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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.

How to Write the Graduate Admissions Essay

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It should come as no surprise that most applicants do not enjoy drafting their graduate admissions essay. Writing a statement that tells a graduate admissions committee all about you and can potentially make or break your application is stressful. Take a different perspective, however, and you will find that your admissions essay is not as daunting as it seems.

What is its Purpose?

Your graduate school application provides the admissions committee with a great deal of information about you that cannot be found elsewhere in your graduate application. The other parts of your graduate school application tell the admissions committee about your grades (i.e., transcript ), your academic promise (i.e., GRE scores ), and what your professors think of you (i.e., recommendation letters ). Despite all of this information, the admissions committee does not learn much about you as an individual. What are your goals? Why are you applying to graduate school?

With so many applicants and so few slots, it's critical that graduate admissions committees learn as much as possible about applicants so as to ensure that they choose students who best fit their program and are most likely to succeed and complete a graduate degree. Your admissions essay explains who you are, your goals, and the ways in which you match the graduate program to which you are applying.

What Do I Write About?

Graduate applications often ask that applicants write in response to specific statements and prompts . Most prompts ask applicants to comment on how their backgrounds have shaped their goals, describe an influential person or experience, or discuss their ultimate career goals. Some graduate programs request that applicants write a more generic autobiographical statement, most often referred to as a personal statement.

What is a Personal Statement?

A personal statement is a general statement of your background, preparation, and goals. Many applicants find it challenging to write a personal statement because there is no clear prompt to guide their writing. An effective personal statement conveys how your background and experiences have shaped your career goals, how you are well matched to your chosen career and provides insight into your character and maturity. No easy feat. If you are asked to write a generic personal statement, pretend that the prompt instead requires you to discuss how your experiences, interests, and abilities have lead you to your chosen career.

Begin Your Admissions Essay by Taking Notes About Yourself

Before you write your admissions essay you must have an understanding of your goals and how your experiences to date prepare you for pursuing your goals. A self-assessment is critical to gathering the information you need to write a comprehensive essay . You likely will not (and should not) use all of the information that you gather. Evaluate all of the information you gather and determine your priorities. Most of us have many interests, for example. Decide which are most important to you. As you consider your essay, plan to discuss the information that supports your goals and what is most important to you.

Take Notes on the Graduate Program

Writing an effective graduate admissions essay requires knowing your audience. Consider the graduate program at hand. What specific training does it offer? What is its philosophy? How well do your interests and goals match the program? Discuss the ways in which your background and competencies overlap with the graduate program's requirements and training opportunities. If you're applying to a doctoral program, take a close look at the faculty. What are their research interests? Which labs are most productive? Pay attention to whether faculty take on students or appear to have openings in their labs. Peruse the department page, faculty pages, and lab pages.

Remember That an Admissions Essay is Simply an Essay

By this time in your academic career, you have likely written a great many essays for class assignments and exams. Your admissions essay is similar to any other essay you have written. It has an introduction, body, and conclusion . Your admissions essay presents an argument, just as any other essay does. Granted, the argument concerns your capacities for graduate study and the outcome can determine the fate of your application. Regardless, an essay is an essay.

Beginning is the Hardest Part of Writing

I believe this holds true for all types of writing, but especially for drafting graduate admissions essays. Many writers stare at a blank screen and wonder how to begin. If you search for the perfect opening and delay writing until you find just the right angle, phrasing, or metaphor you may never write your graduate admissions essay. Writer's block is common among applicants writing admissions essays . The best way to avoid writer's block is to write something, anything. The trick to beginning your essay is to not start at the beginning. Write the parts that feel natural, such as how your experiences have driven your career choices. You will heavily edit whatever you write so don't worry about how you phrase your ideas. Simply get the ideas out. It is easier to edit than write so your goal as you begin your admissions essay is to simply write as much as you can.

Edit, Proof, and Seek Feedback

Once you have a rough draft of your admissions essay, keep in mind that it is a rough draft. Your task is to craft the argument, support your points, and construct an introduction and conclusion that guides readers. Perhaps the best piece of advice I can offer on writing your admissions essay is to solicit feedback from many sources, especially faculty. You may feel that you have made a good case and that your writing is clear, but if a reader cannot follow it, your writing isn't clear. As you write your final draft, check for common errors. Perfect your essay as best you can and once it's submitted congratulate yourself for completing one of the most challenging tasks entailed in applying to graduate school.​

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  • How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

Published on February 12, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 3, 2023.

A personal statement is a short essay of around 500–1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you’re applying.

To write a successful personal statement for a graduate school application , don’t just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to demonstrate three things:

  • Your personality: what are your interests, values, and motivations?
  • Your talents: what can you bring to the program?
  • Your goals: what do you hope the program will do for you?

This article guides you through some winning strategies to build a strong, well-structured personal statement for a master’s or PhD application. You can download the full examples below.

Urban Planning Psychology History

Table of contents

Getting started with your personal statement, the introduction: start with an attention-grabbing opening, the main body: craft your narrative, the conclusion: look ahead, revising, editing, and proofreading your personal statement, frequently asked questions, other interesting articles.

Before you start writing, the first step is to understand exactly what’s expected of you. If the application gives you a question or prompt for your personal statement, the most important thing is to respond to it directly.

For example, you might be asked to focus on the development of your personal identity; challenges you have faced in your life; or your career motivations. This will shape your focus and emphasis—but you still need to find your own unique approach to answering it.

There’s no universal template for a personal statement; it’s your chance to be creative and let your own voice shine through. But there are strategies you can use to build a compelling, well-structured story.

The first paragraph of your personal statement should set the tone and lead smoothly into the story you want to tell.

Strategy 1: Open with a concrete scene

An effective way to catch the reader’s attention is to set up a scene that illustrates something about your character and interests. If you’re stuck, try thinking about:

  • A personal experience that changed your perspective
  • A story from your family’s history
  • A memorable teacher or learning experience
  • An unusual or unexpected encounter

To write an effective scene, try to go beyond straightforward description; start with an intriguing sentence that pulls the reader in, and give concrete details to create a convincing atmosphere.

Strategy 2: Open with your motivations

To emphasize your enthusiasm and commitment, you can start by explaining your interest in the subject you want to study or the career path you want to follow.

Just stating that it interests you isn’t enough: first, you need to figure out why you’re interested in this field:

  • Is it a longstanding passion or a recent discovery?
  • Does it come naturally or have you had to work hard at it?
  • How does it fit into the rest of your life?
  • What do you think it contributes to society?

Tips for the introduction

  • Don’t start on a cliche: avoid phrases like “Ever since I was a child…” or “For as long as I can remember…”
  • Do save the introduction for last. If you’re struggling to come up with a strong opening, leave it aside, and note down any interesting ideas that occur to you as you write the rest of the personal statement.

Once you’ve set up the main themes of your personal statement, you’ll delve into more detail about your experiences and motivations.

To structure the body of your personal statement, there are various strategies you can use.

Strategy 1: Describe your development over time

One of the simplest strategies is to give a chronological overview of key experiences that have led you to apply for graduate school.

  • What first sparked your interest in the field?
  • Which classes, assignments, classmates, internships, or other activities helped you develop your knowledge and skills?
  • Where do you want to go next? How does this program fit into your future plans?

Don’t try to include absolutely everything you’ve done—pick out highlights that are relevant to your application. Aim to craft a compelling narrative that shows how you’ve changed and actively developed yourself.

