you can get as much practice beforehand as possible.

Presentation is key

As stated above, once you get to the interview stage of the BS/MD process, everything is dependent on how you present yourselves to the application committee. You could have all the experience in the world, but if you can’t talk about it and express its value to your interviewer, it’ll mean nothing.

From an interview perspective, presentation entails everything from the way you dress to the way you talk to the way you show off your accomplishments. Dress code is discussed below, but in this particular section, I wanted to focus on the other two aspects of presentation.

First off, the way you talk and carry yourself during an interview is important because it is indicative of confidence and personality. Naturally, we are all drawn to people who seem enthusiastic, friendly, and competent. Thus, if you greet your interviewer with a smile on your face and hold good posture during the entirety of your interview, you will likely leave a strong, positive impression on your interviewer. If, on the other hand, you maintain a slouchy posture and your responses are very dull in tone, your interviewer will come out feeling underwhelmed. The best way to practice your presentation is by both practicing in front of other people as well as by practicing to yourself in front of the mirror. It is important to see how other people view your interview skills and to get their feedback, but it is equally as important to critique yourself and analyze your own presentation skills. The advantage of practicing in front of a mirror is having the ability to see yourself as you speak and really notice the quirks of your presentation. Another effective way to notice such quirks is by video recording yourself and watching it back to analyze your faults. This is, in fact, exactly what professional athletes do when training for national and international competitions. Because you are, after all, your own biggest critic, and watching yourself (as opposed to having someone else tell you) helps give you better perspective of what needs improvement.

Interested in Interview Preparation Services with Former Admission Committee Members? Find out more here

The second important aspect of presentation is how you show off your accomplishments. In your essays and your resume, you had a chance to briefly note down your different experiences, but interviews give you a chance to explain them in further depth and detail. If you have additional resources that will help you better relate your experience, then bring those with you and make sure to display them in a professional manner. For example, if you’ve done research in a lab and want to talk further in detail about the project that you worked on, then perhaps bringing a copy of your research report will be of use. Your resume may provide a generic understanding of your research, but with a copy of your full research report discusses the more technical aspects of your work. Your report should be complete with all diagrams, graphs, and written details necessary. And not only that, but you should make sure to print it out on high quality paper with colored ink and display it in a report cover. Taking extra measures like this are really going to elevate the level of your presentation. The difference is always in the details, and these details are exactly what differentiate a prepared and professional applicant from an average applicant.

Keep your dress code conservative and neutral

The best piece of advice I got in regards to my interview attire was to dress to be “as undetectable as possible.” This means don’t wear any flashy colors or outfits that could draw unnecessary attention. They could potentially be distracting, and that is of course the last thing you want. So for girls, I recommend a blazer, neutral colored dress shirt, either slacks or a below-the-knee skirt, and closed-toed flats (you could wear heels, but you’re probably going to be doing a lot of walking, so plan accordingly!). For boys, I recommend a complete suit with a blazer, dress shirt, slacks, and dress shoes. Avoid wearing tennis shoes or crazy colored socks to minimize attention drawn to them. I also would recommend ironing your clothes before an interview because wrinkly clothes can also be distracting and signs of unprofessionalism.

Some people may mistake these interviews for business casual, but it’s important to dress for business professional because it’s indicative of your seriousness. Keep in mind, though, this applies only for the interview day itself. Some programs have 2-3 day long interview weekends where only 1 day is meant for interviews and the other 1-2 days are meant to be spent with your student host. For those other days, its perfectly fine to wear normal clothes (like jeans and a t-shirt), so make sure to pack some of those too if your program has a longer interview session!

Talk to upperclassmen who’ve interviewed for the program

As mentioned several times before in other blog posts, I have always found that talking to upperclassmen about the application process to be one of the best ways to get an upper hand in the selection process. Thus, if you know any upperclassmen who’ve interviewed for BS/MD programs, talk to them! If they’ve interviewed for the same program that you’re interviewing for, then that’s even better. But even if they interviewed for a different program than you, their advice is likely still relevant and can be helpful to you. Ask them exactly what they did to prepare for the interview and what the entire process was like. Also, ask for any connections they have to other students in other programs. Often times they will, and if they do, then ask for that person’s contact information and send them an email asking for advice. In my experience, students (even those who are strangers to you) are generally quite open and willing to share their experience, so always make an effort to reach out to them!

If you follow all the steps listed above, then there’s not much else you can really do to prepare for BS/MD interviews. Try not to obsess over the results and instead focus on keeping a relaxed and focused mind for the interview. Beyond that, there’s not much to it! In the next couple of blog posts, I’ll go over exactly what you can do on the interview day itself to strengthen your chances at being accepted into the program, so keep a look out for them!

