The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Application Essays

What this handout is about.

This handout will help you write and revise the personal statement required by many graduate programs, internships, and special academic programs.

Before you start writing

Because the application essay can have a critical effect upon your progress toward a career, you should spend significantly more time, thought, and effort on it than its typically brief length would suggest. It should reflect how you arrived at your professional goals, why the program is ideal for you, and what you bring to the program. Don’t make this a deadline task—now’s the time to write, read, rewrite, give to a reader, revise again, and on until the essay is clear, concise, and compelling. At the same time, don’t be afraid. You know most of the things you need to say already.

Read the instructions carefully. One of the basic tasks of the application essay is to follow the directions. If you don’t do what they ask, the reader may wonder if you will be able to follow directions in their program. Make sure you follow page and word limits exactly—err on the side of shortness, not length. The essay may take two forms:

  • A one-page essay answering a general question
  • Several short answers to more specific questions

Do some research before you start writing. Think about…

  • The field. Why do you want to be a _____? No, really. Think about why you and you particularly want to enter that field. What are the benefits and what are the shortcomings? When did you become interested in the field and why? What path in that career interests you right now? Brainstorm and write these ideas out.
  • The program. Why is this the program you want to be admitted to? What is special about the faculty, the courses offered, the placement record, the facilities you might be using? If you can’t think of anything particular, read the brochures they offer, go to events, or meet with a faculty member or student in the program. A word about honesty here—you may have a reason for choosing a program that wouldn’t necessarily sway your reader; for example, you want to live near the beach, or the program is the most prestigious and would look better on your resume. You don’t want to be completely straightforward in these cases and appear superficial, but skirting around them or lying can look even worse. Turn these aspects into positives. For example, you may want to go to a program in a particular location because it is a place that you know very well and have ties to, or because there is a need in your field there. Again, doing research on the program may reveal ways to legitimate even your most superficial and selfish reasons for applying.
  • Yourself. What details or anecdotes would help your reader understand you? What makes you special? Is there something about your family, your education, your work/life experience, or your values that has shaped you and brought you to this career field? What motivates or interests you? Do you have special skills, like leadership, management, research, or communication? Why would the members of the program want to choose you over other applicants? Be honest with yourself and write down your ideas. If you are having trouble, ask a friend or relative to make a list of your strengths or unique qualities that you plan to read on your own (and not argue about immediately). Ask them to give you examples to back up their impressions (For example, if they say you are “caring,” ask them to describe an incident they remember in which they perceived you as caring).

Now, write a draft

This is a hard essay to write. It’s probably much more personal than any of the papers you have written for class because it’s about you, not World War II or planaria. You may want to start by just getting something—anything—on paper. Try freewriting. Think about the questions we asked above and the prompt for the essay, and then write for 15 or 30 minutes without stopping. What do you want your audience to know after reading your essay? What do you want them to feel? Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, organization, or anything else. Just get out the ideas you have. For help getting started, see our handout on brainstorming .

Now, look at what you’ve written. Find the most relevant, memorable, concrete statements and focus in on them. Eliminate any generalizations or platitudes (“I’m a people person”, “Doctors save lives”, or “Mr. Calleson’s classes changed my life”), or anything that could be cut and pasted into anyone else’s application. Find what is specific to you about the ideas that generated those platitudes and express them more directly. Eliminate irrelevant issues (“I was a track star in high school, so I think I’ll make a good veterinarian.”) or issues that might be controversial for your reader (“My faith is the one true faith, and only nurses with that faith are worthwhile,” or “Lawyers who only care about money are evil.”).

Often, writers start out with generalizations as a way to get to the really meaningful statements, and that’s OK. Just make sure that you replace the generalizations with examples as you revise. A hint: you may find yourself writing a good, specific sentence right after a general, meaningless one. If you spot that, try to use the second sentence and delete the first.

Applications that have several short-answer essays require even more detail. Get straight to the point in every case, and address what they’ve asked you to address.

Now that you’ve generated some ideas, get a little bit pickier. It’s time to remember one of the most significant aspects of the application essay: your audience. Your readers may have thousands of essays to read, many or most of which will come from qualified applicants. This essay may be your best opportunity to communicate with the decision makers in the application process, and you don’t want to bore them, offend them, or make them feel you are wasting their time.

With this in mind:

  • Do assure your audience that you understand and look forward to the challenges of the program and the field, not just the benefits.
  • Do assure your audience that you understand exactly the nature of the work in the field and that you are prepared for it, psychologically and morally as well as educationally.
  • Do assure your audience that you care about them and their time by writing a clear, organized, and concise essay.
  • Do address any information about yourself and your application that needs to be explained (for example, weak grades or unusual coursework for your program). Include that information in your essay, and be straightforward about it. Your audience will be more impressed with your having learned from setbacks or having a unique approach than your failure to address those issues.
  • Don’t waste space with information you have provided in the rest of the application. Every sentence should be effective and directly related to the rest of the essay. Don’t ramble or use fifteen words to express something you could say in eight.
  • Don’t overstate your case for what you want to do, being so specific about your future goals that you come off as presumptuous or naïve (“I want to become a dentist so that I can train in wisdom tooth extraction, because I intend to focus my life’s work on taking 13 rather than 15 minutes per tooth.”). Your goals may change–show that such a change won’t devastate you.
  • And, one more time, don’t write in cliches and platitudes. Every doctor wants to help save lives, every lawyer wants to work for justice—your reader has read these general cliches a million times.

Imagine the worst-case scenario (which may never come true—we’re talking hypothetically): the person who reads your essay has been in the field for decades. She is on the application committee because she has to be, and she’s read 48 essays so far that morning. You are number 49, and your reader is tired, bored, and thinking about lunch. How are you going to catch and keep her attention?

Assure your audience that you are capable academically, willing to stick to the program’s demands, and interesting to have around. For more tips, see our handout on audience .

Voice and style

The voice you use and the style in which you write can intrigue your audience. The voice you use in your essay should be yours. Remember when your high school English teacher said “never say ‘I’”? Here’s your chance to use all those “I”s you’ve been saving up. The narrative should reflect your perspective, experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Focusing on events or ideas may give your audience an indirect idea of how these things became important in forming your outlook, but many others have had equally compelling experiences. By simply talking about those events in your own voice, you put the emphasis on you rather than the event or idea. Look at this anecdote:

During the night shift at Wirth Memorial Hospital, a man walked into the Emergency Room wearing a monkey costume and holding his head. He seemed confused and was moaning in pain. One of the nurses ascertained that he had been swinging from tree branches in a local park and had hit his head when he fell out of a tree. This tragic tale signified the moment at which I realized psychiatry was the only career path I could take.

An interesting tale, yes, but what does it tell you about the narrator? The following example takes the same anecdote and recasts it to make the narrator more of a presence in the story:

I was working in the Emergency Room at Wirth Memorial Hospital one night when a man walked in wearing a monkey costume and holding his head. I could tell he was confused and in pain. After a nurse asked him a few questions, I listened in surprise as he explained that he had been a monkey all of his life and knew that it was time to live with his brothers in the trees. Like many other patients I would see that year, this man suffered from an illness that only a combination of psychological and medical care would effectively treat. I realized then that I wanted to be able to help people by using that particular combination of skills only a psychiatrist develops.

The voice you use should be approachable as well as intelligent. This essay is not the place to stun your reader with ten prepositional phrases (“the goal of my study of the field of law in the winter of my discontent can best be understood by the gathering of more information about my youth”) and thirty nouns (“the research and study of the motivation behind my insights into the field of dentistry contains many pitfalls and disappointments but even more joy and enlightenment”) per sentence. (Note: If you are having trouble forming clear sentences without all the prepositions and nouns, take a look at our handout on style .)

You may want to create an impression of expertise in the field by using specialized or technical language. But beware of this unless you really know what you are doing—a mistake will look twice as ignorant as not knowing the terms in the first place. Your audience may be smart, but you don’t want to make them turn to a dictionary or fall asleep between the first word and the period of your first sentence. Keep in mind that this is a personal statement. Would you think you were learning a lot about a person whose personal statement sounded like a journal article? Would you want to spend hours in a lab or on a committee with someone who shuns plain language?

Of course, you don’t want to be chatty to the point of making them think you only speak slang, either. Your audience may not know what “I kicked that lame-o to the curb for dissing my research project” means. Keep it casual enough to be easy to follow, but formal enough to be respectful of the audience’s intelligence.

Just use an honest voice and represent yourself as naturally as possible. It may help to think of the essay as a sort of face-to-face interview, only the interviewer isn’t actually present.

Too much style

A well-written, dramatic essay is much more memorable than one that fails to make an emotional impact on the reader. Good anecdotes and personal insights can really attract an audience’s attention. BUT be careful not to let your drama turn into melodrama. You want your reader to see your choices motivated by passion and drive, not hyperbole and a lack of reality. Don’t invent drama where there isn’t any, and don’t let the drama take over. Getting someone else to read your drafts can help you figure out when you’ve gone too far.

Taking risks

Many guides to writing application essays encourage you to take a risk, either by saying something off-beat or daring or by using a unique writing style. When done well, this strategy can work—your goal is to stand out from the rest of the applicants and taking a risk with your essay will help you do that. An essay that impresses your reader with your ability to think and express yourself in original ways and shows you really care about what you are saying is better than one that shows hesitancy, lack of imagination, or lack of interest.

But be warned: this strategy is a risk. If you don’t carefully consider what you are saying and how you are saying it, you may offend your readers or leave them with a bad impression of you as flaky, immature, or careless. Do not alienate your readers.

Some writers take risks by using irony (your suffering at the hands of a barbaric dentist led you to want to become a gentle one), beginning with a personal failure (that eventually leads to the writer’s overcoming it), or showing great imagination (one famous successful example involved a student who answered a prompt about past formative experiences by beginning with a basic answer—”I have volunteered at homeless shelters”—that evolved into a ridiculous one—”I have sealed the hole in the ozone layer with plastic wrap”). One student applying to an art program described the person he did not want to be, contrasting it with the person he thought he was and would develop into if accepted. Another person wrote an essay about her grandmother without directly linking her narrative to the fact that she was applying for medical school. Her essay was risky because it called on the reader to infer things about the student’s character and abilities from the story.

Assess your credentials and your likelihood of getting into the program before you choose to take a risk. If you have little chance of getting in, try something daring. If you are almost certainly guaranteed a spot, you have more flexibility. In any case, make sure that you answer the essay question in some identifiable way.

After you’ve written a draft

Get several people to read it and write their comments down. It is worthwhile to seek out someone in the field, perhaps a professor who has read such essays before. Give it to a friend, your mom, or a neighbor. The key is to get more than one point of view, and then compare these with your own. Remember, you are the one best equipped to judge how accurately you are representing yourself. For tips on putting this advice to good use, see our handout on getting feedback .

After you’ve received feedback, revise the essay. Put it away. Get it out and revise it again (you can see why we said to start right away—this process may take time). Get someone to read it again. Revise it again.

When you think it is totally finished, you are ready to proofread and format the essay. Check every sentence and punctuation mark. You cannot afford a careless error in this essay. (If you are not comfortable with your proofreading skills, check out our handout on editing and proofreading ).

If you find that your essay is too long, do not reformat it extensively to make it fit. Making readers deal with a nine-point font and quarter-inch margins will only irritate them. Figure out what material you can cut and cut it. For strategies for meeting word limits, see our handout on writing concisely .

Finally, proofread it again. We’re not kidding.

Other resources

Don’t be afraid to talk to professors or professionals in the field. Many of them would be flattered that you asked their advice, and they will have useful suggestions that others might not have. Also keep in mind that many colleges and professional programs offer websites addressing the personal statement. You can find them either through the website of the school to which you are applying or by searching under “personal statement” or “application essays” using a search engine.

If your schedule and ours permit, we invite you to come to the Writing Center. Be aware that during busy times in the semester, we limit students to a total of two visits to discuss application essays and personal statements (two visits per student, not per essay); we do this so that students working on papers for courses will have a better chance of being seen. Make an appointment or submit your essay to our online writing center (note that we cannot guarantee that an online tutor will help you in time).

For information on other aspects of the application process, you can consult the resources at University Career Services .

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Asher, Donald. 2012. Graduate Admissions Essays: Write Your Way Into the Graduate School of Your Choice , 4th ed. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Curry, Boykin, Emily Angel Baer, and Brian Kasbar. 2003. Essays That Worked for College Applications: 50 Essays That Helped Students Get Into the Nation’s Top Colleges . New York: Ballantine Books.

Stelzer, Richard. 2002. How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School , 3rd ed. Lawrenceville, NJ: Thomson Peterson.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Graduate School Application Essays

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Types of Essays

Regardless of the type of school you are applying to, you will be required to submit an admissions essay as part of the application process. Graduate programs want students with clear commitment to the field. Essay prompts typically ask applicants to discuss their previous experience, future professional goals, and how the program can help them in achieving those objectives. The essay gives the applicant the chance to articulate these goals and display strong writing skills. Remember to tailor your essay to each school and the faculty committee that reviews your application. But first, take note of what kind of essay is being requested of you. Here are the two main admission essays:

Personal Statement

A personal statement is a narrative piece describing how your character and experiences have formed you into someone who will contribute positively and effectively to not only the department but the academic discipline as a whole. This is often achieved by detailing social, educational, cultural, and economic obstacles you have overcome in your journey to get to where you are today and your future objectives. A personal statement is also an opportunity to highlight what is unique about you and how you will advance diversity within the institution.

