AMCAS Application Timeline

This news will either seem abstract or throw a lump in your stomach: most AMCAS portal deadlines are only about 5 months away. But the portal opens on June 1st, with the early decision deadline falling only two months later. If you excel with last-minute deadlines, you might think, “No problem!” But remember: you’re not the only one working on this application. We can almost guarantee that the people writing your recommendations won’t appreciate a day’s notice before they’re due. In fact, they probably need to write quite a few of them – so if you ask them now, you’ll be much more likely to get a thorough response and appreciation for you respecting their time.

And while we don’t recommend waiting until the last day or two to write or revise your essay, we know life happens. Get a regular service in the next month or so while you still have plenty of time to spare, or take advantage of our last-minute rush and blitz editing services to make sure you submit before the portal closes.

Make a timeline now of exactly what goes into your application, with personal deadlines to complete content well before the official deadlines arise. Make it easy on yourself!

We’ll be here each step of the way to make sure your application is as polished as possible, right on time.

Email us at admin@ivyeyesediting.com for help on your AMCAS application materials!

Be Proud of Your Life

With social media these days, it’s pretty easy to get down on yourself about your candidacy if you didn’t do 10,000 hours of shadowing before applying to medical school or start an international NGO at age 5. If you have a traditional approach to preparing for school, come from a background without obvious hardship, or lack a distinct “aha” story that illuminated your whole life path ahead of you as a geriatric nephrologist, never fear.

You don’t have to have accomplished something massive or have a wild story to get someone to care about your life and goals. Admissions committees read through thousands of essays – and honestly, many of them follow the same template and recite the same trite phrases they think readers want to hear. But what they really want to hear is what truly motivates you, told with honesty, specificity, and ideally, a touch of humor (a rare bird).

How can you begin to access the Holy Grail of authenticity? Start by telling your story out loud, without editing. Having an actual conversation will quickly reveal what’s trite and what’s true- it’s a lot hard to say something clichéd out loud and keep a straight face than it is to write it down.

Our Premiere Service is a phenomenal way to get in touch with the stories that truly capture who you are- and to make sure you include enough specificity to give the reader a sense of the texture of your life and why they’d want you to be part of the student body. We’ll start with an informal conversation full of questions you might never ask yourself, designed to uncover details you could easily gloss over. We’ll then transcribe an organized rough draft and send it back to you for reflection and clarification, and finally create a polished final draft that reflects the most salient and captivating points of our brainstorming process. Sound good?

Email us at admin@ivyeyesediting.com for guidance on your admissions materials.

Cheers,
Ivy Eyes Editing
www.ivyeyesediting.com

Orient Towards Action

The following issue applies to all types of schools, but we see it arise primarily in medical school essays. There’s a tendency to wax poetic about anecdotes that inspired you to become a doctor, whether from a childhood experience or during a shadowing rotation. It’s great to illustrate your motivation through anecdotes, but not at the expense of describing your own tangible responsibilities, actions, and moments of learning that accompanied or responded to your inspirations.

Remember, your essay is about you. It’s a mark of respect to describe what you admire about another doctor or mentor’s work, but also crucial to then reflect on why you believe you have the qualities needed to embody such an approach. What actions have you taken to shape yourself into a similarly thorough, caring, innovative person? Even if the answer exists in the personal or administrative realm, how can you link the qualities of people you admire to your own qualifications and initiatives? How can you move beyond anecdotal inspiration into definitive proof of your efforts to personify that which you admire?

To get started, write a list of all of your inspirations in your field. Then make a separate list of your accomplishments and specific initiatives you’ve taken. Now, put them side-by-side. Which ones can you link together?

Once you’ve identified those connections, we’d love to work with you to weave the story between inspiration and action.

Best,
Ivy Eyes Editing
www.ivyeyesediting.com

Get Out of Your Head

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live! Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow, as if I had given vent to the stream at the lower end and consequently new fountains flowed into it at the upper.”
- Thoreau

We know, we know, your brain got you this far. Give it a pat on the back (er, cranium?), and then let it put up its feet for a minute. So to speak.

What are we talking about? In the world of editing, having an external eye to look at what you’ve created is absolutely crucial. Your brain drove the accomplishments you’re describing, and wrote the rough draft – which you’ve likely read so many times that you can no longer tell if it’s in English or jibberish. You’re saturated. So take a break!

We mean this in two ways.

