How to Write a Grad School Application Essay
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What Is a Grad School Application Essay? | What Are Admissions Officers Looking for? | Before You Start Writing | While You're Writing | When You've Finished Writing | Sample Essay | Grad School Essay FAQs
Writing a graduate school admission essay can seem daunting. However, students can make the process easier by taking time to develop and organize their ideas before writing their personal statement.
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Students can apply several practices to write a compelling grad school personal statement that gets readers to take notice. These steps include developing a solid outline, conveying a strong and memorable thesis, presenting specific points relevant to the topic, and taking sufficient time to edit and proofread the essay before submitting it.
What Is a Grad School Application Essay?
Graduate school admission or application essays allow graduate programs to get to know applicants better as people. Although an applicant's grade point average (GPA), transcripts, and test scores tell part of their story, grad school essays allow students to show how their personalities, achievements, and past experiences inform their career interests and potential for academic success.
Graduate schools often ask for personal statements or letters of intent from applicants. Prospective graduate students should know what distinguishes these documents.
- A personal statement allows students some freedom to discuss how their past experiences, career goals, and interest in a prospective program have shaped their likelihood of success in and fit for graduate study.
- A statement of purpose describes a student's reasons for applying to a program. The student typically explains how their career goals, qualifications, and research interests will affect their future beyond graduate school.
- A letter of intent is a brief essay describing a student's skills, accomplishments, and goals that pertain to the field of study they aspire to pursue while in graduate school.
What Are Admissions Officers Looking for in a Grad School Essay?
In general, admissions personnel review these essays to determine how well students might fit in with a graduate program and succeed academically. Reviewers also look for a sense of how well prospective students handle stress, overcome challenges, and stand up to the demands of a rigorous program.
Grad school essays should shed light on how well students respond to criticism of their work. Also, graduate school provides a setting where individuals can explore diverse theories and perspectives. To this end, admissions personnel look for clues about students' openness to different viewpoints and their ability to express their ideas in written form.
What to Know Before You Start Writing
Review the prompt.
The prompt for the application essay gives students a sense of how to focus their writing. Before starting to write, students should read the instructions within the prompt carefully. These directions shed light on readers' expectations.
Prompts for grad school application essays vary greatly, with some offering little detail on what the statement should cover. Applicants should pay close attention to the requirements, including word count, format, and submission method.
Some graduate essay prompts offer few instructions or requirements, leaving applicants a lot of room for choosing a topic. To determine the most appropriate topic, focus, and personal examples to include, students should devote considerable time to brainstorming before they start writing.
Students should give themselves time to reflect on their strengths, accomplishments, and research interests. They should also consider the qualities they want in a graduate program and pick out benefits provided by the program so they can speak to the specific reasons they're applying.
Create An Outline
Outlining is a crucial step in creating a compelling and memorable grad school personal statement. Just as architects need a blueprint to design and build a skyscraper, grad school applicants need a roadmap to organize and write their essays.
The most effective application essays include an attention-grabbing introduction, a body with solid and concise points, and a memorable conclusion. An outline will likely change somewhat during the writing process, but it still allows the writer to stay on top of the essay's construction.
Know the Point You're Trying to Get Across
A grad school personal statement should present a clear point or thesis to help it stand out. An overall thesis statement or claim answers the question, "What is this essay about?" A reader should not have to work hard to understand the thesis. If the point of an essay is unclear or confusing, an admissions officer might stop reading.
Applicants should place their thesis in the introduction so that the reader clearly understands what the following essay will address. Students can insert their thesis immediately after an anecdote, quotation, or other attention-getter to provide a smooth transition into the main topic.
Be Aware of Topics to Avoid
Brainstorming allows an applicant to consider a variety of topics and ways of writing about them. However, some subjects may be inappropriate for a grad school application essay because they could alienate certain readers or make them lose interest.
Topics that writers should consider omitting from an admission essay include the following:
- Traumatic personal experiences
- Subjects that make the writer appear overly negative or cynical
- An exhaustive list of accomplishments
Students should also avoid using well-known phrases or expressions. For example, common cliches offer virtually no advantage because they suggest little to no originality of thought. Also, students should not use words or terms (e.g., vulgar language) that detract from their professionalism.
