You’re reading an excerpt of Admitted by Soundarya Balasubramani. Written by an Ivy League graduate from India, this is the proven guide for students worldwide looking to pursue undergraduate or graduate study abroad in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Purchase for instant access to the guide and other exclusive resources—including sample SOPs, sample resumes, scholarship lists, and a private community with other readers.

I always knew I wanted to make the video. Many applicants ignore it since it’s optional in most applications. However, to me it was an opportunity to lend a face and voice to my statement of purpose and display confidence.

Content is not just the king; it’s the whole kingdom. What differentiates your video from a hundred others is NOT the visual effects; it’s what you say. Please do NOT say in plain words that you are a hard-worker. Narrate a story that convinces the viewer that you are a hard-worker. I also made use of props—Roti (flatbread) and Rubik’s Cube—because I was sure very few would do it. Do things that other people don’t usually think of doing. There is a moment mid-way in my video, where I turn to look at my degree hung on the wall and the camera moves with me. The point is: the camera is your friend. Instead of making the camera sit there passively, try innovative things and showcase your creativity.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth?”

A video is worth an admit.

—Aniruddh Menon, Dartmouth College

I had written several SOPs for the various universities that I had applied for in the U.S. and in Europe. None required a more unconventional and out-of-the-box thinking approach than the Diversity Essay and the Personal Statement Essay that I wrote for Purdue University and Michigan Ann Arbor, respectively. Initially, I thought that these essays would require little effort in comparison to the SOP that I had drafted so many times earlier. However, in order to stand out from the plethora of other applicants, I quickly realized that I need to put in a lot more effort.

Armed with the powerful tool of introspection, I carefully handpicked the encounters that I had with less privileged people in my college days and blended them with my own set of childhood experiences with people from different cultures. After writing and re-writing it a few times, I got help from a few of my seniors who proof-read it to ensure the message was coming across well. Was it a perfect recipe for success? Not quite, but it instilled in me a work ethic powerful enough to provide an impetus for my career over the next few years.

—Ravi Ramesh, TU Delft

Final Thoughts on Going Above and Beyond

Once you begin looking for jobs in the new country, you will realize that a lot of the things you learn for the interview won’t be of use in your day-to-day life on the job. Yet, it’s important to still learn them because they make you think and be prepared. Your application process to get admitted follows a similar analogy. Every component of your application says something about you. The optional components, asking you to make a video or write an essay on diversity, show that you’re someone who goes above and beyond. You’re someone who goes that extra mile. We hope you do.

A video is a condensed version of your story. You only get about five minutes to say it, so choose one of the three approaches that we mentioned in the chapter. Connecting the dots approach is best if you can see a common thread between disparate events from your past. Big idea approach is best if you grew up with a strong conviction of what you wanted to do. Linear line approach is best if your career has so far had a vertical path, with every experience leading seamlessly to the next one. While shooting it, think of ways you can infuse your creativity or skill. Sai used props; can you do something similar? Can you shoot in a unique location? All these will grab real estate in the minds of the admissions committee and make you memorable.

Most universities only ask you to write a statement of purpose. But, if yours wants you to also go the extra mile and write an essay on diversity (or another topic), that’s great! It gives you one more opportunity to ponder interesting questions. Diversity and inclusion has become a very hot topic right now, and for good reason. You will realize how powerful it is as soon as you sit through a lecture where you hear opinions from students coming from different countries. We gave you a four-part framework you can follow to write this essay: begin with your encounter with those who were underrepresented or underprivileged, mention what you did to help them, talk about the impact you created (don’t be modest here!), and finally end it with your plans for the future.

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