My interest in psychology was first sparked early in my high school career. Though somewhat scientifically inclined, I found that what interested me most was not the equations we learned about in physics and chemistry, but the motivations and perceptions of my fellow students, and the subtle social dynamics that I observed inside and outside the classroom. I wanted to learn how our identities, beliefs, and behaviours are shaped through our interactions with others, so I decided to major in Social Psychology. My undergraduate studies deepened my understanding of, and fascination with, the interplay between an individual mind and its social context.During my studies, I acquired a solid foundation of knowledge about concepts like social influence and group dynamics, but I also took classes on various topics not strictly related to my major. I was particularly interested in how other fields intersect with psychology—the classes I took on media studies, biology, and literature all enhanced my understanding of psychological concepts by providing different lenses through which to look at the issues involved.

Strategy 2: Own your challenges and obstacles

If your path to graduate school hasn’t been easy or straightforward, you can turn this into a strength, and structure your personal statement as a story of overcoming obstacles.

  • Is your social, cultural or economic background underrepresented in the field? Show how your experiences will contribute a unique perspective.
  • Do you have gaps in your resume or lower-than-ideal grades? Explain the challenges you faced and how you dealt with them.

Don’t focus too heavily on negatives, but use them to highlight your positive qualities. Resilience, resourcefulness and perseverance make you a promising graduate school candidate.

Growing up working class, urban decay becomes depressingly familiar. The sight of a row of abandoned houses does not surprise me, but it continues to bother me. Since high school, I have been determined to pursue a career in urban planning. While people of my background experience the consequences of urban planning decisions first-hand, we are underrepresented in the field itself. Ironically, given my motivation, my economic background has made my studies challenging. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship for my undergraduate studies, but after graduation I took jobs in unrelated fields to help support my parents. In the three years since, I have not lost my ambition. Now I am keen to resume my studies, and I believe I can bring an invaluable perspective to the table: that of the people most impacted by the decisions of urban planners.

Strategy 3: Demonstrate your knowledge of the field

Especially if you’re applying for a PhD or another research-focused program, it’s a good idea to show your familiarity with the subject and the department. Your personal statement can focus on the area you want to specialize in and reflect on why it matters to you.

  • Reflect on the topics or themes that you’ve focused on in your studies. What draws you to them?
  • Discuss any academic achievements, influential teachers, or other highlights of your education.
  • Talk about the questions you’d like to explore in your research and why you think they’re important.

The personal statement isn’t a research proposal , so don’t go overboard on detail—but it’s a great opportunity to show your enthusiasm for the field and your capacity for original thinking.

In applying for this research program, my intention is to build on the multidisciplinary approach I have taken in my studies so far, combining knowledge from disparate fields of study to better understand psychological concepts and issues. The Media Psychology program stands out to me as the perfect environment for this kind of research, given its researchers’ openness to collaboration across diverse fields. I am impressed by the department’s innovative interdisciplinary projects that focus on the shifting landscape of media and technology, and I hope that my own work can follow a similarly trailblazing approach. More specifically, I want to develop my understanding of the intersection of psychology and media studies, and explore how media psychology theories and methods might be applied to neurodivergent minds. I am interested not only in media psychology but also in psychological disorders, and how the two interact. This is something I touched on during my undergraduate studies and that I’m excited to delve into further.

Strategy 4: Discuss your professional ambitions

Especially if you’re applying for a more professionally-oriented program (such as an MBA), it’s a good idea to focus on concrete goals and how the program will help you achieve them.

  • If your career is just getting started, show how your character is suited to the field, and explain how graduate school will help you develop your talents.
  • If you have already worked in the profession, show what you’ve achieved so far, and explain how the program will allow you to take the next step.
  • If you are planning a career change, explain what has driven this decision and how your existing experience will help you succeed.

Don’t just state the position you want to achieve. You should demonstrate that you’ve put plenty of thought into your career plans and show why you’re well-suited to this profession.

One thing that fascinated me about the field during my undergraduate studies was the sheer number of different elements whose interactions constitute a person’s experience of an urban environment. Any number of factors could transform the scene I described at the beginning: What if there were no bus route? Better community outreach in the neighborhood? Worse law enforcement? More or fewer jobs available in the area? Some of these factors are out of the hands of an urban planner, but without taking them all into consideration, the planner has an incomplete picture of their task. Through further study I hope to develop my understanding of how these disparate elements combine and interact to create the urban environment. I am interested in the social, psychological and political effects our surroundings have on our lives. My studies will allow me to work on projects directly affecting the kinds of working-class urban communities I know well. I believe I can bring my own experiences, as well as my education, to bear upon the problem of improving infrastructure and quality of life in these communities.

Tips for the main body

  • Don’t rehash your resume by trying to summarize everything you’ve done so far; the personal statement isn’t about listing your academic or professional experience, but about reflecting, evaluating, and relating it to broader themes.
  • Do make your statements into stories: Instead of saying you’re hard-working and self-motivated, write about your internship where you took the initiative to start a new project. Instead of saying you’ve always loved reading, reflect on a novel or poem that changed your perspective.

Your conclusion should bring the focus back to the program and what you hope to get out of it, whether that’s developing practical skills, exploring intellectual questions, or both.

Emphasize the fit with your specific interests, showing why this program would be the best way to achieve your aims.

Strategy 1: What do you want to know?

If you’re applying for a more academic or research-focused program, end on a note of curiosity: what do you hope to learn, and why do you think this is the best place to learn it?

If there are specific classes or faculty members that you’re excited to learn from, this is the place to express your enthusiasm.

Strategy 2: What do you want to do?

If you’re applying for a program that focuses more on professional training, your conclusion can look to your career aspirations: what role do you want to play in society, and why is this program the best choice to help you get there?

Tips for the conclusion

  • Don’t summarize what you’ve already said. You have limited space in a personal statement, so use it wisely!
  • Do think bigger than yourself: try to express how your individual aspirations relate to your local community, your academic field, or society more broadly. It’s not just about what you’ll get out of graduate school, but about what you’ll be able to give back.

You’ll be expected to do a lot of writing in graduate school, so make a good first impression: leave yourself plenty of time to revise and polish the text.

Your style doesn’t have to be as formal as other kinds of academic writing, but it should be clear, direct and coherent. Make sure that each paragraph flows smoothly from the last, using topic sentences and transitions to create clear connections between each part.

Don’t be afraid to rewrite and restructure as much as necessary. Since you have a lot of freedom in the structure of a personal statement, you can experiment and move information around to see what works best.

Finally, it’s essential to carefully proofread your personal statement and fix any language errors. Before you submit your application, consider investing in professional personal statement editing . For $150, you have the peace of mind that your personal statement is grammatically correct, strong in term of your arguments, and free of awkward mistakes.

A statement of purpose is usually more formal, focusing on your academic or professional goals. It shouldn’t include anything that isn’t directly relevant to the application.

A personal statement can often be more creative. It might tell a story that isn’t directly related to the application, but that shows something about your personality, values, and motivations.

However, both types of document have the same overall goal: to demonstrate your potential as a graduate student and s how why you’re a great match for the program.

The typical length of a personal statement for graduate school applications is between 500 and 1,000 words.

Different programs have different requirements, so always check if there’s a minimum or maximum length and stick to the guidelines. If there is no recommended word count, aim for no more than 1-2 pages.

If you’re applying to multiple graduate school programs, you should tailor your personal statement to each application.

Some applications provide a prompt or question. In this case, you might have to write a new personal statement from scratch: the most important task is to respond to what you have been asked.

If there’s no prompt or guidelines, you can re-use the same idea for your personal statement – but change the details wherever relevant, making sure to emphasize why you’re applying to this specific program.

If the application also includes other essays, such as a statement of purpose , you might have to revise your personal statement to avoid repeating the same information.