What to Consider While You're Writing
Grab the reader's attention.
A strong grad school personal statement starts with writing a concise introduction that gains the reader's attention. The writer can make the essay more memorable by using a brief anecdote, quotation, compelling statistic, or rhetorical question.
The introduction should also provide a clear preview or roadmap for the rest of the essay. After the attention-getter, the essay should quickly transition into the thesis statement or main idea, followed by a preview of the upcoming points.
Writers should revisit the introduction once their essay is complete to double-check that it accurately reflects the main points of the essay.
Students should not just focus on what they think admissions personnel will want to read. Instead, they should use their voice to present their ideas in meaningful ways that reflect their true selves. In other words, write with authenticity. While the essay should reflect a polished draft, it should also show applicants as they are.
Graduate school applicants shouldn't lie or misrepresent themselves in the grad school essay. In addition to strengths and accomplishments, admissions departments want to read what applicants say about their shortcomings and how they have worked to overcome them.
Be Relevant and Specific
While students can use creative anecdotes and personal examples, they need to make their points relevant to the prompt or question. Admissions personnel generally want to learn why students wish to enroll in the program and what makes them qualified. These elements can serve as the foundation when writing the main body of an essay .
Also, the main points should be specific. For example, in expressing why they are applying to a particular program, applicants can use a brief anecdote to explain their desire to work with a faculty member who shares their research interests. While stories and examples add a personal touch, they should not distract from essential information that grad schools want to know about an applicant.
Have a Strong Ending
When writing the conclusion of a graduate school admission essay, writers should restate the thesis and reiterate the main points. Rather than presenting new information, the ending should remind the reader of the statement’s main ideas. Furthermore, it should refer back to those points while giving the reader something to think about after they have finished reading.
A conclusion can also end by tying back to the attention-getting statement in the introduction. This stylistic device brings the whole essay full circle, provides a sense of closure, and strengthens the emotional connection with the reader.
What to Do When You've Finished Writing
Finishing the draft of a graduate school admission essay does not signal the end of the writing process. Rather, polishing the draft requires re-reading, editing, and getting feedback before submitting it.
Reread Your Draft
A grad school essay containing errors or reflecting poor writing does not leave a favorable impression. Re-reading the essay allows for catching mistakes, clearing up confusing sentences, and strengthening the main points.
Unfortunately, writers can gloss over errors after reading the essay just once. As a rule of thumb, when students believe their draft has gone through enough editing and proofreading, they might take a little more time and read the document one more time.
Edit Your Draft
Students should not confuse editing with proofreading — a step that involves checking for grammar, punctuation, and stylistic errors. Editing is a more substantive process that includes checking for conciseness and ensuring that ideas flow well. Proper editing also allows writers to determine whether each paragraph or section expresses a single thought and make sure that sentences are concise and clear.
Students should allow enough time to edit their essays. Also, reading the essay aloud can provide another way to catch mistakes or confusing phrases.
Students should find individuals they trust to check their personal statement for clarity, errors, and other stylistic inconsistencies. Also, having others review the essay can give the applicant a sense of how others perceive its tone, organization, and potential to engage the reader.
Trusted peers, instructors, family members, friends, and students who have recently gone through the grad school application process often provide excellent feedback. Students can also seek out others who are applying to graduate school to share their personal statements and exchange constructive criticism.
Sample Grad School Application Essay
Prompt: Why do you wish to pursue a graduate degree in communication studies at the University of Oklahoma and how does it relate to your career goals?
Three years ago, I underwent a breast biopsy after two mammograms failed to rule out a suspicious lump. I met with my oncological surgeon before she was to perform the procedure. Although her technical skills were superior, her bedside manner left me feeling scared, uncertain, and lacking confidence in my capacity to handle a possible cancer diagnosis. Moreover, my doctor's inability to relate to me personally left me feeling powerless in meeting my health needs as a patient.