Check out Personal Statement Resources for Graduate School Applications in the Resources section of Handshake for a brainstorming activity and essay samples that can help you get started on your personal statement.

Statement of Purpose

Interchangeably called a “research statement”, a statement of purpose will prompt you to describe your research interests and professional goals, how you plan to accomplish them, and why a specific program is best suited for you to do so. Be specific about your specialized interests within your major field. Be clear about the kind of program you expect to undertake, and explain how your study plan connects with your previous training and future goals.

Use the Outlining Your Statement of Purpose guide in the Resources section of Handshake to get started on your statement outline.

How to Write a Powerful Admission Essay

Whatever required format, your essay should be thoughtful, concise, compelling, and interesting. Remember, admissions officers read hundreds of personal essays. Below are some tips for your admissions essay writing process:

Before Writing

  • Read the question:  Be sure you are aware of all aspects of the prompt. Failing to pay attention to details in the prompt won’t reflect well on you as a potential candidate.
  • What is distinct, special, and/or impressive about me and my life story?
  • Have I overcome any particular hardships or obstacles?
  • When did I become interested in this field and what have I learned about it?
  • What are my career goals?
  • What personal traits, values, and skill sets do I have that would make me stand out from other applicants?
  • Create an outline:  You might have a lot that you want to say, but you will need to whittle down your many thoughts and experiences to a concrete thesis with a select number of examples to support it. Create an outline for your draft, not only to organize your points and examples, but to help tailor your essay for your readers.
  • Know your audience:  Consider how your narrative can best meet the expectations of admissions committee members. Will faculty be reading this? Administrators? Experts in the field? Knowing your audience ahead of time will assist you in addressing the prompt appropriately.

While Writing

  • Grab your reader’s attention:  Start your essay with something that will grab the reader’s attention such as a personal anecdote, questions, or engaging depiction of a scene. Avoid starting things off with common phrases such as “I was born in…” or “I have always wanted to…” Consider the experiences that have shaped you or your career decision, and delve into them with a creative hook.
  • Write well:  Your essay is a sample of your writing abilities, so it’s important to convey your thoughts clearly and effectively. Be succinct—you don’t need to write out your full autobiography or resume in prose. Exclude anything that doesn’t support your thesis. Gentle humor is okay, but don’t overdo it. Also, don’t make things up! Be honest about your experiences.
  • End strong:  End your essay with a conclusion that refers back to the lead and restates your thesis. This helps unify your essay as a whole, connecting your detailed experiences back to the reason you are writing this essay in the first place—to show your qualifications for your graduate program of choice.

Final Touches

  • Use resources: The MIT Communication Labs have a CommKit that collects all of the Comm Lab resources relevant to the grad application process , including recommendation letters & interviews
  • Revise:  Give yourself enough time to step away from your draft. Return with a fresh pair of eyes to make your edits. Be realistic with yourself, not your harshest critic. Make a few rounds of revisions if you need.
  • Ask for help:  Have your essay critiqued by friends, family, educators, and the  MIT Writing and Communication Center or our Career Services staff.
  • Proofread:  Read your essay out loud or even record yourself and listen to the recording, to help you catch mistakes or poor phrasing you may have missed when reading to yourself. Also, don’t rely exclusively on your computer to check your spelling.

ACCEPTED

Which program are you applying to?

Grad school personal statement examples.

Get accepted to your top choice graduate school with your compelling personal statement.

You are a thoughtful, intelligent, and unique individual. You already know that – now you just need to convince top grad school adcoms that you’re a cut above the rest.

By reading the sample graduate school essays provided above, you should get a clear idea of how to translate your qualifications, passions, and individual experiences into words. You will see that the samples here employ a creative voice, use detailed examples, and draw the reader in with a clear writing style. Most importantly, these personal statements are compelling – each one does a fine job of convincing you that the author of the essay is a human being worth getting to know, or better yet, worth having in your next top grad school class. Grad school statement of purpose sample essays should be engaging and attention grabbing.

Here are the 5 things to include in a grad school personal statement:

  • Engaging opening
  • Consistent use of opening imagery
  • A clear theme that ties the essay together
  • Solid structure
  • Good use of transitions

Grad school essay example #1: The environmental studies student

Two scenes stand out in my mind from my visit to Brazil’s Wetland: Forests burning before seed planting and trees as hedgerows. Before the planting season, I could see the leafless remnants of burnt trees still standing.  READ MORE>>>

  • Attention-grabbing opening: The author immediately grabs your attention by placing them in the midst of the scene and vividly conveying what the author saw.
  • Vivid, visual opening: You can almost smell the burnt trees and see the ranches and farms thriving behind their protective forests.
  • A clear theme that ties the essay together: The writer clearly states an interest in the clash between economic and environmental concerns throughout the essay. Discussion of coursework taken and how it influenced the author’s decision to pursue both master’s and PhD in Environmental Studies also flows through the essay.
  • Solid structure: Thanks to the continued theme of the clash between economic and environmental concerns, this is a very easy essay to read. Mentions of different courses that piqued the writer’s interest also help to hold this essay together.
  • Good use of transitions: Transitions help your reader move from one topic to the next as you connect the topic in the preceding paragraph to the topic in the next. They can consist of a few words or a phrase or simply the repetition of the topic by name as opposed to using a pronoun.  The writer used the terminology connecting economics and the environment at the end of the first paragraph, and uses the same words at the beginning of the second one.

Grad school essay example #2: The engineering student

A simple bridge truss was the first structure I ever analyzed. The simple combination of beams that could hold cars, trains, and trucks over long spans of water fascinated me. Having the tools to analyze the loads on the truss further increased my interest in structures.  READ MORE>>>

  • Attention-grabbing opening: This writer immediately shared his fascination with bridge truss designs and makes the reader want to learn more about structural engineering.
  • Consistent use of opening imagery: The writer begins his essay with the image of the first structure he ever analyzed – a simple bridge truss. This bridge truss becomes the basis for all of his future study of structural engineering and design. Toward the end of the essay, he states that design structure has fascinated him since he saw that first image of a bridge truss for his first engineering class.
  • A clear theme that ties the essay together: The theme of structural design runs throughout the essay. It is mentioned right at the beginning of the essay, in following paragraphs and in the final paragraph as well. Toward the end of the essay, the writer discusses how a grad degree in engineering will help him reach both his short- and long-term goals. 
  • Solid structure: Since the theme of structural design and engineering are so strong throughout the essay, it is easy to follow along as the writer talks about different classes he has taken, an internship he did, and even an experience as a student volunteer. 
  • Good use of transitions: The author ends his first paragraph talking about the textbook for his first engineering class, and continues on this theme in the next paragraph. He then transitioned from classes he took to student volunteer research he participated in. When discussing what he plans to study in grad school, the same terminology is used again, joining the whole essay into one cohesive whole. 

Grad school essay example #3: The public health student

What if people lived healthier lives, practiced preventive medicine, and took precautions against illness and disease? My days in the physical therapy department often made me think about the prevention of injuries as well as the injuries themselves. I was already doubting my future career choice as a physical therapist.  READ MORE>>>

  • Attention-grabbing opening: The author of this essay makes an early case for why he wants to leave the field of physical therapy and move to the public health arena. You can almost feel the writer’s frustration with physical therapy and their need to find a way to reach a broader population, provide primary care to them, while challenging and motivating the writer to improve.
  • Consistent use of opening imagery: The idea of providing primary care to large populations and the benefits the population could get from this care are woven through the whole essay. Finding ways to improve the health of underprivileged populations is also found throughout the essay.
  • A clear theme that ties the essay together: Provision of primary care to large communities is a theme that runs throughout the essay. The author’s work at a county health clinic cemented this idea and led to him choosing to pursue an education and career in public health.
  • Solid structure: The theme of providing primary care to large underprivileged populations is a theme that ties this personal statement together.
  • Good use of transitions: The words “public health” occur in every paragraph. The author ends the second paragraph talking about work in the field, and begins the next paragraph by mentioning field experience. This makes it easy to follow the flow of the essay.

Grad school essay example #4: The physician assistant student

I was nine years old and in the middle of Mrs. Russell’s third grade class when my stomach began to itch uncontrollably. I remember thinking to myself, “Did I get bitten by a bug?” Completely distracted by the incessant itching, I asked Mrs. Russell if I could go to the nurse’s office. When the nurse lifted my shirt, I saw the biggest “bug bites” I had ever seen covering the majority of my stomach.  READ MORE>>>

Note:  The character limit for the CASPA PS is 5,000 characters with spaces. You need to keep this limit in mind as you write your personal statement.

  • Attention-grabbing opening and consistent use of opening imagery: The writer of this essay immediately grabs the reader’s attention by making them feel her fear and frustration of having an undiagnosed medical condition. You can also feel her relief when she is finally diagnosed – and treated – by a PA.
  • Vivid, visual opening and consistent use of opening imagery: Your heart beats a little faster as you read how a 9-year-old girl’s medical condition couldn’t be diagnosed until a visit with a PA who helped her discover her passion. She continues to illustrate her love of all things medical throughout the essay.
  • A clear theme that ties the essay together: Her essay has a clear theme – her interest in medicine and healthcare, and her connection with PAs. This theme is touched upon in every paragraph of her personal statement. Whether discussing her love of learning or the skills learned through sports, the ultimate goal of becoming a PA comes through. 
  • Solid structure: The author’s themes of love of learning and medicine, and the desire to become a PA to help others flow through this essay. They make it cohesive, readable, and interesting. 
  • Good use of transition: The writer shows how her interest in being a PA grows throughout her life through a series of events – her illness, attending a youth leadership forum where she first saw infected human organs, and finally her mother’s own illness and the care given by the same PA who diagnosed the author at the age of 9. The imagery of the “itchy little” girl from the first paragraph appears again in the last paragraph, pulling the entire personal statement together.

5 FATAL FLAWS TO AVOID

In your grad school statement of purpose, get expert help with your graduate school application.

Our world-class team helps you stand out from the competition and get accepted.

APPLICATION STRATEGY / PRIMARY AND SECONDARY ESSAY REVIEW / INTERVIEW PREP

TOP 10 GRADUATE SCHOOLS

HAVE AN ACCEPTANCE RATE OF UNDER 20% 

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AN OUTSTANDING GRADUATE SCHOOL STATEMENT OF PURPOSE IS CRITICAL IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS

You want to get accepted to a top school, but you need to show you're more qualified than other applicants. U.S. News reports the average graduate school acceptance rate is 20% for the top 10 engineering programs and 15% for the top 10 education programs, but our grad school clients enjoy an  85% ACCEPTANCE RATE.  How can you best your competition? By writing an excellent statement of purpose.

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Breadcrumbs

How to write a standout graduate admissions essay, article highlights.

  • Reflect before you begin your application essays.
  • Outline your ideas before you put pen to paper.
  • Write freely, and then return to edit your essay on the second draft.
  • Take your time. Break between writing and editing for a fresh perspective.
  • Gather feedback from a trusted source.
  • Read your essay aloud to identify needed edits.

Everyone has a story to tell, and we know there’s more to you and your talents than what’s on your resume.  But how will you stand out from the crowd when applying to Johns Hopkins Carey Business School?  

The essay portion of the application is your opportunity to expand beyond your transcript and resume. Share your unique strengths, your background, your growth, or whatever else makes you a strong candidate for Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.  

click to watch a video about crafting the best application essay

In this article, you will find a detailed explanation of how to write a standout admissions essay.  

How to prepare

Before you begin writing, read the essay prompts carefully.  Take a moment to reflect and explore why you’re pursuing a graduate business degree. Consider having a pen and notepad nearby as you participate in this reflection exercise. Think about your path thus far and pinpoint moments of growth and learning. Take note of how these moments have shaped you and how these experiences will guide you through your graduate business degree at Carey.  

Map your ideas: 

Now that you have an idea of how to share your story within the context of the essay prompts, it’s time to draft an outline . Map out your key points and outline the supporting examples. As you map the direction and flow of your essay through the outline, keep in mind your audience. Our admissions officers read thousands of application essays, so you want to find a creative hook to make your story stand out.  

Don’t overthink it! Start writing:  

As you start to write your first draft, let the words flow.  At this stage, don’t fixate on grammar or finding the perfect word– just get your thoughts on paper. You will finesse and polish your essay in the second draft.  

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Take a break: 

Once you complete your first draft, take a day or two before returning to edit it. Coming back to your writing with fresh eyes allows you to read it with a new perspective. Tackle the details of grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary during this second pass. Consider reading your essay backward to help catch typos. 

Get feedback: 

Once you feel your essays are in a good place, it is highly recommended that you share them for review.  Share them with your advisor, a trusted colleague, friend, or even  your recommender . Getting insights from a trusted source can help you make your essay stronger, as well as catch any typos or small edits.  

Finalize and submit:  

You are almost done. Before submitting your essays, do a final review. Run a spell check and read the essays out loud to yourself. This trick allows you to identify areas that may need clarification or tweaks. As you review your final draft, make sure that you actually answered the question posed on the application.  

