Graduate School Essays Education

As a grad school applicant, you may think that the grad school "statement of intent" or "personal statement" is just a rehash of your undergraduate application personal essay. This is perhaps the biggest trap that graduate students-to-be fall into when applying for grad school. There are very specific differences between these two essays, and knowing the differences in what admissions committees want will make all the difference. Here are a few tips for writing the best grad school application essay you can, based on my experience applying to grad school:

1. Be as focused on your desired field of study as you can

While undergraduate essays are meant to chronicle different experiences that need not be academic, the graduate school personal statement is meant to give admissions committees an idea of what you would like to research specifically and why. Since research is the cornerstone of any graduate-level program, this should be your focus. If you'd like to include teaching experience as well, that's fine, but the graduate school essay should always discuss your research experience and how you'd like to extend that experience in a more focused way in graduate school. Even if you aren't yet sure what you want to study in graduate school, discuss the possibilities.

2. Be aware of clichés when proofreading your essay

One thing that may help you as you write your essay is to try NOT to be creative. I know this sounds somewhat counterintuitive, but sometimes the worst clichés are born from attempts at creativity. Don't talk about your "dreams" and "passions" that came about when you were young because of an inspiring book you read. Don't start your essay with a supposedly "deep" quotation. As Female Science Professor notes in her blog post on the Chronicle of Higher Education: "At the risk of sounding like a cranky old science professor, I will state emphatically that when I read an application to our graduate program, I do not want to hear about your second-grade teacher (with all due respect to excellent second-grade teachers). Neither do I want to read about a star-gazing experience at age 8 (even on a cold, windswept hill), a childhood chemistry set (no matter how beloved), a fantastic documentary that someone happened to find when a televised golf match was canceled (serendipity!), or anything that is supposed to convince the graduate faculty that you have really, truly, profoundly loved science for a long time."

3. Establish a strong connection between your academic interests and their possible professional application after you graduate.

Whether or not you see it this way, the point of a graduate school program is to train you for a specific profession. If you are enrolling in a graduate journalism program, you will train to be a journalist. If you are enrolling in a humanities doctorate program, you're training to be a professor. If you apply to law school, you're training to be a lawyer. As such, admissions committees want to know as much as possible about your career plans once you graduate, and how you'll achieve those plans through the specific academic program to which you are applying. Again, if you don't know all this information now, that's fine. But do your best to indicate your specific professional goals, even if you don't have it all worked out yet.

Perhaps the best way to write an exceptional graduate school application essay is to ask your professors for advice. After all, once upon a time, they applied to grad school just like you did, and they did so successfully. Better yet, ask a professor at your school who may read grad school application essays for different grad school programs at your undergraduate institution.

If you feel you still need help with your assignment, go to college essay writing services on ThePensters.

Nancy Wood is a freelance writer and blogger. As a former professor, Nancy is particularly interested in trends in higher education, college life, and advising her readers on paying off student loans. Read more of Nancy's writing on www.onlinecollegeclasses.com

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Your graduate school personal statement may initially get only five minutes of an admissions officer's attention. In those five minutes you have to show that you are a good pick for the school.

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. If you're looking for one-on-one assistance, check out EssayEdge.com.

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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