PS problems

Hey all!

I am having difficulty narrowing down a focus area on my PS. My life has been absolutely amazing so far and I have so many angles that I can write from.

I lived in Central America, worked as a volunteer in a local church there. I was in the US Army for 5 years. I taught music for 3 years.

I also have a history of multiple, personal tragedies that have greatly influenced my life. The list goes on and on.

I don’t want to exclude any of these things, as they have made me who I am today. However, I recognize that including all of my experiences is too overwhelming.

I realize that this is an extremely subjective question. What would be a better area to focus on, personal accomplishment or overcoming an obstacle?

Thanks folks!

I would suggest it would be better to start writing without mentally editing prior to be putting pen to paper. Worrying about any perceived bias by the ultimate audience will simply make you write with external motivations (ie what you think will be liked best by the adcom) instead of from internal motivations (ie what you want to say). Of the many PS I have been asked to read, you can almost tell immediately whether they written from the heart, or in Judy Colwell’s phrase, makes the eyes dance

Once you start here and just let it flow as it were, you may have a much better idea of what directions you want to take it.

My wife edited mine (writing major) and she told me get everything out on paper first and then work on eliminaating stuff. You can always cut out things but you rarely add back.

I agree; write like crazy. One of these stories will be told better, will flow better, or will fit into the length limit better. Then you can tell that one. Some of your experiences you can tuck intriguingly into the standard application form, so that people want to meet you and ask about the rest. In your PS you will ultimately need to focus. So write it all down and pick the story that sparkles best.

At one point we were talking about doing a PS workshop at conference in Orlando this year–check the list to see if that’s still true!


I agree with the others that getting it all out on paper first is the best way to get started. As to your question about whether to focus on accomplishments or overcoming obstacles, it was definitely my experience this cycle that interviewers were far more intrigued by the difficulties I’ve overcome in life rather than my accomplishments. Everyone’s application is different, but of the 9 schools that interviewed me, all except the one or two that were closed file were most interested in those difficult life experiences. Of course, your PS should be from the heart as gonnif said. But if you’re left having to cut out content, I would suggest leaving the obstacles in. Just my opinion. I’ll also say that I revised and revised my PS so many times, and if you streamline your thoughts and express yourself succinctly, you can actually get across a lot of information in the allotted space.

Thanks folks! I have been procrastinating on this one, though I have about five different approaches in my head. I have always followed the “type-type- type” process when writing, but felt apprehensive about it for some reason with the PS.

I’ll throw it up here for all to peruse (for those interested in giving some feedback).