Candidates are often fixated on their professional and community-based stories. Many forget to even consider personal stories as possible differentiators. Because so many candidates have similarities in their professional experiences, personal dimensions should be highlighted where possible (as few examined lives can truly be said to be similar). Stories of commitment to oneself or others can have a strong emotional impact on the Admissions Committee and can help distinguish you amid the mass of applications.

What types of experiences should you discuss? Well, there is no easy answer. In order for these stories to work, they need to be truly distinct. An example of a unique personal story might be that of an individual who helped a cousin, who was adopted at birth, relocate his birth mother; another story might be one of an individual who took a six-month leave of absence to take his disabled grandmother on a tour of her home country. Clearly, not everyone has the exact experiences detailed above, but each of us has interesting anecdotes we can tell about ourselves. These are the kind of stories that can be showcased in your essays with a little bit of thought and creativity.