Three Ways to Make Your Application Shine

August 16, 2019 

Whether you’re applying for college, submitting for a grant, or going for your dream job, applications matter. They’re the first glimpse a reviewer gets of you, and your key through the doors of the interview room. So it’s important to make sure your application stands out from the rest! But for a lot of people in recovery from a substance use disorder, application writing can be a daunting task. Maybe you’re out of practice, maybe you have years of employment or schooling gaps, or you might simply feel as though you don’t have a lot to offer after years of dealing with self-harm and stigma. Here are a few tips to help you get through the awkward blues of application writing in recovery so that you can submit an application that shines out from the rest.

Focus on Your Strengths

Even if your resume includes gaps, or you feel like you have less skills and experience than other applicants, you can still submit a killer application by focusing on your strengths rather than your weaknesses. If you’re having a hard time feeling positive about yourself, know you’re not alone. Many people in recovery have a history of trauma, co-occurring mental health conditions like depression, or have dealt with years of stigmatizing and negative perceptions during their active use. With that kind of history, it’s completely natural to feel down on yourself; however, it’s important not to dwell on the negatives, especially when you want to put your best foot forward. If you’re struggling to think of strengths that might help with your application, try writing a list. Jot down everything you like about yourself, even if it has nothing to do with your application. Like your eyes? Write that down. Are you a generous friend? Put it on the list. Care about animals, or good at gardening? Yep—put it down. No matter how small, or seemingly irrelevant, set those good thoughts about yourself to paper. Remember: this is for your eyes only, so don’t worry about writing down something embarrassing.

Once you’ve completed your list—and I mean really exhausted every good attribute you can think about yourself—circle anything that could be useful for the job or program you’re applying to. Once you have chosen a few (think three to six) positive skills and attributes, you can use these to build a skill based application. Instead of focusing on employment or educational gaps, start off with your strengths. Write about what makes you unique and valuable; start off with a bang!

Begin with a Hook

Whether you’re writing a cover letter, standard application, story pitch, or grant proposal, there’s going to be competition. Don’t go for the standard “Hi, my name is…” or “I’m writing to express interest in” yada yada. Everybody is doing that, so unless yours is the first application the reviewers read (and that’s unlikely), that kind of opening is going to make their eyes gloss over. Even if the rest of your application is awesome, a boring intro will almost guarantee they don’t pay as much attention. Start off with something that will make the reviewers want to keep reading. It could be an interesting (and relevant) anecdote about your life, or a question that makes them want to know more about the subject you’re discussing. First impressions count, and in the world of application writing, that first sentence is your first impression.

Follow the Format

This will vary by application, but you can typically find the formatting rules on the company’s website. It’s not uncommon for reviewers to automatically pass over applications that don’t adhere to their guidelines; they take it as an early sign that you’re not good at following directions. This means if they ask you to submit in PDF format, don’t send a Word attachment (if you don’t have a PDF program, you can find free Word to PDF converters online). Make sure any letters of recommendations are signed by the writer, and written on their company letterhead when applicable. Sometimes, this even comes down to the font—so read those guidelines well, and make sure your application gets read.

The Ammon Foundation believes that when individuals are holistically and strategically supported to build purposeful lives, the likelihood of them maintaining their recovery substantially increases. We provide this support via our Ammon Recovery Scholars Program. Our program goals include: removing financial barriers through financial scholarships; providing strategic support for recipients through offering personal, professional and academic support; and creating a supportive peer community committed to combating the stigma associated with addiction by promoting that recovery is possible. We are committed to giving away at least $100,000 in scholarships annually and are looking to fund education as a stepping stone to stable employment, safe housing and adequate healthcare. To find out more about our programs, or to apply for an educational scholarship, please click here or email