Remember, the essay portion of your application is your chance to stand out from the crowd. By sharing who you are as a person, your growth thus far, your passions, your goals, and your voice, you can make a lasting impression. Best of luck with your application process!  

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Articles & Advice > Graduate School > Articles

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How to Write Your Grad School Application Essay

The grad school application essay isn't like any other piece of writing. Craft your best essay for graduate admission with this helpful advice.

by Jessica Tomer Director of Communications, Commonwealth School

Last Updated: Dec 14, 2023

Originally Posted: Oct 21, 2016

Remember when you sat down to write your undergraduate application essays? It was your chance to show colleges the real you—and the world was your oyster! You could talk about your favorite book character, a beloved hobby, or a cause near to your heart. Now you’re ready to apply to grad schools, with another application essay (or 10) to write. Like so much of the application process, grad school essays are similar to undergrad…but not quite the same. Here’s how you can (and why you need to) take a more strategic approach to writing your graduate school admission essay.

What is the graduate school essay?

The grad school application essay—letter of intent, personal statement, statement of purpose, etc.—is your chance to breathe some life and personality into your application. But unlike your undergraduate essay, where you might’ve offered a quippy story, your grad school application essay should be more focused on your academic and professional goals and why grad school is essential to achieving them. It should also give the admission committee a good sense of who you are and what you value at the same time. (No big deal, right?)

All that being said, a lot of the advice that helped you write your undergrad essay still applies: tell a unique story, use vivid examples, be genuine, and, perhaps most importantly, explain why you’d be an asset to the program—and why the program would be an asset to you. Essay requirements will vary from school to school, but you’ll likely be asked to write 250–750 words. Common graduate application essay prompts include the following:

  • Describe a situation where you overcame adversity/exhibited leadership/learned from failure/experienced an ethical dilemma.
  • Why do you need this degree at this juncture in your life?
  • What are your short- and long-term career goals?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • And the big one: Why this school? 

Regardless of the prompt you choose, the graduate admission committee should come away from your application essay knowing these three things:

  • What you want to study in grad school
  • Why you want to study it
  • Why their institution is the best place for you

Dedicate a paragraph to each one of those ideas, add an attention-grabbing opener and a tidy conclusion, and you’re almost there! The following best practices will take you the rest of the way to a winning grad school application essay.

Related: Essential Grad School Search and Application Timeline

Know your audience

Thoroughly research your potential graduate programs (if you haven’t already!), and tailor your essay to each school. Admission counselors want to know why you want to enroll in  their  program, and you can’t speak to the merits of their program if you don’t know what their program is all about! What specifically attracted you to the school? What would you contribute to the program as a graduate student and eventual alumnus? Take a look at press releases, blog posts, and big events on campus to get to know the school’s personality and what it values.

In addition to knowing plenty about the school you’re writing to, you need to adopt the right tone for who you’re specifically writing to—admission representatives. You’ll have four (or more) years of collegiate writing under your belt, and your grad school statement needs to reflect that. Use active language, smooth transitions, an attention-grabbing opening, and a strong conclusion. And even though your graduate personal statement should be focused on your academic goals, it’s not a research paper—and it shouldn’t be full of jargon. Your essay’s tone will ultimately depend on the prompt you choose, but don’t be afraid to infuse it with personality, even humor. People relate to stories; tell yours and tell it well.

Stand out and demonstrate passion

In a crowd of candidates who also love this field (presumably), what sets you apart? As you consider possible graduate admission essay topics , look for the story only you can tell. Just remember, even some personally meaningful experiences, like the loss of a loved one or a life-changing volunteer experience, don’t really stand out in graduate admission—they’re too common. So if you are considering a potentially well-tread topic, try to approach it in a unique way. You’re trying to give the graduate admission committee a sense of who you are and what you value. Show them your passion for your field of study. Why do you love it? Why do you want to contribute to it? What about it challenges and excites you?

Show, don’t tell

Whenever possible, use stories to illustrate your interest. You shouldn’t fill your graduate personal statement with anecdotes, but you can be straightforward and still infuse some personality into your writing. After all, what’s more engaging: “I frequently left the campus CAD lab just as the sun was rising—and long after I had completed my architecture assignments. I got hooked on experimenting with laser cutting and hardly noticed as the hours passed” or “I really love working with Auto CAD”? No contest. And don’t forget that the essay is about you! Any examples or experiences you cite should relate to you and why you want to go to grad school.

Related: How to Show, Don't Tell to Boost Your Writing for School and Beyond

Be relevant and specific

Stay focused on your academic field and use specific, discrete examples. Was there a clear moment when you knew you had found your calling? Did a particular class assignment, volunteer experience, or work project solidify your interest? Why exactly do you need grad school to achieve your goals? You can talk about special skills, like a foreign language, computer programming, and especially research in your essay. And you can talk about your academic achievements, internships, published work, and even study abroad experiences. They all make great graduate personal statement fodder. But relevancy is also key. Before stuffing your application essay with every accomplishment and experience from your time as an undergrad, make sure you’re only highlighting those that pertain to your intended graduate studies and future goals.

Explain any gaps

Your grad school application essay is also an opportunity to explain anything in your academic record that might raise an eyebrow among the admission committee, like a semester of poor grades , time off in your schooling, or a less-than-perfect GRE score. For example, if you worked part or full-time to help fund your undergrad education, that lends some important context to your experience and achievements; maybe your undergrad GPA isn’t quite as high as it might’ve been otherwise, but graduate admission counselors will likely appreciate your hard work and dedication. You can also use the essay to own your mistakes; perhaps you didn’t take college as seriously as you should have during freshman and sophomore year, but you got your act together junior year. But whatever you do, don’t use your essay to make excuses or blame others.  

Edit—and have others edit too

Set aside time to edit your graduate application essay, checking for style, tone, and clarity as well as grammatical mistakes. ( Here are my proofreading tips! ) Is your graduate personal statement clear, concise, and well organized? Also revisit the essay prompt to make doubly sure you’ve answered it fully and accurately. Then have other people read your essay to check for these things too. Undergrad professors or mentors are great for this, but you can ask trusted friends too. And don’t forget about any career, writing, and/or tutoring centers at your undergraduate institution; they may be able to review your essay and application, and their services are often available long after you graduate. And, for a truly polished graduate essay, remember the little things too, like making sure your files have easily identifiable names. And it might go without saying, but make sure you follow the directions! If the word limit is 600, don’t send 750.

Related: 7 Animated Steps to Writing a Great Personal Statement for Grad School

Grad school personal statement don’ts

You now have a ton of tools at your disposal for how to craft your best essay. But just for good measure, beyond following the advice above, keep these grad school personal statement don’ts in mind.

  • Don’t volunteer potentially damaging information. If you were suspended, arrested, etc., you probably don’t need to discuss it. Why cast aspersions on your character?
  • Don’t repeat other parts of your application. Your GPA, test scores, and most activities are covered sufficiently in the rest of your application.
  • Don’t be negative. You want the admission committee to see you as an enthusiastic addition to their program, not a grouch.
  • Don’t write about controversial topics. You don’t want to risk offending the admission committee. And touchy subjects rarely make good personal statement essays anyway.
  • Don’t go for gimmicks. Even though you want to stand out, a gimmicky essay isn’t the way to do it. (For example, submitting a song instead of a personal statement…when you’re not studying music.)
  • Don’t stuff your essay with big “smart” words , and don’t use flowery language either. Use clear language to tell a compelling story.
  • Don’t lift your personal statement from an existing academic essay or—worse—from someone else entirely. Besides plagiarizing being, you know,  wrong , if you can’t get through your personal statement and need  an essay service to help you , you definitely aren’t cut out for the writing demands of grad school. Fact.

The grad school admission essay can be a daunting task because it’s the first step to receiving further education that will elevate your career. While it’s not something to be taken lightly, you can still have fun with it and really put your personality into it. Show your passion and you’ll be sure to get into a great grad program for your goals.

For more great advice as you delve into the world of advanced degrees, check out our Graduate School section!

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The graduate application essay is generally 1-5 pages and is your opportunity to share relevant information about yourself, your goals and why you would make a good match for the particular graduate program to which you are applying.

First, check if your program of interest is listed below with a program-specific application essay question. If so, answer your program-specific essay question.  

If not, the following essay question must be answered by all other graduate applicants.

Required essay question (unless your program is listed below)*

Outline your educational plans and career goals and discuss how your proposed plan of graduate study relates to them. Some areas of discussion might include: Specific attributes of the program at UD that lead you to believe that this degree is appropriate to help you achieve your professional objectives. Within the area of study you have selected, are there areas of special interest to you?

Applied Physiology

Outline your educational plans and career goals and discuss how your proposed plan of graduate study relates to them. Some additional areas of discussion might include: Specific attributes of the program at UD that lead you to believe that this degree is appropriate to help you achieve your professional objectives. Within the area of study you have selected, please identify the faculty member you would like to work with as well as any areas of special interest to you.

Art History

What are your research interests and professional objectives? How will studying at the University of Delaware help you to pursue them? How have your education and extracurricular experiences prepared you for graduate studies in art history? In your response, you may wish to discuss a recent book you read, a museum exhibition you visited or a work experience you had and explain how it shaped your ideas about art history and your interest in pursuing a graduate degree.

Athletic Training

A personal statement or essay. The purpose of this statement is to introduce yourself to the admission committee and discuss your academic and career interests and goals as they stand now, and how you think the graduate program aligns with your interests and a career in athletic training. Limit your essay to no more than two double-spaced pages.

Biological Sciences

  • What scientific research experience have you had?
  • What are your research interests and long-term professional objectives?
  • What specific attributes of our department make you feel that it would be a good place for you?
  • Are there any special circumstances related to your academic record that you feel we should know about?

Biotechnology

  • What scientific research/employment experience have you had? Please be specific about the field of work and job responsibilities.
  • What are your long-term professional objectives?
  • What specific attributes of our department and the PSM (Professional Science Master's) in biotechnology make you feel this degree is appropriate to help you achieve your professional objectives?

*NOTE: Applications to the PSM or certificate in biotechnology programs also must include a resume or CV outlining work and/or academic experience in the field of biotechnology.

Business Analytics and Information Management

  • Outline your educational plans and career goals and discuss how your proposed plan of graduate study relates to them. Some areas of discussion might include specific attributes of the program at UD that lead you to believe that this degree is appropriate to help you achieve your professional objectives.
  • Describe an obstacle you have faced in your professional or academic life. How did you overcome this obstacle and how did it foster your development?
  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

Childhood Education in Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Your personal statement is a very important part of the application and is read with great care. It is highly recommended that you invest ample time in composing this statement and include enough detail to communicate your fit with our program. Your statement should address the following matters:

  • It should describe why you have selected our program (MAFLL, MAFLP or MACFLE) and how you intend to use the degree to fulfill your career goals or further educational aspirations.
  • It should provide any other information about you (your experience, specific interests, talents or abilities, and/or your academic record) that you believe is important for the admission committee to know. If you are currently registered in a graduate program at this or another university, please explain why you wish to leave.
  • If you are an MAFLP applicant intending to pursue the certification track, please mention this in your essay.

Clinical Exercise Physiology

  • In 500 words or less, explain how being accepted in the clinical exercise physiology master’s degree program at the University of Delaware will help you achieve your career goals?
  • In 500 words or less, explain what three qualities are most important to being a successful graduate student.
  • In 500 words or less, explain your greatest weakness as a student and how you will overcome that weakness in a graduate program.

Communication

Describe how your research interest relates to the research expertise of the department’s faculty.

Communication Sciences and Disorders

Describe your research experience, include length and type of experience and designate your preference of a primary and secondary advisor from the department’s faculty.

Disaster Science and Management M.S.

What are your vocational objectives and how will your proposed plan of graduate study relate to them and allow you to achieve them? Within your major field, are there special areas of interest to you? Please explain. Are there any special circumstances related to your academic record that you wish to explain or that we should know?

Disaster Science and Management Ph.D.

  • Please also provide an example of scholarly writing (paper or thesis) as a second writing sample.

Applicants should discuss educational and career goals related to the Ph.D. in education program and how this program is a good match for their interests. Applicants should identify their area of specialization and potential research interest. While there are no requirements set by the School of Education, personal statements are generally 2-5 pages in length.

Educational Leadership

  • Explain why you are applying to this particular program, that is, why do you want to be admitted to the Ed.D. in educational leadership?
  • The Ed.D. in educational leadership requires that candidates be involved in planning and implementing a series of initiatives targeted at specific improvement needs that candidates identify and in which they may exercise leadership. Describe the contexts and responsibilities in your current position which would allow you to exercise leadership.
  • Describe a problem in your area of interest that typifies the kind of issue that you would like to pursue as a leadership professional and why you think it is important to address.

Exceptional Children and Youth

  • Outline your educational plans and career goals and discuss how your proposed plan of graduate study relates to them. Some areas of discussion might include specific attributes of the program at UD that lead you to believe that this degree is appropriate to help you achieve your professional objectives. Within the area of study you have selected, are there areas of special interest to you? If the applicant plans to pursue initial teacher certification through the MPCP track or additional certification through the 4+1 or MP track in addition to the degree, this must be stated.
  • In this writing sample, the applicant should address one of the following questions in a brief essay of 500 words or less:  1) Select an important problem facing individuals with disabilities or the schools, teachers, or other people who work with them and propose a solution to this problem; or 2) Describe an experience in your own life that influenced your decision to work with individuals with disabilities.

