Competitive applicants possess the following qualities:

  • Maturity, self-reliance, self-discipline, and resourcefulness
  • Initiative, drive, and a willingness to see things through to the end
  • The potential to become leaders, opinion formers, and decision makers
  • A strong preparation for the proposed course of study or research
  • An intellectually well-rounded and broad set of interests
  • A strong record of involvement in academic and non-academic pursuits
  • An outward-looking disposition and engaging personality
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Strong written and oral communication skills

Additionally, they:

  • Know their faculty and their faculty’s research interests
  • Attend lectures, seminars, and brown bag discussions within their field as well as topics of general interest
  • Go beyond the basic reading required in their courses (e.g., they read journals in their field)
  • Tend to “push the envelope”
  • Act upon their passions and commitments
  • Can articulate how and why a particular course of study, research, or internship will enhance their personal and career objectives
  • Have the potential to put their experiences to “good use”

As a general rule, competitive applicants tend to be those individuals who can be said to exhibit a:

  • Commitment to society (e.g., civil engagement, public service, social entrepreneurship)
  • Commitment to self (e.g., self-development, intellectual exploration)
  • Commitment to career (e.g., research, academic/professional engagement and development)

These three over-arching “commitments” can serve as a useful organizational framework for assessing your strengths and weaknesses.