If you want to know more about college essays , academic writing , and AI tools , make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

College essays

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Articles & Advice > Graduate School > Articles

Dark-haired male wearing glasses, holding pencil to chin, thinking in study

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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How to Write an MBA Application Essay

26 th August 2022

How to Write an MBA Application Essay

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One of the most important aspects of your application to an MBA course will be the application essay, and with this article, we hope to make these potentially tricky bits of writing much easier to understand. The application essay will be one of your first opportunities to truly show the faculty at the university your grasp of business concepts, enthusiasm for the field, and innovations you can bring to the department. As such, it is vital that you comprehend the task that is set for you, and complete it to the best of your abilities. Read on to find out how you can go about doing this... 

What is an MBA Application Essay?

Anyone who applies for an MBA course is usually expected to write at least one application essay. Be prepared though, as sometimes there will be more than one essay question, for instance the London Business Schools have had three essay questions in previous years, such as...

  • What are your post-MBA plans and how will your past experience and the London Business School programme contribute?  
  • What specific areas of London Business School life are you most excited about getting involved in and where will you add value?  
  • Is there any other information you believe the Admissions Committee should know about you and your application to London Business School?

The essay may sound like a nightmare, but it actually provides you with a great opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are and why you should be on their course.

Why is Writing a Good MBA Application Essay Important?

Short of interviewing everyone applying for a place, there is no other way for an admissions committee to really get to know each applicant. The essay questions are designed to elicit a real feel of your thoughts about yourself, the course and your future.

So it’s vital to produce a high quality and thoughtful essay, as it’s the only chance you’re going to get to show the committee how important the course is to you, as well as how integral it is to your future plans.

Tips to Remember When Writing an MBA Application Essay

Every application essay is going to be different, but here are some tips that apply to every essay though...

  • Word limits should never be exceeded. Go over and it’ll look like you haven’t read or couldn’t be bothered to follow the instructions.  
  • The question should always be answered. Resist temptation to go off track and try and stay on topic. ​
  • The tone should be professional. No lols, omgs or generally overly friendly words.  
  • Always proof read, proof read again and then ask friends and family to proof read again for you. Just in case. 

Read Example MBA Application Essays

It’s always good to look at some examples of successful essays that landed that particular student a place on the course for inspiration and motivation (after all, if they did it, so can you). You should be able to find some using any of the usual popular internet search engines. Reading through these essays should give you a good idea of the standard that business schools are looking for as well as showing you how to create an effective essay to accompany your application. 

Next: Read more about How To Write an MBA Personal Statement

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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Writing the Personal Statement

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This handout provides information about writing personal statements for academic and other positions.

The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories:

1. The general, comprehensive personal statement:

This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms.

2. The response to very specific questions:

Often, business and graduate school applications ask specific questions, and your statement should respond specifically to the question being asked. Some business school applications favor multiple essays, typically asking for responses to three or more questions.

Questions to ask yourself before you write:

  • What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story?
  • What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
  • When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
  • How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
  • If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre LSAT or GRE scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
  • Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
  • What personal characteristics (for example, integrity, compassion, and/or persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
  • What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
  • Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession or field than other applicants?
  • What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?

General advice

Answer the questions that are asked

  • If you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar.
  • Don't be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It is important to answer each question being asked, and if slightly different answers are needed, you should write separate statements. In every case, be sure your answer fits the question being asked.

Tell a story

  • Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is to bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourself memorable.

Be specific

  • Don't, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to become a lawyer, engineer, or whatever should be logical, the result of specific experience that is described in your statement. Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story.

Find an angle

  • If you're like most people, your life story lacks drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle or a "hook" is vital.

Concentrate on your opening paragraph

  • The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement.

Tell what you know

  • The middle section of your essay might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as some of your knowledge of the field. Too many people graduate with little or no knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the profession or field they hope to enter. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information. Refer to experiences (work, research, etc.), classes, conversations with people in the field, books you've read, seminars you've attended, or any other source of specific information about the career you want and why you're suited to it. Since you will have to select what you include in your statement, the choices you make are often an indication of your judgment.

Don't include some subjects

  • There are certain things best left out of personal statements. For example, references to experiences or accomplishments in high school or earlier are generally not a good idea. Don't mention potentially controversial subjects (for example, controversial religious or political issues).

Do some research, if needed

  • If a school wants to know why you're applying to it rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention.

Write well and correctly

  • Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits.

Avoid clichés

  • A medical school applicant who writes that he is good at science and wants to help other people is not exactly expressing an original thought. Stay away from often-repeated or tired statements.

For more information on writing a personal statement, see the personal statement vidcast .

How to Write a Post Graduate Essay

A post-graduate essay is one which goes beyond the level of undergraduate thinking to demonstrate a higher level of independent thought. In other words, you should be able to show your reader that you have mastered the subject.  This is achieved by ensuring your arguments are placed in the right context, that you have considered and reviewed trends, themes, paradigms, and debates within your discipline. To understand how to put all of this into your essay, you should focus your essay on meeting the following criteria.

Criteria for achieving Master’s level essay writing

  • There is evidence of sufficient and relevant background reading in the topic.
  • There is a clear statement of aims and the content is appropriate to the title.
  • The flow is logical and coherent (i.e., well-structured).
  • There is clear evidence of a systematic process of evaluation, critical analysis, and evaluation in the way that arguments are presented.
  • Themes and arguments are presented clearly and without being overly wordy.
  • The work has been clearly proof-read and includes where necessary relevant diagrams, illustrations, tables, and figures to back up arguments.
  • The work shows correct citation conventions and a clear and accurate reference list/bibliography.

Of course, in order to meet all of these criteria, it is vital to pre-plan your essay, and draw up a brief outline before writing.

Planning your Post-graduate Essay

The main steps in planning your post-graduate essay are:

Identify your key sources

Sources can be from logical reasoning, credible works in the field or primary data that you obtain independently.  In each case you need to be sure that the sources are appropriate, have value and credibility and that the sources are trustworthy.  It is good practice to write a list of potential sources during planning, because although you may not use them in the final work, this supports the building up of your own personal database of sources in your field.

Plan your word count

In this section of the plan, you need to determine the approximate word count that cover the various sections.  For example, an essay which ask you to outline the challenges of an area and then discuss potential solutions would naturally require a greater number of words for the discussion section.  Effective post-graduate essays are a balance of information, with key points being given a greater percentage of words than sub-themes.

Plan out your arguments

Post-graduate essays are all about effective delivery of arguments.  Therefore, in the planning stage it is vital to identify potential objections/refutations of your reasoning and how you will counteract these in your essay. This ensures that you are providing the necessary balance and demonstrating critical thinking and evaluation.

Writing your Post-Graduate Essay

As with all essays, a post-graduate essay will consist of an introduction, body text and conclusion /summary.  However, there are some additional elements that should be included to demonstrate your mastery of your topic.


The introduction should begin with a hook that draws in the reader.  This is known as an orientation and will be a general statement on the value of the topic under discussion and should include a brief level of background information and reference to prior works. The orientation should be followed by a justification for your essay which includes identification or indication of a gap or references to questions or problems in the topic area and thus why there is value in your essay and arguments.  The final step in producing a first-class introduction is indicating the aims or thesis statement for your essay, an overview of the structure and approach taken (methods) and the intended outcome of your evaluation.