Exceptional Children and Youth Online

  • Outline your educational plans and career goals and discuss how your proposed plan of graduate study relates to them. Some areas of discussion might include: Which specific attributes of the program at UD led you to believe that this degree is appropriate to help you achieve your professional objectives? Within the area of study you have selected, are there areas of special interest to you?
  • Select an important problem facing individuals with disabilities or the schools, teachers, or other people who work with them, and propose a solution to this problem; OR
  • Describe an experience in your own life that influenced your decision to work with individuals with disabilities.

How will an M.S. in finance from the Lerner College of Business and Economics at the University of Delaware help you achieve your professional goals?

Health Behavior Science and Promotion

How do your research interests relate to those of at least two health behavior science and promotion faculty members?

International Business

  • Why do you wish to pursue your graduate studies at the University of Delaware? What, in your opinion, makes UD special?
  • What are your career objectives and how will the M.S. in international business help you achieve your goals?
  • What does the word “global” mean to you?

Languages, Literatures and Cultures

  • It should provide any other information about you (your experience, specific interests, talents or abilities and/or your academic record) that you believe is important for the admission committee to know. If you are currently registered in a graduate program at this or another university, please explain why you wish to leave.

Liberal Studies

  • Submit a three to five page essay (double-spaced) about your intellectual interests and life experiences and how you think these can be developed in the M.A.L.S. (master of arts in liberal studies) program. Please discuss your personal or professional objectives and why you believe this degree is appropriate to help you reach them.
  • Write a short essay (no more than three pages, double-spaced) about a book, essay, story or article that has been important to you (fiction or nonfiction). Discuss the author’s primary theme or argument and how it is developed. Describe how the work has influenced you.

Literacy Online

Three written, 500-word essays responding to the following three prompts:

  • Outline your short-term and long-term career goals and how an M.Ed. in literacy relates to them.
  • Describe a problem in your professional setting that typifies an issue you would like to pursue as a reading/literacy specialist and why you think it is important to address.
  • As you know, the M.Ed. in literacy program at the University of Delaware is offered online. It requires students to be self-initiated learners and excellent time managers. Additionally, many of the courses require you to apply what you learn to an educational setting with students. Specifically, EDUC 630 and EDUC 763 require you to tutor a child regularly in reading and writing. Describe (a) how you plan to manage your time so you are able to fulfill your course requirements and (b) how you will identify appropriate educational settings so you can fulfill course requirements. Be specific.

M.A. in Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Pedagogy

M.b.a. (business administration).

The Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics program essays are reviewed for originality and proper referencing of cited materials.

  • Getting your message across to prospective customers is a key element of a business plan. Please critique our effort to market the University of Delaware MBA programs by using specific examples of where and how you heard about our program (e.g., specific radio station, internet site, publication, TV station, etc.) and honestly assess how effective that vehicle was in drawing you to apply for admission. What are some strengths of these marketing efforts and what could be done better? What is the best way to reach prospective students like you? We are looking for insightful, specific and brief essays.
  • (Optional) Is there any other information, not covered elsewhere in your application, that you would like to share with the department’s Graduate Admissions Committee? Are there special circumstances related to your academic record, such as low GPA or low GRE/GMAT scores that you feel we should know about? Are there any challenging social, economic, educational, cultural or other life circumstance that you have overcame to achieve success in higher education?

M.B.A. Online (Business Administration)

M.p.a. (public administration).

  • What are your vocational objectives and how will your proposed plan of graduate study relate to them and allow you to achieve them?
  • Within your major field, are there special areas of interest to you? Please explain.
  • Are there any special circumstances related to your academic record that you wish to explain or that we should know?

M.P.A. Online (Public Administration)

M.p.p. (public policy), nursing: nursing science.

  • What is your research area/topic of interest? Use the literature to provide an explanation about what is known about this topic and why additional research needs to be done in this area. Based on your review of the literature, propose three research questions that you would like to explore in doctoral studies.
  • What are your professional objectives? How will resources (i.e., faculty, other) at the University of Delaware help you to achieve your objectives and pursue your area of interest? Which School of Nursing faculty member would best fit as your mentor? Why?
  • How have your education, prior research experience and professional and/or personal activities and achievements prepared you for doctoral studies in nursing science? Cite specific examples.

Nutrition Science

Describe how your research interests relate to at least two potential nutrition faculty advisors.

School Psychology

M.A. in school psychology applicants should answer the following questions:

  • What qualities and experiences do you have that should help make you an excellent graduate student and school psychologist?
  • What are your career objectives and how will obtaining your degree in school psychology from the University of Delaware contribute to them?

Teacher Leadership Online

  • Outline your short-term and long-term career goals and discuss how an M.Ed. in teacher lLeadership relates to them.
  • The M.Ed. in teacher leadership teaches candidates to lead from the classroom. Describe a problem in your professional setting that typifies an issue you would like to pursue as a teacher leader and why you think it is important to address.
  • The M.Ed. in teacher leadership is delivered 100% online. It requires students to be self-initiated learners and excellent time managers. Describe how you plan to manage your time so you are able to fulfill your course requirements.

Teaching English as a Second Language

You should present a carefully planned and written statement of one to two pages in length describing what led you to pursue a degree in TESL, any past work in TESL or TEFL, your expectations of the University of Delaware M.A. in TESL program, and how you intend to use the degree to fulfill your professional career or further educational aspirations. Please include additional information you feel important for the graduate committee to know about you. If you are currently registered in a graduate program at this or another university, please explain why you wish to leave. The personal statement must be submitted electronically as part of the admissions application.

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Applying to Graduate Programs

  • Writing Statements of Purpose and Other Application Essays

As noted in the application qualifications and admissions criteria section of this website, the statement of purpose (in other words, the primary application essay; sometimes also called personal statement , background statement , and other names) can play a major role in determining whether an applicant is invited to interview and in final selection decisions.  Specifically, the statement can be used to assess the applicant’s fit with the program, match with faculty members, writing ability, and more.  Thus, spending the time to craft a well-written statement of purpose or other types of application essays is necessary in order for your application to have a chance of succeeding.  To help with this process, here we provide an overview of the process of writing such statements and other application essays. 

Types of Statements of Purpose and Other Application Essays

Depending on the program, you may be required to provide a statement of purpose , application essay , autobiographical essay , personal statement , career goal statement, background statement , or other similarly named piece of writing.  Each of these commonly is your opportunity to provide information about yourself beyond that communicated in the rest of your application materials.  You may also be asked to provide supplementary essays such as a diversity statement. 

Typically, graduate applications provide an essay prompt which includes specific questions or themes that you should address in the essay.  Common themes include: 1,2

  • Your long-term career plans
  • Your research interests or areas of interest in psychology
  • Your reasons for choosing the program that you are applying to
  • Your prior research experiences
  • Your academic background or objectives
  • Your motivation for pursuing your field of study

It is common for programs to specify how the essay should be formatted, or at a minimum, its maximum length.  For instance, an application essay may be stated to be “no longer than 2 double-spaced pages” or no more than 500 words.  It is important to follow all directions and not exceed that limit.

Using the same exact essay for each application is not advised . 1,3   Each program typically has specific information that they are seeking, and if you do not directly address those details in your essay, your application will suffer.  You may be able to reuse different parts of your application essays, but you should expect to have to write new material for each application.

Are there example statements of purpose that I should examine?  A variety of online sources do contain example statements, and you can find links to example statements at the bottom of this page.  However, application essays in general are unique to each individual – each person has a different set of experiences and different aspects that they may wish to emphasize.  Moreover, writing an application essay that resembles someone else’s can result in that essay appearing derivative – and given the highly competitive application process, that is something you should avoid.  Thus, examples are for reference only.

How to Write a Statement of Purpose and Other Application Essays

When writing an application essay, it can be helpful to rely on the following steps.  Please note that these procedures represent a common approach for writing application essays; you may wish to adapt some of the steps, or use/add others, for best results. 1,3

1. Brainstorming/clustering

At this first stage, jot down your thoughts as you think of answers to the essay prompt.  Try to think of themes that you wish to emphasize, as well as concrete examples that you may wish to describe in the essay.  You can organize them into clusters (for example, write ideas in circles and draw connecting lines).  Remember that the overall goal of the essay is to convince the admissions committee that you are an attractive candidate and a good fit for their program.

2. Outlining

This is an optional step.  Take your brainstorming/clustering notes and organize them into an outline of how the essay will be structured.  You might have a chronological structure that begins with your earlier experiences and advances towards your more recent activities.  Alternatively, you may organize your essay around themes (for example, research topics).  A common outline involves an opening paragraph, then discussion of academic accomplishments, research experience, other experiences, future plans and suitability for the program of interest, and a concluding paragraph. 4

3. Freewriting/initial draft

Often one of the biggest hurdles is just getting words on the page.  The key here is to not worry about having your words sound perfectly the first time around.  Try drafting several sentences, a paragraph or two, and see whether your thoughts translate well into prose.  It is common at this stage to discard whole sections of text in favor of new material.  At this conclusion of this process, you should aim to have a completed first draft.

4. Revising

It is easy to get burned out on writing, so after you have completed that first draft, set it aside for a while.  Then, return with fresh eyes and read through it carefully.  You are likely to find areas that need improvement – be sure to take notes or highlight them.  It can help to read the essay out loud; a general rule is that if it sounds unusual when spoken aloud, it should be rewritten.  Then, revise the essay.

5. Solicit feedback

Have another individual or individuals read your essays critically and provide feedback.  Your mentor can be an ideal person to provide that feedback; alternatively, you might try a university writing center or your peers. 

6. Revise and finalize your essay

Using the feedback and your own thoughts while reading the essay, edit it further until it is a polished product.  Be sure to proofread, check formatting, and make sure that all aspects of the essay prompt are clearly and thoroughly addressed.

Statement of Purpose Do’s and Don’ts

Here are some recommended elements to include, strategies to try, and recommended elements or strategies to avoid. 1,3

  • Do emphasize your individual strengths
  • Do customize each statement to the program that you are submitting it to
  • Do provide specific examples of relevant experiences (such as research, coursework, etc.)
  • Do thoroughly address all aspects of the essay prompt
  • Do use clear topic sentences, connective words or phrases, and paragraph transitions (for more information, please see the improving scientific writing section of this website)
  • Do consider emphasizing your fit to the program that you are applying to
  • Do consider discussing faculty mentors of interest

Dont’s

  • Don’t use jokes, humor, or try to be funny
  • Don’t excessively self-disclose personal problems
  • Don’t be very general or vague in your research interests
  • Don’t include complaints and criticisms
  • Don’t use clichés such as “since my childhood I have always been interested in” or “I just want to help everyone”, unless you can genuinely and convincingly use them

Financial Aid, Fellowships, and Scholarship Application Essays

As you complete your graduate applications, you might also consider applying for financial aid or some sort of graduate research fellowship such as the Ford Foundation Fellowship or the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship .  Such fellowships typically require a background statement that is similar in some aspects to the statement of purpose. 

Workshops and Downloadable Resources

  • For in-person discussion of the process of applying to graduate programs in psychology, neuroscience, and related fields, please consider attending this department’s “Paths to PhDs” workshop and other related events (for dates and times, please check the undergraduate workshops calendar).
  • Tips for Applying to Graduate Programs in Psychology (a brief summary) [ PDF ]

Further Resources

How-To Videos     

  • Applying to Grad School Videos

Recommended Reading

  • American Psychological Association (2007). Getting in: a step-by-step plan for gaining admission to graduate school in psychology .  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Keith-Spiegel, P., & Wiederman, M. W. (2000). The complete guide to graduate school admission: psychology, counseling, and related professions . Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Slideshow guide to writing winning statements of purpose from UCLA
  • Guide to writing statements of purpose from Purdue Online Writing Lab
  • Tips for writing the statement of purpose from UC Berkeley
  • 10 tips for writing statements of purpose from USC
  • 11 tips for writing powerful statements of purpose from CrunchPrep.com
  • Choosing a graduate program from the Association for Psychological Science
  • Smart shopping for psychology doctoral programs [PDF]

APA Videos on Graduate Applications

  • Preparing and applying for graduate school in psychology [12-part video series]
  • Preparing and applying for graduate school in psychology [video slides in PDF format]
  • UCSD Graduate Division Statement of Purpose Prompt
  • UCSD Career Center Graduate Application Process
  • UCSD OASIS Language and Writing Program
  • UCSD Writing Programs and Resources
  • UCSD Muir College Writing Hub
  • UCSD Writing Hub

1  American Psychological Association (2007).  Getting in: a step-by-step plan for gaining admission to graduate school in psychology . 

2  norcross, j. c., & hogan, t. p. (2016).  preparing and applying for graduate school in psychology: 12 modules. american psychological association [video workshop]., 3  keith-spiegel, p., & wiederman, m. w. (2000). the complete guide to graduate school admission: psychology, counseling, and related professions . psychology press., 4  rutgers university camden college of arts and sciences.  writing a personal statement ., prepared by s. c. pan for ucsd psychology, graphic adapted with permission from leoncastro under creative commons attribution-share alike 4.0 international license..