In poor health, many people feel robbed of their dignity. One of the most critical settings where patients can maintain dignity is during a doctor's visit. I wish to conduct research and teach courses in an academic setting to explore how doctor-patient interactions can help patients gain more confidence and improve their health outcomes. To this end, I am applying to the Communication Department at the University of Oklahoma to pursue a master's degree specializing in health communication. This master's will then allow me to continue my studies and earn a doctorate in this area.
I first learned a great deal about doctor-patient interactions while taking an undergraduate health communication class from Dr. Edith McNulty at the University of Nebraska. Dr. McNulty's class informed the way I view my breast biopsy experience. After completing her class, I enrolled in an independent study with Dr. McNulty transcribing qualitative interviews she conducted with patients. Through this independent study, I also learned how to perform constant comparative coding of those transcripts.
My independent study has fueled my interest in researching health communication and teaching classes on the subject. My interest in the communication studies program at Oklahoma stems partly from my interest in Dr. Dan O'Malley's studies of patients' expressions of ethnicity when they encounter healthcare workers. Working with Dr. O'Malley could expand my healthcare interest to include ethnicity as a factor in these settings.
I also am familiar with Dr. Wendy Wasser's research on communication efficacy during online video appointments. Given that increasing numbers of patients rely on telemedicine to receive their healthcare, studying with Dr. Wasser can help me understand the role of new communication technologies in doctor's visits.
Although my breast biopsy from three years ago was benign, I know that other patients are not as fortunate in their health outlook. All patients have the right to quality communication during doctor visits to help them gain confidence and take proactive measures toward their healthcare. My pursuit of a master's in health communication at the University of Oklahoma can set me on a path to contributing to our understanding of the interpersonal impact of doctor-patient interactions on medical care and patient well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions About Grad School Application Essays
- Collapse All
How long should a grad school application essay be?
Most applicants should expect to write at least 500 words for their grad school admission essay. However, length varies by graduate program. Many application materials contain specific instructions on how to write the essay, including word limits.
What should I title my application essay for grad school?
If an online application submission page includes a text box for the title, the applicant should follow the word or character limit and make the title relevant to their grad school personal statement. However, students do not need to add a title if the application does not require it.
How do I make my application essay stand out for grad school?
Prospective students should write a clear and compelling grad school essay free of errors. Also, the statement should help make the applicant stand out from their peers. It can include specific examples of unique experiences that illustrate students' strengths and abilities.
What should you not do in an application essay for grad school?
Students should not wander off topic when answering a prompt, especially if it asks a specific question. Also, an essay should not include so many personal examples that they read as a list. Instead, the applicant can provide a brief anecdote for each main point they want to make.
How do you answer grad school application essay questions?
The best graduate school admission essays have a clear thesis statement and good organization. They also grab the reader's attention right away and maintain it to the end. The best essays also reflect the writer's careful attention to the application instructions by addressing the prompt thoroughly.
Lonnie Woods III
Lonnie Woods III is a student affairs administrator, professor, and professional development practitioner whose research examines the career competencies of college students studying arts-related majors. Woods holds a BS in fine art photography from Towson University and an MA in higher education and student affairs from New York University . He has 10-plus years of experience working in higher education, with professional experience spanning various institutions, including Pratt Institute, New York University, The George Washington University , and Columbia University.
Lonnie Woods III is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.
Feature Image: Pheelings Media / iStock / Getty Images Plus
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Home / Blog / Grad Schools / Write a Graduate School Essay that Will Knock Their Socks Off
Write a Graduate School Essay that Will Knock Their Socks Off
Writing an amazing graduate school essay is probably far more straightforward than you might think. Graduate school admissions officers aren’t looking for gimmicks. They’re looking for passionate, motivated, and prepared applicants who are ready to hit the ground running in their program. Read on for more details in creating your best graduate school essay.
Know what the admissions officers are seeking
Don’t make assumptions about your graduate school personal statements. Many programs simply ask you to submit a personal statement without any further guidance. Other programs will tell you exactly how they want the essay structured along with word count limits and formatting requirements. Review the prompt thoroughly and plan your essay before you begin writing to ensure that you create an essay that will be an effective and persuasive addition to your application package.