From your plan you will already have the word count and logical structure of the essay.  For this section, there should be a separate paragraph for each argument or counterargument, with key sources cited appropriately.  It is important in the body text to ensure that your argument flows in a logical manner, and not to switch between arguments as this can be confusing for the reader and suggests that you have not effectively planned your essay.  You should also ensure that one-point flows naturally into the text using connective phrases such as “Furthermore”, “In addition”, or “Despite these indications” etc.  Throughout the body text you ensure you should reference appropriately and cite all sources at the end of your essay.  Note: Unless direct quotes are central to your arguments, you should avoid them where possible and paraphrase into your words.

Conclusion / Summary

The conclusion of your postgraduate essay should not include any new information.  The aim of the conclusion is to reaffirm your main arguments, and the rationale / reasoning behind these, in a concise and logical manner.  In closing, ensure you have clearly stated your position and indicate any further action that needs to be taken, for example, additional studies or examination of one particular point.

Some Key Phrases for a good post-graduate essay

To show reasoning:.

“Because of/since/given the fact that…”

“In light of”

“The implication is.”

For conclusions and consequences

“Therefore/ as a result/Thus…

“For these reasons we can say that…

“This leads to/implies/suggests/provides…

For discussing /refuting counterarguments/criticisms:

“It could be argued, as indicated by… that…

“One objection to this view comes from…

“While this may be true in the case of… it does not apply…

“It is unclear how x was measured/identified.

“… provides an ineffective argument regarding…”

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10 tips on MBA admissions interviews and essays

10 tips on MBA admissions interviews and essays

admission essay postgraduate

So you’ve done all the research, decided on the MBA program that’s right for you, and have your heart set on the perfect business school. Now comes the hard part: getting accepted onto the program.

Every school has their own MBA admissions process and culture, and will look for different things from their candidates. But there are some universal tips and tricks that can help you get your foot in the door. Here, Hult’s Vice President of Enrollment and Strategy, Fernando Mora, gives tips on how to ace your MBA admissions essays and interview.

Fernando started at Hult in 2006 at our Boston campus as an enrollment advisor for Latin American candidates. He then worked as a director on the team for North American candidates before moving to London in 2008 to lead the European team. He has more than ten years’ experience interviewing 1000s of MBA candidates from all over the world.

We asked Fernando what advice he had for candidates wanting to ace their MBA admissions interviews and essays. Here are Fernando’s top ten tips:

Tip 1. Have a clear plan for the future and communicate it clearly

People who perform best in admissions interviews are those who have a clear plan for the future. The first question is always about background, and most people are confident talking about that, it acts as a nice warm up. Where people stumble is when you ask them about their plan for the future.

“Where people stumble is when you ask them about their plan for the future.”

If we don’t know what you want to accomplish with your MBA, how can we know if this is the right program for you? It’s so important to have thought through before you get to interview what you want to achieve and how your MBA is going to help you achieve it. Even if you have several options, at least show you’ve thought about it.

Students on a one-year program have to be super focused, super motivated. And this is going to be a lot easier if you have a clear path mapped out from the beginning.

This is especially important if you’re applying for scholarships. We make scholarship offers based on a candidate’s potential, not just past achievements. So if you don’t have a vision, we can’t assess your potential.

Tip 2. Sell your vision

Passion is infectious. The more passionate you are about your vision for the future, the more we are going to want to support it, and you. I remember one candidate who really stood out. He had really interesting aspirations for his own business, like many people who come to Hult. What made him different was the way he sold his idea to me like I was an investor. By the end of the interview, he totally had my buy in for his future plans. In fact I was cheering him on! And that’s all to do with showing passion and conviction in your ideas, and selling them to your audience.

Tip 3. Don’t make the interviewer work hard

Some candidates have a tendency to wait for us to ask the questions and follow our lead with everything. We have to work really hard to get the information out of them. These are not going to be the standout candidates; they are easily forgettable.

The ones we remember are the ones who make our job easy – they take a question and they run with it, using it to showcase their vision and their talent. Some will turn the tables so they are questioning us, trying to find out how we can support them and effectively leading the interview – there’s evidence of leadership potential right there.

An admissions interview works the same as a job interview. You need to persuade the interviewer that you are the right candidate for the role. And we want to be persuaded!

“An admissions interview works the same as a job interview. You need to persuade the interviewer that you are the right candidate for the role.”

Tip 4. Have the name of at least one company you want to work for

This is a simple one. But it’s something so many candidates struggle with – naming a company they want to work for. If I’m not really understanding what a candidate wants to do with their career, I’ll ask them to tell me who they’d like to work for. That way, I can instantly place them – ah, they want to work for an edgy startup, a tech innovator, a big consultancy.

I’m not judging their career aspirations, there’s no right or wrong answer here – it’s just to help me get a better understanding of who they are and how we can help them.

So have at least one company name up your sleeve that you’d like to be employed by and make sure you can explain why. Because if you can’t answer a simple question like that quickly and confidently, it just makes it look like you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to do.

“Have at least one company name up your sleeve that you’d like to be employed by and make sure you can explain why.”

Tip 5. Show you have an entrepreneurial spirit

Every school is different so make sure you do a little research and look at the kind of qualities they’re looking for in a candidate. At Hult, business and adventure go hand in hand and we’re looking for people with a similar mindset.

Candidates who see career propositions as possible adventures – full of entrepreneurial spirit , innovation, and growth opportunity – those are the candidates that really excite us. They are looking at the big picture, far beyond the MBA program.

At the end of the day, an MBA is a springboard into the rest of your career, the rest of your life – it’s not “I pay this, I get that” sort of exchange. Candidates who see their MBA as an investment, as an adventure, those are going to be the ones who get the most out of the experience. Open-mindedness, adaptability, and resilience – these are qualities we value highly at Hult.

Tip 6. Concentrate on communicating your ideas, not your grammar

This is particularly relevant for candidates who are interviewing in a language that is not their native tongue but it applies to everyone. What an interviewer cares about is the substance behind what you’re saying, not the way you are saying it.

If you are worrying about whether or not you are using exactly the correct words or if your grammar is perfect, you are less likely to talk in a compelling and engaging way.

“If you are worrying about whether or not you are using exactly the correct words or if your grammar is perfect, you are less likely to talk in a compelling and engaging way.”

I remember one candidate who had excellent test scores for English proficiency and could write excellent English too. When I interviewed him, it was clear his spoken English wasn’t perfect. But he wasn’t hung up on finding exactly the right word or sentence structure and he could express himself brilliantly. We’re not here to mark your grammar; we want to understand your vision.

Tip 7. Interview in person if you can

It’s always best to do an admissions interview face-to-face if possible. You’re more likely to be able to get your point across clearly and build a rapport with the interviewer. It can be hard if you’re based far from the school, but it may be worthwhile making the journey if you can.

If you do have to have to do the interview remotely, a video call like Skype or Google Hangout is the second best option but make sure you have a good internet connection.

Tip 8. Approach your admissions essay like an executive summary

Different schools have different things they’re looking for from an admissions essay. So make sure you do a bit of research so you’re clear on the sort of essay you’re expected to write.

Hult’s MBA admissions process is designed to assess what skills a candidate has that makes them likely to succeed in business, not at university. Our essays are not academic exercises; they are business tools.

We only ask for one basic admissions essay or ‘personal statement’ and we ask it to be short, no more than 500 words. What matters in business is that you can communicate an idea clearly, concisely, and persuasively. And that’s what we’re looking for in a personal statement – it’s like the executive summary to your application.

Tip 9. Use formatting to make your MBA admissions essays easy to read

The enrolment team and the admissions committee read hundreds of essays every application deadline, running into thousands for the year. And they read them quickly. Make your essay as easy to read as possible so we can concentrate on your ideas:

  • Break the text up into paragraphs; you’d be amazed at the number of essays we receive that are just one big block of text. That is painful to read and detracts from the substance of what’s actually being written about.
  • Use bullet points – like this!
  • Use subheaders

There’s no need to overdo it and make the text look messy and confusing. But using formatting to organize information and highlight important points is basic good practice in business writing because it helps your reader skim the text and still get all the important information.

