#Framing #VincePrep #MyStoryWorks

What if admissions officers are too busy to read every word of your essay? I cannot say for sure, but I imagine this might happen if they have hundreds of files to finish before an urgent decision deadline. How can you write your application essays in a way that helps them skim for main ideas?

My most successful clients tell me that I add immense value to their admissions process by helping them frame their stories. Please read the below tips to learn more about how I use framing to help clients succeed in the application process and beyond.

What is framing?

Clients often ask, “How can I tell my story in as few words possible?” It is all about framing.

If admissions office readers skim your essay, will they understand what you want them to understand?

If you frame your story with clarity and concision, you increase the chance that your readers will think what you want to them to think.

Ask yourself,

"If the admissions officer in charge of your file were to ONLY read your opening paragraph, closing paragraph, and the topic sentence of each body paragraph, would she 1) understand 2) believe and 3) care about me as an applicant? Most importantly, will she feel that she NEEDS to meet me in person at the interview?"

Why does framing matter?

I believe that many admissions readers skim applications. Given that they only have about 20-30 minutes to complete a first read of your entire file, admissions office readers are probably not subvocalizing (saying words in their heads while reading).

But here's the good news. Admissions readers do, I believe, AT LEAST subvocalize topic sentences. That is how I was taught to speed read. And even if I am wrong, and I love to be wrong when it matters, and every single admissions reader assigned to your file reads every single word you wrote, you STILL need to tell your story in as few words as possible.

Use framing to make your story clear, concise, and convincing. I assume even the busiest admissions office reader absorbs every topic sentence carefully. Therefore, I encourage you to dedicate extra time to make sure these few sentences carry the weight of your entire written structure.

You can also use framing to check yourself. Once you remove everything except opening paragraphs, topic sentences, and concluding paragraphs, you can review your "frame" to confirm if all the ideas are clearly explained in only those elements. If something is missing, take time to improve your frame. Then, when you "add back" sentences, you can be mindful of only adding new details that are not already clearly outlined in your frame.

SUMMARY

First, write out your ideas. Take time to get your thoughts on paper. Then, deconstruct your writing. Remove everything except your

  • opening paragraph
  • topic sentences
  • closing paragraph

When you read only those parts of your essay, does your idea still make sense? If not, improve those areas before editing your original draft.

STEP ONE

First, deconstruct. As an exercise, strip your essay down to only the topic sentences. What is a topic sentence? In Western, or more precisely, New York / Boston logic, it should start every paragraph.

Still, I suspect that many of you have “buried the lede,” which means you hid your main idea in a land far far away from the headline. What are you afraid of? Take ownership for your ideas. Who else do you expect to do it for you?

First and foremost, a topic sentence is a piece of analysis, NOT summary. Every topic sentence represents your original interpretation based upon the facts of your story. (found at http://www.essayedge.com/academics/writingadvice/course/lessonthree.html; accessed 2011/09)


In TOEFL or AWA classes, you might have been told that it is sometimes OK to write a flat summary of your topic. Yes, that is true. But not if you want to stop a reader dead in her tracks to say, “Wait a minute. This person is GOOD!”

The first of the following examples illustrates a statement of fact, rather than an argumentative topic sentence.

  • Weak Topic Sentence: "Two years working in my present position has allowed me to develop technical, analytical, and interpersonal skills”
  • Improved Topic Sentence: "I now feel ready to share my accounting, new business development skills, and team building skills with my Wharton peers.”


STEP TWO

Read these topic sentences, and ONLY these topic sentences, aloud (or at least, aloud in your mind — subvocalize :)

As you read, ask yourself:

  • Does my story make sense?
  • Will a non-expert be able to understand me?
  • Most importantly, will a complete outsider, who is PAID to find a reason to love or hate me, think what I want them to think as they read my words?


As you read, ask yourself:

  • Do I appear as a character, actor, agent, entity, thought, etc. in my own topic sentences?
  • Am I the center of attention?
  • Even if you are an introvert like me, remember: shyness does not sell shoes (nor HBS admit letters)
  • In your next draft, work to put yourself at the center of the action, or at least as the owner of your hypothesis

I think

I believe

I feel

I know

I learned

I care about this idea because

This concept matters to me because

STEP THREE

Finally, focus on mechanics as you edit for concision. As you read, ask yourself:

  • Do my verbs convey power? Will my readers feel them in their bones?
  • Are my nouns precise and easily imagined?
  • Are there a few, well-chosen adjectives, and are they well-placed?