First, step away from the computer. Run around the block. Climb a tree! Many flashes of insight occur during break times or even come in dreams, after the brain has had a chance to relax.

Second, get an opinion besides your own. This doesn’t mean you should post your essay on Facebook and take 100% of the feedback to heart. It doesn’t even mean you should email a draft to 5 of your closest friends. Instead, choose 2-3 people from diverse backgrounds whose opinions you trust or whose writing you admire, and who also have a track record of honesty and focused, constructive criticism.

People you might want to seek out:

-A respected professor or mentor who has shown interest or investment in your academic life; is your essay specific enough to address the questions of someone who’s an expert in your field?

-A friend with a sharp eye but no prior knowledge of your subject or industry; does your statement still read well and offer impact to someone who isn’t familiar with your jargon?

-Us! Here at Ivy Eyes Editing, we’ve got the most neutral and informed eyes around. It’s our job to be honest, while providing you with concrete strategies to tap into your story and find the most compelling way to deliver it. Reach out, and give yourself a break!

Cheers,
Ivy Eyes Editing
www.ivyeyesediting.com

Focus on the Positive, Part B

All of the principles we talked about in Part A also apply to your own candidacy. Let’s check out the parallels:

1- Space

In a situation where you’re asked to describe your weaknesses or explain a negative trend in your academic record, it would be a huge mistake to answer the question directly without then describing the steps you’ve taken to balance out those weaknesses or ensure that a bad study habit will not return. Leave room to point out all of the stellar qualifications you’ve amassed since then. Any essay question can ultimately be an opportunity to highlight your strengths to some degree. Space is at a premium; use it wisely.

2- Negativity

This comes up a lot when students are asked to describe their weaknesses or hardships they’ve experienced. Don’t sugarcoat anything here, but don’t devote more space than is necessary to a factual description of how you could have improved or why it was challenging for you to study enough for an important test. We once read an essay where ¾ of the space was devoted to the minutiae of why that person scored poorly on a particular exam: much of which consisted of subjective, debatable opinions. After the editing process, the first 5 sentences explained the facts of the situation, freeing up the rest of the statement to describe the concrete steps she took to advance academically since that time.

Another facet here: it’s easy to spot a person’s insecurities if they focus on displacing blame rather than maturely recognizing their mistakes and also taking pride in their own accomplishments. If you spend your time listing excuses for a negative incident, you’re actually drawing more attention to it than you would have had you stated what happened, and moved on.

3- The Wild Card

Your accomplishments and hardships may be identical to another candidate’s – but guess who’s getting the interview if one of you talks about why your hardships held you back and the other one describes how their hardships inspired them to grow?

In summary:

- Acknowledge the negative, but don’t harp on it. Be honest, and also provide a positive takeaway from every description of something negative.

-Remember that admissions committees consist of real people. Imagine yourself skimming your own essay in the middle of a thousand others, and see what your gut reaction would be.

- Describe negative topics with concise, factual language; reserve emotionally oriented language for references to growth and future aspirations.

Cheers,
Ivy Eyes Editing
www.ivyeyesediting.com

Focus on the Positive, Part A

There’s a category of supplementary essay questions that ask for a description of your decision to shift course in your academic trajectory — perhaps explaining reasons for a transfer, or your desire to spend a semester studying abroad. Here’s a few:

– Explain your motivations for transferring to Institution X.

– Why are you interested in spending a semester studying at Institution Y? What are you hoping to gain from that experience?

Both of these questions include subtle opportunities to focus on the future more than the past. A crucial component here: weight your answers far more towards reasons for wanting to move towards the new option than reasons why the old option wasn’t up to par. There’s a few reasons for this:

1- Space

In an application essay, you don’t have the luxury of an unlimited word count. Whatever space you devote to describing all the terrible things about the situation you’re trying to leave is space you can’t devote to giving specific examples of why the new program’s attributes perfectly fit your goals.

2- Negativity

Tone is everything. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that your original school didn’t offer classes you wanted to take or couldn’t connect you to a specific type of professional opportunity, but leave it at that. If you go too far into a sob story or why you were wronged by a department’s shortcomings, the admissions committee will likely file you in the “complainer” category and not want to read further. They haven’t met you in person yet, so your writing is their only way of judging what it would be like to have you as part of the student body. Keep your description of the old option factual, and inject most of your (positive) emotion into describing the future.