Tip 10. Use real examples of things you’ve actually done in your MBA admissions essays

For most Hult scholarships, we require candidates to submit two essays – a personal statement and an additional scholarship essay. Like the personal statement, we ask this to be short at under 500 words, for the same reason that these essays are not intended to be academic, they should be pragmatic.

We have a range of scholarships, such as Global Professional, Social Impact, Women in Business, and Entrepreneurial Impact. Competition is fierce and the question we’re asking when we read an MBA scholarship essay is: Why is this candidate worthy of a scholarship? And we’re looking for evidence.

Most candidates say they have good ethics, and values, and beliefs. But the only way we can know that’s true is if they show it by using real examples of things they have actually done – personally and professionally. Don’t talk about what you believe, talk about what you’ve done that demonstrates those beliefs.

“Don’t talk about what you believe, talk about what you’ve done that demonstrate those beliefs.”

Get straight to the point, and connect your past experience with your future plan. If you have an interesting story, it’s a bonus, but what matters are the things you’ve done and the results you’ve gotten.

Not sure whether a one-year or two year MBA is right for you? This article weighs up the pros and cons of both.

Make the most of what your career has to offer with a Masters in International Business from Hult. To learn more, take a look at our blog 5 big reasons why to apply early for your MBA or Masters , or give your employability a huge boost with an MBA in international business . Download a brochure or get in touch today to find out how Hult can help you to explore everything about the business world, the future, and yourself.v

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admission essay postgraduate

Not sure what graduate schools are looking for in a statement of purpose? Looking at successful graduate school statement of purpose samples can help! In this guide, we’ll orient you to what makes a great statement of purpose or letter of intent for graduate school. Then we’ll provide you with four successful statement of purpose examples from our graduate school experts. We’ll also provide analysis of what makes them successful. Finally, we’ll direct you to even more helpful examples that you can find online!

The Graduate School Statement of Purpose: An Overview

A statement of purpose (also called a letter of intent or a research statement) introduces your interests and experience to the admissions committee. For research-focused programs, like most PhDs and many master’s degrees, your statement of purpose will focus primarily on your past research experience and plans. For more professionally-focused graduate programs, your statement of purpose will primarily discuss how your pursuit of this professional program relates to your past experiences, and how you will use the skills from the program in your future career.

A statement of purpose for grad school is also where you sell the admissions committee on why you belong in their program specifically. Why do you fit there, and how does what they offer fit your interests?


What’s in a Great Grad School Statement of Purpose?

Here are the essential elements of a strong graduate school statement of purpose:

Clear Articulation of Goals and Interests

A strong statement of purpose will clearly and specifically lay out your goals in undertaking the program and what you hope to accomplish with the degree. Again, for a research-focused program, this will focus primarily on the research project(s) you want to undertake while you are there. For a more professional program, discuss what interests you within the professional field and what skills/knowledge you hope to gain through the program.

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You should be as specific as possible in discussing what interests you. Use examples of particular phenomena, tools, or situations that you find exciting. If you are vague or say that everything in the field interests you, you run the risk of seeming unfocused or not actually that passionate.

Don’t worry that being too specific will box you into a particular research area or subfield during your entire tenure in graduate school. Your program understands that interests change—they won’t be pulling out your research statement to cross-reference with your dissertation proposal!

Evidence of Past Experience and Success

A great graduate school statement of purpose will also show programs that you have already been successful. They want applicants that will be able to follow through on their research/professional plans!

To this end, you’ll need to provide evidence of how your background qualifies you to pursue this program and your specific interests in the field. You’ll probably discuss your undergraduate studies and any professional experience you have. But be sure to draw on specific, vivid examples.  You might draw on your thesis, major projects you’ve worked on, papers you have written/published, presentations you’ve given, mentors you’ve worked with, and so on. This gives admissions committees concrete evidence that you are qualified to undertake graduate study!


Interest and Fit With the Program

The third essential ingredient to a great statement of purpose is to clearly lay out why you and the program are a good fit. You should be able to identify both specific reasons why your work fits with the program and why the program suits your work/interests! Are there particular professors you’d like to work with? Does the department have a strong tradition in a certain methodology or theory you’re interested in? Is there a particular facet to the curriculum that you’d like to experience?

Showing that you and the program are a match shows that you chose the program thoughtfully and have genuine interest in it. Programs want to admit students who aren’t just passionate about the field. They want students who are genuinely enthused about their specific program and positioned to get the most out of what they have to offer.

Strong Writing

The final essential piece of a strong statement of purpose or letter of intent is strong writing. Writing skills are important for all graduate programs. You’ll need to demonstrate that you can clearly and effectively communicate your ideas in a way that flows logically. Additionally, you should show that you know how to write in a way that is descriptive but concise. A statement of purpose shouldn’t ever be longer than two pages, even without a hard word limit.

Admissions committees for humanities programs may be a little more focused on writing style than admissions officers for STEM programs. But even in quantitative and science-focused fields, written communication skills are an essential part of graduate school. So a strong statement of purpose will always be effectively written. You’ll see this in our statement of purpose for graduate school samples.


Real, Successful Statement of Purpose Samples

In this section, we’ll present four successful graduate school statement of purpose examples from our graduate school experts, along with a brief commentary on each statement. These statements come from a diverse selection of program types to show you how the core essentials of a statement of purpose can be implemented differently for different fields.

Note: identifying information for these statements have been changed—except for example four, which is my statement.

  • Statement of Purpose Sample One: Japanese Studies MA

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This statement of purpose is notable for its great use of space and its vivid descriptions. The author is able to cram a lot into about a page. She discusses how she came to her two primary research interests (and how they are connected). She integrates this discussion of her interests with information on her past experiences and qualifications for pursuing the course of study. Finally, she includes details on her goals in pursuing the program and components of the program that interest her. Her examples are specific and fleshed-out. There’s a lot very cleverly included in a small amount of page space!

Additionally, the language is very vivid. Phrases like “evocative and visceral” and “steadily unraveling,” are eye-catching and intriguing. They demonstrate that she has the writing skills necessary to pursue both graduate study and her interest in translation.

  • Statement of Purpose Sample Two: Music MM

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This sample is fairly long, although at 12 point Times New Roman it’s under two pages single-spaced. The length of this statement is partially due to the somewhat expansive nature of the prompt, which asks what role music has played in the applicant’s life “to date.” This invites applicants to speak more about experiences further in the past (in the childhood and teen years) than is typical for a statement of purpose. Given that this is for a master’s degree in music, this is logical; musical study is typically something that is undertaken at a fairly young age.

This statement does an excellent job describing the student’s past experiences with music in great detail. The descriptions of the student’s past compositions and experiences performing new music are particularly vivid and intriguing.

This statement also lays out and elaborates on specific goals the student hopes to pursue through the program, as well as features particular to the program that interest the student (like particular professors).


  • Statement of Purpose Sample Three: Economics PhD

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One of the first things you’ll likely notice about this statement is that it’s a little on the longer side. However, at 12 point Times New Roman font and single-spaced, it still comes in under 2 pages (excluding references). It makes sense for a PhD statement of purpose sample to be longer than a master’s degree statement of purpose—there’s more to lay out in terms of research interests!

The writing style is fairly straightforward—there’s definitely a stronger focus on delivering content than flashy writing style. As Economics is a more quantitative-focused field, this is fine. But the writing is still well-organized, clear, and error-free.

