Getting into graduate school is challenging, especially if you don’t have a ton of work experience or a standout undergraduate GPA. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get in. Many top-tier graduate programs are more interested in your potential than your past performance. When it comes to applying for grad school, the Admission Essay for Graduate School is often your first opportunity to show admissions officers who you are and why you belong in their program.
In this blog post, we answer some of the most common questions about how to write an admission essay for graduate school and offer 10 tips on how to do it well. Read on for insider advice and examples from real applicants.
What is an admission essay and what’s the application process?
An essay is one part of a larger application process. Most grad school programs have a standard application and often a separate essay prompt that they ask you to complete. Some schools even have a few different admission options that you can choose from. The application process varies from program to program, but the basic steps are the same. You’ll start by setting up a grad school account on the appropriate website.
Then, you’ll collect your materials and begin to build your application based on the program requirements. Next, you’ll submit your application and wait for a decision. Most grad school applications are due in the fall, so you should start to prepare as soon as you decide on a program or university. You’ll want to plan for at least a few months of pre-application work.
Why writing is important in your grad school application
Admission officers can tell a lot about you just by looking at your application. Your transcript shows your grades and academic achievements (or lack thereof). Your letters of recommendation reveal who you are as a person. Your work experience (or lack thereof) tells them your professional capacity.
But your application essay is your chance to tell the story of who you are and why you want to attend the program. It helps you stand out as an individual and explains what you’re hoping to get out of the program. It’s also your chance to show off your writing skills. Writing is one of the most important parts of any graduate school application. Your essay will provide a window into your personality and show the admissions committee why you’re the perfect fit for their program.
A strong essay can make the difference between getting into the program of your choice and being rejected without a second thought.
Building a strong application and essay: Know your target school(s)
Some programs ask you to write a general essay about your interests and passions. Others want you to choose a specific topic relevant to the program you’re applying to. And still, others will let you do both. All of these options are fine, but you should know what your target school(s) require before you start writing. It’s also a good idea to have your essay written before you submit your application.
The application process is stressful enough without the added pressure of having to write a great essay at the last minute. In addition to knowing your target school(s), you should have a good understanding of the program requirements. This includes the application essay prompt(s). Some schools also have minimum word count requirements, so you may want to write your essay in advance.
Brainstorming your essay topic
Your application essay should be about YOU, so it’s important to choose a topic that’s relevant and interesting. Some tips for choosing the best essay topic: There are no hard and fast rules for picking a great topic for your application essay, but here are some things to keep in mind: You may want to spend some time brainstorming ideas before you start writing.
Jot down anything that comes to mind, then look at your list and see if any topics stand out as being more interesting than others. Try not to get too hung up on the idea of telling an “interesting story” or “telling people who you are.” Those are common essay topics because they work! If you try too hard to be creative with your topic choice, you may end up with something that doesn’t capture who you are or why you want to study engineering.
Remember, this is an opportunity for admissions officers (and future classmates) to get to know YOU better. You can tell them more about yourself through the stories you tell and the way you tell them than through any other means. So talk about what interests YOU!
Writing an engaging introduction
The first sentence of your essay is crucial! It needs to grab readers’ attention and make them want to read on. An effective way to start your essay is by asking a question, putting your reader in the position of having to decide whether your view is correct. You can also frame your essay as a response to another piece of writing.
In this way, you give readers a reason to read on, and you also show them that you have an awareness of other works in your field and that you can respond to them thoughtfully. Finally, you can open your essay with a quotation that has special significance to you. When you use a quote at the start of your essay, you are giving readers a signpost to the topic of your piece and inviting them to explore it further. Here are some tips for writing a great introduction.
Identifying the right topic for your essay
Most grad school acceptance essay topics are open-ended and could be applied to almost any field of study. For example, you could write about your experience overcoming a challenge or your passion for a particular field of study. You can choose any topic you want, but you can also research other people’s essays to get ideas. You can also try to find commonalities among essays for your desired program.
If you want to study computer science, for example, you’ll find that people write about almost every topic, from childhood gaming experiences to hacking and cyber security.
Start with a Strong Hook
Grad school admissions officers read thousands of essays each year. And while they want to read something insightful and engaging, they also have limited time. A strong first sentence or paragraph can make or break your essay. It can make the reader continue reading or send them to the next essay. With that in mind, you need to start strong. You can either begin your essay with a story or a problem/solution approach. Which one you choose depends on the topic and your own writing style.
If you decide to start with a story, make sure it’s relevant to the topic. If you open with a story about your childhood dog, it may be cute, but it won’t impress readers.
Show, don’t just tell, why you’re a great fit
One of the biggest mistakes grad school applicants make is telling and not showing. They state their achievements and extracurricular activities, but they don’t show them. You should include things like your grades, test scores, and accomplishments. But you should also show how they relate to your aspirations and future goals. For example, if you got a high score on the GRE, state that and then explain why it’s important. If you helped run a club in high school, explain how it helped you develop leadership skills.
Include only relevant experience and volunteering
You don’t want to turn off admissions officers with a long list of irrelevant or unimpressive experiences. Instead, you want to include only your most relevant experiences and volunteer work. You may want to include something that may otherwise appear unimpressive or irrelevant. For example, if you took a class in high school and earned a B, you could still mention it if it’s relevant to your future goals. It’s important to use your essay as an opportunity to highlight your strengths while addressing any potential concerns an admissions officer might have.
Don’t forget to show some personality!
It’s important to remember that an admission essay is more than just a bulleted list of achievements and extracurricular activities. It’s a chance to show admissions officers what makes you different. If you have a distinctive background or a unique perspective, you should include it. You can discuss the challenges you’ve faced and how you’ve overcome them.
You can also talk about your cultural identity or discuss other aspects of your identity that are important to you. Including these kinds of details in your essay can help you stand out among the thousands of other applicants. It can also help you connect more deeply with people who also identify with your experiences.
Getting into grad school is challenging, but it’s also an opportunity to prove yourself and set yourself up for a bright future. It’s important to put in the effort to make your application as strong as possible. Start by learning about the programs you’re interested in and the application requirements. Next, you can begin the process of building a strong application and essay by knowing your target schools, identifying the right topic, and starting with a strong hook.