  • Finding and Choosing Graduate Programs of Interest
  • Timelines for the Graduate Application Process
  • Applicant Qualifications, Admissions Criteria, and Acceptance Rates
  • Requesting Letters of Recommendation
  • Preparing for the Graduate Record Examination
  • Graduate Admissions Interviews
  • Applying to Clinical Psychology Programs
  • Applying to Medical School and Professional Health Programs
  • Accepting Graduate Admissions Offers
  • Resume and Essays

In This Section

  • Degree Program Prerequisites
  • Application Fee
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Academic Transcripts
  • Standardized Test Scores
  • Reapplying to HKS

All of our master’s degree programs require that you submit your résumé and at least four essays, which vary by program.

A résumé is required of all applicants. This document should highlight the following information: employment, including titles and dates (months and years) for each position, job responsibilities, reason for any gaps in employment history; academic degrees, achievements, and honors; volunteer, public service, and political work; recent leadership experiences; extracurricular activities (months and years) and interests.   

MASTER IN PUBLIC POLICY

The Harvard Kennedy School motto, echoing the President for whom the School is named, is “Ask what you can do.” Please share with the Admissions Committee your plans to create positive change through your public leadership and service. (500 word limit)  

The MPP curriculum is designed to broaden students’ perspective and sharpen skills necessary for a successful career in public service through a rigorous set of courses that draw on the social sciences but are adapted for action. Please describe how the MPP curriculum at HKS would leverage your distinctive abilities and/or fill gaps in your skill set as you equip yourself to achieve your career goals. (500 word limit) 

Personal History Essay  

Harvard Kennedy School believes that academic excellence and personal growth rely on engaging with varied perspectives, embracing our unique differences, and relishing healthy debate. Please share how you would contribute to the vibrant and diverse learning environment that is HKS. (250 word limit) 

adversity Essay 

Describe a time when you faced adversity or a significant challenge to achieving your goals, and how navigating through this shaped your educational or career trajectory. (250 word limit) 

Perspectives Essay 

Describe a time when interactions with others and/or an experience caused you to change your mind or expanded your point of view. (250 word limit)  

Optional Statement 

If you have any concerns about your prior academic, professional, or personal background that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee, please provide an explanation. (250 word limit) 

MASTER IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

International development essay.

Discuss your decision to choose international development as your professional career. Also, explain how developing your analytic skills relates to your career in development. (750 word limit) 

Leadership Experience Essay

Describe an event or experience in which you exercised a significant decision-making, management, or leadership role. (750 word limit) 

Public Policy Essay

Describe a public policy or public management problem related to international development and analyze a range of solutions. (750 word limit) 

Personal History Essay

Harvard Kennedy School believes that academic excellence and personal growth rely on engaging with varied perspectives, embracing our unique differences, and relishing healthy debate. Please share how you would contribute to the vibrant and diverse learning environment that is HKS. (250 word limit)

MASTER IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION

Two-year mpa essay.

There are many pathways one can pursue in order to make a difference in the world. Why is the MPA Program at HKS an appropriate pathway to achieving your goals? (500 word limit) 

MID-CAREER MASTER IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION

Career goals essay.

Submit a statement that discusses your career goals, as well as the factors that led you to select the Mid-Career MPA program as a means of furthering your personal and professional goals. Be as specific as possible in describing how your expected course of study will enable you to build on your prior professional experience and achieve those goals. (500 word limit)  

Professional Contribution Essay

The Harvard Kennedy School motto, echoing the President for whom the School is named, is “Ask what you can do.” Please share with the Admissions Committee how you have created positive change thus far in your most substantial professional leadership and/or public service role. (500 word limit)   

JOINT DEGREE AND CONCURRENT DEGREE

An essay response in addition to the program essay prompts is required for those submitting a separate admission application to a joint or combined partner program. If an applicant is applying to both a joint degree program partner school (HBS or HLS) and a combined degree partner school, the text of the essay prompt is the same. 

Applicants should note that only MPP and MPA/ID applicants are eligible to apply to the HBS and HLS joint programs. 

If an applicant is applying to varied joint/concurrent professional programs (e.g. law and business) the prompt will only be displayed once and it is up to the applicant to determine how best to respond. For those applying to different programs, for example law and business, it is wise to address both types of programs, but it would not be necessary to address each individual school.  

Joint or concurrent degree program essay  

Harvard Kennedy School’s mission is to improve public policy and leadership across the United States and around the world, so people can lead safer, freer, and more prosperous lives. How will a joint/concurrent degree enhance your pursuit of this mission? (400 word limit)

Which program are you applying to?

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November 19, 2021

Harvard Kennedy School MPP and MPA2 Application Essay Tips [2021 – 2022]

Harvard Kennedy School MPP and MPA2 Application Essay Tips [2021 - 2022]

The essays discussed below are for the  MPP and the two-year MPA  applications. (The MPA/ID and the MC/MPA and Mason’s program have different prompts.)

HKS seeks accomplished, well-rounded master’s students – people with proven academic success, strong leadership and career potential, and “commitment to advancing the public interest.” The school also wants the student body to be diverse. Your application overall will address these factors; the essays provide a valuable opportunity to underscore through specific detail how you meet these criteria and will be a significant contributor during the program and later in your career. Most important, use the essays to weave together these elements into a coherent story and presentation – one that clarifies your path to your public interest goals.

Further, HKS seeks students who embrace change. The website notes, “Our programs will change you. They are changing the world through the outstanding leaders and dynamic ideas that come out of HKS.” This “change” theme is echoed in the mandatory essay questions. Keep this emphasis on change on your radar as you work through your essays. Showing you can change and grow strengthens your credibility for goals that involve driving change externally – i.e., you are not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.

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Harvard Kennedy School 2021-2022 MPP & MPA application essay questions

Mpp and mpa mandatory personal history essay.

Diversity of all kinds (race and ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, physical abilities, political philosophy, intellectual focus, socioeconomic status, geographic and many others) is important to enriching the educational experience at the Kennedy School. Please share with us anything in your background or life experience that has shaped your perspectives and how that would contribute to the classroom and community at HKS.  (250 word limit)

This essay is a lovely opportunity to round out your profile and to show unique and distinctive aspects of your life experience – approach this essay with pride and passion. It has potential to give deeper color to the whole application.

I’ll start with some don’ts: Don’t write a mini autobiography. Don’t talk about your love of travel. Don’t fear to present topics that are often considered no-no’s, like religion and politics (there is of course a right way and a wrong way to discuss such things). Don’t drench the discussion in buzz words and abstractions (the topic of “diversity” has a tendency to bring these out).

Select your topics – anywhere from one to three, as more than that will be too many for meaningful discussion – and root each one in anecdote and example. Consider topics that will  both   expand and enhance your profile  and   support (directly or indirectly) your “case” for admission delivered in the other essays. Add a brief reflection about the contribution, as it’s not the fact that you have a certain type of diversity; it’s the insight and perspective you’ve gained from it that ultimately make it meaningful to the adcom and future classmates.

MPP and MPA expectations essay

Describe a time when you did not meet expectations and elaborate on how the experience changed you. (250 word limit)

The adcom is clearly seeking out people who are able to grow and change – in this case, in response to a failure of some sort. That requires understanding one’s shortcomings related to not meeting expectations. Choose a specific example/story (if well in the past, make sure it’s weighty to justify the distance) and tell the story. And, whose expectations? It could be someone from any realm: a friend, a colleague or work superior, a professor, etc. – or you. “How it changed you” can be part of the story – ideally include some action taken as a result of the change, not just “realized” or “understood” or “broadened perspective.” 

MPP and MPA perspectives essay

Describe a time when interactions with others and/or an experience caused you to change your mind or expanded your point of view.  (250 Word limit)

There’s that word again – change. This time, it’s about a time you changed in response to an experience or interactions (expanding your point of view is also a form of change). And, again, approach the essay straightforwardly, as a story, narrating what happened and your growth as a result of it. If possible, include some action taken as a result of the change, beyond “merely” increasing your understanding in some way. 

MPP and MPA JFK essay

The Harvard Kennedy School motto, echoing the President for whom the School is named, is “Ask what you can do.” Please share with the Admissions Committee your plans to create positive change through your public leadership and service.  (500 word limit)

This is essentially a vision-and-goals question. I suggest a professional focus, though in some cases it could also include non-work plans. Three keys to making this essay work:

  • In describing your plans/goals, clarify what “positive change” means to you – it’s easy to forget that it means different things to different people. (I see a lot of drafts of these and other essays talking about making change without any clear idea of what constructive change means to that person.) And cite specific impacts you intend to deliver through your service.  Make it concrete.  These results need not be comprehensive, “save the world” level changes – it’s more realistic, more credible, and probably more interesting to the reader to discuss changes to a given corner of the world, or segment of population, or issue. Show your engagement with and knowledge of the region or issue by employing anecdote and detail.
  • Discuss practical aspects – how you envision executing those plans in real terms, focusing on your anticipated leadership and sense of service. Of course, you needn’t have all the answers – that’s part of what the program will help you with.
  • Since the question asks you to portray how you’ll do the above “through your public leadership and service,” root the plans in your experience to lend credibility to what you say you will do in the future. Weave in brief examples of public leadership and/or service as a basis for your future efforts.

Essay for MPP applicants

The MPP curriculum is designed to broaden students’ perspective and sharpen skills necessary for a successful career in public service through a rigorous set of courses that draw on the social sciences but are adapted for action. Please describe how the MPP curriculum at HKS would leverage your distinctive abilities and/or fill gaps in your skill set as you equip yourself to achieve your career goals. (500 word limit)  

You’ve delineated your career vision and plant in the JFK essay. Based on these goals, what are your relevant distinctive abilities and your skills gaps? Don’t just cite these facts; provide brief examples or anecdotes of at least some and make specific how they relate to your goals. It’s an opportunity to strategically showcase some of your experience. Finally, describe how the MPP program will enhance your existing abilities and fill in the gaps – always in the context of your goals, keeping in mind the practical nature of the program: how it will help you leverage your strengths and gain requisite skills/knowledge to effect desired change.

Essay for two-year MPA applicants

There are many pathways one can pursue in order to make a difference in the world. Why is the MPA Program at HKS an appropriate pathway to achieving your goals?  (500 word limit)

Here too, your goals cited in the JFK essay will be the starting point: they create the need to learn certain things and the conditions to benefit from certain opportunities. So, first, identify the gaps in learning that you must fill to realize your goals and also the opportunities that would be helpful in realizing your goals (such as access to certain types of people or challenge to move past reflexive thinking). Then  detail how the HKS program meets these needs and offers these opportunities . This “how” can include all manner of things about the program, depending on your needs: curriculum structure and/or content, professors, special programs, classmates, extracurricular clubs/programs, partner groups/programs, etc. The key is to be specific and to link the elements you cite to your goals, learning needs, and/or broader professional growth and development.

Optional essay question (MPP & MPA)

If you have any concerns about your prior academic, professional, or personal background that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee, please provide an explanation.  (250 word limit)

This optional essay question specifically instructs you to write the essay only if there are concerns about your background. If you do need to use it, write a succinct, straightforward explanation. If you have evidence that academic under-performance does not reflect your true ability, add a sentence stating that point with the evidence (e.g., maybe you did poorly overall in college, but in your last semester earned straight A’s).

Harvard Kennedy School 2021-2022 MPP & MPA2 application deadline

Source: Harvard Kennedy School website

***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***

From Example to Exemplary - Download your guide today!

Related Resources:

  • 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Grad School Statement of Purpose , a free guide
  • Harvard Kennedy School: An Interview with Admissions Director Matt Clemons , a podcast episode
  • Different Dimensions of Diversity , a podcast episode

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Gre prep online guides and tips, 3 successful graduate school personal statement examples.

sample essay master program application

Looking for grad school personal statement examples? Look no further! In this total guide to graduate school personal statement examples, we’ll discuss why you need a personal statement for grad school and what makes a good one. Then we’ll provide three graduate school personal statement samples from our grad school experts. After that, we’ll do a deep dive on one of our personal statement for graduate school examples. Finally, we’ll wrap up with a list of other grad school personal statements you can find online.

Why Do You Need a Personal Statement?

A personal statement is a chance for admissions committees to get to know you: your goals and passions, what you’ll bring to the program, and what you’re hoping to get out of the program.  You need to sell the admissions committee on what makes you a worthwhile applicant. The personal statement is a good chance to highlight significant things about you that don’t appear elsewhere on your application.

A personal statement is slightly different from a statement of purpose (also known as a letter of intent). A statement of purpose/letter of intent tends to be more tightly focused on your academic or professional credentials and your future research and/or professional interests.

While a personal statement also addresses your academic experiences and goals, you have more leeway to be a little more, well, personal. In a personal statement, it’s often appropriate to include information on significant life experiences or challenges that aren’t necessarily directly relevant to your field of interest.

Some programs ask for both a personal statement and a statement of purpose/letter of intent. In this case, the personal statement is likely to be much more tightly focused on your life experience and personality assets while the statement of purpose will focus in much more on your academic/research experiences and goals.