What should you do if the program doesn’t give you any specifics? With greater numbers of applicants to graduate programs, the trend is toward shorter essays. This is especially true of graduate programs in the STEM fields. Unfortunately, longer essays tend to be skimmed rather than read thoroughly, and most any admissions officer will tell you that the best essays that they’ve read are always shorter essays. Think about what is absolutely essential, and write about those aspects of your experience with passion.
Personal, personal, personal
Did we mention personal? Some graduate programs will ask you to write an additional essay about an issue within your chosen field. However, your personal statement should be about you as an individual. Write about issues only if they relate specifically to your personal experiences. For example, ‘In Africa, a child dies every minute. This stark statistic prompted me to join an NGO aimed at providing nutrition and healthcare for children in Namibia.’
Keep your anecdotes focused on your life after you began college
It is common for graduate school applicants to start their personal statements with an anecdote about something that happened during childhood or high school. On the surface, this makes sense because that event was what started the journey that has culminated in an application to the program. However, graduate programs are for professionals, and writing about your childhood is more appropriate for an undergraduate essay than one for graduate school. If you feel that you absolutely must include something from your childhood, use it as the starting sentence of your concluding paragraph.
Know your program and make connections
Securing acceptance into a graduate program is more about being the best match than about being the most highly qualified. Among applicants who meet the program’s minimum requirements, they’ll choose an enthusiastic and informed applicant over one with higher test scores and a better GPA who doesn’t seem to know much about their program.
During your graduate studies, you’ll likely do research, and graduate programs want to know that you can both participate in ongoing research as well as find a mentor for your own project. In your essay, write about professors in the programs whose work interests you and why. Also, there is life outside of the classroom. Does the school have a close-knit traditional college campus? Is it located in the heart of the city? Especially if you will be moving with your family, show the admissions officers that you will thrive in their environment.
Finish with a strong statement about why the school is your top pick
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the school is your only pick. However, generic essays have no place in the graduate school application process. Form letters aren’t persuasive, and generic essays won’t help your application package. If you can’t sincerely write that the school is a top pick, then why are you applying there? Instead, focus on creating stellar essays for the ones that actually interest you. Help the admissions officers understand your overarching vision for your future career and how your time at the school will prepare you to realize these goals.
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Writing a Graduate School Essay
Hello and welcome to the grad school essay help guide. Today’s guide is brought to you by a graduate school graduate and subsequent admissions department committee member. There are many guides out there on the Internet, but this one was written by a professional who has seen thousands of applications. The advice given here is sometimes hard to take, but it is battle-tested.
Your application will be read by faculty members in the department to which you are applying. Thus, describing a desire to study your major is not specific enough. You need to research the specific department to which you are applying, the exact wording of someone’s research interests, and the titles of a professor’s most recent publications. If CVs are posted, skim those as well. Ideally, you will be able to express fascination with a specific professor and research area.
Take a moment to think about which traits you demonstrate:
- Seriousness of purpose
- Academic ability
- Intellectual curiosity
- Intellectual flexibility
- Critical thinking
- Initiative and independence
- Diligence and persistence
- Resilience and creativity
- Humility and generosity
These characteristics compose your scholarly temperament, which is not the same as your personality. Next, consider the possible academic and professional experiences that you might detail in your statement. What sparked your interest? How have your interests focused over time? How have you distinguished yourself in your major, beyond your GPA? What research projects have you pursued? When brainstorming, avoid crafting full sentences. Jot down ideas, take quick notes, recall details and dates. Some people even speak their initial thoughts aloud.
Elements of the Statement
Your statement of purpose should answer five basic questions:
- What do you want to study?
- What questions within your field do you want to ask and answer?
- What experience do you have in this field?
- Why is this program a good fit?
- What do you plan to do with your degree?
