We all wondered how Tom Hanks got Meg Ryan to fall in love with him via AOL in “You’ve Got Mail” – especially because AOL was slow as heck. But to be honest, we really knew it was just because he was Tom Hanks, and anyone would fall in love with that cinematic treasure. Also, Meg Ryan seems to fall in love with a lot of people.
But you’re not Tom Hanks, and that’s what I’m here to help you with.
More specifically (and less misleadingly), I’m here to help you with achieving a personal relationship with someone you’ve never met before, and allowing the essence of who you are to come through so that they find value in having you around, giving you money, etc.
Letters on letters of application tend to pile up in the spring as college students apply for summer internships, scholarships for the following school year, and study abroad programs. The stress itself could cause you to crumble; I certainly know it’s happened to me before. And you know what? Let it. Then get to work.
Here are a few tactics I’ve found to work for me in my application essay writing over the years!
Many will tell you to lie when it comes to applications, and I completely disagree. It’s all about selecting very true things that allow you to shine like the big shining star you are, and being honest about a few things you know you need to work on – more specifically, how their position/scholarship/program can help you better yourself. Self-awareness, I think, is one of the best qualities a person can have, and having that come through in your writing can be one of the best things you have going for you when they’re weeding out applicants. I always imagine employers having big stamps that say things like “LOSER” and “NOT ENOUGH WORD ART” that they use on your cover letters, then promptly shredding them.
Do you want this to happen to you? No! Be genuine!
A huge part of being genuine is having a sense of humor. It makes you likable, and poking fun at yourself usually means you’re also pretty self-aware. Making a joke here and there will make your essay seem more like a conversation rather than a one-way begging session for something you want from them. It also makes your writing much more fun to read. What you want to be is a breath of fresh air for them – something funny, something charming, and something different. Take a different angle than you think they’ve heard before. Just keep it appropriate and relevant. Your bits about Woody Allen and menstrual cycles belong where they already are: in that weird note on your phone titled “Woody Allen and menstrual cycle bits.”
As selfish as human beings are, what readers are looking for is: what does this have to do with us? And that’s precisely what your employer/study abroad advisor/scholarship board member is looking for too. They want to know about your desire to achieve your goals through them, your passion for their opportunity and their organization, and what drew you to them in the first place. Your drive for what you want is also going to tell a lot about who you are, and your passion for what they have to offer is going to be the complete package for them.
Yes, being genuine does mean being professional too, because your genuine self should have a sense of eloquence and respect. Being conversational doesn’t mean actually speaking like you would in a conversation with your friends. Articulate things as clearly as you can, and if you think you could use a better word here and there, right clicking and highlighting “Synonyms” in Microsoft Word has never been easier! You don’t just want to wow them with how easy you are to like; you want to wow them with how well-spoken you are too.
In the words of Michael Scott, “I want them to be afraid of how much they love me.” Your cool string of honest, clear, charming and respectful language will do just that.
Keeping all of these in tactics in mind should help drive your application essays and cover letters in the right direction. And in the right direction, I mean in the direction of becoming Tom Hanks.