Tag Archives: supplemental essay

Letters of Continued Interest: What they are, and how to write them.

Letters of Continued Interest. (From Muffet on Flickr.)

So, you’ve been waitlisted. Or, you’ve been deferred. Now what?

Well, you can do one of two things: you can either sit on your laurels or you can write what’s called a letter of continued interest.

A letter of continuing interest (or, if you’re cool, a LOCI) is essentially what it sounds like: a letter to the admissions committee stating your continuing interest in their school.

While a LOCI doesn’t bear as much weight as other parts of your application like, say, your personal statement, it is still a very good idea to send one. If you’ve been waitlisted, deferred, or otherwise on hold, a LOCI could perhaps be the extra nudge you need to get in.

Here are a few tips to help get you out of limbo:

Write it as soon as possible.

“When should I submit one?” is usually the second question I’m asked. (Following what a LOCI is to begin with, of course.) My answer, as it is in many scenarios, is as soon as possible. Meaning, you should begin working on your LOCI as soon as you receive your notice of deferral or waitlist letter. Sending it out quickly shows your seriousness as an applicant by illustrating just how badly you really do want to go to this school. Also gives you a practical edge over the rest of the applicant pool– you’ll beat them to the punch.

Your LOCI should ONLY be one page.

Yes, this should only be a one-page letter. You have already written a personal statement– perhaps even a diversity statement as well. Your LOCI is a letter of continuing interest; there’s no need to rehash your application again. In terms of format, your LOCI should resemble a business or cover letter– it should include all relevant contact information as well as the appropriate greetings. (“Dear Mr./Ms. X,” works as an opening salutation, and “Sincerely,” to close.)

Explain why you’re still interested in attending.

Ideally, if you’re thinking of writing a LOCI, you still want to attend a particular school. So, be sure to explain how this school  is the perfect match for you– what specific programs are you interested in? Is there a particular professor you’re interested in studying with? In other words, why do want to get in, and what will you do there once you are admitted? Consider these questions, but be sure your answers are concise. Also, if you’ve visited them since applying, let them know– it will really drive home your veritable continuing interest in the school.

Provide updates to your application.

Surely, some time has passed since you first submitted your application. Has anything changed since then? Have you accepted any new positions or received any awards since you first applied? Have you completed any interesting research or published anything? Be sure to include updated information– don’t be redundant. By now, they have already reviewed your application, so repeating it all over again would be unnecessary and even unwanted. However, if there are some serious changes — like internship or thesis credits–  you can send them an updated transcript or even an additional letter of recommendation. It will not only confirm what you’re saying but also bolster your open application, giving them more reason to possibly admit you.

Address it to the right person.

Following what I said earlier, your LOCI should resemble a business letter. As such, it should be addressed to the appropriate person– in this case, the person who signed your deferral or waitlist letter. If no one signed your letter, send it to the Dean of Admissions. You can also do a little detective work on the school’s website or even call the admissions office and ask who it should be addressed to. Be sure to address the letter to an actual person, lest it end up lost in the shuffle somewhere and not seen by the right person.

Mail it. (And, no, I don’t mean by email.)

Following what I said above, you should physically mail your letter rather than email it. As you can imagine, an admissions office inbox is a crowded place where things can get lost, misplaced, and, worse yet, unread. As such, you want to send your LOCI in a manner that you know will be physically opened, read, and sorted by a real person. This sounds terribly archaic, yes, but there is something to be said about physically receiving, opening, and filing a physical letter over receiving an intangible email that can be easily skipped over or even accidentally deleted. By using snail-mail, you’ll be reducing the chances of clerical error as well as increasing the chance of it being read by the right person. (Hence, the importance of addressing it appropriately, as I said above.) Also, a physical letter is more professional and, dare I say it, even nice— almost like a thank-you note.

Follow the directions given.

As I’ve said so many times before, to be admitted anywhere for anything, you must follow the directions. Some schools specify to not send any additional materials at all, ever. Others ask for an extended response, requiring more than a single-page letter. Granted, there are only a few schools are such exceptions, but make sure your school in question is not one of them. If the admissions committee is still on the fence about admitting you, don’t make the decision for them by not following basic directions. So, if you can write one, by all means do so. But, if the school says specifically not to, then don’t– it’s pretty simple. Of course, if you’re not sure, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

 

 

How to write a diversity statement.