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Medical School Interview: What Are Interviewers Looking For?

Michael-Chiu-380x380We sat down with Dr. Michael Chiu, MedSchoolCoach advisor and former Stanford admissions committee member to find out what medical schools are looking for in their applicants during an interview.

As an interviewer, the things I look for are:

  1. Whether the person is actually interested in the medical profession: The medical profession is a long process, its really important to find students who show genuine interest, and have shown this through clinical experience, or through research and activities that demonstrate they have explored the field already.
  2. Genuine interest in the school: I generally will ask questions like, “Why are you interested in X school?” I try to parse through the answer for information about how the candidate looked into the specific strengths of the school, have they looked at our specific programs, can they tell me about specific professors and their research. Also, can they show me that they have a genuine interest from having gone to the website, maybe even talked to some people with the school before their interview? That really helps me decipher whether that person is really interested in the school.
  3. How they can contribute to the class: Whether they have some sort of unique qualities, whether it’s a strong track record of research, a strong track record of participating in community health or in community services, or having some other unique qualities about them that really makes me think that they would contribute value to the class as a whole if they were admitted.

When you say unique qualities, to what extent do they have to be directly related to medicine? Or can they be more varied, like being a professional athlete?

I don’t think it has to be directly related. I think if a person is, for example, a really strong athlete, has exemplified their ability to compete at a national or international level, or has experience running a national organization or has shown significant strength in on campus activities or shown a strong interest in a certain field, it is beneficial.

For example, lets say like they’ve written research articles on government or history, they have volunteered or been involved in a national campaign, worked for a presidential campaign, or basically has shown unique qualities that go above and beyond what normal candidate would participate in.

I think ideally, if its medically related that would be helpful because they are applying to medical school, so any research or community health or international health activities that shows an investment in doing that, would be even better. But if not, if it’s something else, that is equally impressive and adds value to the class as a whole, that is good too.

“I think ideally, if its medically related that would be helpful because they are applying to medical school, so any research or community health or international health activities that shows an investment in doing that, would be even better. But if not, if its something else, that is equally impressive and adds value to the class as a whole, that is good too.”

Is there one tip that you would give to every premed student? 

I think the thing that I would say and maybe I’m a little biased, because in my current situation I’m not a clinician, I work for a company, is regarding the length of the process. The medical training process is very long. It can be at minimum, including undergrad, 11 years (4 years undergrad, 4 years medical school, 3 years residency). I would say on average, now, people spend about 6 years in residency, so it ends up being about a 14-year process. So I think that it’s very important for premed students to try their best to understand what they are getting themselves into early. I think that would be really helpful, and one can do that through shadowing experiences, volunteering at a hospital, talking to family and friends who are doctors, there are many different avenues. Ultimately I think my one piece of advice would be to do that early and really try to get that understanding before applying to medical school because once one is starting in school, there is a lot of debt, there’s 4 years of work and it can be hundreds of thousands of dollar debt, and a lot of people end up realizing its not what they thought it would be, and that’s not a good thing for the student or the school. That would be my advice.

“Understand that the medical training process is very long. Understand what they are getting themselves into early. I think that would be really helpful, and one can do that through shadowing experiences, volunteering at a hospital, talking to family and friends who are doctors, there are many different avenues.”

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Tips on Approaching BS/MD Essays: Editing

In the last blog post about writing essays for BS/MD programs, I discussed some strategies to help you get started with writing your essays. But that’s only half the work! Once you’ve got the main content down, it’s time to figure out how to refine it to make it stand out from the rest. Presentation is just as important as content, so make sure you take your time to edit and draft multiple copies of your essays. For one of my universities, I ended up with 9 drafts! So don’t be afraid to go above and beyond with this step, because it really makes a world of a difference.

Editing

Make unique analogies and references

At the end of the last blog post, I briefly introduced the idea of finding creative ways describe details in your essays. In this post, I want to go further in depth on that topic, because I strongly believe that is something that really sets apart a good essay from a great essay. Below, I’ve given some examples of what I mean by this. Keep in mind, the content is really the same amongst all contrasting examples, but you’ll notice a significant difference in how the same message is related to the reader.

Example #1:

Good: As I stand at the podium, palms sweating and heart racing, I feel the adrenalin rushing through my veins as I begin my rebuttal speech.

Great: The moment I step up to the podium, I feel it. My blood is alive and electric, infusing me with so much energy that I do not think I can contain it. I feel as if, at any moment, I will explode like an unstable plutonium isotope.