Plans for Graduate School
Detail what you plan to study and research; explain with whom you plan to study and research. Unlike applying as an undergraduate, do not survey the university website in general. You are applying to a department rather than a university. Professors are not pleased to see too much text about opportunities outside the department. Also, try to avoid the “top topics of the day.” For example, too many applicants in 2021 will be writing about COVID-19. A topic that does not come from news headlines signals a serious, thoughtful, long-term interest.
Apply to programs that fit. The name of the faculty member who mentors you is arguably more important than the name of the university. Do not look at rankings online and never mention them in your statement. Instead, try to be gently self-effacing in expressing your admiration for the program and its faculty. Don’t praise or flatter, but express interest in their work.
Sketch out your professional goals. For example, if you have a genuine interest in teaching at a community college or are seeking to earn an EDD or other graduate degree in education, you can explain that.
Structuring the Statement
Having answered the basic questions and identified your skills and goals, you are ready to begin structuring your statement. The two common approaches are chronology or argument. Those applying as undergraduates or within a few years of earning a bachelor’s degree should default to chronology. If you are applying with many years of professional experience, then the argument might work for you. Whichever you choose, stress simplicity and comprehensibility over fanciness. Readers want to get a sense of you, not muddle through a disorganized thought experiment.
The Two Approaches
A chronological structure in an essay improves readability and demonstrates your development over time. It is conventional wisdom that you start with your work in your major at college, perhaps picking a research experience that particularly moved you. Rather than dwelling on personal growth, you should write about your academic development.
If you’ve been out of school for more than a few years and especially if you have five or more years of professional experience, you need to structure your essay as an academic argument. Academic papers always have a claim or thesis. Yours? It must answer this prompt: Why are you coming back to school? You will relate a key experience that brought you to the realization that it’s time to return to school for a graduate degree. The body of your statement is structured like an academic essay, each paragraph taking up one of the reasons in your thesis.
Each paragraph should focus on a specific quality or characteristic, something you’ve identified as key to explaining your background and suitability for graduate study. Describe an event, offer more details that serve as evidence, and conclude by explaining why the event was significant in terms of what you learned. Here are some verbs to think about how to describe your experiences:
pursued / focused / cultivated / challenged myself / developed / devoted myself / seized the opportunity / taught /researched / applied / explored / explained / argued a thesis / calculated / tested / analyzed / quantified / deliberated / struggled / defined / refined / drafted / revised / attended / worked / assisted / collaborated / contributed / deliberated / advanced
Don’t just repeat items from your résumé. Instead, explain how each experience affected you, focusing on what you learned that is relevant to your success in your field. Compare:
Bad: “I served as a volunteer teaching women about the importance of breastfeeding.”
Better: “My experience helping women access breastfeeding information and empowering them to use that information has convinced me that information alone is not nearly as useful as information plus a skilled and compassionate guide.”
Detail your experience and what it means, always thinking about which qualities you want to illustrate, plus how it all serves as evidence you are a match for the program.
Introductions and Conclusions
Open your essay as if announcing yourself to your potential graduate advisor because that’s exactly what you’re doing. For example:
“I have been involved in research since the start of my college career: from designing an independent project synthesizing a conductive molecular wire with self-insulating properties, to industrial research on the kinetics of polyurethane chain extension reactions, to my most recent project investigating a protein transport phenomenon in transgenic mushrooms.”
Conclusions exist in order to explain your career plans beyond graduate school. Many Ph.D. applicants imagine becoming a professor, but you need to convey that goal with humility. Securing a tenure-track job is increasingly difficult. At the same time, you don’t want to dismiss the possibility of an academic career.
“I am committed to pursuing a scholarly career in curriculum development focused on K-12 multicultural literacy while recognizing the realities of the academic job market. I would hope to secure a postdoctoral or visiting position…”
“After earning my Master’s in public administration, I hope to work in the area of economic development in Latin America. The setting might be a private (possibly church-based) development agency, the UN, the OAS, a multilateral development bank, or government agency.”