How to write a diversity statement. (From rutlo on Flickr.)

Last week, I covered what a diversity statement is and how to decide whether a diversity statement is right for you. Now, for those of you who will be writing one, I will cover how to do it.

Generally speaking, your diversity statement should be written very much like your personal statement. However, the approach you will take will differ slightly.

In your personal statement, you are presenting yourself to the admissions counselor as an ideal candidate for your prospective school. You are to show them how your experience is indicative of your qualities and drive and how these traits are proof of how you’ll succeed, at school and in the future. These experiences can be either personal or professional, but, either way they have to somehow exemplify your abilities as a prospective student.

With your diversity statement, you have to provide yet further examples of your experience, and talk about how these have made you a mature, more diverse person. Meaning, you will have to discuss your personal background and how this has affected you. Some people talk about the diversity statement being akin to an adversity statement, but that’s not necessarily the case– it doesn’t have to necessarily be about obstacles. However, it does have to involve is your personal experience, and how this has given you a different or more diverse perspective than most other students.

Note the marked differences between these two types of statements.

While both the personal statement and diversity statement serve the same purpose– to shed more light on your personality for the admissions committee–  they differ in the manner in which they do that.

Like any writing task, you should start with a brainstorming session. However, the diversity statement can be much more, well, personal than the personal statement– as such, your brainstorming should naturally be different along these lines as well. In last week’s post, I wrote some basic questions you should ask yourself when considering whether to write a diversity statement or not. Your brainstorming should stem from the answers from these questions.

Once you have narrowed it down to one– or even a few– topic ideas, start outlining. The only way to test drive the solidity of a possible argument is to outline it; if you can come up with enough material to develop your argument from start to finish, think about it a bit further and consider using this as a viable topic. If you find yourself scrambling to fill out this outline, then drop it.

Because of the often deeply personal nature of diversity statements, you will have to spend a fair amount of time on this. Granted, the word-count for a diversity statement is not nearly as much as a personal statement. (Personal statements should be about 2 pages, double-spaced with reasonable font and margin sizes, while diversity statement should be about a page, page and a half, tops.) However, the diversity statement does needs extra consideration– certainly more thought than, say, an addendum. Chances are, your diversity statement will be dealing with some pretty sensitive issues. Take time and precaution with how you treat your topic, as failing to do so can turn an otherwise compelling and moving statement into something trivial or, even worse, bad.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

DON’T:

  • …be antagonistic. Being critical of greater social and cultural forces is one thing, but using your diversity statement as a soapbox is another.
  • …throw yourself a pity party.  Admissions counselors want to see how you’ve matured and grown. Don’t trivialize yourself by coming off as if you’re complaining or whining.
  • …blame others. Instead of pointing fingers at who or what may have complicated your background, talk about how these things have changed you for the better. Playing the blame game will only make you seem immature and close-minded.
  • …talk about “would have, should have, could have”. Your life, up to this point, is what it is. Take ownership of that, and talk about the past in how it reflects your present and your future, but don’t talk about rewriting anything. Talking about ” what if”s can be a waste of time and, in this case, precious word-count.

Instead, DO:

  • …talk about how your life has changed because of your experience. Admissions counselors want to know the level of maturity and self-confidence you will bring to the admitted class but they also want to know how you have grown to achieve that. Shed light on how you’ve grown and developed into the person you are now, at the precipice of entering into a new degree-track.
  • …use some humor, but tastefully. You can have a healthy sense of humor about your background– it doesn’t have to be all gloom-and-doom. However, don’t be crass, crude, or morbid. That can be a party and application killer. So, don’t be that guy.
  • …talk about the positive aspects of your experience. What good came from your diverse background? What are you grateful for?
  • …draw upon your personal statement or letters of recommendation. If there is a common tie between your career goals and what you talk about in your diversity statement, then make that connection. Don’t be afraid to be thematic in your application, stemming connections and ties across your diversity statement, personal statement, letters of recommendation, and even addenda. It would only help to make your application a more solid package.