TRY IT NOW

Send me your frame (outline) before sending a complete draft (or put your frame above your full draft). Include only your

  • opening paragraph
  • topic sentences
  • closing paragraph

EXAMPLE 1

If you are like me, you need an example. Therefore, I deconstructed the following article to including only the introduction, topic sentences and conclusion. Can you follow the main ideas without reading the full text?

Complete article 1

I do not need you to tell me I am terrible at basketball. Elementary school took care of that. So did junior high, and high school after. Lead-footed and inelegant, I found myself exiled to the far end of benches, a garbage-time specialist with a jump shot that looked like someone flinging a canned ham out a window. I never made varsity. I never made anything. I believe I can count my career scoring totals on my fingers and toes. Maybe just my toes.

Still: I loved the game. I love it today. I try to play when I can, in pickup games and one-on-ones and three-on-threes and awkward games of H-O-R-S-E that I almost always lose. For many winters I played in a regular weeknight game full of guys who played like I did: slowly and poorly. It was a blast.

Call it hubris, or the amnesia of adulthood, but I'm convinced my youthful basketball ineptitude is reversible. If only I didn't have a job, or a family, or hate the gym, or like to eat tacos at 10:30 p.m.—I could really be the next Kobe Bryant! My jump shot doesn't have to be the kind of grotesque knuckleball that makes people laugh on the court (people have laughed; I'm not kidding). A couple of years ago I went so far as to hire a professional instructor to help me improve my technique. He spent an hour working on my elbow, my knees, my backspin. We started two feet away from the basket and worked our way back to the three-point line. My shot looked solid. I left the gym feeling like a new player. Then I promptly forgot everything he said. It was back to flinging canned hams.

But I want to get better. I know I am not alone. Whether it's your jump shot, or your putting stroke, or your squirrelly tennis backhand, there is always room for adjustment and improvement, no matter your age. What's exciting is that there's now an avalanche of new technology—"digital coaching"—designed to teach you whenever you want to learn. That smartphone in your pocket is now a patient instructor who doesn't mind if you want to go out to the driveway and shoot free throws at 2 a.m.

The trend has been building for years. Sport tech is no longer the expensive domain of professionals. By now a lot of us have experimented with heart-rate monitors, pedometers and other gadgets; I still wear a wristband that tells me exactly how much energy I expend walking from the couch to the kitchen to locate the cookies. Maybe you've had someone videotape your golf swing, break down your mechanics. Two winters ago, I went to tennis camp with my brother, and the instructors videotaped our serves. It was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy.

For my ugly free throw, the Journal outfitted me with the 94Fifty Smart Sensor Basketball from a company called InfoMotion Sports Technologies. It looked and felt exactly like a basketball, except that its bladder is outfitted with sensors that measure things like arc and spin and acceleration. This is a fancy way of saying this is a basketball with a very blunt teaching style that tells you, through your smartphone, exactly what you are doing wrong. You download the app to your phone, pair it to the ball via Bluetooth, enter some information about yourself and you're good to go. Phil Jackson is in your hand, and it doesn't cost $10 million a season.

The first step of any coaching process is stripping away the nonsense and figuring out what the problem is. My jump shot has two fundamental issues: It doesn't have enough backspin, and it has very little arc. It's basically a line drive. It resembles a hostile act. The 94Fifty ball made this clear within seconds. Its skills-training program suggests a looping arc somewhere between 42 and 48 degrees. Many of my shots were in the flat range of 30 degrees. The app's digital voice, which sounds exactly like a tough-love high school coach, beckoned. "Get that arc up." I bent my knees, pushed up and under the shot, tried to create spin. I was surprised by how unnatural doing it correctly felt. All my bad habits were so ingrained. The right way was an entirely different way. "Get that arc up." I'm trying, dude!

‘That smartphone in your pocket is now a patient instructor who doesn't mind if you want to go out to the driveway and shoot free throws at 2 a.m. ’

But over the course of a session, I got better. Modestly. Incrementally. No one is going to mistake my shot for Ray Allen's ethereal jumper. I played around with the 94Fifty's dribbling programs. I actually thought I was a reasonably good dribbler. The 94Fifty disabused me of this idea. (I gave it to a friend who actually is a good dribbler, and was amazed to see how much better he scored.) There are opportunities for head-to-head competitions and social-media challenges. I am not yet ready for a public showdown. I need more time. Give me 2,000 years.

The best part of the digital coaching trend? It's right there. Athletic improvement is not a daydream, a New Year's resolution that never gets resolved. It is useful information, unvarnished and direct, always available. And it instills hope. I am many years removed from the far end of the basketball bench, but I believe I can become better at the game. My shot will get prettier. Just don't ask me to play defense. That's for my next life.

source: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304403804579262151276937732

Frame only 1

Can you follow the main ideas without reading the full text?


