Tell Your Story So Far

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Graduate schools ask you to submit admissions essays in an effort to get to know you better and understand your motivations for pursuing their program. Nearly every graduate program you encounter requires at least one essay, as it is an effective tool for them to gain key insights.

Fortunately, writing essays is something that should feel familiar to you by this point in your education, however, there can be more than what meets the eye in the various formats and prompts that are provided for application essays.

Use this page to compose a powerful draft for a Statement of Purpose, Personal Statement, Research Statement, and other statements for graduate admission.

Write Your Draft

Three-Pronged Outline

To begin drafting your document, it can help to begin with an outline that covers the three fundamental topics of most admissions essays:

  1. Motivations: Why do you want to go to graduate school in your chosen field or discipline? Why do you want to attend the particular program to which you are applying?
  2. Qualifications: Why are you qualified to attend the graduate program? How do your academic performance, experiences, and extracurricular achievements demonstrate your suitability for that graduate program?
  3. Direction: Where do you see yourself heading professionally, and how will the graduate program help you accomplish this goal?


An Introduction That Captivates

Consider creating a storyline with an opening that is personal to you. Here are some strategies for creating a memorable opening to your essay:

  • Place the reader into your story at a key moment in time
  • Draw inspiration from a significant character in your story by beginning with something they once told you
  • Provide a narrative, account, or observation about a current event that pertains to your story

Avoid an opening that states that you have wanted to pursue the field since a young age, as this is the most common way that applicants begin their admissions essays. You can certainly open this way, but know that it is frequently used, and your readers appreciate variety just like anyone else.


Writing Tips  

There are a few key considerations when writing, refining, and editing the body of your essay. Here are some essential tips.

Consider Your Audience

What will your audience want to learn about in order to better understand why you would be a great match for their program? If you are using significant space to tell a story that is not bolstering this point, you may want to edit it out. Keep your writing focused and concise.

Keep a Positive Tone

One of the biggest red flags that graduate programs see is an applicant who puts others down (i.e., another institution, organization, or individual) in an attempt to build themselves up. Your essay should not be judgmental in any way. This is unbecoming on a personal level and unprofessional.

Avoid Complimenting a Program’s Prestige

This is not an appropriate medium for you to make broad compliments about a program or explain why the program to which you are applying is better than your undergraduate college or university. Instead, focus on concrete aspects of the program that would add value to your career.

Condense Your Prose

Take any paragraph in your essay and calculate its word count. Now try to get the same message across in half as many words. You may not be able to do it, but the effort will show you where you can and cannot trim.

Proofread for Typos

Mistakes with grammar and spelling look unprofesional and undermine your credibbilty as a schollar. Don’t you aggree? :)

Get a Fresh Perspective

Enlist a friend you trust to read your essay. When they are done, go back to each paragraph and ask them to paraphrase what you wrote. Is what they remember the thing you wanted to get across? If not, rewrite so that it is.

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