*The “Good” example above is something a typical student may write when describing how nervous they felt in a specific situation. And while there’s technically nothing wrong with it, there’s also nothing too special about it. The “Great” example, on the other hand, stands out more because it makes use of simile that is more original and creative. It’s unlikely for other students to compare themselves to something like a plutonium isotope, and thus this type of contrast is more likely to catch the reader’s attention.

Example #2:

Good: When the young boy first saw me, his eyes lit up with joy as he immediately reached for my shiny necklace.

Great: When he saw me, his face broke into a huge smile, revealing a set of crooked baby teeth, accompanied by the forward thrust of his torso and jerky hand movements. I bent forward and stroked his puffy cheeks as he grabbed onto my heart-shaped necklace that seemingly hypnotized him with its diamond-like shine.

*The main difference between these two examples is the depth of the details. Sure, the first example is descriptive, but the second one goes above and beyond to describe the same situation in much more comprehensive manner. What you want to always try avoiding is having the reader fill in the blanks with details. You should paint a picture so clear for them, that nothing can be left up to the reader’s imagination. The more specific, the better.

In addition, as previously mentioned, try finding creative ways to say the same thing. For example, the second example uses words such as “hypnotized” and “diamond-like” to further elaborate on the simple idea that the necklace was shiny.

Example #3:

Good: And right then and there, I was presented with a daunting task that by no means was I ready to take on.

Great: In that moment, I was asked to take on a task seemingly as difficult as resisting the temptation to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.

*Here, the second example makes uses of literary references. In fact, referencing scientists, mythological characters, literary characters, or even biblical ideas shows a greater depth of knowledge. Be judicious with where and when you place these references. If you throw them around too often, then their significance drops. If, however, they are strategically placed, then they can add a great deal of value to your essay.

For example, let’s say that you’re writing an essay about what role religion has played in your life. If you then decide to use the second example as opposed to the first, it makes an “aha!” connection in your reader’s mind. By no means is the biblical reference necessary for you to get across the same message, but it adds an element of surprise that helps elevate your writing skills.

Show variation in sentence structure and don’t be afraid to break some “grammar rules”

If you think about it, it’s kind of unfair that for nearly 17 years of your life, you’ve been taught to write essays in a certain format, and now, all of a sudden, you’re being expected to completely disregard that style and write in a different fashion. But that’s just how it is. So what do you do about it? Let your imagination run wild! Use all those italics and exclamation points and parentheses. Start sentences with “and” and “but” and “because”. Use short sentences. And use really, really, really long sentences (as long as they’re not run-ons, of course!). Finally, this is a chance for you to get away with breaking some of those MLA rules that you’re always forced to adhere to. Don’t get too casual, but still loosen up a bit and show some personality. Vary it up and try to find your voice. Use the English language to your advantage, and write based on what you’re trying to emphasize. You could be trying to show a deeper side or quirkier side. Either way, variation in writing helps avoid monotony and is thus more like to keep the reader hooked.

Determine your core set of people whose advice you will take

I would recommend showing your essays to maximum of 5-7 people. Have one main person (usually a counselor) whose advice you deeply value and show them every draft of your essay to ask for input. On top of that, have two or three other people (often times this includes upperclassmen, teachers, and/or parents) whose advice you also value, but who may not have the time or experience to give you as frequent input as your main person. Show these people your most updated draft every few weeks to confirm that any new ideas you’ve added or changes you’ve made are for the better and that your thought process makes sense on paper. And lastly, have at least one person who you only show your final draft to so that they can catch any spelling or grammatical mistakes (a fresh set of eyes is best for this). These should be your core people. Beyond that, you can of course ask others to read your essays, but don’t always feel obligated to make the changes they recommend. If you attempt to please too many people, you will risk losing your own voice.

So there you have it, the three stages of writing your essays (see Pre-Writing and Writing for the previous articles)! It can definitely be a stressful and overwhelming process, but just like with everything else, try to plan it out so you’ve got enough time to do everything well. And on top of that, try to have some fun with it! For me, actually, writing essays was perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the entire college application process. I would get so absorbed in a thought and end up working until sometimes 2 or 3 am in the morning just writing everything down. Something about being awake at those late hours when everyone else it sleeping and it’s just me with my thoughts helped get my creative juices flowing. So figure out what works for you and then just let your ideas flow naturally!

Tips on Approaching BS/MD Essays: Writing

The Pre-Writing stage is meant to equip you with the necessary tools and information, but the writing stage is the stage where the actual work is done. There are a lot of generic tips that you can get about essay writing by doing a quick Google search. So instead of just listing out some of those, I wanted to discuss three points of advice I found to be most helpful when I was first struggling with putting thoughts on paper. Hopefully you too will find them just as helpful as I did, so keep reading below!

