Those applying to graduate school must learn to write a great graduate school essay. Our resources and advice — including tips and sample graduate schools essays – can help you get into your first-choice school.
Getting into grad school depends heavily on a number of factors, including where you apply That includes both the college or university and the specific school or program. For example, only around 10 percent of applicants get into grad school at Harvard’s business school, but as many as 52 percent get into Harvard’s Master of Public Health program?
Another factor that can determine whether you get into a program is the quality of your graduate school essay. While writing one can seem daunting, it’s your chance to differentiate yourself from other candidates with similar backgrounds. It’s likely someone else — or multiple people — have academic records and experiences that equal yours, but a great essay can put you ahead of the competition.
Choose a Topic for Your Graduate School Essay
Many grad schools call for a personal essay, which means you have a lot of leeway in what you write about. While you do want to keep it at least somewhat pertinent to why they should choose you for the program, it shouldn’t be a marketing piece about yourself. Instead, use your essay to tell a story that captures the hearts and minds of the admissions committee.
Some potential topics for your personal essay might include:
- An event in your life that was impactful, especially if it somehow relates to your career and education choices or goals
- An obstacle you’ve overcome — the way you handled a struggle can make for great essay copy
- An accomplishment that shows your potential to contribute to the program or school
- A mentor relationship and how you’ve grown as a result of that person being in your life
- Anything else that you feel passionate enough about to make interesting and can also relate to your application
Remember to be authentic and honest and follow all the instructions for your graduate school essay. With so many applications to review, decision panels often use poor instruction compliance to weed out a lot of candidates.
How to Structure Your Essay
Like most essays, your graduate school essay should include an introduction, body, and conclusion.
1. The Introduction
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.
2. The Body
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.
3. The Conclusion
Finally, close with a strong conclusion. You don’t have to summarize every idea presented in your graduate school essay — in fact, 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.
For more information on how to write graduate school essays that help you get accepted into programs, check out the Sample Graduate and Professional School Application Essays available on LiveCareer.
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