You're doing it wrong, part 2A: experience descriptions

This forum made possible through the generous support of SDN members, donors, and sponsors. Thank you.
Joined
Sep 13, 2015
Messages
4,402
Reaction score
16,772
I have noticed a tendency for many applicants to be really wordy with the descriptions of their experiences. This is understandable, but try and remember your two main audiences: screeners and interviewers. To appease both crowds you need to be both concise and clear.

1. Do not assume that whoever screens your application has the time or patience to sift through tons of overwrought verbiage. That person wants answers and wants them quickly. To appease that person try to be concise in your writing. Cut to the chase and go for the jugular. Assume the reader will assess the experience after 2 seconds of scanning for keywords.

2. If you make it to the interview stage, odds are good that you will sit down with one or more people who have had time to actually pore over your application. After making sure your experience descriptions are concise, make sure they are clear, meaning that they accurately convey the nature of the experience. For some it may be appropriate to add a teensy little bit of reflection.

For example, if you spent 200 hours doing ESL tutoring for 5th graders, you could simply state that. Or you could add that the experience gave you some insight into the lives and struggles of immigrant families who are trying to build better lives in America. Don't try to oversell yourself at every turn, but if you're thoughtful about your own journey a few good conversation points will probably emerge.

As always, avoid starting descriptions with the word "as."

Members don't see this ad.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 5 users
1. What do screeners usually look for in this area?

Screeners want the most efficient way to whittle a massive pile of applications into something manageable. They usually have a rubric, either formal or informal, and are basically hunting for the two F's: facts and (red) flags.

helloitsodin said:
2. Format wise, would 1 or 2 paragraphs suffice instead of a formal essay (intro body concl)?
3. I read a post that says we should treat our most meaningful experiences like Personal statements. To which degree is this true?

The most meaningful ones can have a little extra exposition. They are ostensibly meaningful, after all. Most experiences can be handled in a few well-constructed sentences. A few deserve more. If you're treating every space on the app like a miniature personal statement, you're going to make your application very difficult to digest, which won't win you many fans.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Members don't see this ad :)
If you're treating every space on the app like a miniature personal statement, you're going to make your application very difficult to digest, which won't win you many fans.

Good to hear. On most of my experiences, I didn’t even come close to the character limit.
 
As always, avoid starting descriptions with the word "as."

Thank you for bringing up. I need to go back and revise a handful of my sentences that started with "as." Definitely did not want to annoy my reader. Good stuff!
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
fml wish i saw this before i submitted lol.
can you do one on secondaries?
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users
fml wish i saw this before i submitted lol.
can you do one on secondaries?

Secondaries.

1. Read the prompts carefully and answer what is being asked.
2. Have another set of eyes review what you have written.
3. Paste your responses into a word document, change it to some weird font, print it out, and then read your responses aloud. This is a good way to catch typos and awkward phrasing.
4. Read the prompts carefully and answer what is being asked.

One of the ways we catch people who don't write their own personal statements is to compare those with the writing in their secondaries. If your PS is eloquent and polished and your secondaries sound like a chimp pounded on a 1965 Smith Corona, that's a bad thing.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 10 users
Secondaries.

1. Read the prompts carefully and answer what is being asked.
2. Have another set of eyes review what you have written.
3. Paste your responses into a word document, change it to some weird font, print it out, and then read your responses aloud. This is a good way to catch typos and awkward phrasing.
4. Read the prompts carefully and answer what is being asked.

One of the ways we catch people who don't write their own personal statements is to compare those with the writing in their secondaries. If your PS is eloquent and polished and your secondaries sound like a chimp pounded on a 1965 Smith Corona, that's a bad thing.


This is helpful advice, thank you for doing this. Similar to your advice on the activities section, would you say it's okay to be well below the character limit on some secondary questions?
 
This is helpful advice, thank you for doing this. Similar to your advice on the activities section, would you say it's okay to be well below the character limit on some secondary questions?

That's a little dicey. The character limit on AMCAS is set by AMCAS, and has to err on the side of generosity. The character limit on secondaries is set by schools, who may or may not be erring on the side of generosity. Ultimately it is unusual to see a secondary response that is strikingly brief. The vast majority of people use the space reasonably well.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
That's a little dicey. The character limit on AMCAS is set by AMCAS, and has to err on the side of generosity. The character limit on secondaries is set by schools, who may or may not be erring on the side of generosity. Ultimately it is unusual to see a secondary response that is strikingly brief. The vast majority of people use the space reasonably well.
That makes a lot of sense, thank you so much
 
Secondaries.

1. Read the prompts carefully and answer what is being asked.
2. Have another set of eyes review what you have written.
3. Paste your responses into a word document, change it to some weird font, print it out, and then read your responses aloud. This is a good way to catch typos and awkward phrasing.
4. Read the prompts carefully and answer what is being asked.

One of the ways we catch people who don't write their own personal statements is to compare those with the writing in their secondaries. If your PS is eloquent and polished and your secondaries sound like a chimp pounded on a 1965 Smith Corona, that's a bad thing.
What I do also is run it through google translate or another site that will read the text out loud. Sometimes its hard to catch errors from just reading and I have found a couple from using this method even after reading the essay a couple times before.
 
Top