Candidates often fixate on using their professional and community-based stories in their application essays. Many forget (or neglect) 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 (considering that 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 from other applicants.
What types of experiences should you discuss? This question has no easy answer. 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 his/her cousin, who was adopted at birth, relocate his/her birth mother; another 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 these exact experiences, but each of us has interesting anecdotes we can tell about ourselves. These are the kinds of stories that can be showcased in your essays with a little bit of thought and creativity.