Compose a Graduate School Essay that Will Knock Their Socks Off
How to Structure Your Essay
Like most essays, your graduate school essay should include an introduction, body, and conclusion.
Solid intros include a hook that connects the reader quickly with your topic and makes them want to read more. Ensure the tone of your hook goes with your theme and overall essay, though; humor is fine, but it may jar the reader if you start with a joke before launching into a serious subject.
Your introduction should also include a thesis statement, which communicates the main idea you’ll convey with your essay.
The body paragraphs are the meat of your graduate school essay. They elaborate on the thesis and develop the story presented in the introduction with some or all of the following:
- Specific details
Incorporate items into your body paragraphs from the instructions for your essay. If the college provided question prompts for you to choose from when writing the essay, ensure that you answer or address all prompts appropriately.
Make sure to use good grammar and spelling — and always proof your writing. Make sure each sentence and paragraph you write is logical and necessary to the essay, and break the text up with sentences and paragraphs of varying size.
An enormous block of text is hard on the eyes and can set an unpleasant tone for the reader even before they get to your writing.
Finally, close with a strong conclusion. You don’t have to summarize every idea presented in your graduate school essay it’s better to avoid doing so. But you should draw all those ideas together into a concluding statement or bold reiteration of the underlying theme.
Every word in your essay is important, but your beginning and editing words must be powerful. By starting strong, you help ensure the reader finishes your essay. By ending strong, you help ensure you’re remembered when it comes time to make acceptance decisions.
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 admissions officers will tell you that the best essays that they’ve read are always shorter essays. Think about what is 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 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 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 project. In your essay, write about professors in the programs whose work interests you and why.
Also, there is a 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 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ques.: How Do I Choose a Theme for My Admissions Essay?
Ans.: A theme refers to the underlying message that you intend to convey. It may be helpful to make a list of all of your experiences and interests at first and then try to find an overlapping theme or connection between the different items on the list.
Your underlying theme should be why you should be accepted into graduate school or specifically accepted into the program to which you are applying. Your job is to sell yourself and distinguish yourself from other applicants through examples.
Ques.: What Type of Mood or Tone Should I Incorporate in My Essay?
Ans.: The tone of the essay should be balanced or moderate. Don’t sound too cheerful or too morose, but keep a serious and ambitious tone. When discussing positive or negative experiences, sound open-minded and use a neutral tone. Avoid TMI.
That is, do not reveal too many personal or intimate details. Moderation is key. Remember not to hit the extremes (too high or too low). Additionally, do not sound too casual or too formal.
Ques.: Should I Write in the First Person?
Ans.: Although you were taught to avoid using I, we and my, you are encouraged to speak in the first person on your admissions essay. Your goal is to make your essay sound personal and active.
However, avoid overusing “I” and, instead, alter between “I” and other first-person terms, such as “my” and “me” and transition words, such as “however” and “therefore.”
Ques.: How Should I Discuss My Research Interests in My Admissions Essay?
Ans.: First, it is not necessary to state a specific and concise dissertation topic in your essay. You only to need to state, in broad terms, your research interests within your field. The reason you are asked to discuss your research interests is that the program would like to compare the degree of similarity in research interests between you and the faculty member you wish to work with.
Admissions committees are aware that your interests will likely change over time and, therefore, they do not expect you to provide them with a detailed description of your research interests but would like for you to describe your academic goals.
However, your research interests should be relevant to the proposed field of study. Additionally, your aim is to show your readers that you have knowledge in your proposed field of study.
Ques.: What If I Don’t Have Any Unique Experiences or Qualities?
Ans.: Everyone has qualities that can distinguish themselves from other individuals. Make a list of all your qualities and think of how you utilized them in the past. Discuss the ones that will make you stand out but will still have some connection to your field of interest.
If you do not have many experiences in your field, then try to make your other experiences relate to your interests.
For example, if you are interested in applying to a psychology program but only have experience working at a supermarket, then find a connection between psychology and your experiences at the supermarket that can show your interest in and knowledge of the field and portrays your ability to become a psychologist. By providing these connections, your experiences and you will be depicted as unique.
Ques.: Should I Mention Which Faculty Members I Would Like to Work With?
Ans.: Yes. It makes it easier for the admission committee to determine if your interests match with the faculty members you’re interested in working with.
However, if possible, it is recommended that you mention more than one professor you wish to work with because it is a possibility that the professor you are interested in working with is not accepting new students for that year.
By mentioning only one professor, you are limiting yourself, which can decrease your chances of being accepted. Additionally, if you only wish to work with a specific professor, then you are more likely to be rejected by the admissions committee if that professor is not accepting new students.
Alternatively, it may be helpful to contact professors and find out if they are accepting new students before applying. This reduces the chances of being rejected.
Ques.: Should I Discuss All Volunteer and Job Experiences?
Ans.: You should only mention volunteer and employment experiences that are relevant to your field of study or have helped you develop or acquire a skill that is necessary for your field of interest.
However, if there is a volunteer or job experience that is not related to your field of interest yet has helped influence your career and academic goals, discuss it in your personal statement as well.
Ques.: Should I Discuss Flaws in My Application? If Yes, How?
Ans.: If you think it may be helpful, then you should discuss and provide an explanation for low grades or low GRE scores. However, be concise and do not whine, blame others, or try to explain away three years of poor performance.
When you discuss flaws, make sure you aren’t giving unreasonable excuses, such as “I failed my test because I went out drinking the night before.”
Provide explanations that are reasonably excusable and comprehensive to the academic committee, such as an unexpected death in the family. Any explanations you give must be very very brief (no more than roughly 2 sentences). Emphasize the positive instead.
Ques.: Can I Use Humor in My Admissions Essay?
Ans.: With great caution. If you do plan on using humor, do so cautiously, keep it limited, and make sure it is appropriate. If there is even the smallest possibility that your statements can be taken the wrong way, don’t include humor. For this reason, I advise against using humor in your admissions essay.
Should you decide to include humor, do not let it take over your essay. This is a serious essay with an important purpose. The last thing you want to do is offend the admissions committee or let them believe that you are not a serious student.
Ques.: Is There a Limit to the Length of the Graduate Admissions Essay?
Ans.: Yes, there is a limit but it varies depending on the school and the program. Usually, admissions essays are between 500-1000 words long. Do not exceed the limit but remember to answer any assigned questions.
You can now compose your graduate essay writing with ease without fear of failure or uncertainty. You can also share this article with your friends by clicking on the social media handles you see on your screen.