3- The Wild Card

Say you spend a lot of time explaining why School A was terrible, rather than focusing on why School B’s amazing attributes that fit your goals. Beyond wasting space, you never know the nature of someone’s association with a particular institution or program. Perhaps the reader has a child going to School A, or once taught there. Like it or not, applications get dismissed for personal reasons every day. Don’t risk it.

Looking for editing support on your admissions essays? Reach out to us at admin@ivyeyesediting.com.

Cheers,
Ivy Eyes Editing
www.ivyeyesediting.com

Personal Investment in Admissions Essays

We talk a lot here about concise writing and getting straight to the point. You certainly need to leverage the limited space you have in an essay to set yourself apart. That said, there is such a thing as going too far in the opposite direction. If your admissions essay simply sounds like a resume in paragraph form, you’ll be leaving the admissions committee with a lot of questions and not much motivation to find out the answers.

Like everything else, it’s about balance. In all three stages of writing your essay – brainstorming, composing, and editing – keep in mind what you would catch your eye if thousands of essays were crossing your desk. Likely not a stark, chronological description of accomplishments that led you to business school, nor an uber-emotional account of your early personal illness that steered you towards medicine without backing it up with concrete accomplishments.

So, what’s your personal investment in what you’ve done so far? How do you connect the dots of the bullet-point list with a compelling through-line? How does an accomplishment relate to your pride in your work and your curiosity about how you can innovate in your field?

A dry example:
I conducted interviews with the department heads to record their perspectives on current industry issues and gauge their strategic objectives. I coordinated daily with the head of the HR department, so my manager assigned me to independently handle that relationship.

Fine, we’ve got the facts about your responsibilities. But why should we care about that, if it sounds like you don’t?

An alternative:
After gathering an understanding of the department heads’ perspectives that was crucial to my synthesis of their objectives, I fostered respect from the HR department head through dedicated attention to his project requirements. Given my investment in gaining a nuanced understanding of HR industry needs, I was proud to earn an unusual degree of independence in managing that relationship.

A key way to check the balance: read it out loud. If you sound like a robot, that’s a tip-off that you might want to tell the reader what your professional achievements have meant to you, and how they relate to your professional arc over time. On the other hand, if you get to the end of the essay and you haven’t described exactly what qualifications put you a step ahead of other applicants, swing the pendulum back in the other direction.

Not sure where you stand on the scale between cyborg and sappy mess? Get in touch and we’ll work together to strike a perfect balance.

Ivy Eyes Editing
www.ivyeyesediting.com

Save Room for the Good Stuff

So, your personal statement has to be exactly 5300 characters (for all you AMCAS/medical school applicants) long, but you’re pushing 8000 and can’t think of a single thing to cut out.

Surprise: the answer is usually not content. When you need to save room, check for filler phrases. You’d be surprised at how quickly they add up!

Let’s look at an example. Perhaps you’ve written something like:

“This program will not only help me build an array of professional and personal connections to better serve me as I build my academic foundation, but also help me hone my focus on finding opportunities through which I can optimize my possibilities for growth as an MBA student.”

Whew! How about:

“This program will foster my professional and personal network and connect me to concrete opportunities for academic growth.”

Check it out- the first option is 276 characters, and then second is 123. That’s more than a 50% cut, and they say almost exactly the same thing! Zoom out in this example and you’ll see that cutting out extraneous fluff through a 8000-character essay could push you all the way down to 3565 characters- plenty of room to include that extra anecdote you thought would perfectly illustrate X, Y or Z, but you thought you didn’t have room!

In short, we’re not writing a thesis here. Admissions committees vastly prefer direct, concise writing that features specific content over flowery filler language. If you use phrases like “I feel,” “I believe,” “I have been so lucky to have the opportunity to…” or “not only… but also” throughout your writing, as much as 50% of your essay might be wasted space. Just think of the extra content you could cram in there if you weren’t filling your essay with junk phrases!

Have you been looking at your essay so long that you can’t tell what’s chaff and what’s gold (mixed metaphor, we know)? Connect with us!