Style & Mechanics
The tone of your statement should be professional. Strive for sobriety and precision. Use the terminology of your discipline but avoid jargon and don’t try to impress anyone. Try to be clear, concise, and engaging. Here, from UC Berkeley, are words and phrases to avoid:
significant / challenging / satisfying / appreciate / invaluable / exciting / appealing / it’s important / I can contribute / stimulating / gratifying / fascinating / meaningful / helping people / remarkable / valuable / helpful
Did you have poor undergraduate grades, exceptionally low standardized testing scores, lack of work experience, gaps in your chronology, disciplinary action, or a criminal record? In explaining a deficiency, be very careful with your tone. Avoid sounding defensive. Explain the situation dispassionately and move quickly to note how you recovered from a setback. Bad grades don't have to be explained if it’s a matter of one course in an otherwise outstanding record. Moreover, you don’t have to go into detail about a plagiarism issue if you emphasize what you’ve learned. Move on to highlight later successes.
Scholars have identified “kisses of death” in a statement of purpose. Generally:
- Avoid excessive emotion or idealism.
- Avoiding revealing too much personal information.
- Do not start with an inspirational quote of any kind.
- Do not try to be funny or cute.
- Do not use jargon or slang.
- No exclamation points, ever.
- Avoid metaphors, clichés, and contractions.
- Do not write about extracurriculars unless obviously relevant to your area of study.
Once you’ve drafted and polished your statement, take a few days away from it. Read your statement one last time, with this checklist in mind:
- Does your statement make an unstated claim that you are prepared to succeed in this particular graduate program?
- Does all the information in your statement serve as evidence in support of that implicit claim?
- Do you demonstrate why you want to attend graduate school and how you have prepared?
- Do you describe in detail experiences that highlight key academic skills and your scholarly temperament?
- Do you explain why to attend this particular graduate program, focusing on the program and the faculty?
- Have you shown your statement to at least one faculty member in your field?
- Do you sound like an aspiring scholar and professional?
Consider printing out your essay and editing with a pen or pencil. It will change your view of the essays. Submit your essay to sites such as Grammarly. Look for errors such as repetitive language, lack of transitions, conditional phrasing, and capitalization errors.
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How to Write a Graduate-Level Essay
What's in this guide: site map.
- 2. Create a preliminary document plan
- 3. Draft your thesis statement
- 4a. Become familiar with the information landscape
- 4b. Select the appropriate search tool
- 4c. Develop effective searches
- 4d. Beyond keyword searching
- 4e. Find statistical information
- 4f. Evaluate the resources you find
- 4g. Read, absorb, and organize the information you find
- 5. Finalize your document plan
- 6. Double-check your research
- 7. Start writing the first draft
- 8. Overcoming writer's block
- 9. Revise the draft
- 10. Edit the draft
- 11. Prepare the final version
- 12. Submit the assignment
New to grad school?
Here are some video resources to support you as you begin your journey.
- Gradschoolitis (6:50) / Transcript
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- Introduction to the Writing Centre (3:03)
- Introduction to Academic Writing (37:11)
- Writing an Academic Paragraph (19:35)
- Introduction to APA Style (7th ed.) (28:19)
- Ask the Library a question via LibAnswers
- Ask the Writing Centre a question via WriteAnswers
- Book an Appointment (Library or Writing Centre)
How to use this guide
Depending on where you're at in your writing process and how you learn, you can:
- Work through each step in sequence using the "prev" and "next" navigation at the bottom of each page.
- Use the right-hand menu or the map below to jump straight into a particular topic.
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Graduate School Application Essays
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Types of Essays
Regardless of the type of school you are applying to, you will be required to submit an admissions essay as part of the application process. Graduate programs want students with clear commitment to the field. Essay prompts typically ask applicants to discuss their previous experience, future professional goals, and how the program can help them in achieving those objectives. The essay gives the applicant the chance to articulate these goals and display strong writing skills. Remember to tailor your essay to each school and the faculty committee that reviews your application. But first, take note of what kind of essay is being requested of you. Here are the two main admission essays:
A personal statement is a narrative piece describing how your character and experiences have formed you into someone who will contribute positively and effectively to not only the department but the academic discipline as a whole. This is often achieved by detailing social, educational, cultural, and economic obstacles you have overcome in your journey to get to where you are today and your future objectives. A personal statement is also an opportunity to highlight what is unique about you and how you will advance diversity within the institution.