However, there’s not always a hard-and-fast demarcation between a personal statement and a statement of purpose. The two statement types should address a lot of the same themes, especially as relates to your future goals and the valuable assets you bring to the program. Some programs will ask for a personal statement but the prompt will be focused primarily on your research and professional experiences and interests. Some will ask for a statement of purpose but the prompt will be more focused on your general life experiences.

When in doubt, give the program what they are asking for in the prompt and don’t get too hung up on whether they call it a personal statement or statement of purpose. You can always call the admissions office to get more clarification on what they want you to address in your admissions essay.

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What Makes a Good Grad School Personal Statement?

A great graduate school personal statement can come in many forms and styles. However, strong grad school personal statement examples all share the same following elements:

A Clear Narrative

Above all, a good personal statement communicates clear messages about what makes you a strong applicant who is likely to have success in graduate school. So to that extent, think about a couple of key points that you want to communicate about yourself and then drill down on how you can best communicate those points. (Your key points should of course be related to what you can bring to the field and to the program specifically).

You can also decide whether to address things like setbacks or gaps in your application as part of your narrative. Have a low GPA for a couple semesters due to a health issue? Been out of a job for a while taking care of a family member? If you do decide to explain an issue like this, make sure that the overall arc is more about demonstrating positive qualities like resilience and diligence than about providing excuses.

Specific Examples

A great statement of purpose uses specific examples to illustrate its key messages. This can include anecdotes that demonstrate particular traits or even references to scholars and works that have influenced your academic trajectory to show that you are familiar and insightful about the relevant literature in your field.

Just saying “I love plants,” is pretty vague. Describing how you worked in a plant lab during undergrad and then went home and carefully cultivated your own greenhouse where you cross-bred new flower colors by hand is much more specific and vivid, which makes for better evidence.

A strong personal statement will describe why you are a good fit for the program, and why the program is a good fit for you. It’s important to identify specific things about the program that appeal to you, and how you’ll take advantage of those opportunities. It’s also a good idea to talk about specific professors you might be interested in working with. This shows that you are informed about and genuinely invested in the program.

Strong Writing

Even quantitative and science disciplines typically require some writing, so it’s important that your personal statement shows strong writing skills. Make sure that you are communicating clearly and that you don’t have any grammar and spelling errors. It’s helpful to get other people to read your statement and provide feedback. Plan on going through multiple drafts.

Another important thing here is to avoid cliches and gimmicks. Don’t deploy overused phrases and openings like “ever since I was a child.” Don’t structure your statement in a gimmicky way (i.e., writing a faux legal brief about yourself for a law school statement of purpose). The first will make your writing banal; the second is likely to make you stand out in a bad way.

Appropriate Boundaries

While you can be more personal in a personal statement than in a statement of purpose, it’s important to maintain appropriate boundaries in your writing. Don’t overshare anything too personal about relationships, bodily functions, or illegal activities. Similarly, don’t share anything that makes it seem like you may be out of control, unstable, or an otherwise risky investment. The personal statement is not a confessional booth. If you share inappropriately, you may seem like you have bad judgment, which is a huge red flag to admissions committees.

You should also be careful with how you deploy humor and jokes. Your statement doesn’t have to be totally joyless and serious, but bear in mind that the person reading the statement may not have the same sense of humor as you do. When in doubt, err towards the side of being as inoffensive as possible.

Just as being too intimate in your statement can hurt you, it’s also important not to be overly formal or staid. You should be professional, but conversational.

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Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

Our graduate school experts have been kind enough to provide some successful grad school personal statement examples. We’ll provide three examples here, along with brief analysis of what makes each one successful.

Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 1

PDF of Sample Personal Statement 1 – Japanese Studies

For this Japanese Studies master’s degree, the applicant had to provide a statement of purpose outlining her academic goals and experience with Japanese and a separate personal statement describing her personal relationship with Japanese Studies and what led her to pursue a master’s degree.

Here’s what’s successful about this personal statement:

  • An attention-grabbing beginning: The applicant begins with the statement that Japanese has never come easily to her and that it’s a brutal language to learn. Seeing as how this is an application for a Japanese Studies program, this is an intriguing beginning that makes the reader want to keep going.
  • A compelling narrative: From this attention-grabbing beginning, the applicant builds a well-structured and dramatic narrative tracking her engagement with the Japanese language over time. The clear turning point is her experience studying abroad, leading to a resolution in which she has clarity about her plans. Seeing as how the applicant wants to be a translator of Japanese literature, the tight narrative structure here is a great way to show her writing skills.
  • Specific examples that show important traits: The applicant clearly communicates both a deep passion for Japanese through examples of her continued engagement with Japanese and her determination and work ethic by highlighting the challenges she’s faced (and overcome) in her study of the language. This gives the impression that she is an engaged and dedicated student.

Overall, this is a very strong statement both in terms of style and content. It flows well, is memorable, and communicates that the applicant would make the most of the graduate school experience.

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Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 2

PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 2 – Musical Composition

This personal statement for a Music Composition master’s degree discusses the factors that motivate the applicant to pursue graduate study.

Here’s what works well in this statement:

  • The applicant provides two clear reasons motivating the student to pursue graduate study: her experiences with music growing up, and her family’s musical history. She then supports those two reasons with examples and analysis.
  • The description of her ancestors’ engagement with music is very compelling and memorable. The applicant paints her own involvement with music as almost inevitable based on her family’s long history with musical pursuits.
  • The applicant gives thoughtful analysis of the advantages she has been afforded that have allowed her to study music so extensively. We get the sense that she is insightful and empathetic—qualities that would add greatly to any academic community.

This is a strong, serviceable personal statement. And in truth, given that this for a masters in music composition, other elements of the application (like work samples) are probably the most important.  However, here are two small changes I would make to improve it:

  • I would probably to split the massive second paragraph into 2-3 separate paragraphs. I might use one paragraph to orient the reader to the family’s musical history, one paragraph to discuss Giacomo and Antonio, and one paragraph to discuss how the family has influenced the applicant. As it stands, it’s a little unwieldy and the second paragraph doesn’t have a super-clear focus even though it’s all loosely related to the applicant’s family history with music.
  • I would also slightly shorten the anecdote about the applicant’s ancestors and expand more on how this family history has motivated the applicant’s interest in music. In what specific ways has her ancestors’ perseverance inspired her? Did she think about them during hard practice sessions? Is she interested in composing music in a style they might have played? More specific examples here would lend greater depth and clarity to the statement.

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Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 3

PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 3 – Public Health

This is my successful personal statement for Columbia’s Master’s program in Public Health. We’ll do a deep dive on this statement paragraph-by-paragraph in the next section, but I’ll highlight a couple of things that work in this statement here:

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  • This statement is clearly organized. Almost every paragraph has a distinct focus and message, and when I move on to a new idea, I move on to a new paragraph with a logical transitions.
  • This statement covers a lot of ground in a pretty short space. I discuss my family history, my goals, my educational background, and my professional background. But because the paragraphs are organized and I use specific examples, it doesn’t feel too vague or scattered.
  • In addition to including information about my personal motivations, like my family, I also include some analysis about tailoring health interventions with my example of the Zande. This is a good way to show off what kinds of insights I might bring to the program based on my academic background.

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Grad School Personal Statement Example: Deep Dive

Now let’s do a deep dive, paragraph-by-paragraph, on one of these sample graduate school personal statements. We’ll use my personal statement that I used when I applied to Columbia’s public health program.

Paragraph One: For twenty-three years, my grandmother (a Veterinarian and an Epidemiologist) ran the Communicable Disease Department of a mid-sized urban public health department. The stories of Grandma Betty doggedly tracking down the named sexual partners of the infected are part of our family lore. Grandma Betty would persuade people to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, encourage safer sexual practices, document the spread of infection and strive to contain and prevent it. Indeed, due to the large gay population in the city where she worked, Grandma Betty was at the forefront of the AIDS crises, and her analysis contributed greatly towards understanding how the disease was contracted and spread. My grandmother has always been a huge inspiration to me, and the reason why a career in public health was always on my radar.

This is an attention-grabbing opening anecdote that avoids most of the usual cliches about childhood dreams and proclivities. This story also subtly shows that I have a sense of public health history, given the significance of the AIDs crisis for public health as a field.

It’s good that I connect this family history to my own interests. However, if I were to revise this paragraph again, I might cut down on some of the detail because when it comes down to it, this story isn’t really about me. It’s important that even (sparingly used) anecdotes about other people ultimately reveal something about you in a personal statement.

Paragraph Two: Recent years have cemented that interest. In January 2012, my parents adopted my little brother Fred from China. Doctors in America subsequently diagnosed Fred with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). My parents were told that if Fred’s condition had been discovered in China, the (very poor) orphanage in which he spent the first 8+ years of his life would have recognized his DMD as a death sentence and denied him sustenance to hasten his demise.

Here’s another compelling anecdote to help explain my interest in public health. This is an appropriately personal detail for a personal statement—it’s a serious thing about my immediate family, but it doesn’t disclose anything that the admissions committee might find concerning or inappropriate.

If I were to take another pass through this paragraph, the main thing I would change is the last phrase. “Denied him sustenance to hasten his demise” is a little flowery. “Denied him food to hasten his death” is actually more powerful because it’s clearer and more direct.

Paragraph Three: It is not right that some people have access to the best doctors and treatment while others have no medical care. I want to pursue an MPH in Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia because studying social factors in health, with a particular focus on socio-health inequities, will prepare me to address these inequities. The interdisciplinary approach of the program appeals to me greatly as I believe interdisciplinary approaches are the most effective way to develop meaningful solutions to complex problems.

In this paragraph I make a neat and clear transition from discussing what sparked my interest in public health and health equity to what I am interested in about Columbia specifically: the interdisciplinary focus of the program, and how that focus will prepare me to solve complex health problems. This paragraph also serves as a good pivot point to start discussing my academic and professional background.

Paragraph Four: My undergraduate education has prepared me well for my chosen career. Understanding the underlying structure of a group’s culture is essential to successfully communicating with the group. In studying folklore and mythology, I’ve learned how to parse the unspoken structures of folk groups, and how those structures can be used to build bridges of understanding. For example, in a culture where most illnesses are believed to be caused by witchcraft, as is the case for the Zande people of central Africa, any successful health intervention or education program would of necessity take into account their very real belief in witchcraft.

In this paragraph, I link my undergraduate education and the skills I learned there to public health. The (very brief) analysis of tailoring health interventions to the Zande is a good way to show insight and show off the competencies I would bring to the program.

Paragraph Five: I now work in the healthcare industry for one of the largest providers of health benefits in the world. In addition to reigniting my passion for data and quantitative analytics, working for this company has immersed me in the business side of healthcare, a critical component of public health.

This brief paragraph highlights my relevant work experience in the healthcare industry. It also allows me to mention my work with data and quantitative analytics, which isn’t necessarily obvious from my academic background, which was primarily based in the social sciences.

Paragraph Six: I intend to pursue a PhD in order to become an expert in how social factors affect health, particularly as related to gender and sexuality. I intend to pursue a certificate in Sexuality, Sexual Health, and Reproduction. Working together with other experts to create effective interventions across cultures and societies, I want to help transform health landscapes both in America and abroad.

This final paragraph is about my future plans and intentions. Unfortunately, it’s a little disjointed, primarily because I discuss goals of pursuing a PhD before I talk about what certificate I want to pursue within the MPH program! Switching those two sentences and discussing my certificate goals within the MPH and then mentioning my PhD plans would make a lot more sense.

I also start two sentences in a row with “I intend,” which is repetitive.

The final sentence is a little bit generic; I might tailor it to specifically discuss a gender and sexual health issue, since that is the primary area of interest I’ve identified.

This was a successful personal statement; I got into (and attended!) the program. It has strong examples, clear organization, and outlines what interests me about the program (its interdisciplinary focus) and what competencies I would bring (a background in cultural analysis and experience with the business side of healthcare). However, a few slight tweaks would elevate this statement to the next level.

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Graduate School Personal Statement Examples You Can Find Online

So you need more samples for your personal statement for graduate school? Examples are everywhere on the internet, but they aren’t all of equal quality.

Most of examples are posted as part of writing guides published online by educational institutions. We’ve rounded up some of the best ones here if you are looking for more personal statement examples for graduate school.

Penn State Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School

This selection of ten short personal statements for graduate school and fellowship programs offers an interesting mix of approaches. Some focus more on personal adversity while others focus more closely on professional work within the field.

The writing in some of these statements is a little dry, and most deploy at least a few cliches. However, these are generally strong, serviceable statements that communicate clearly why the student is interested in the field, their skills and competencies, and what about the specific program appeals to them.

Cal State Sample Graduate School Personal Statements

These are good examples of personal statements for graduate school where students deploy lots of very vivid imagery and illustrative anecdotes of life experiences. There are also helpful comments about what works in each of these essays.

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However, all of these statements are definitely pushing the boundaries of acceptable length, as all are above 1000 and one is almost 1500 words! Many programs limit you to 500 words; if you don’t have a limit, you should try to keep it to two single-spaced pages at most (which is about 1000 words).

