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Graduate Admissions Essay Dos and Don'ts

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Nearly all applicants to graduate school are required to submit one or several admissions essays, sometimes referred to as personal statements. This component of the graduate admissions application permits the admissions committee to see "beyond the statistics" -- to see you as a person apart from your GPA and GRE scores. This is your chance to stand out so make sure that your admissions essay truly reflects you. An essay that is truthful, appealing, and motivating can increase your chances of acceptance but a poor admissions essay can eliminate opportunities. How do you write the most appealing and effective admissions essay possible?

Admissions Essay Dos

  • Prepare an outline and create a draft.
  • Answer all the questions asked.
  • Make sure your essay has a theme or a thesis.
  • Provide evidence to support your claims.
  • Make your introduction unique.
  • Write clearly and make sure it is easy to read.
  • Be honest, confident, and be yourself.
  • Be interesting and positive.
  • Make sure your essay is organized, coherent, and concise.
  • Write about yourself and use examples from your own life experiences.
  • Use a mixture of long and short sentences.
  • Discuss your future goals.
  • Mention any hobbies, past jobs, community service, or research experience.
  • Speak in the first person (I…).
  • Mention weaknesses without making excuses.
  • Discuss why you're interested in the school and/or program.
  • Show, don’t tell (Use examples to demonstrate your abilities).
  • Ask for help.
  • Proofread and revise your statement at least 3 times.
  • Have others proofread your essay.

Admissions Essay Don’ts:

  • Have any grammar or spelling errors. (Proofread!)
  • Be wordy or use jargon (don’t try to impress the readers by using big words).
  • Swear or use slang.
  • Digress or be repetitive.
  • Be boring (ask someone to read your essay).
  • Generalize.
  • Include cliches or gimmicks.
  • Be comical (a little humor is okay but remember it can be misconstrued).
  • Be defensive or arrogant.
  • Complain.
  • Preach.
  • Focus on other individuals.
  • Discuss politics or religion.
  • Make lists of accomplishments, awards, skills, or personal qualities (Show, don’t tell).
  • Write a term paper or an autobiography.
  • Summarize your resume.
  • Include information already cited on the application.
  • Forget to proofread.

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