In this video, Judy and I discuss how to make your application essays stand out using techniques such as to show (as opposed to tell) your story.
Disclaimer: Judy does NOT work at Harvard Kennedy School anymore. Please do not contact her directly with requests to review your application material.
A common issue in unsuccessful applications is that the essays miss the opportunity to tell an engaging story. Instead of using vivid descriptions to recreate their most formative experiences, many applicants fall back on writing a list of their accomplishments in their essays.
In order to help their applicants understand that they want to hear a story rather than a list of accomplishments, MIT Sloan prompted applicants to incorporate what they thought, felt, said, and did into their essays.
I’ve named this framework the Juicy Story Framework.
The Juicy Story Framework
- Thought – Describing your inner dialogue and decision-making processes shows how you approach challenges.
- Felt – How did you feel at various points throughout the story? Here is a list of emotions if you’re feeling stuck.
- Said – Including dialogue from your experience can bring your story to life. For some great examples of dialogue in storytelling, check out these podcasts from Snap Judgement.
- Did – What actions did you and other characters take and why?
It’s important to keep in mind that this is not necessarily an ordered list and each of these elements could fit in many places throughout an application essay.
Finally, don’t forget to include what you learned from the experience. This is a great way to bring the story together and return the committee’s attention to your present and future goals.
For more essay tips, and to see an actual essay reviewed by our consultants, take a look at this sample essay for Harvard Business School!