University of Chicago Personal Statement for Graduate School Examples

These examples of successful essays to the University of Chicago law school cover a wide range of life experiences and topics. The writing in all is very vivid, and all communicate clear messages about the students’ strengths and competencies.

Note, however, that these are all essays that specifically worked for University of Chicago law school. That does not mean that they would work everywhere. In fact, one major thing to note is that many of these responses, while well-written and vivid, barely address the students’ interest in law school at all! This is something that might not work well for most graduate programs.

Wheaton College Personal Statement for Graduate School Sample 10

This successful essay for law school from a Wheaton College undergraduate does a great job tracking the student’s interest in the law in a compelling and personal way. Wheaton offers other graduate school personal statement examples, but this one offers the most persuasive case for the students’ competencies. The student accomplishes this by using clear, well-elaborated examples, showing strong and vivid writing, and highlighting positive qualities like an interest in justice and empathy without seeming grandiose or out of touch.

Wheaton College Personal Statement for Graduate School Sample 1

Based on the background information provided at the bottom of the essay, this essay was apparently successful for this applicant. However, I’ve actually included this essay because it demonstrates an extremely risky approach. While this personal statement is strikingly written and the story is very memorable, it could definitely communicate the wrong message to some admissions committees. The student’s decision not to report the drill sergeant may read incredibly poorly to some admissions committees. They may wonder if the student’s failure to report the sergeant’s violence will ultimately expose more soldiers-in-training to the same kinds of abuses. This incident perhaps reads especially poorly in light of the fact that the military has such a notable problem with violence against women being covered up and otherwise mishandled

It’s actually hard to get a complete picture of the student’s true motivations from this essay, and what we have might raise real questions about the student’s character to some admissions committees. This student took a risk and it paid off, but it could have just as easily backfired spectacularly.

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Key Takeaways: Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

In this guide, we discussed why you need a personal statement and how it differs from a statement of purpose. (It’s more personal!)

We also discussed what you’ll find in a strong sample personal statement for graduate school:

  • A clear narrative about the applicant and why they are qualified for graduate study.
  • Specific examples to support that narrative.
  • Compelling reasons why the applicant and the program are a good fit for each other.
  • Strong writing, including clear organization and error-free, cliche-free language.
  • Appropriate boundaries—sharing without over-sharing.

Then, we provided three strong graduate school personal statement examples for different fields, along with analysis. We did a deep-dive on the third statement.

Finally, we provided a list of other sample grad school personal statements online.

What’s Next?

Want more advice on writing a personal statement ? See our guide.

Writing a graduate school statement of purpose? See our statement of purpose samples  and a nine-step process for writing the best statement of purpose possible .

If you’re writing a graduate school CV or resume, see our how-to guide to writing a CV , a how-to guide to writing a resume , our list of sample resumes and CVs , resume and CV templates , and a special guide for writing resume objectives .

Need stellar graduate school recommendation letters ? See our guide.

See our 29 tips for successfully applying to graduate school .

Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?

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Author: Ellen McCammon

Ellen is a public health graduate student and education expert. She has extensive experience mentoring students of all ages to reach their goals and in-depth knowledge on a variety of health topics. View all posts by Ellen McCammon

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Rafal Reyzer

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20 Great MBA Application Essay Samples (With Links)

Author: Rafal Reyzer

Want to ace your MBA application? A stellar essay can be your golden ticket.

With elite business schools like Harvard and Stanford boasting acceptance rates as low as 10% and 6% respectively, every aspect of your application counts. While GPA and GMAT scores matter, your essay can be a game-changer. Recognizing its weight, we’ve gathered top-notch MBA essay samples, endorsed by admission committees from premier institutions. Dive in and let’s craft that standout application!

What is an MBA Application Essay?

An MBA application essay is a detailed write-up about your personal and professional goals and aspirations. It also explains how the MBA program will help you attain your objectives for the future. Your essay is your one shot to convince the admission committee to consider you for the initial interview.

professor reading an essay of MBA applicant

What Admission Committee Look for in an MBA Essay?

  • Academic ability
  • Impressive work experience
  • Career Course
  • Authenticity of goals
  • Competencies, leadership , dedication, challenges, and growth
  • The right reason for pursuing an MBA
  • Your compatibility with the culture in which the program is being offered

If you want to learn more, here is the complete guide on how admission committees process MBA applications.

20 Great MBA Applications Essays Samples

Now you have known that what makes a great MBA admission essay, the next step is to write one for yourself. Before writing, check out this list of expert-vetted MBA application essays that secured admissions to top-rated business schools in the world. Admission consultants have shared these samples and they can be helpful if you read and analyze them carefully. If you’re completely unsure about how to get started, there are also custom essay writing services that can help you structure your essay with the help of professional editors.

Sample 1: Leadership-focused MBA application essay

This sample is particularly focused on leadership traits. If your essay is about explaining your leadership quality experience, this sample is right up your alley. The best thing about the essay is that it is written in a simple, engaging, and humorous style. It defines a great experience in a very conversational style.

demonstrating leadership quality

Sample 2: Self-focused MBA application essay 

If you are asked to write about your strengths, weaknesses, aims, and goals in your application essay, this sample will help you. The applicant who wrote this got accepted to the INSEAD business school. It doesn’t merely describe her strengths and weaknesses, but it presents a complete picture of herself as a person. It highlighted the events and incidents that shaped her personality.

Sample 3: Life-hardships-focused MBA application essay

If you want to explain your life’s hardships and the events that turned you into an ambitious person, this sample is for you. In this application essay, the candidate has defined three phases of his life and how he survived through each adversity. He beautifully explained why the MBA program is important to his future.

Sample 4: Continuous growth and learning-focused MBA application essay

This essay was submitted to Harvard Business School. The best thing about this piece is that the writer has explained her learning and professional development journey in a very sequential and engaging manner, which is truly admirable. A useful thing to remember about the MBA essays included in this list is that you can merge them into a single printable and perfectly formatted file with Sodapdf or another PDF editor. Having all of them stored in a single PDF is going to be quite helpful when it’s time to write your piece. But guess what? There are more examples to explore below, so let’s keep going…

Sample 5: Best MBA application essay for low scorers

Have a low GPA? What would you write about academics in an MBA essay to convince the admission committee? Do not overthink! MBA essay is not all about high achievements and sterling background. It is also an opportunity to atone for your past mistakes. This MBA essay was written by a student who obtained very low academic grades, yet got admitted to her desired business school. Her turning point? A powerful application essay.

guitarist with a dream

Sample 6: A guitarist’s application essay for the MBA program

Suppose you are ambitious in a skill or profession that has nothing to do with the MBA program, yet you need the degree for certain reasons. How would you showcase that irrelevant skill in your MBA application essay? This sample essay will show how you how. A guitarist who got selected for the MBA program wrote this one. The applicant has intelligently defined his passion for guitar as a way of developing discipline, determination, leadership, and success. He explained how his passion affected his academics and how the guitar helped him cope with the challenges.

Sample 7: An engineer’s essay for MBA application

If you come from a technical or engineering background and have the ambition to pursue an MBA degree to boost your engineering career, this sample essay will help pave the way for you. This essay was submitted by a mechanical engineer to Harvard Business School. The writer explained how his engineering experience motivated him to pursue an MBA and how the program is important to his long-term goals.

harvard university

Sample 8: Harvard Business School MBA essay

This essay was written by a candidate who got accepted to Harvard Business School. Check it out to know what the prestigious academic institution looks for in your essay.

Sample 9: Wharton Business School MBA essay

This essay has been honored as one of the best MBA essays ever received by the Wharton Business School in Pennsylvania. Check out the structure, organization, and flow, and adapt the same to your essay.

Sample 10: Columbia Business School MBA essay

The Columbia Business School’s admission committee shared this MBA essay. They explained why the applicant who wrote this was instantly accepted to the program and why they appreciated its content.

Sample 11: Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA essay

This essay was written by a candidate who got accepted to Stanford Business School for an MBA. If you are aiming to get your MBA at Stanford, this sample will give you a deep understanding of what convinces the esteemed school’s admission committee to accept applicants into their fold.

Sample 12: University of California Business School MBA essay

This sample was taken from a pool of successful MBA application essays submitted to the University of California business school. Read it carefully and analyze its structure, words, and substance before you compose your own fantastic MBA essay.

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Sample 13: University of OXFORD business school MBA essay

If Oxford Business School is your target destiny for earning your MBA, then check out this outstanding application essay. The person who wrote it managed to grab the admission committee member’s attention.

Sample 14: London Business School MBA essay

This essay was written by a candidate who got accepted to the London Business School. The school’s admission consultant shared this sample as a reference to other MBA aspirants. This piece will specifically help you understand the tone, writing style, formatting, and overall flow of the MBA application essay that meets the school’s standards.

Sample 15: A goal-oriented MBA application essay

Sometimes the MBA admission portal may demand an essay specifically focused on your future goals. In such a case, you must be very sure about yourself and must convey your goals and future directions based on your experiences and planning. Check out this sample to get an idea of how a successful candidate writes about personal goals.

Sample 16: Executive MBA essay

This successful MBA application essay was submitted to the MIT Sloan Executive MBA Program. EMBA essay requires you to show strong potential, impact, leadership, and the ultimate need for the program. Read this essay if EMBA is on your horizon.

making a video essay

Sample 17: MBA video essay

Many business schools are turning to video-based essays for MBA applications. A video-based essay is a better option to express yourself directly to the admission committee. A successful candidate for the Kellogg School of Management submitted this sample. Listen to the video and appreciate how beautifully the applicant has explained his journey from beginning to end. Want to learn more about video MBA essays? Here is a complete guide.

Sample 18: Short-answer-based MBA application essay

Some business schools require candidates to respond to short questions to get insights into their personalities and suitability for the MBA program. More or less, most of the questions revolve around the same theme. The key to success is to grasp the intention of the admission committee behind the questions and to stick to your identity . These successful answers submitted to the Tepper School of Business will help you in formulating your answers.

Sample 19: MIT Sloan School of Management

This essay was submitted by a successful candidate for the MIT Sloan School of Management MBA program. See how this applicant smartly answered the essay questions.

Sample 20:  Michigan Ross School of Business MBA program

The Michigan Ross Business School asks a diverse range of questions from candidates to analyze their competencies from multiple perspectives. If Michigan Ross is where you intend to get your MBA, this essay submitted by a candidate who got admitted to the school’s MBA program will help keep you on track.

What Should be Included in the MBA Application Essay?

  • Your background: What shaped you into what you are now? Including ethnicity, obstacles, and struggles.
  • Self-reflection: Your values, characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • Your goals : How do you envision your future?
  • Aspirations: Why MBA is important to you and how this program will help you in shaping your future?
  • Justification: If you have low academic grades, explain the reasons you did not do well and what you learned from it.
  • Experience and achievements: What have you achieved so far?

These are the significant components of an MBA essay. Just adjust the sequence, play with words, and come up with a persuasive yet realistic picture of yourself.

mba applicant thinking what to write in her essay

What Makes a Great MBA Application Essay?

  • Be school-specific. Explain why you are passionate about the MBA program of the school to which you’re applying.
  • Avoid edition. Write simply and engagingly. Let the reader read a meaningful story about you.
  • Make it 100% typo-free. Grammatical errors and typos will ruin your essay. Apply standard essay format and structure guidelines , scan your piece several times for errors, get it reviewed by an expert, and present a very professional piece to the admission committee.
  • Be original. Do not copy-paste from any source. Strictly follow plagiarism guidelines.
  • Write an overwhelming introduction to urge the reader to keep reading and conclude your essay with a strong declaration.
  • Be authentic. Write what you are, not what the committee wants to read.
  • Be concise, as many schools impose a limit on the essay word count .

Do you want more tips? Here is a complete guide to writing a compelling MBA application essay.

The application essay is a core part of the admission process in the increasingly competitive MBA program. If you do not want to miss the chance of getting selected, you need to know what will make your essay stand out . The expert-vetted list of MBA application essay samples we cited here worked for the top business schools. Learn them by heart, and who knows, it may work for you too. Put your other activities aside, read and analyze the list carefully, and start writing your MBA essay to land in your dream business school.

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10+ Graduate School Essay Examples [ Master, Admission, Program ]

Graduate School Essay Examples

There are people who have plans to go beyond a bachelor’s degree. I salute you for going beyond just a bachelor’s degree, while others prefer to stay as it is. Which is really fine. For those who do want to go back to school by taking up a master’s degree, they have to go back to basics. Which means, they have to go and apply like they did when they were taking up their bachelor’s degree. Yes, this means that it’s going to be another round of essays. Hear me out, writing an application essay is not at all that bad. Let me explain.

When we want to be admitted to a school or a university, we are told to write an essay . This essay is our key to getting that spot. So writing an application essay for graduate school does not sound all that bad. It’s basically the same thing, and yet it’s not. It’s so much more. What do I mean? What I mean is, there are some things that you need to know when you want to write your own graduate school application essay. Stick around for more. Trust me, this article will help you get there.

10+ Graduate School Essay Examples

1. graduate school admission essay.

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2. Graduate School Essay Format

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3. Simple Graduate School Essay

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4. Graduate Business School Essay

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5. Graduate School Musician Essay

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6. Graduate School Crafting Essay

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7. Graduate Application School Essay

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8. Graduate Science School Essay

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9. Sample Graduate School Essay

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10. Graduate School Attending Essay

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11. Graduate School Essay Example

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What Is a Graduate School Essay?