Cheers,
Ivy Eyes Editing
www.ivyeyesediting.com

Medical School Application Essays, Part One: It’s in the Details

Ah, spring. The flowers are blooming, the robins are chirping in the leafy trees, and the weather’s finally getting warm enough to peel off those hats and gloves. It’s the season for something else too: yes, it’s medical school application time. If you’re aiming to attend medical school next year, chances are you’re getting ready to look that AMCAS application square in the face and fill it out like you were born to do it. Maybe you’re thinking of enlisting one of our awesome editors to help you brainstorm, write, and put the finishing touches on your essays. Of course, as an aspiring medical student, writing may not be your favorite thing in the world. Crafting a great essay doesn’t have to be like brain surgery, though. In fact, you’ve already got everything you need to do it.

Want to save time in the editing process and increase your chances of writing a great essay from the start? Here’s a sweet tip: it’s all in the details.

Just think about it: you know yourself backwards and forwards. As you write your essays, it may not seem important to name the year in which you shadowed your first physician, the purpose of the student medical association you founded, or what it really felt like to volunteer at that clinic in Nicaragua (and where the clinic was, and who you were treating there). It’s easy to overlook these things when it seems like your task is to convince your reader how accomplished, dedicated, and fantastic you are. However, it’s precisely these details that will make your essay—and, therefore, you—memorable.

Working on a first draft that you’ll revise a few times? Working with an editor to craft and hone your essay? Try starting out with what feels like too many details than too few. You (and your editor) can always pare down excess words later. You’ll be glad, though, that you started out with too much rather than too little.

While the rest of your application will be mostly comprised of facts and forms, your essay is where you can really tell your story—to share your experience, reflections, and goals with your readers as only you can. Details are what make that story vivid in a reader’s mind. They’re also what make an essay compelling and memorable—just like you.

Cheers,
Ivy Eyes Editing
www.ivyeyesediting.com

The Freedom of the Freewrite: Part II

In our last post, we promised to let you in on our tried-and-true method for vanquishing writer’s block, our constant go-to for accessing inspiration, our foolproof tool for writing a brilliant application essay when it seems like the river of words has utterly dried up. It’s called the freewrite, and it’s a beautiful thing.

The technique is simple: pick a topic, set a timer, and write without stopping. Even when the inner critic pipes up (and it will), even when your mind says “no, don’t say that,” don’t listen. Just keep writing. Write whatever wants to come out, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense. You never know what you’ll discover about yourself!

To practice, start with no topic at all—set a timer for five minutes and just write. I call this the “brain dump,” because it feels like clearing out all the gunk that’s in the way of what I really want to write about. The only rule is to keep the pen (or your typing fingers) moving. Often, in my journal, I’ll fill up half a page with the words “keep writing keep writing keep writing” because I don’t know what else to say. Usually, after doing that for a few moments, something in me will click and I’ll start writing about something real. Again, it doesn’t matter what you say in a freewrite; the trick is to just keep writing, without judging, without worrying, without stopping, until the timer goes off.

Ready to apply it to your application essay? Pick something about the essay you want to explore or that you’re stuck on. Perhaps you want to freewrite on an experience that particularly inspired or challenged you, or maybe you want to see what comes out when you write without stopping about why you love your chosen field so much. I especially like freewriting on my future visions, goals, and dreams—it’s easy to limit ourselves when we’re writing about these in an essay, and so much more fun to let ourselves really go crazy and dream big. Again, it’s helpful to set a timer or limit—five minutes, ten minutes, a paragraph, a page. And then see what comes out.

When you’re done, stop. Save the file, put the paper away, and let it rest. Then, after a few hours or a night of sleep, come back to the file or page and read it. What stands out? What do you find most true and interesting in your freewrites? Most likely you have the seeds for an interesting, compelling essay that shows the real you, the most true version of yourself. Once you have these seeds, you can expand on them, shape them, and edit them into a full-on essay (or have one of our experienced editors help you out). At the very least, you’ll have overcome your writer’s block—you’ll have found the key to that treasure chest of amazingness inside you. And once it’s open, there’s no going back.

So go ahead! Give it a try. It can’t hurt, and it could crack open something in you that will lead to a truly memorable, amazing essay. You’ll come up with ideas you never knew you had, describe experiences you might never have remembered otherwise, and access the parts of you that really matter. And that’s what makes for truly excellent, believable writing—the kind of writing that will take you where you want to go.

Applying to college, medical school and/or residency programs, MBA programs, or other avenues of graduate study? Select our Premiere Editing Services and we’ll take you through a freewheeling brainstorming and writing process that will help set your application materials apart.

Cheers,
Ivy Eyes Editing
www.ivyeyesediting.com