Check out Personal Statement Resources for Graduate School Applications in the Resources section of Handshake for a brainstorming activity and essay samples that can help you get started on your personal statement.
Statement of Purpose
Interchangeably called a “research statement”, a statement of purpose will prompt you to describe your research interests and professional goals, how you plan to accomplish them, and why a specific program is best suited for you to do so. Be specific about your specialized interests within your major field. Be clear about the kind of program you expect to undertake, and explain how your study plan connects with your previous training and future goals.
Use the Outlining Your Statement of Purpose guide in the Resources section of Handshake to get started on your statement outline.
How to Write a Powerful Admission Essay
Whatever required format, your essay should be thoughtful, concise, compelling, and interesting. Remember, admissions officers read hundreds of personal essays. Below are some tips for your admissions essay writing process:
- Read the question: Be sure you are aware of all aspects of the prompt. Failing to pay attention to details in the prompt won’t reflect well on you as a potential candidate.
- What is distinct, special, and/or impressive about me and my life story?
- Have I overcome any particular hardships or obstacles?
- When did I become interested in this field and what have I learned about it?
- What are my career goals?
- What personal traits, values, and skill sets do I have that would make me stand out from other applicants?
- Create an outline: You might have a lot that you want to say, but you will need to whittle down your many thoughts and experiences to a concrete thesis with a select number of examples to support it. Create an outline for your draft, not only to organize your points and examples, but to help tailor your essay for your readers.
- Know your audience: Consider how your narrative can best meet the expectations of admissions committee members. Will faculty be reading this? Administrators? Experts in the field? Knowing your audience ahead of time will assist you in addressing the prompt appropriately.
- Grab your reader’s attention: Start your essay with something that will grab the reader’s attention such as a personal anecdote, questions, or engaging depiction of a scene. Avoid starting things off with common phrases such as “I was born in…” or “I have always wanted to…” Consider the experiences that have shaped you or your career decision, and delve into them with a creative hook.
- Write well: Your essay is a sample of your writing abilities, so it’s important to convey your thoughts clearly and effectively. Be succinct—you don’t need to write out your full autobiography or resume in prose. Exclude anything that doesn’t support your thesis. Gentle humor is okay, but don’t overdo it. Also, don’t make things up! Be honest about your experiences.
- End strong: End your essay with a conclusion that refers back to the lead and restates your thesis. This helps unify your essay as a whole, connecting your detailed experiences back to the reason you are writing this essay in the first place—to show your qualifications for your graduate program of choice.
- Use resources: The MIT Communication Labs have a CommKit that collects all of the Comm Lab resources relevant to the grad application process , including recommendation letters & interviews
- Revise: Give yourself enough time to step away from your draft. Return with a fresh pair of eyes to make your edits. Be realistic with yourself, not your harshest critic. Make a few rounds of revisions if you need.
- Ask for help: Have your essay critiqued by friends, family, educators, and the MIT Writing and Communication Center or our Career Services staff.
- Proofread: Read your essay out loud or even record yourself and listen to the recording, to help you catch mistakes or poor phrasing you may have missed when reading to yourself. Also, don’t rely exclusively on your computer to check your spelling.
Tips & advice.