Writing

Use one of your essays to talk about an activity not on your resume

Given the number of essays you are going to have to write for BS/MD programs, there is of course no way for you to avoid writing about activities that you’ve listed on your resume. In fact, that should never be the goal. Essays should be used to help the reader better understand your learning experiences from involvement in activities listed on your resume. I do, however, recommend that you find one activity that you thoroughly enjoy, which isn’t on your resume, and write about it. This will help BS/MD programs see you as more of a human rather than as just an applicant who exclusively does things for resume purposes. The following quote from one of Duke University’s prompts I believe exemplifies this best: “Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke.”

Some programs (such as Case Western’s PPSP), will actually explicitly ask you to write about a non-resume activity, while others may not. For those programs that don’t specify whether or not that activity needs to be a non-resume activity, you should take that opportunity to talk about something you haven’t previously mentioned on your resume. By doing so, you’ll set yourself apart from all other applicants, who are likely to talk about an extracurricular activity for which they have earned several awards and accolades. It’s fine to do either, but with BS/MD programs, which garner sometimes 1,000+ applicants for a mere 10-15 spots, you’re looking to differentiate yourself in whatever way possible.

So what types of non-resume activities should you talk about? Think about something you do to relax yourself. This is one of best answers to give, especially for BS/MD programs. Of all the doctors I have ever spoken to (including members of my own program faculty), one piece of advice that each one always gives is to prioritize your “me-time” and spend that time doing whatever helps restore and revitalize your energy. The journey to becoming a doctor is long and arduous, so the only way to help maintain your sanity whilst going through it is by making sure you take care of yourself throughout the process. Thus, by talking about an activity that isn’t listed on your resume but is something that helps relax you, you show the admissions committee that this activity is important enough to you that you’re willing to devote an entire essay on it. This will also show that you have the capacity to make it through the medical field without burning yourself out. The activity itself doesn’t matter much. For me, personally, it’s baking. I find myself happiest and calmest when I make myself a home-cooked meal with raw, fresh ingredients. For some people, that activity might be running; for others, it might be yoga. Regardless of what it is, talk about why that activity is important to you and what about it makes you feel so relaxed and at peace with yourself.

Always relate it back to YOU

One of the most common mistakes people make when they first start writing their essays is that they get so involved in the story they’re telling, that they almost forget to relate its personal importance to them. To a certain extent, it actually makes sense why. We don’t typically go about our day experiencing different moments and then making a conscious decision to reflect on how that experience changed or affected us. Instead, we usually just take note of the moment at face value and move on. But that’s the exact opposite of what colleges are expecting you to do. They want you to be introspective and to recognize how different encounters and experiences have impacted you. And when you’re writing your essays, that’s exactly what you have to keep in mind.

Remember: YOU should always be the main character in your essays. There might be one particular person that you write about because they’ve had a strong influence on you, but in the end, it’s not about them, it’s about you. A lot of people say they want to be doctors, but the stories that are the most convincing aren’t about other people. They’re about you. So with every detail you include in your essay, ask yourself how it relates back to you and how mentioning it will help the reader better understand your perspective. Of course, there are going to be some details you must include to help set the scene or to help the reader understand some background information, but the core content of your essays should be about you and how this experience or encounter made a difference in the way you value or perceive things. Try not to get too bogged down by tiny, irrelevant details about other people; prioritize yourself first!

Use all five senses

Ask anybody who has ever been on an application committee or who has ever worked with college applicants before: the difference is always in the details. When describing an experience in your essays, you want the reader to have such a complete and thorough understanding of where you are and what you’re doing that they could envision it in their minds. And the best way to accomplish that? Use every sense to describe the details of your environment and atmosphere (and yes, that includes touch and smell!). Some senses will be easier to describe than others, but it’s those harder ones that are really going to help paint a complete picture in your readers mind.

As mentioned in the last blog post, reading multiple other essays is a great way to get a better understanding of what makes up a successful essay (in contrast to an unsuccessful essay). You will quickly find that the essays that stand out to you most have a unique way of explaining details that shows a strong command of the English language. What does that mean? Well that means don’t just go on thesaurus.com and use a bunch of adjectives to describe your five senses. Instead, use words, analogies, and metaphors that still help you relate your senses, but in an unconventional way. There will be more on this idea in the next blog posts, which focuses on editing your essay, but for now, make sure that you at least have incorporated details about all five senses so you have something to work with when you get to the later stages.

Again, these are not the only writing tips that you should apply when starting out on your essays. In fact, these are some of the less commonly known ones. You can find more fundamental tips anywhere online, but these were what I believed to be most beneficial in helping elevating my writing to the next level. Beyond this, it’s all just editing; be sure to check out the next blog post which talks about what to do during the editing process to take your essay from good to great!

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