The writer also gives numerous examples of their past work and experience, and shows off their knowledge of the field through references, which is a nice touch.

  • Statement of Purpose Sample Four: History of the Book MA

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This is actually my statement of purpose. It was for a program that I got accepted to but did not end up attending, for a Master’s in the History of the Book. You’ll notice that the two essay prompts essentially asked us to split our statement of purpose into two parts: the first prompt asked about our research interests and goals, and the second prompt asked about our relevant experience and qualifications.

I’ll keep my comments on this graduate school statement of purpose sample brief because I’ll do a deep dive on it in the next section. But looking back at my statement of purpose, I do a good job outlining what within the field interests me and clearly laying out how my past experiences have qualified me for the program.

Obviously this statement did its job, since I was accepted to the program. However, if I were to improve this statement, I’d change the cliche beginning  (“since I was a child”) and provide more specificity in what about the program interested me.


Deep Dive Analysis of a Sample Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

Next, we’ll do a paragraph by paragraph analysis of my statement, statement of purpose sample four. I’ll analyze its strengths and suggest ways I could shore up any weaknesses to make it even stronger.

Essay 1: Academic Interests

To refresh, here’s the first prompt: Please give a short statement that describes your academic interests, purpose, objectives and motivation in undertaking this postgraduate study. (max 3500 chars – approx. 500 words)

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Paragraph 1

Since I was a child, my favorite thing has always been a book. Not just for the stories and information they contain, although that is a large part of it. Mostly, I have been fascinated by the concept of book as object—a tangible item whose purpose is to relate intangible ideas and images. Bookbindings and jackets, different editions, the marginalia in a used book—all of these things become part of the individual book and its significance, and are worth study and consideration. Books and their equivalent forms—perfect bound, scrolled, stone tablets, papyrus—have long been an essential part of material culture and are also one of our most significant sources of information about the human historical past. Through both the literal object of the book, the words contained thereon, and its relationship to other books—forms of context, text and intertext—we are able to learn and hopefully manage layers of information with which we would otherwise have no familiarity.

First, the good: this paragraph does a good job introducing my academic interest in the book-as-object, and shows off pre-existing knowledge both of the study of material culture and literary theory. Additionally, the language is engaging: the juxtaposition of “tangible” and “intangible” in the beginning and phrases like “perfect bound, scrolled, stone tablets, papyrus” lend life to the writing and keep the reader engaged.

If I were to go back and improve this paragraph, first, I would absolutely change the first sentence to something less cliche than talking about my childhood. I might try something like “My love of books is a multifaceted thing. I don’t only love them for the stories and….” Second, I would chill out on the em dashes a little bit. Three sets in one paragraph is a little excessive. Finally, I might actually cut this paragraph down slightly to make more room word-wise later in the statement to discuss what specific things about the program interest me.


Paragraph 2

Furthermore, blogs, webcomics, digital archives, e-readers, and even social media sites like tumblr and Facebook have revolutionized the concept of the book by changing how we share and transmit ideas and information, just as the Gutenberg printing press revolutionized the book all those years ago in the fifteenth century. Once again there has been an explosion both in who can send out information and who can receive it.

This paragraph briefly and effectively introduces my other main academic interest: how new technology has changed the concept of the book-as-object. The tie-back to the printing press is a nice touch; it’s a vivid example that shows that I’m aware of important historical moments in book history.

Paragraph 3

I am deeply interested in the preservation of the physical book, as I think it is an important part of human history (not to mention a satisfying sensory experience for the reader). However I am also very concerned with the digitization and organization of information for the modern world such that the book, in all of its forms, stays relevant and easy to access and use. Collections of books, archives, and information as stored in the world’s servers, libraries and museums are essential resources that need to be properly organized and administered to be fully taken advantage of by their audiences. My purpose in applying to the University of Edinburgh’s Material Culture and History of the Book is to gain the skills necessary to keep all forms of the book relevant and functional in an age when information can move more radically than ever before.

This paragraph actually has a focus problem. Since it covers two topics, I should split it into two paragraphs: one on the integration of my two interests, and one on my goals and interests in the program. I could also stand to expand on what features the program has that interest me: professors I’d like to work with, particular aspects of the curriculum, etc.

In spite of these things, however, this paragraph does a good job clearly integrating the two academic interests related to the book I introduced in the first two paragraphs. And the language is still strong —“satisfying sensory experience” is a great phrase. However, I’ve been using the word “information,” a lot; I might try to replace with appropriate synonyms (like “knowledge”) in a couple of places.

Paragraph 4

Additionally, I intend on pursuing a PhD in Library and Information Sciences upon completion of my master’s and I feel that this program while make me uniquely suited to approach library science from a highly academic and interdisciplinary perspective.

This final paragraph offers just quick touch on my future goals beyond the program. It’s typically fine for this to be relatively brief, as it is here, just so long as you can clearly identify some future goals.


Essay 2: Relevant Experience

The second prompt just asked me to describe my relevant knowledge, training, and skills.

As a folklore and mythology student, I have gained a robust understanding of material culture and how it relates to culture as a whole. I have also learned about the transmission of ideas, information, stories and pieces of lore among and between populations, which is an important component of book history. Folklore is also deeply concerned with questions of the literary vs. oral lore and the tendency for text to “canonize” folklore, and yet text can also question or invert canonized versions; along with this my studies in my focus field of religion and storytelling have been deeply concerned with intertextuality. One of my courses was specifically concerned with the Heian-period Japanese novel The Tale of Genji and questions of translation and representation in post-Heian picture scrolls and also modern translations and manga. In addition to broader cultural questions concerned with gender and spirituality both in historical Japan and now, we considered the relationships between different Genji texts and images.

This is a strong, focused paragraph. I relate my academic background in Folklore and Mythology to my interests in studying the book, as well as showing off some of my knowledge in the area. I also chose and elaborated on a strong example (my class on the Tale of Genji ) of my relevant coursework.

I also have work experience that lends itself to the study of the book. After my freshman year of college I interned at the Chicago History Museum. Though I was in the visitor services department I was exposed to the preservation and archival departments of the museum and worked closely with the education department, which sparked my interest in archival collections and how museums present collection information to the public. After my sophomore year of college and into my junior year, I worked at Harvard’s rare books library, Houghton. At Houghton I prepared curated collections for archival storage. These collections were mostly comprised of the personal papers of noteworthy individuals, categorized into alphabetical folders. This experience made me very process-oriented and helped me to understand how collections come together on a holistic basis.

This paragraph also has a clear focus: my past, relevant work experience. Discussing archival collections and presenting information to the public links the interests discussed in my first statement with my qualifications in my second statement. However, if I were to revise this paragraph, I would add some specific examples of the amazing things I worked on and handled at Houghton Library. In that job, I got to touch Oliver Cromwell’s death mask! An interesting example would make this paragraph really pop even more.

Finally, in my current capacity as an education mentor in Allston, a suburb of Boston, I have learned the value of book history and material culture from an educational perspective. As a mentor who designs curriculum for individual students and small groups, I have learned to highly value clearly organized and useful educational resources such as websites, iPad apps, and books as tools for learning. By managing and organizing collections in a way that makes sense we are making information accessible to those who need it.

This final paragraph discusses my current (at the time) work experience in education and how that ties into my interest in the history of the book. It’s an intriguing connection and also harkens back to my discussion of information availability in the paragraph three of the first statement. Again, if I were to amp up this statement even more, I might include a specific example of a book-based (or book technology-based) project I did with one of my students. I worked on things like bookbinding and making “illuminated manuscripts” with some of my students; those would be interesting examples here.

