It’s important to remember that every SPIA student, current and former, has been where you are now. Looking back, here are some thoughts that we believe would have been helpful to hear when finishing our applications:
You are almost there, just push through any doubts you may have and get your application in. Don’t let doubts about the strength of your application deter you from completing it. With less than 10 days left, create a schedule for finishing the last few components. Whatever point you are at, you can do this in the remaining time. And it will feel great when you’re done.
Do not sell yourself short. Throughout the application, find ways to highlight your strengths. If it’s hard to write them out in paragraph form right now, write a list.
If you feel in a rut, try free-writing. If you’re like me, writing about yourself feels like pulling teeth, so those personal statement essays can be hard. Faced with a question like “who are you?” you may begin to spiral into an existential crisis. Breathe and start thinking about how you’ve developed an interest in public service. What experiences have made you want to pursue this interest? Remember to “show and not tell” the readers why you should be at SPIA and how SPIA will get you where you want to be.
Talk to people about your essays. Applications are about the narratives you provide, and a great way to streamline your narrative is to talk it through with someone whose judgement you trust. Make notes as you’re talking through it—you may hear yourself express your story in a new way that you like. It also gives you a break from the page, and lets you reframe your ideas.
Don’t let the memo stop you from applying. The first time I considered applying to SPIA, I was concerned about how I would perform on the memo, and so I didn’t apply that year, thinking I wouldn’t be able to get in. But the next year, I decided I would try, and found that once I started researching and writing about a topic I was interested in, finishing the memo was easier than I had anticipated. Before you know it, you’ll have more than five pages, and you’ll need to find ways to cut it. Make sure you have full control over that memo, such that your sentences communicate exactly what you want. Reading aloud is always helpful. When cutting, ask yourself “do I need this sentence?” Be ruthless and keep only what you need. Remember that SPIA does not expect you to know how to write a perfect memo right now, but the committee will look to see if you can write well and write concisely.
Come talk to us in “office hours.” They will be from 5 to 7 p.m. ET on December 8th, over zoom.
If you are an advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion, for students of color, for first-generation students, for low-income students, LGBTQ students, children of immigrants, international students and any group who is underrepresented within the walls of Ivy League institutions, Princeton needs you. SPIA is a school for future public servants, and the students SPIA is training need to reflect the diversity of the people we are meant to serve. Your education here, perspectives in the classroom, and future contribution to public service, will help bring about the change we need to see in politics, internationally and domestically.