Stop résumé-ing your essay

Let’s talk about personal statements, statements of purpose, application essays. You know when you see an essay that is more like a resume?

“I did activity A for 20 hours each week, then I got these grades, then I played X, Y, and Z sports, and then I volunteered at place Beans and place Coffee, bla, bla, bla….etc etc etc.” You get my drift. It just goes on and on…and says a lot without really saying much. And…I’m….zoning….out….


I’m not saying this stuff isn’t valid. Is it legit? Sure, yeah. But does it mean quality? You might say debatable. I say, nuh bruh. NUH.

Like, um, Y da EFF should I give even one set of Polly’s crackers about that? Huh? Tell me, I’m listening.


I know it’s tough to narrow down on one or two things to say. I GETS IT, ARIGHTS? I GETS IT. Because you want the reader to know about all of your accomplishments. Because they are important. They are. And because they reflect the time, effort, energy, motivation, dedication, you’ve put into becoming a better student and member of society. Ultimately, you want to demonstrate that you are a worthy candidate that did a ton of shit to be a worthy candidate. And dam straight, you want them to know that. I can understand that, and I can respect that.

But unfortunately, that’s not how the reader sees it because….one is only human. Perhaps we can appreciate your list of what you have done. But can we really feel it? That is the crux of the issue. Ya feels?


This is why it is important to figure out the core of what you want to convey and pick a more defined framework within which to convey that. Meaning, a specific example or two. A story. An anecdote. Perhaps you will have the opportunity to reference some of the other things that are on your resume, to acknolwedge them and give them some rep, but the focus should not be on everything. The focus should be depth, not breadth.

Why? Because giving yourself deep water gives you the room to really dive in. Pun intended. To get down to the details, which gives you a chance to express your personal voice through an exploration of your thoughts and reflections associated with that particular topic. The reader needs to care about your story for it to stand out. And you can get them to care by really inviting them into your personal bubble. Take them on a journey with you. SHOW them, spell it out for them, why this experience or point is so freakin’ important.

Logos does make a difference. Ethos does make a difference. Pathos- same thing. You can’t get into these if you are too worried about covering all ground rather than covering one part of the ground really well.

So at this point, relax and let yourself hone in on something specific. Maybe it’ll be crap and you’ll have to scrap that draft. That’s fine. But don’t limit the depth of your potential to explain due to a perceived obligation that you have to say everything.

You might not believe me, and maybe the list method will float your boat more. But give it a try. Write ’em both ways….which one is more compelling?


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