This statement is split into two parts by virtue of the two-prompt format. However, if I were to integrate all of this information into one unified statement of purpose, I would probably briefly introduce my research interests, go in-depth on my background, then circle back around to speak more about my personal interests and goals and what intrigues me about the program. There’s not really one correct way to structure a statement of purpose just so long as it flows well and paragraphs are structured in a logical way: one topic per paragraph, with a clear topic and concluding sentence.


More Statement of Purpose Examples

We’ve provided you with four great graduate school statement of purpose examples from our graduate school experts. However, if you’re looking for more, there are other sample letters of intent and statements of purpose for graduate school online. We’ve rounded up the best ones here, along with some strengths and weaknesses about each example.

Majortests Statement of Purpose Sample

This is a fairly straightforward, clearly written statement of purpose sample for a biology program. It includes useful commentary after each paragraph about what this statement of purpose is accomplishing.

  • This statement of purpose sample is well-organized, with clear topic sentences and points made in each paragraph.
  • The student clearly identifies what interests her about the program.
  • The student proactively addresses questions about why she hasn’t gone directly to graduate school, and frames her professional research experience as a positive thing.
  • She gives a tiny bit of color about her personality in a relevant way by discussing her involvement with the Natural History Society.
  • In general, discussing high school interests is too far back in time unless the anecdote is very interesting or unusual. The detail about The Theory of Evolution is intriguing; the information about the high school teacher seems irrelevant. The student should have condensed this paragraph into a sentence or two.
  • While this statement is cogently written and makes the candidate sound competent and well-qualified, it’s not exactly the most scintillating piece of writing out there. Some of the constructions are a little awkward or cliche. For example, the “many people have asked me” sentence followed by “the answer is” is a little bit clunky. This is probably fine for a STEM program. But just be aware that this statement is not a paragon of writing style.

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UC Berkeley History Statement of Purpose Sample

This is a graduate school statement of purpose example from the UC Berkeley History department’s PhD program, with annotations from a professor as to why it’s a successful statement.

  • The author is able to very clearly and articulately lay out her research interests and link them to past work she has successfully completed, namely, her thesis.
  • She is able to identify several things about the program and Berkeley that indicate why it is a good fit for her research interests.
  • She addresses the time she spent away from school and frames it as a positive, emphasizing that her use of time was well-considered and productive.
  • Her writing is very vivid, with excellent word choice and great imagery.

While very well-written and engaging, this sample statement of purpose for graduate school is a little bit on the long side! It’s a little over two single-spaced pages, which is definitely pushing the limits of acceptable length. Try to keep yours at 2 pages or less. Some of the information on the thesis (which comprises over half of the statement of purpose) could be condensed to bring it down to two pages.


Pharmacy Residency Letter of Intent Sample

This is not technically a sample letter of intent for graduate school because it’s actually for a pharmacy residency program. However, this example still provides illumination as to what makes a decent graduate school letter of intent sample.

  • This is a serviceable letter of intent: the writer clearly lays out their own goals within the field of pharmacy, what qualifications they have and how they’ve arrived at their interests, and how the program fits their needs.
  • The writing is clearly structured and well-organized.
  • The main weakness is that some of the writer’s statements come across as fairly generic. For example, “The PGY-1 Residency Program at UO Hospitals will provide me with the opportunity to further develop my clinical knowledge, critical thinking, teaching, research, and leadership skills” is a generic statement that could apply to any residency program. A punchier, more program-specific conclusion would have amped up this letter.
  • While the writer does a decent job providing examples of their activities, like working as a tutor and attending the APhA conference, more specificity and detail in these examples would make the statement more memorable.
  • There’s a typo in the last paragraph —a “to” that doesn’t belong! This is an unprofessional blip in an otherwise solid letter. Read you own letter of intent aloud to avoid this!

NIU Bad Statement of Purpose Example

This is an ineffective graduate school statement of purpose example, with annotations on why it doesn’t work.

As you might imagine, the main strength in this document is as an example of what not to do. Otherwise, there is little to recommend it.

  • The annotations quite clearly detail the weaknesses of this statement. So I won’t address them exhaustively except to point out that this statement of purpose fails at both content and style. The author includes irrelevant anecdotes and lists without offering a decisive picture of interests or any particular insight into the field. Additionally, the statement is riddled with grammatical mistakes, awkward sentence structures, and strange acronyms.
  • You’ll note that the commentary advises you to “never start with a quote.” I agree that you should never start with a freestanding quote as in this example. However, I do think starting with a quote is acceptable in cases like the Berkeley history example above, where the quote is brief and then directly linked to the research interest.


Graduate School Statement of Purpose Examples: 4 Key Points

Graduate programs ask for statement of purpose to hear about your interests and goals and why you think you and the program would be a good fit.

There are four key elements to a successful statement of purpose:

  • A clear articulation of your goals and interests
  • Evidence of past experiences and success
  • Interest and fit with the program
  • Strong writing

We’ve provided you with four successful statement of purpose samples from our graduate school experts!

We also provided additional statement of purpose samples (and a sample letter of intent) for graduate school from other sources on the internet. Now you have all kinds of guidance!

What’s Next?

If you’re looking for more information on graduate school , see our guide to what makes a good GPA for grad school .

Not sure if you need to take the GRE ? See if you can get into graduate school without GRE scores .

Want more information about the GRE? We can help you figure out when to take the GRE , how to make a GRE study plan , and how to improve your GRE score .

Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?

admission essay postgraduate

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

admission essay postgraduate

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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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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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Jamia Millia Islamia 2024 Admission: Registration Begins For Undergraduate, PG Entrance Tests

Jamia millia islamia 2024 admission: for most undergraduate (ug) and postgraduate (pg) courses, the university considers marks of cuet, jee, and other national-level tests..

Jamia Millia Islamia 2024 Admission: Registration Begins For Undergraduate, PG Entrance Tests

Jamia Millia Islamia 2024 Admission: Students can submit their applications until March 30.

The Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) has commenced the application process for the entrance test for admission to undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Students seeking admission can register on the official website until March 30. 

The entrance test is scheduled to commence on April 25. The university specifies that candidates are allowed to submit only one form for each program or group of programs, and multiple submissions for the same program may result in rejection. 

For most undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) courses, the university considers marks of CUET, JEE, and other national-level tests. The university has announced that online admission forms for courses requiring tests administered by JEE, NATA, and CUET will be available ten days after the respective agencies announce the results. 

Except for BTech, BArch, BDS, and certain other courses, eligible candidates for undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) programs at JMI will be admitted based on merit determined by the JMI entrance test. After the entrance test, an interview will be held.

Applicants who receive a score below 30 per cent in the descriptive section (where applicable) will not be considered for admission and interview. Incorrect responses in the objective type or multiple-choice questions across all university programs will incur a deduction of 0.25 marks. 

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Candidates who score below 15 per cent in such questions will not advance to the interview or be considered for admission. 

For BTech, admission will be granted to eligible candidates based on their rankings in JEE Main 2024. Similarly, for BArch, admission will be determined by candidates' rankings in NATA 2024 conducted by the Council of Architecture 2024. Admission to the BDS programme will be based on merit in NEET 2024.

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More From Forbes

College admissions trends: ai, college essays and going international.

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Arush Chandna is the co-founder of Quad Education .

Last year was a landmark year for college admissions. The Supreme Court’s end on affirmative action took center stage and conjured up the most confusion and uncertainty among colleges and students alike. But the year was also marked by other key developments—the first-ever rise in undergraduate enrollment since the pandemic, a dramatic bump in early admissions, finally ending the year with a thud—a series of events leading to the ousting of Harvard University President Claudine Gay on January 2, 2024.

