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Once Upon a Time…

August 18, 2010 :: Admissionado Team

Kids can teach us a lot. First of all, they’re irrational beasts. “Reason” leaves the equation with a demanding child. But there’s a simplicity to their binary “I like” or “I don’t like” decision-making clarity. Big smiles, big laughs versus big frowns or worse… the dreaded tantrum. One amazing feature, common to most children, is their keen interest in a good story. What’s the mechanism here? What is it about a story that… grabs hold of these little irrational beings?

Not sure. But maybe it’s a sign that we are hard-wired to enjoy the feeling of being transported. Being taken on a journey. We understand the world in terms of cycles that have beginnings, middles, and ends. Our minds explode when we try to conceive the “beginning” of time or “the end of the universe.” We like the three acts.

We like… stories.

If you accept the premise that Adcom members are humans, too, then guess what—they like a good story as well.

Of course you want to impress the school, and of course you want to show them your best side, and of course you want to present them with an airtight logical argument. But you have to package the thing in a way that the kid on the other end will listen… with interest.

Don’t think of the story principle exclusively for your essays. Of course your essays will benefit from all the things that make for a good story. But think of your entire application as the presentation of a story as well.

So when you write, push yourself beyond the rational, the logical, the statistical. Show the AdCom who you REALLY are. Take them on a journey.

Many stories write themselves. We’ve read essays where applicants have saved friends’ lives in dangerous rapids, folks who have saved the life of a circus bear, folks who have made giant company-saving deals. Did they get accepted? You bet.

Some of you might be gifted writers and some of you may NOT be. And that’s okay.

Think about the basic principles of good drama to help pull yourself through. Conflict and resolution. Establish the goal and then establish the challenges, the difficulties, the obstacles… Doing so creates tension because we are programmed to want to see that objective REACHED. Any threat to that (the challenge) will create an itch. And folks, the itch IS drama.

Master this one crucial principle, and good things will happen.