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Think! Think! Think!

Another great guest post about how to approach application writing from . Enjoy!

One evening my daughter came to me for help with her math homework. She had mechanically applied a method her teacher taught her for finding the size of an angle in an isosceles triangle … to a triangle with three unequal sides. Mindlessly using the technique, she couldn’t solve the problem. The next day, my son asked if the writing techniques he had learned in English would also work in history. I assured him that good writing will be as effective in history as in English. Automaton-like, he promptly applied a template for a book report to a history essay that didn’t refer to a book. It made no sense.

Both my children failed to think. One may be able to perform certain activities without thought, but writing (or solving geometry problems) isn’t among them. Before you apply any writing techniques — even those recommended in these columns — you have to think. Thought is an essential prerequisite for your application writing.

What should you mull over before you sit down to write?

  1. For graduate students: Why do you want to pursue this particular course of study? after you complete your studies? How will this specialty help you achieve them? Whether you call it a “statement of purpose,” “goals essay,” or “vision statement,” you need to know why you want to become a doctor, lawyer, tycoon, or Indian chief.
  2. Why are you applying to these particular programs? Why would you choose to attend Program A and not Program B? , geographic location, outstanding faculty, and excellent reputation are not sufficient reasons. You need to know exactly how this school will help you achieve your goals (for grad applicants) or what aspects of this school’s educational approach appeal to you and why (for college applicants).
  3. What is important to you? Why is it important? How did you develop these values? In particular, which experiences and activities influenced your values and reflect them?
  4. What is distinctive about you? What anecdotes reveal that distinctiveness?
  5. What are you proud of and why?

Once you have thought thoroughly about these topics, you can intelligently apply the techniques and advice found here.

The bottom line for you (and my kids): “Think! Think! Think!”

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