Whether you’re writing an essay to apply for admission to university, graduate school or the Mandela Washington Fellowship, your job is the same: demonstrating to the decision-makers that you’re the person to choose. That’s the essence of a “pitch,” whether in business meeting or a personal essay.
In the case of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, focusing on “how to write a personal essay is the most important,” according to Edward Monster, public affairs officer in Malawi who reviews applications for the Fellowship. “Too many applicants used the essays to describe ‘big-picture’ problems in their country or region,” said Monster, “but failed to describe exactly what they as individuals were doing to confront the specific challenges in their communities.”
“Sometimes we focus on things we’ve done” — an initiative or a job we undertook — “but we don’t talk about what the result of that was,” said executive coach Patty Beach, who is a managing partner of Leadership Smarts. By describing the tangible benefits created by your previous work, you can overcome what Beach calls the “’So what?’ factor,” which leaves the decision-makers uncertain whether your work had any measurable value or not.