INTRODUCTION

I do not need you to tell me I am terrible at basketball. Elementary school took care of that. So did junior high, and high school after. Lead-footed and inelegant, I found myself exiled to the far end of benches, a garbage-time specialist with a jump shot that looked like someone flinging a canned ham out a window. I never made varsity. I never made anything. I believe I can count my career scoring totals on my fingers and toes. Maybe just my toes.


TOPIC SENTENCES

  • Still: I loved the game.
  • Call it hubris, or the amnesia of adulthood, but I'm convinced my youthful basketball ineptitude is reversible.
  • But I want to get better.
  • The trend has been building for years.
  • For my ugly free throw, the Journal outfitted me with the 94Fifty Smart Sensor Basketball from a company called InfoMotion Sports Technologies.
  • The first step of any coaching process is stripping away the nonsense and figuring out what the problem is.
  • But over the course of a session, I got better.


CONCLUSION

The best part of the digital coaching trend? It's right there. Athletic improvement is not a daydream, a New Year's resolution that never gets resolved. It is useful information, unvarnished and direct, always available. And it instills hope. I am many years removed from the far end of the basketball bench, but I believe I can become better at the game. My shot will get prettier. Just don't ask me to play defense. That's for my next life.


source: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304403804579262151276937732

EXAMPLE 2

If you are like me, you need an example. Therefore, I deconstructed the following article to including only the introduction, topic sentences and conclusion. Can you follow the main ideas without reading the full text?

Complete article 2

Letter of Recommendation: Framing by By Durga Chew-Bose


As if through a sieve, the kind you might use to dust confectioners’ sugar on a cake, the snow began to fall one Sunday afternoon in January — white diagonals obscuring the view just outside my mother’s living-room window. I called it picturesque because I was removed from the wind, the wet, the biting cold. I took pleasure in being deceived.


I was happy to be where it felt cozy, surrounded by walls of my mother’s framed things: leatherwork from Shantiniketan, Amrita Sher-Gil prints, the walnut-shaped eyes in a Jamini Roy. I grew up in a home where going to the framer’s was an errand I occasionally ran with my parents on weekends, or an errand that they would return from with pieces wrapped in brown paper. My grandfather, Amiya, framed in the eulogizing dignity of burled wood. My grandmother, Chameli, mounted on the wall in a simple black frame, the glow of her face understated but not contained; she looks like an actress.


When I left New York and moved to Montreal, I found an apartment with more rooms than I could fill. So instead, I arranged. A mirror I didn’t hang but propped against the wall. Magazine stacks, anywhere. My apartment maintained the kind of ambivalence indicated by a pile of once-worn shirts that I moved from the arm of a chair to the foot of my bed, depending on the time of day.


But arranging allows for reluctance. You’re not hammering nails into walls; you’re chasing light — carrying a vase from the front of the apartment to the back, and so on. By the time it was winter, my walls were still empty, and my piles of sentimental stuff were beginning to grow.


Eventually, I found myself unmoored, homesick in my own space. The first framer I tried was affordable and fast, but I stopped going there when I noticed a bagel seed stuck beneath the pane of glass, right in the middle of a Bill Gold poster I purchased impulsively on eBay. I will never come around to finding the mistake tragicomic or charming. So I found a new place. A framer located cater-corner from a health-food store and across the street from a neighborhood coffee shop. Since starting, I can’t stop. Consecutive weekends might include a quick trip to the framer, along with other essential errands: laundry, parents, balsamic, framer.


Framing serves an uncomplicated purpose: It yields results but isn’t fixed to clear thinking. The relationship with my framer exists beyond plain transaction. Piece by piece, my framer has become intimate with me: my choosiness, my fondnesses, my dumb, entirely sincere urge to create remarkability. The decision to frame a double exposure of my mother and her sisters on a rooftop in Calcutta, for instance, or a poster of Barbara Loden’s “Wanda,” is ultimately subjective and extravagant (framing isn’t cheap). Should it really cost this much to affirm what’s meaningful to me? Building a home takes time, but it’s also an investment in anticipation, in wagering on the energy of a random Thursday when I find myself between moments, landing on that photo of my mother and her sisters hanging on my wall. She looks young and joyful; her knobby knees — her girlhood — caught in motion.


My framer is regularly asked to follow through on choices that might seem fanciful, even dramatic. Like safeguarding a falling-apart cover of Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca,” where just below the title it reads: “Her Novel.” Or how I chose wood in a shade of pale mint to scaffold a tiny photograph of my father, the week we found out he had cancer. Some of us are born a little mournful, and we spend our lives discovering new traditions for housing those ghosts we’ve long considered companions. Framing, I’d venture, is central to this urge. It gives memories a physique.