First of all, I did mention that writing an essay is not as bad as it looks. I am serious about that, and with that in mind, let’s start off by defining what a graduate school essay is, the purpose and importance. So a graduate school essay is basically your key to getting a spot in the school you are hoping to enroll in too. Your essay is going to be the requirement that they need from you. So this means that your graduate school essay is going to be about you, your goals in life which could be short term or long term. In addition to that, the interests that you have and the reason as to why you plan to take up your grad school in that school.

Lastly, a graduate school essay should follow the format of a regular application essay. This means that you have to watch what you write. Focus more on who you are so that the committee would be able to get even a glimpse of you as a person. As for the purpose, it’s like an autobiography that you write to introduce yourself to the world. Your essay is not just a requirement but in a way defines who you are and if you are the right candidate for this grad school.

How to Write a Graduate School Essay?

Now that we know what a graduate school essay looks like as well as the purpose of a graduate school essay, you may be anticipating on how to write a good graduate school essay that could seriously knock those committees out. I know I am. Here we have five ways to write a good graduate school essay. Excited? Check these out now .

1. Do Your Research

I know what you are going to say, why do I need to do my research? What this means is that get to know or at least have an idea as to what the committee may be looking for. If you have even just a general idea as to what they may expect from your admission essay, you’re good to go. However, if you have no idea as to what they may ask of you or what they want you to write, you have to do your research. It’s better to be safe than sorry and you won’t have to waste your time rewriting your essay.

2. Make It Personal as You Can

Not to the point wherein they would know where you live, rather make your essay as personal as you can get. This means that it does not sound or look generic. It does not look as if you just copied something down and changed some words to make it look like your own. They can tell the difference, besides, writing a personal admission essay is quite rewarding. You get to pour out your feelings which are basically personal. This way the committee is able to know that you are quite serious with what you are doing and this is not just what others may call a phase. You are really committed to your graduate school, so let it show through your writing.

3. Get To Know Your Graduate School Degree

It goes without saying, the school committee may ask you a trick question, and often than not the trick question usually involves why did you choose this school over the other schools that offer the same thing. Be careful how you answer this kind of question, as the committees are going to be reading your answers and will assess how serious and true what you wrote. You can always add that you have been interested in their school since then and say a few nice words that do not sound forced either.

4. Add a Short Anecdote to Your Essay

The short anecdote for your essay has to fit with your essay as well as it has to contain something that can give you an upboost. Do not however add an anecdote that may contain any misinformation or misunderstandings. As well as do not add an anecdote to your essay if it only makes your essay look unprofessional.

5. End Your Essay With a Positive Note

Lastly, end your essay with a positive note. End the essay with hopes and dreams filled out. Not only is this a good chance for you to get in to the school of your choice, but it also shows the committee that you trust them with your goals and aspirations.

What is a graduate school essay?

A graduate school essay is a kind of essay that a student or a potential student writes to get admitted to the school they choose. It focuses on the career, hopes, goals, aspirations and dreams of the student in question.

Why is it a requirement to write an admission essay?

It is a requirement of a school to ask students to write because from the essay, they are able to get to know the person. To get a glimpse of who this person is and their goals in life.

How long is an admission essay?

An admission essay can be as long as a whole page or two. Depending on the writer and how many words are required from the committee.

You see it now? Writing an admission essay is not that bad at all. It’s just about who you are as a person, your goals and dreams. The next time you are told to write an essay, think about it. Do your research, understand what is being asked of you. Make it personal but not too personal. Make it happen.

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The essays are a key aspect of your application and are designed to inspire thoughtful reflection.

Your essays help us understand what character traits have propelled you in your career and tell us how the Stanford MSx (Masters in Management) Program is integral to maximizing your impact in the world after receiving your business masters degree.

  • Requirements

We require you to write two essays that answer the following prompts:

  • What matters most to you, and why? For this essay, we would like you to reflect deeply and write from the heart. Once you have identified what matters most to you, help us understand why. You might consider, for example, what makes this so important to you? What people, insights, or experiences have shaped your perspectives?
  • Why Stanford MSx, and why now? Describe your aspirations and how your Stanford MSx experience will help you realize them. Why is this the right time for you to pursue your master’s degree at Stanford GSB?

The admission committee can better engage with your essays if you format them appropriately. We encourage you to:

  • Submit one document with both essays
  • Include the prompt with its respective essay
  • Write concisely (total word count must not exceed 1,050 words)

Both essays combined may not exceed 1,050 words. We recommend up to 650 words for Essay A and up to 400 words for Essay B. We often find effective essays written in far fewer words.

Career Aspirations Short Answer Question (required)

Because the Stanford MSx program is for mid-career managers, it is valuable to have clear career goals in mind when you begin. Beyond a sentence or two, tell us about any specific career goals you have for the next few years, and how you believe the Stanford MSx Program, combined with your experience, education, or background, will help you achieve them. If you choose to explain this in your essay or other portions of the application, you can reference that here (no need to repeat), but be as specific as you can.

Optional Short Answer Question

What do we mean by “optional”? We truly mean you have the opportunity to choose. If you feel that you’ve already described your contributions well in other areas of the application, congratulations, you’re done! If not, feel free to use this opportunity to tell us more.

In the Essays section of the application, we ask you to tell us about who you are and how you think Stanford will help you achieve your aspirations. We are also interested in learning about the things you have done that are most meaningful to you. Perhaps you would like to expand upon a bullet item from your resume and tell us more about the “how” or “why” behind the “what.” Or maybe you have had an impact in a way that doesn’t fit neatly in another part of the application. You are welcome to share up to three examples (up to 1,200 characters, or approximately 200 words, for each example).

Question: Think about times you’ve created a positive impact, whether in professional, extracurricular, academic, or other settings. What was your impact? What made it significant to you or to others?

Qualities of Exceptional Essays

Exceptional essays are authentic: Write about what you are compelled to tell us, not what you believe the admission committee wants to hear. In addition, they:

  • Indicate self-awareness and acknowledge areas for growth opportunities
  • Express an understanding of your effect on others
  • Demonstrate how you want to maximize your impact on the world
  • Showcase your unique worldview and goals by being personal, specific, and honest
  • Detail how you see the MSx Program helping you achieve your goals and how you will leverage your year at Stanford

Additional Information (Optional)

The application provides an additional opportunity for you to share any other pertinent information not otherwise captured in your application. You might use this opportunity to:

  • Describe the circumstances affecting academic or work performance
  • Explain why you are not using a current supervisor as a reference
  • Address an academic suspension or expulsion

Recognized at the Highest Levels

With this elite degree on your resume—and the support of a global community behind you—you will experience exciting new career opportunities.

Student Tip: Authenticity Matters

“Talk to the accomplishments or challenges that you connect to emotionally, and not necessarily the most prestigious ones. It is easier to write a genuine and moving story if you are emotionally invested in it.”

— Sourabh Chirimar, MS ’19

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COMMENTS

  1. 3 Great Grad School Application Essay Examples

    3 Great Grad School Application Essay Examples The grad school personal statement is an important part of your application. Here are a few good graduate admission essay examples to inspire you. by CollegeXpress Last Updated: Jan 3, 2024 Originally Posted: Jun 15, 2017 Bookmark

  2. PDF 4 SAMPLE GRADUATE SCHOOL ESSAYS

    #1 4 SAMPLE GRADUATE SCHOOL ESSAYS #1. "From Working Poor to Elite Scholar" One of the proudest accomplishments of my life was earning my college degree, despite the fact that my early adulthood pointed in the opposite direction, beginning with my marriage at the age of 19.

  3. PDF Writing a Graduate School Application Essay

    Some additional tips for composing your application essay/statement: • Demonstrate motivation, enthusiasm, maturity, and personal uniqueness, while articulating clearly why the program is a good match for your interests; explain your passion for the field and note any connections to the department or program.

  4. How to Write a Grad School Application Essay

    Updated on March 20, 2023 Learn more about our editorial process Writing a graduate school admission essay can seem daunting. However, students can make the process easier by taking time to develop and organize their ideas before writing their personal statement.

  5. Application Essays

    This handout will help you write and revise the personal statement required by many graduate programs, internships, and special academic programs. Before you start writing

  6. Graduate School Application Essays

    Graduate School Application Essays Types of Essays Regardless of the type of school you are applying to, you will be required to submit an admissions essay as part of the application process. Graduate programs want students with clear commitment to the field.

  7. Grad School Sample Essays

    Grad school essay example #1: The environmental studies student Two scenes stand out in my mind from my visit to Brazil's Wetland: Forests burning before seed planting and trees as hedgerows. Before the planting season, I could see the leafless remnants of burnt trees still standing. READ MORE>>> What works Attention-grabbing opening:

  8. How to write a standout graduate admissions essay

    Map your ideas: Now that you have an idea of how to share your story within the context of the essay prompts, it's time to draft an outline . Map out your key points and outline the supporting examples. As you map the direction and flow of your essay through the outline, keep in mind your audience.

  9. Guide To Writing Your Grad School Admission Essay

    For example, if applying to a master of business administration program, you might want to talk about your undergraduate studies in business, internships with high-profile companies, past jobs...

  10. How to Write Your Grad School Application Essay

    All that being said, a lot of the advice that helped you write your undergrad essay still applies: tell a unique story, use vivid examples, be genuine, and, perhaps most importantly, explain why you'd be an asset to the program—and why the program would be an asset to you.

  11. PDF Graduate School Writing Samples

    July 10, 2022 1 The Goal of the Writing Sample A writing sample for graduate school primarily serves an evidential function: its purpose is to give evidence of your qualifications to enter graduate school at the program you're applying to.

  12. Essays

    Essays help us learn about who you are rather than solely what you have done. Other parts of the application give insight into your academic and professional accomplishments; the essays reveal the person behind those achievements. Essay Questions. We request that you write two personal essays. In each essay, we want to hear your genuine voice.

  13. Application Essays

    The graduate application essay is generally 1-5 pages and is your opportunity to share relevant information about yourself, your goals and why you would make a good match for the particular graduate program to which you are applying. First, check if your program of interest is listed below with a program-specific application essay question.

  14. Writing Statements of Purpose and Other Application Essays

    Types of Statements of Purpose and Other Application Essays. Depending on the program, you may be required to provide a statement of purpose, application essay, autobiographical essay, personal statement, career goal statement, background statement, or other similarly named piece of writing. Each of these commonly is your opportunity to provide ...

  15. Resume and Essays

    An essay response in addition to the program essay prompts is required for those submitting a separate admission application to a joint or combined partner program. If an applicant is applying to both a joint degree program partner school (HBS or HLS) and a combined degree partner school, the text of the essay prompt is the same.

  16. Harvard Kennedy School MPP and MPA2 Application Essay Tips [2021

    The essays discussed below are for the MPP and the two-year MPA applications. (The MPA/ID and the MC/MPA and Mason's program have different prompts.) HKS seeks accomplished, well-rounded master's students - people with proven academic success, strong leadership and career potential, and "commitment to advancing the public interest.".

  17. 3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples • Pr

    Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 3. PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 3 - Public Health. This is my successful personal statement for Columbia's Master's program in Public Health. We'll do a deep dive on this statement paragraph-by-paragraph in the next section, but I'll highlight a couple of things that ...

  18. 20 Great MBA Application Essay Samples (With Links)

    By: Rafal Reyzer Updated: Sep 28th, 2023 Want to ace your MBA application? A stellar essay can be your golden ticket. With elite business schools like Harvard and Stanford boasting acceptance rates as low as 10% and 6% respectively, every aspect of your application counts. While GPA and GMAT scores matter, your essay can be a game-changer.

  19. Graduate School Essay

    10+ Graduate School Essay Examples. 1. Graduate School Admission Essay. 2. Graduate School Essay Format. When we want to be admitted to a school or a university, we are told to write an essay. This essay is our key to getting that spot. So writing an application essay for graduate school does not sound all that bad.

  20. Preparing your personal statement for graduate school applications

    Customize your statement for each program to which you apply. Each program will provide a brief description of what it wants in the applicant's statement of purpose, the length and topics. One program may want 500 words covering topics A, B and C. Another program may want 1,500 words covering topics A, B, D and E. Pay attention to these ...

  21. Statement of Purpose for Grad School I Stanford Online

    Reasons for applying Specific course work on your transcript that meets the course and or certificate prerequisites Relevant aspects of your professional experience Tips for Writing your Statement of Purpose After you fully understand the prompt for the program you're applying to, use these tips to guide your writing: Be Concise and Focused

  22. Essays

    In the Essays section of the application, we ask you to tell us about who you are and how you think Stanford will help you achieve your aspirations. We are also interested in learning about the things you have done that are most meaningful to you. Perhaps you would like to expand upon a bullet item from your resume and tell us more about the ...

  23. How to Write An Outstanding Career Goals Essay for MBA Programs

    Career Goals Essay Body paragraph 1: what you've done so far. In the first body paragraph of your essay, you have one task: establish yourself as the expert. You've hinted at this in the "why you" component of your intro, but now's the time to set it in stone.