Why You Need an Elevator Pitch (+ How to Write One!)


You might’ve heard your parents or family friends talk about an elevator pitch at some point. Whether you’re applying for undergrad or grad school, having an elevator pitch will help you develop relationships and build your career. Take a look at our tips to writing and preparing your elevator pitch.


What is an elevator pitch?

As described on the career advice website The Muse, an elevator pitch is a “concise, compelling introduction that can be communicated in the amount of time it takes someone to ride the elevator to her floor.” When you have 30 seconds to a minute to leave a strong first impression, having an elevator pitch in your back pocket will help you feel confident as you’re connecting with someone new. 

Elevator pitches are for anyone who needs to tell a story, leave an impression, or sell something as quickly and succinctly as possible—think 30 seconds or less. 

Kathryn Minshew at The Muse

Why do undergraduate and graduate applicants need an elevator pitch? 

First impressions matter. When you meet an admissions counselor or professor on campus, they’re going to remember the students who left a strong first impression. Having an elevator pitch may sound like something you don’t have to worry about until you graduate and are trying to find a job in your field. But, the reality is, you never know where your opportunities are going to come from down the line. For all you know, that one conversation you had with the receptionist could help you get a part-time job or research opportunity on campus.  

When you have an elevator pitch ready - and you’re able to communicate who you are and what you bring to the world succinctly - you’re going to be remembered. Ashley Stahl, Contributor at Forbes encourages individuals to use this as an opportunity to shine “For some people, “selling” yourself can be a difficult thing, but you need to own your abilities! Now is the time to shine and show the world, and yourself, what you have to offer.”

So when you meet a professor at an Open House event or bump into a prominent researcher at a conference, come prepared with an elevator pitch. 

How to Write Your Elevator Pitch 

There are a lot of ways to approach your elevator pitch, and we’ve broken down the process into a quick little formula:

Who + What + Why→ What’s Next 

Let’s break this down together.

1. Who: Who am I? 

Who are you right now? Don’t panic, we don’t have to get too philosophical at this point. The basics will do. Here are some examples: 

  • “I am a prospective graduate student”

  • “I am a senior in high school”

  • “I am a marketing intern”

  • “I am a biology major” 

2. What: What’s your experience so far? What’s your skillset or focus? What do you do?

Here’s where we get a little deeper. There are a number of ways that you can approach answering this question. Make a list of all your options and narrow down from there. Here are some examples of “Who” you are + “What” you do together: 

  • “I am a prospective graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in Cognitive Psychology.”

  • “I am a senior in high school looking for an accelerated BSN to RN program.

  • “I am a marketing intern supporting social media management at H&M.

  • “I am a biology major exploring research opportunities.” 

3. Why: What’s the purpose of what you’re doing? Why are you pursuing this path? 

Another way to think about this question is to ask yourself: Why does what I do or what I want to do matter? You can think about it in one of two ways: 1) Why does it matter to the organization I’m supporting or 2) Why does it matter to me personally/professionally. 

Do you enjoy creating branded messaging? Did researching the human biome during your undergraduate career spark your interest in pursuing a Master’s degree in bio-chem? Here’s the Who + What + Why put together:

  • “I am a prospective graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in Cognitive Psychology. After spending 3 semesters researching cognitive biases, I’m excited to dive deeper into the effects of social media on our perceptions.

  • “I am a senior in high school looking for an accelerated BSN to RN program. After volunteering in a nursing home, I’m excited to develop the skills I need to continue helping elderly patients.”

  • “I am a marketing intern supporting social media management at H&M. I develop content that aligns with our brand to ensure our message resonates with customers.

  • “I am a biology major exploring research opportunities in the lab setting so I can use what I’m learning in the classroom to pursue a career in oncology.” 

4. What’s next: Where are you headed? 

Is your next step finding a faculty member to support your research? Pursuing an internship that lets you apply what you’ve learned and develops your writing skills?

You might not know the answer to this question yet, and that’s okay. Give it a try, and if you’re really unsure, you can be open about the fact that you’re exploring your career options and next steps. 

Karonica Davidson