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You’ve made an important life decision: enrolling in graduate school. Transcripts are ordered, letters of recommendation requested and the interview is in the books. Now all you have to do is finish what may be the hardest part: writing the perfect graduate school admissions essay. But how to start? And what should a graduate school admissions essay contain? Follow our guide below to get started.
What is a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School?
The graduate school essay, otherwise known as a statement of purpose, is a required part of the graduate school admissions process that tells school officials who you are, what your academic and professional interests are, and how you might contribute to the program.
A statement of purpose should generally be between 500 and 1,000 words, but check length, font size, and spacing settings with your individual program.
Why is it important?
Most graduate schools require a statement of purpose as part of the application process because it allows them to learn more about you in a personal way and decide whether you will be a good fit for the program.
Applicants must communicate that they have a decent amount of experience in their desired field of study and will be successful in a graduate school program. If anything is lacking or lacking in your GPA or transcripts, you can briefly address it in your statement of purpose and explain why it won’t be a problem. Schools also like to see that applicants are resilient and can overcome challenges, so include personal anecdotes that relate to this as well.
What makes a good personal statement?
A good personal statement should include information about your work and academic experience. It should be detailed but also concise. This is also an opportunity to share your personal side with the admissions committee and explain why you would be a good fit for the program and how you could add value to it if accepted.
It shows that you are eligible for the program
Above all, your personal statement should show that your interests would suit the program and that you would fit in well there. For example, if you’re applying to a master’s in business administration program, you might want to talk about your undergraduate business studies, internships at high-profile companies, past jobs you’ve held, or even future business ideas that excite you.
It shows how well you are up to the challenge
Graduate school is no easy task, and admissions officers want to know you’re up for the challenge. If you talk about other times in your life where you struggled but persevered through hard work and dedication, you can reassure school officials that you will succeed in their program if given the chance.
It indicates how you respond to criticism
Receiving positive and negative feedback is important, especially in a growth environment like graduate school. Including experiences like rewriting a paper after a bad grade or getting a job promotion on the advice of your boss can show the admissions committee that you’re capable of hearing tough things and learning from them.
It shows openness and a desire to learn
No one likes to know everything, and attending graduate school means learning more. You want to convey that you have already achieved academic success, but at the same time acknowledge that you still have more to learn and grow.
How to write a strong admissions essay
You’ve done your research and thought, and now it’s time to actually write your admissions essay. Make sure your personal statement is strong and stands out by understanding the prompt, outlining your essay, including a clear thesis statement, tailoring your essay and tailoring it to your desired program.
Understand the prompt
Most schools will want to know about your academic and professional experience and how you will add value to the program. However, every program and application is unique, and your school may have a unique prompt or specific questions it wants you to answer in your statement of purpose. Be sure to read the prompt carefully several times to answer all the questions it asks.
Outline your essay
Before you start writing, make a plan for your personal essay by creating an outline. Not only will this make the writing process easier and faster, but it will likely help you thoroughly address the prompt in a clear and cohesive manner.
Include a clear thesis statement
A thesis statement is the central idea or argument of your personal statement. Basically, your thesis statement should preview the arguments why you would be a good candidate for a particular program.
Customize your essay
Applying to vet school? Don’t forget to include your lifelong love of animals or the time you spent working at an animal shelter. Or maybe you’re pursuing a graduate degree in psychology. Experience with, for example, a high school or college peer counseling program will help you stand out. The point is to make your essay so personal that only you could write it.
Make it relevant
Health care program admissions officers will be confused if you talk about the time you set up a lemonade stand as a kid. Similarly, a graduate engineering program probably isn’t too concerned about your recent dance recital. Make sure the information you include in your personal statement is relevant to the program and school you are applying to.
Completing the Graduate School Admissions Essay
Once you’ve written your statement, it’s time to refine and refine it before you attach it and click submit on your application.
Edit the essay
Now it’s time to edit. Editing differs from proofreading as it focuses on structural changes and even corrections of content. Read the prompt again. Make sure you answer all the questions your program asks. Then look at the structure. Try reading it out loud. Does the information flow in a meaningful way? Are there parts that should be moved up or down? Is it possible to cut parts and add new parts?
Proofreading for grammar, punctuation and style
Run a spelling and grammar check in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, or even use a program like Grammarly, to make sure your personal statement is free of typos and errors and matches the formatting required by your application.
Get feedback from peers and mentors
Fresh eyes will only improve your writing. Ask classmates and professors to read your personal essay and give you feedback. They may see something you missed or have ideas for improvements. Make sure you give your readers enough time to review your personal statement before it’s due.
Correct as necessary
Writing is really all about editing and rewriting. No one gets it right on the first try, and sometimes not even on the second try, so don’t be afraid to revise your statement of purpose if necessary before the graduate school application deadline.