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Monday Morning Essay Tip: Focus on the Story, Not the Time Frame

When starting an essay, many applicants tend to default to using a comfortable and reliable device: stating the year in which the event occurred. However, in many cases, the year is irrelevant or might even be detrimental to the candidate’s case, particularly with admissions committees who have an unspoken bias for younger candidates.

Example 1: “In 2006, walking through a market in Dhaka, I found the most unusual item for my firm’s catalogue.”

In this example, is the year really important? Shouldn’t this mysterious discovery stand on its own, regardless of the year in which it occurred? Further, isn’t this writer taking an unnecessary risk by informing the reader that the experience is six years old?

Example 2: “Walking through a market in Dhaka, I found the most unusual item for my firm’s catalogue.”

In the second example, we have a simpler opening, but one that still captures the reader’s imagination, even without disclosing when the event occurred. The only reason you may feel that that time frame is “missing” in the latter example is because it appears in the first example, so you may have half expected it to appear again, but in fact, the central story does not change at all without it. Without the date, you would simply proceed through the introduction into the body, following the story, rather than being distracted by the time frame for this hypothetical candidate. So, when writing about your experiences, consider whether disclosing the time frame is really necessary for the effectiveness or clarity of the story. If it is not, you may want to avoid mentioning the date, because it could otherwise be a distraction or even a detriment.




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