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Graduate School Admissions Essay Checklist

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Writing a graduate admissions essay is a big task. You must address the topic assigned by the admissions committee, organize it well, introduce yourself, explain why you're a good match to the program, toot your own horn, avoid tooting your horn too much, and entice faculty to invite you to attend. Before you submit your admissions essay, run down the following checklist. Don't simply check each item off, but stop and think about whether you really satisfied each criterion. Did you:
  • Get feedback on the content from a faculty member ?

  • Address the question or topic?

  • Avoid negativity?

  • Mention your strengths?

  • Use positive language?

  • Write concisely?

  • Break your essay into paragraphs?

  • Check your grammar?

  • Spell check?

  • Proofread your essay?

  • Solicit proofreading and feedback from others?

  • Discuss your goals and plans for the future?

  • Make it clear that you're a good fit?

  • Discuss how your interests match the faculty?

  • Discuss how your goals fit with program training?

  • Show what is in it for them, that is, what you offer the program (e.g., hard work, research skills)?

  • Avoid being overly personal?

  • Avoid referring to your mental health or history of personal problems?

  • Avoid giving excuses for grades and experiences?

  • Provide concrete relevant examples?

  • Avoid rambling and too much detail?

  • Discuss relevant academic, volunteer, and employment experiences?

  • Avoid discussing work and extracurricular activities that are not relevant to your abilities as a graduate student?

  • Write an essay that it not too long (more than 2 pages), but also not too short (e.g., less than 1 page)?

  • Did you entice your reader?

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