- Recruiting Guidelines for Employers
- Application Materials for a Faculty Job Search
- Life After College: A Guide for Undocumented Students
- Academic Interviews (Faculty Positions)
- Academic Job Offers
- Handshake 101: What it is & how to use it
- Career Handbook
- Toolkit: How to transition from academia to industry
- Suggested Questions for Informational Interviewing
- Penny Finance
- Major Exploration
- Explore and Build Your Skills
- Creating your Five Year Plan
- Choosing a Major Worksheet
- CAPD Videos
- Resume Tips: Avoid the Passive Voice
- Make a Career Plan
- “Workshop Your Why MD” – Prehealth Advising’s guide to writing your personal statement for medical school
- 3 Steps for Being Prepared for Interviewing
- Choosing between job offers (worksheet)
- How to Evaluate Startup Offers
- Travel to Campus
- Handshake Virtual Fairs
- LinkedIn Profiles and Summaries
- DACA Worker’s Rights Guide
- Using the STAR method for your next behavioral interview (worksheet included)
- List of Engineering & Mechanical Design Firms
- Preparing for Law School
- Resumes: Writing about your skills
- Researching Careers
- 6 Steps to Making a Financial Analyst Resume That Will Stand Out From the Competition
- HBR: How to quit your job without burning bridges
- Aspiring Docs
- Cleaning Up Your GitHub
- How to make an appointment with CAPD
- A Guide to Fellowships
- Go Government
- Career Exploration and Planning Tools for PhDs and Postdocs
- CareerOneStop: Veteran and Military Transition Center
- Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty, Second Edition
- How to find meaningful volunteer and service work
- Guide for Deciding Where to Apply
- Application materials for PhDs and Postdocs: Examples and how-to guides
- Selecting a medical / health profession school
- Prehealth Recommended Courses that are GIRs
- Conducting Informational Interviews
- Wall Street Prep
- Find an International Career Development Opportunity
Job and Internship Listing Sites
- Summer Internship Search Strategies Guiding Document
- Military Crosswalk Search
- Deciding on a Law School
- Advisor Corner: Crafting Your Personal Statement
- US House of Representatives Resume Bank
- CAPD Virtual Orientation
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: Writing the Personal Statement
- Guide to careers in financial planning
- Hiring International Graduates
- Medical school interviews: strengthen your answer to one of the most important questions
- Professional Development Exploration Grant
- Departmental Recruiting Contacts
- What to Expect During a Medical School Multiple Mini Interview
- Submitting your AMCAS Application & Credential Service Account
- Professional correspondence guidelines (with samples)
- How to Make the Most of an Academic Conference: Advice on navigating professional meetings in all formats — in person, virtual, and hybrid.
- Resume checklist and worksheet
- Curricula vitae (CVs)
- Handshake Access Request for Administrators and Faculty
- How to Network
- Apply to Graduate School
- Sample Job/Internship Search Tracker
- Ask an Expert: How Do I Advocate for Myself at Work?
- Avoiding Scams and Fraud
- Portfolios – Content & Platforms
- How to write an effective cover letter (with samples)
- Sample Resumes
- COPA 2024 Timeline
- Student Veteran Success (SVS)
- Graduate School Interviews
- Resume Action Verbs
- Communicating effectively with employers
- CAPD Podcast Playlist: Explore Careers
- Finding Inclusive Employers on Handshake
- How to negotiate your tech salary ft. levels.fyi (video)
- Guide to Shadowing a Physician
Most applicants should expect to write at least 500 words for their grad school admission essay. However, length varies by graduate program. Many application
And finally, Michel Foucault's philosophies have profoundly influenced the way I write, for now I have a philosophical grounding that makes me highly sensitive
Write a Graduate School Essay that Will Knock Their Socks Off · Know what the admissions officers are seeking · Personal, personal, personal · Keep
Writing a Graduate School Essay · Audience. Your application will be read by faculty members in the department to which you are applying. · Brainstorming. Take a
Academic Essay Writing for Postgraduates is designed to help you plan, draft and revise the assignments you will be doing for your Master's degree at
Writing Your Graduate School Application Essay. Although different graduate schools may ask you to answer different prompts, most ask that you write no.
What's in this guide: Site Map · Understand the Assignment · Create a Preliminary Document Plan · Draft Your Thesis Statement.
To do this, you will have to write write a short essay with ... Personal statements required for graduate school admissions are short.
Your graduate school application provides the admissions committee with a ... Writing an effective graduate admissions essay requires knowing your audience.
Write well: Your essay is a sample of your writing abilities, so it's important to convey your thoughts clearly and effectively. Be succinct—you don't need to