Thursday, March 13, 2008

How to Write an Effective Admission Letter

When you write a letter or personal statement as part of applying for graduate or professional school, you will make your case as much by the way you write as by what you say. Here are some of the qualities you need.

Be focussed. Take your cue first from the prompt given in the application form. Is the main question why you want to be a lawyer, or is it why you will make a good one? If the prompt is very general or the questions scattered, decide what point you want to make overall: that you are a proven achiever, or that you can deal with challenges, or that you have something special to contribute to the profession....

Be coherent. Being "together" is a quality of writing as well as of character. A clearly organized letter can create a picture of a clear-minded and sensible person. You might want to write from an outline or a diagram of main points. At least check the topic sentences of each paragraph in your finished piece to see if they make a logical sequence. Ask a tough-minded friend to give her impression. See over for types of structure and for books that give further advice about writing.

Be interpretive. You need to make an impression concisely, so don't use your letter just to repeat the facts set out in other parts of the application. Provide explicit answers for the question that arises in the mind of any reader looking at a hundred or more similar documents--"So what?" Use nouns and adjectives that name qualities (outgoing, curiosity, confident) and verbs that show action (coordinated, investigated, tried). Make an effort to find the exact right ones to suit the evidence you are offering.

Be specific. There's no point making claims unless you can back them up. Refer to the fact lists in other parts of your application ("as my academic record shows"), but be sure to offer enough examples in your letter so that it can stand on its own. Say that they are just instances, not your whole proof ("An incident from last summer is an example...."). The concrete language you use for these specific references will also balance the generalizing words of your interpretive points.

Be personal. Your letter substitutes for an interview. In effect, the readers have asked you to tell stories, mention details, expand on facts. So mention things you might not have put into the rest of the application--your ethnic background or political interests, even. Don't be afraid to mention problems or difficulties; stress how you overcame them. Use "I" rather than phrases like "this writer" or "my experience" or "was experienced by me." A stylistic tip: to avoid monotony, start some sentences with a subordinate clause such as "While I scrubbed floors" or "Because of my difficulties"--then go on to I did or I learned.

Source : http://www.utoronto.ca/

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