Admission Essays

Writing your graduate admissions essay is a vital component of your application to graduate school. Programs are increasingly looking to admissions essays to gauge a student’s fit for a particular program or school. The essay is your opportunity to make an impact on admissions committees. This does not mean that the other components of your graduate school application are not important, they are.

Be prepared to spend a great deal of time preparing your essays. Be clear about what the program is asking you to write. Answer the question(s) that have been asked. Pay attention to the length requirements of the essay. You may find some programs asking for as few as 500 words and others may give no length requirements. If you are not provided with information regarding the length of your essay, you may want to contact the graduate program to which you are applying and ask what the admissions committee expects.

Questions to consider when preparing an admissions essay:
  • Who has been the most influential person in your life (remember to relate all mention of situations and circumstances to your graduate school and career goals)?
  • What experience(s) have you had that have shaped and molded your decision to pursue this program/career.
  • Describe your commitment to the profession/career and demonstrate past examples of perseverance.
  • What educational experiences have been relevant to your professional objective?
  • Have you performed any research in you chosen academic field? Describe your research, state your hypothesis and briefly report your results.
  • Do you have life experiences in other areas that demonstrate character, commitment and drive? Describe these experiences.
Some students may find it necessary to explain their GPA’s in their admissions essays if their undergraduate GPA’s are close to or lower than the minimum requirements. Please note that although you may have a lower GPA than what is required, some programs will look at the whole application to determine your acceptance. When addressing the issue of undergraduate GPA’s do not make the entire essay a litany of reasons why you did not do well academically. Such essays do not provide admissions committees with all the necessary information needed to determine your fit for the academic program.

There are many reasons why students have lower GPA’s than they wish. Some of the reasons may include working while attending school, unclear educational goals, badly chosen educational goals, immaturity or illness. When explaining your situation, describe what you believe to be the reason for poor grades, what your strategy was to turn your academic situation around and the outcome of your implemented strategy. Consider the wording of the following:

"As a first and second year student, I enjoyed the freedom of college life. My first two years demonstrated that I was immature and irresponsible to my academic and professional goals. In the summer prior to my junior year, I had the opportunity to work as a laborer and found the work physically difficult and intellectually stagnant. I saw what a lack of education might provide me and I vowed to take responsibility for my choices. As a result, I earned a GPA of 3.5 in my last two years of my undergraduate program. While my cumulative GPA is lower than I would like, I found the motivation necessary to improve my academics.”

Obviously every situation is different and the wording you choose needs to reflect your circumstances. Remember to include the following (as briefly as you can so as not to make this the entirety of your essay):
· Describe the situation
· What strategy did you implement
· What was the outcome

Consult your professors, professionals in your field of interest and your career services office. Ask others to review your admissions essay. Seek feedback and suggestions to strengthen your essay. Have your essay reviewed for grammar, spelling and other typos. A persuasive and well-written admissions essay may tip an admissions committee to accept you over other qualified applicants.

There has been much written and published on the topic of writing strong graduate school essays. Consult the links and listings below for further information.
Graduate admissions essays online and Career Services Office library holdings.
  • Quintessential Careers:
  • Graduate Admissions Essays; Asher, Donald, 2000
  • Perfect Personal Statements; Stewart, Mark Alan, 2002
  • Peterson’s Perfect Personal Statements: 3rd Edition, Stewart, Mark Alan; Peterson’s, 2004
  • Essays That Worked for Law Schools: Revised and Updates; Edited by: Curry, Boykin, Kasbar, Brian, Baer, Emily, Angel Ballantine Books: New York, 2003
  • Law School Essays That Made a Difference; The Princeton Review, 2003