6 Do’s and Don’ts for Grad School Essays

If you’ve always dreamed of going on to complete your master’s degree, even if a decade has passed between your student years and the present day, graduate school is your answer. Granted, you may feel out-of-touch with what’s required to earn yourself a spot, but this is where grad school essays can make all the difference.

This is your chance to make your appeal and offer some insight into who you are, aside from the statistics and your GPA/GPE scores. After all, numbers can only say so much.

So, what does it take to write a grad school essay and make an incredible impression? Here are the do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.


The 6 Do’s of Writing Great Grad School Essays

You might find yourself wondering whether your chosen undergraduate institution will make a difference in your grad school application. The truth is, your application is scored and based on so many different factors, that your undergraduate college of choice is just a small consideration.

But something that really counts towards a successful application is your admissions essay, also known as a personal statement. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  1. Make Your Statement Personal

As the name suggests, a personal statement must include details about who you are as a person. This is the perfect opportunity to paint a full, detailed picture of your personality.

Describe the things that motivate you, your best skills, things that have challenged you in your life and career, as well as your outside interests and hobbies.

  1. Treat Your Statement Like an Interview

If you were to be invited to an admissions interview that was face-to-face, what would you say about yourself in that interview? When writing your statement, you want to treat it in the same way.

Remember to be professional, but also warm, honest (to a point), and friendly in your tone.


  1. Always Follow Grad Essay Instructions

Personal statement instructions may vary from one graduate school to the next. Keep this in mind when writing yours and clearly stick to the given instructions on essay length. If they ask for just one-two pages, don’t exceed this.

Ultimately, this is a show of your ability to follow instructions and write concisely, which is important for many chosen professions.

  1. Openly Discuss Your Career Goals

Maybe you’re applying to graduate school because you want to finish off a degree and change your career? Perhaps you want to grow in your existing career by extending your studies? Whatever your motivation is, be honest about it.

Make sure you discuss your goals for the future and where you’d like to see yourself once you have completed your grad school education.

  1. If There Are Gaps in Your Résumé, Explain Them

You may have had to take some time off work for a while, or perhaps you completely changed jobs/careers at some point. Whatever your personal circumstance, the graduate school you are applying to will want to know more about these gaps or changes.

While you’re at it, explain what you did during this time off from your career, or why you chose to change jobs or career paths.

  1. Go Into Detail About Why You Chose a Particular Grad School

It will help your application if you explain why you’re choosing a particular graduate school to complete/extend your degree. Explain why they appeal to you, what sparked your interest and how their education system aligns with your goals.

For more on the top things, you should do in your grad essay.


The 6 Don’ts of Writing Great Grad School Essays

While these above points seem simple enough to write about, there are a few pitfalls you want to avoid when it comes to high-quality grad essay writing. Here’s what you should avoid:

  1. Don’t Make It an Autobiography

The last thing you want is your grad essay to ramble on about yourself and your complete life history to the point where it becomes irrelevant, or takes up all of your page space!

Most applications have a limit, so keep your personal introduction short enough to be engaging, but detailed enough that it perfectly summarizes who you are.

  1. Avoid Generality

General, redundant statements are a complete no-no for grad school essays. This includes the likes of ”I’m a very motivated individual”; ”I consider myself a team player”; ”I am hardworking”.

Where possible, re-write these statements to be a little more personal by including specific examples of your life and career achievements. If you are proud of a career achievement, make sure to include it!

  1. Be Wary of Clichés

Clichés can make your personal statement sound generic and a little cheesy. While they can be difficult to avoid, clichés are overdone and tired. It also shows that you may lack a sense of creativity or that you just don’t know yourself all that well.

It’s best to think of your own metaphors and similes to add your personal touch to your essay.

  1. There’s No Need to Mention Grades

Yes, your grades matter. But they are part of your educations transcripts that are reviewed by the admissions committee. This means you don’t actually have to repeat them in your essay.

However, if you feel like you want to explain a poor grade, a gap in your education, or how proud you are of a good grade, then do so. But keep it concise and relevant.

  1. Don’t Include Quotes in Your Essay

Motivational quotes are great, they’re useful when you’re looking for that personal touch of inspiration. But they’re also someone else’s words — not your own. So don’t be tempted to litter your essay with quotes from your favorite authors or prominent figures.

In reality, it doesn’t really say much about who you are.

  1. Don’t Forget to Proofread

This is an absolutely essential part of your essay writing. Spelling and grammatical errors are a major no-no and can completely derail your application.

It’s best to proofread your statement multiple times and then ask someone else to look over it for you. A fresh pair of eyes can help you spot spelling, grammar, and syntax errors that you may have overlooked.


Find Motivation for the Written Word

Yes, there is a certain amount of pressure around writing grad school essays. You want to make sure it’s perfect, but there is a fine line between obsessing over perfection and your application becoming impersonal. Remember to keep your tone warm, professional, honest, and authentic.

If you’re looking for writing inspiration, don’t miss out on the rest of this site for more — explore at your leisure.

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