The Power of Narrative in the context of your Admission Application
- Written by UnivAdmitHelp
- Category: Admission Application
- Published on 13 Aug 2018
Consider the following Examples –
“While reviewing my science project in the 8th grade, my father, upon seeing my half-hearted attempt, told me, “Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it; autograph your work with excellence.”
Those words struck a deep chord with me. I re-did my entire project. From that point onwards, I resolved to put my best foot forward towards all work that I did...”
“A career in Psychology gives me a window to look at the real world through the scientific lens, and help people through my acquired knowledge. I had the opportunity to do that during my work as Assistant Therapist at the XYZ College in Mental Health. My tasks consisted of taking observation, history taking, conducting MSE, diagnosis using DSM criteria, and participating in group therapies for the patient and follow ups. Through this internship, I stepped into the shoes of my future self – that of a Clinical Psychologist – and found it the most rewarding!”
“I want to pursue the joint Masters program by TUM - Asia and NTU in Aerospace Engineering. A very hands-on engineer, with deep passion for aerospace engineering, I take pride in my practical approach to engineering problems. My commitment to study at NTU is absolute - so much so that I set aside one year to finance my education. In fact, I wanted to come last year but did not have the requisite funds. Therefore I worked for over a year mining cryptocurrencies and now I am in a position to finance my education and living expenses in Singapore.”
“In spite of hailing from an army background, I shied away from extroversion and making friends. The fear of people judging and critiquing me confined me to my room and my thoughts. I took solace in my small A5 size sketchbook. Surprisingly enough, as I grew a little older, the idea ofexploring different places, experiencing different cultures, and knowing the unknown, featured 'traveling' on my wish list.”
What is common to all these excerpts from successful college applications?
..That all of them tell a story!
A story that enables you to relate, which is memorable and creates a lasting impact. A story is infinitely more powerful than a bunch of statistics and if told well, as in these cases, can get you an admission into a top university.
Have you heard the story of the poor man’s Harley?
Until the time that Enfield was known as ‘milkman’s bike’ its fortune remained mired in the dungeons of all performance indicators. The bike did not sell well, lost market share to newbies (like Hero Honda and alternatives like Bajaj) and its stock remained a laggard! So much so, when I was growing up, I despised the Enfield that my dad used to ride. It was clumsy, made too much noise and was not fast enough. I persuaded him to sell it to purchase a scooter. Even that was sexier!
And now, the same bike has turned the darling of investors, bike-connoisseurs and enthusiasts and has a fan-following not just in India but even abroad. That too, when bikes from all over the world are jostling for space in the mind of customer. Very recently, a friend wanted to buy a Thunderbird –the same clumsy bike that my father had. However, what he faced was a waiting period of 3 months. He had to bribe a dealer to get it expedited. Even then, it took him about 4 weeks to get the bike.
What changed? Nothing except the underlying narrative. Enfield started selling a story of ‘rugged traveler who is in communion with nature.’ Suddenly clumsy was natural; noisy was unsophisticated and archaic was traditional. It became first a poor man’s Harley and gradually an iconic brand in its own right with its ‘traditional appeal and rustic charm.’ The stock turned into a darling of investors and delivered some meteoric returns to its shareholders. Enfield has truly arrived.
Even I started ruing the time when I told my dad to exchange his traditional Enfield for a Scooter!
Jennifer Aaker of Stanford GSB has built a very strong case for the power of narrative in influencing change and driving decisions. So much so that her course is a mandatory requirement for anyone pursuing a major in Innovation and Entrepreneurship and has been over-subscribed every time since the time it started!
She postulates that stories have the power to transform listeners – they take listeners on a journey that changes how they feel, think or act. In fact, in our own research and experience with hundreds of students, we have experienced the power of stories first hand. Students, generally have a tendency to shoot off data-points in their application essays. That is good but it very quickly becomes very boring. For assessors of these essays, who are easily looking at over a hundred essays in a day, a data-heavy list is just another litany of data points which may or may not be correct. A story, on the other hand, is personal, more memorable and leave a lasting impact. In our own experience, well-written stories are 5.4 times more likely to get selected to the next round at a selective university as against a narrative which just lists the achievements of the person concerned.
In fact, the story that is even more impactful is the story which is personal and interweaves verifiable data points in the fabric of the story-line itself. That is incredibly hard and takes a lot of practice and iterations. Such stories are a true reflection of yours and are almost sure to be selected through rigorous screening process of very selective schools.
We have pulled together the core principles of story-building in the following set of blogs. Feel free to peruse through them to build memorable narratives and give your admission application an extra edge –
Different Sections of the SOP (1 of 3)
Different Sections of the SOP (Article 2 of 3)
Different Sections of the SOP (3 of 3)
A Good Statement of Purpose tells a Great Story
How to Write an SOP with Great Paragraphs
And don’t believe that you do not have a story. Even the most undifferentiated profiles have elements which give each person’s story depth and substance and make it truly unique. Take time to explore your story. Make a story-wall and just list out the things that happened to you (and the things that you make happen!) Slowly the connections across these different events would start to emerge and a story would take shape. That story is your passport to an IVY League college!