Thursday, October 16, 2008

Give Us the Real Story

Prospective students share a lot of resumes and transcripts with me looking for feedback. In many cases, the student is often checking to see if I'll notice something he/she feels is a weakness, such as a gap on a resume or poor first year grades. Yes, I notice, and I ask about whatever it is. I ask to see if there is some kind of explanation- any kind of explanation. Usually any explanation is better than none at all.

That being the case, it's always a shame when a prospective student submits an application with an obvious issue and doesn't offer an explanation for the Admissions Committee. Many candidates don't explain the issue because they just don't know how to do it appropriately. Should you highlight a potentially negative aspect of your application? I can understand why that might produce anxiety. There's an easy way to do this without derailing that application package you've spent so much time on. Most schools, Terry included, allow candidates to submit a one page Optional Essay or Additional Statement on anything you want. This is the place to offer that explanation.

Did you spend the year following your college graduation backpacking through Europe? Not on your resume? One quick paragraph on where you went and what you learned will account for the time. Are your first year grades less than impressive because you were adjusting to living away from home for the first time or were more focused on your social life? Say that, and then explain how your approach will be different this time around. Give us the real story. Quite often it's not about what the excuse/reason is, it's about how you present it. It's most definitely worse to leave the Admissions Committee wondering. Tie up all the loose ends with that one page and you'll look like a prepared, proactive applicant.

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