It’s funny how adding four corners brings out the thing. But what I derive from getting things framed isn’t perfection; it’s completing a task that comes with rules, consideration for light and an opportunity to preserve — and not in my cluttered, humming mind, but with a tactile compromise. Hanging in my hallway is Frank O’Hara, surrounded by three inches of black mat and gallery-brushed silver. The image hasn’t lost the romance of why I fell for it in the first place. Visible in this photograph, taken by John Gruen, five years before O’Hara’s death, is the poet’s smile — more specific, his small teeth. Formerly, it was a piece of cardboard floundering on my fridge door. Now, it’s a proposition; the satisfaction of something made-ready.


Recently, I took a few pieces to the framer, among them a photograph of my friend Sarah. Backlit, Sarah passes forms. She is portrait and shadow, the way silhouettes obscure yet disclose the oneness of a person’s contour. A few weeks elapsed, and when the photograph was ready, I went to pick it up. Specially made objects are a rare pleasure because they demand what is scarce: time, consideration, belated results. The low-stakes sport of making surface choices like metal over wood, or lacquer for a different finish. And while these preferences are sacred, it’s lazy and untrue to describe my reaction upon seeing Sarah, framed, as divine. Sometimes what’s bespoke compels the opposite of novelty — it captures what’s right in front of us: the plain-spoken; the dear friend; her most conspicuous chin. I held the frame and could only say, over and over, “There she is.”


Durga Chew-Bose is a writer and an editor based in Montreal.

Frame only 2

Can you follow the main ideas without reading the full text?


INTRODUCTION

As if through a sieve, the kind you might use to dust confectioners’ sugar on a cake, the snow began to fall one Sunday afternoon in January — white diagonals obscuring the view just outside my mother’s living-room window. I called it picturesque because I was removed from the wind, the wet, the biting cold. I took pleasure in being deceived.


TOPIC SENTENCES

  • I was happy to be where it felt cozy, surrounded by walls of my mother’s framed things: leatherwork from Shantiniketan, Amrita Sher-Gil prints, the walnut-shaped eyes in a Jamini Roy.
  • When I left New York and moved to Montreal, I found an apartment with more rooms than I could fill.
  • But arranging allows for reluctance.
  • Eventually, I found myself unmoored, homesick in my own space.
  • Framing serves an uncomplicated purpose: It yields results but isn’t fixed to clear thinking.
  • My framer is regularly asked to follow through on choices that might seem fanciful, even dramatic.
  • It’s funny how adding four corners brings out the thing.


CONCLUSION

Recently, I took a few pieces to the framer, among them a photograph of my friend Sarah. Backlit, Sarah passes forms. She is portrait and shadow, the way silhouettes obscure yet disclose the oneness of a person’s contour. A few weeks elapsed, and when the photograph was ready, I went to pick it up. Specially made objects are a rare pleasure because they demand what is scarce: time, consideration, belated results. The low-stakes sport of making surface choices like metal over wood, or lacquer for a different finish. And while these preferences are sacred, it’s lazy and untrue to describe my reaction upon seeing Sarah, framed, as divine. Sometimes what’s bespoke compels the opposite of novelty — it captures what’s right in front of us: the plain-spoken; the dear friend; her most conspicuous chin. I held the frame and could only say, over and over, “There she is."

source: http://nytimes.com/2020/02/04/magazine/letter-of-recommendation-framing.html

accessed: 2020/02/05

MORE WRITING TIPS

One of my writing gurus is Professor John Cochrane at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. His "Writing Tips for Ph.D. Students" contains good advice for any writer. Here are some highlights from his article.

  1. Use simple short words, not big fancy words. “Use” not “utilize.” “Several” not “diverse”.
  2. Keep down the number of clauses in your sentences, and the number of things kept hanging.
  3. Every sentence should have a subject, verb, and object. No sentences like “No sentences like this.”

Vince's favorite editing exercise

Write clear and concise topic sentences that capture the logic and flow of your ideas.

  1. Remove everything but the first (topic) sentence of each paragraph.
  2. Read it aloud at full volume, as if you were delivering a speech.
  3. Does your story make sense?
  4. Will a non-expert be able to understand what happened?
  5. Do you appear in your own topic sentences?
  6. Do your verbs convey power?
  7. If not, fix your topic sentences so that you are at the center of the action.
  • Weak Topic Sentence: "Your school helps me realize my short and long term goals."
  • Strong Topic Sentence: "Wharton best prepares me to lead a multinational consumer electronics manufacturing firm."