With these developments at the altar, 2024 is looking no less than a beast of a year for college admissions. After all, it will be the first year where applications go through the admissions process without affirmative action. And other trends too will either make an entry or continue to have a significant impact this year. Let’s find out what’s in store in 2024.

Colleges And Universities Warming Up To AI

With the onset of AI, one of the biggest concerns was students using it to whip up their college application essays. But at the other end of the spectrum, we are seeing an increasing number of colleges and universities using AI in their admissions review process. In 2023, 50% of admissions offices in higher education reported using AI for reviewing applications, according to a survey from Intelligent . For 2024, 80% of officials in higher education said they would integrate AI into their review process this year. What’s AI being used for? Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Pennsylvania developed a “ series of artificial intelligence tools that can scan through essays in college applications, picking out evidence of key personal traits.” These may include leadership and perseverance. According to the co-author of the study, these tools are not currently deployed at any institution but when done under the right conditions, have the potential to recognize applications that might have all the required traits but can still go unnoticed when evaluated by humans.

Those currently using AI, according to the Intelligent survey, report using it for reviewing transcripts and recommendation letters. Other popular reasons for using AI are reviewing personal statements, weeding out student essays written by AI, and conducting preliminary interviews with applicants. This confidence in using AI in admissions grew even in the short time between early and late 2023. So, it might be safe to say that admissions officials will continue to get comfortable with using AI while still having some reasonable ethical concerns.

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Universities can include an ethical component in the AI courses/curriculum, using an interdisciplinary method to ensure some semblance of rigor and an organized approach to this relatively new technology. Universities can partner with the government and industry to incorporate federal/industrial guidelines that should be implemented across all AI developments in the education space.

Students Striving To Write More Authentic Essays

The Supreme Court’s ruling to end affirmative action has caused a great deal of consternation among people of color in the nation. While there is no box to tick on applications anymore, students are left wondering if they should talk about race at all in their essays. As for university leaders, it means that they have to work harder to ensure a diverse campus—one that is reflective of real-time America. One way to do this for universities is to focus on varied aspects of the application to get a holistic picture—leadership, extracurricular activities, academics, community service and so on. At my company, even before the Supreme Court’s decision, we have encouraged students to represent their most authentic selves in their essays. What that means is if a student’s race, religion or culture has influenced who they are today, they should write about it but never lean on it as a sole indicator of any trait or quality. For example, if a student did not learn English in school and took the onus of teaching themselves to the level where they are an award-winning debater today, they must talk about it without worrying whether it provides an insight into their race because it highlights magnificent qualities valued by admissions officials.

Colleges and universities should consider including supplemental questions that spur this thinking among students and allow them to evaluate students holistically.

American Students Looking Outward

Many of our admissions consultants have recently observed an increased interest among students to explore destinations like Europe for their higher education—the reasons being a parallel academic experience at a fraction of the cost, reach and the added element of adventure. For example, while an undergraduate degree at Harvard costs a whopping $54,269 annually, Cambridge University’s tuition ranges from £25,734 to £39,162 annually . Students also save one year’s worth of tuition, as programs are typically three years long compared to four years in the U.S. Cambridge’s acceptance rate is also higher than Harvard’s 3% at 10%.

U.S. higher education must address the numbers of students who are defecting to colleges and graduate programs outside of the U.S. by determining if it is due to the higher costs of education or due to the perceived quality of higher education in the U.S. This research should/must include an assessment of relative cost to value: What is a degree worth when compared with the cost of paying off loans, etc. And how are global institutions keeping their costs competitive. Second, if the deflection is due to high costs, our U.S. campuses must work with the government to subsidize the cost of public colleges and universities while also ensuring that the degrees granted at each institution will provide a career path that will make students self-sufficient upon graduation.

Final Thoughts

In my experience as the founder of an ed tech business, I can say that college admissions never fails to excite. Tasked with the job of shaping students’ futures, this industry is constantly developing and presenting exhilarating challenges. Since the pandemic, many developments in this space have been monumental and will most likely continue to be so in the coming years. This year is promising to be another mega year with trends like a deeper integration of AI, thought-provoking college essays, the many implications of the end of affirmative action, students’ ever-intriguing aspirations around what they seek from the college experience and many more. It’s a year to watch out for.

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Arush Chandna

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The Chronicle

Duke no longer giving numerical rating to standardized testing, essays in undergraduate admissions

admission essay postgraduate

Duke is no longer giving essays and standardized testing scores numerical ratings in the undergraduate admissions process.

The change went into place this year, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag wrote in an email to The Chronicle. He explained that essays are no longer receiving a score because of a rise in the use of generative artificial intelligence and college admissions consultants.

When asked about how the admissions office determines if an essay is AI-generated or written by consultants and if applicants are hurt if the office determines so, Guttentag answered that "there aren't simple answers to these questions." 

Despite the changes, Guttentag wrote that essays and standardized testing scores are still considered in the admissions process. 

“Essays are very much part of our understanding of the applicant, we’re just no longer assuming that the essay is an accurate reflection of the student’s actual writing ability,” he wrote. “Standardized tests (SAT or ACT) are considered when they’re submitted as part of the application.”

According to Guttentag, essays will now be used to “help understand the applicant as an individual rather, not just as a set of attributes and accomplishments.” He also wrote that the admissions office now values essays that give “insight into who the unique person is whose application we’re reading” and that “content and insight matter more than style.”

“Because of that they are not given a numerical rating, but considered as we think holistically about a candidate as a potential member of the Duke community,” he wrote. 

Previously, the Duke admissions office would assign numerical ratings of one to five on six different categories: curriculum strength, academics, recommendations, essays, extracurriculars and test scores. Applicants would then receive a total score out of 30 by adding up each category’s numerical rating.

According to Guttentag, the only categories given numerical ratings now are the four categories that remain: “the strength of a student’s curriculum, their grades in academic courses, their extracurricular activities and the letters of recommendation.”

“There are naturally many, many more factors that are taken into account when making admissions decisions — these are just a partial but useful way of thinking [of] applicants in the context of the pool as a whole,” he wrote. “I suppose it may be something similar to looking at a player’s various statistics, which only give you a partial picture of the player’s contribution to the team.”

Guttentag noted that historically, numerical ratings have been “valuable in helping to identify competitive applicants.”

Admissions processes for colleges across the country have seen changes and experimentation recently due to a variety of factors, most notably the Supreme Court’s overturning of race-based affirmative action in June 2023 and changes to standardized testing requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Supreme Court decision was absolutely not a factor in how we decided to approach essays,” Guttentag wrote. Duke remained test-optional for the 2023-24 admissions cycle. 

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  10. How to Write Your Grad School Application Essay

    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?


    #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.

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    Every application essay is going to be different, but here are some tips that apply to every essay though... Word limits should never be exceeded. Go over and it'll look like you haven't read or couldn't be bothered to follow the instructions. The question should always be answered. Resist temptation to go off track and try and stay on ...

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    The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories: 1. The general, comprehensive personal statement: This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms. 2.

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    Here are Fernando's top ten tips: Tip 1. Have a clear plan for the future and communicate it clearly. People who perform best in admissions interviews are those who have a clear plan for the future. The first question is always about background, and most people are confident talking about that, it acts as a nice warm up.

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    Nearly all doctoral programs and many master's degree programs in psychology require submission of a personal statement as part of the application package. In my experience advising students as well as serving as a graduate dean for many years, few things in the application process cause students as much anxiety and prompt so many questions.

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