 

 

 

 

Should I write a diversity statement?

Blank page. (From Birohi >H!ROK< on Flickr.)

Now that applications are fully underway, I’ve received tons of questions about supplemental essays.. Applications call for more than just a personal statement— often, a secondary “Why [insert school name]?” also known as a “Why X” essay, may be included. Also, students may need to include an addendum.

Another type of supplemental essay that is the diversity statement.  I describe in further detail how to write a successful diversity statement in a later post but, first, let’s break down what a diversity statement actually is.

Many of you already have the right idea: that it’s an essay that explains your diverse background or experience. But, there is some confusion after that.

You don’t have to an Under-Represented Minority (or, URM) to write one. There is a common misconception that a diversity statement should be about only ethnicity or race. It’s not. A diverse experience can be related to, yes, ethnicity and race, but it can also relate to your sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, ability, religious belief, or age. It is more than just the color of your skin; it is about any circumstances or experiences that have made you outside the mainstream, different from the rest of the applicant pool. This also applies to your home life or household as well– whether you grew up in a non-English speaking household, an adoptive home, or any otherwise “non-traditional” household.

It’s up to you to decide what your diverse experience is. Again, what constitutes diversity is often misunderstood, so only you can be the best judge of that. But, here are some questions for you to consider, when deciding whether you should write one or not:

  • Did you have a diverse experience, background, or upbringing?
  • Does this background make you genuinely different and more diverse than others?
  • Did these experiences allow you to have a different perspective?
  • How has this diverse perspective changed your outlook? Your career and life goals?
  • How will this experience help diversify the student body? What about your experience can you bring to the table as part of the admitting class?

Carefully consider these questions. Now, there is one more important factor you must consider as well.

As an applicant, you want your application to be as competitive as possible. One of the ways to do so is to possibly include a diversity statement in your application packet. After all, you would not considering adding yet another essay on top of a long and arduous process if that was not the case. I’m glad you’re a kind of achiever that is willing to do the extra work, but, as an optional essay, there is a risk.

Diversity statements are not mandatory. As such, not including this optional essay will not detract from your application. Your application packet– the application itself, test scores, letters of recommendation, personal statement– can very well get you into the school that you want. It is perfectly possible for applicants to get in with only these items and plenty of applicants before you have gotten in without any supplementation or additional materials at all. The admissions package is designed to, at its barest bones, to do allow admittance– that’s why they are the required parts of the application over others.

A supplemental essay, by definition, is supposed to do exactly that– to supplement your application. It’s an opportunity for you to present yet another side to your personality to the admissions committee. And, it’s an opportunity for the admissions counselor to get to know you further and possibly find more reasons to admit you.

If your essay is well written, well-composed, and truly compelling, it will do all these things. However, if your essay is not, then you risk taking away from your own application. By presenting additional information, you’re giving them more to look at which, as I said, can work to your advantage. But, in doing so, you’re also giving them more written material to judge you on and, by nature, giving yourself more room for error.

This is why you must be particularly selective and careful with your decision. Just as you have to be selective with your recommenders, your statement topic, and your methods of LSAT studying, you also must be selective in the supplemental materials you provide.

If, when considering all these factors I’ve listed, you still feel uncomfortable or unsure, then don’t do it. You won’t lose out by not doing a diversity statement, but you can lose out by doing a bad one. If you find that you’re forcing yourself to write one, that awkwardness will be evident to the admissions counselor. Trust me– they look at up to thousands of these kinds of essays and forced, awkward writing is easy to pinpoint and with good accuracy, too.

I’m not trying to scare you, I promise. However, I do want you to be realistic– don’t write a diversity statement just to write one. Write one because, as a diverse person or one who can bring diversity to your prospective schools, you have something strong and meaningful to say. If you feel that you do and feel comfortable with the material enough to write about it, then by all means do so. This essay is supposed to serve not only as a supplement but as a complement  to your application package. If you treat it as such and write a genuine, well-meaning essay, then it will.

If, at the end of this exercise, you have decided that a diversity statement is the right choice for you, then check out my post on how to write one.


Stefanie Arr
Stefanie@TheAdvancedEdit.com