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Write a Graduate School Essay that Will Knock Their Socks Off



Admissions Essays grad school

Writing an amazing graduate school essay is probably far more straightforward than you might think. Graduate school admissions officers aren’t looking for gimmicks. They’re looking for passionate, motivated, and prepared applicants who are ready to hit the ground running in their program. Read on for more details in creating your best graduate school essay. If you’re looking for one-on-one assistance, check out .

Know what the admissions officers are seeking

Don’t make assumptions about your graduate school personal statements. Many programs simply ask you to submit a personal statement without any further guidance. Other programs will tell you exactly how they want the essay structured along with word count limits and formatting requirements. Review the prompt thoroughly and plan your essay before you begin writing to ensure that you create an essay that will be an effective and persuasive addition to your application package.

What should you do if the program doesn’t give you any specifics? With greater numbers of applicants to graduate programs, the trend is toward shorter essays. This is especially true of graduate programs in the STEM fields. Unfortunately, longer essays tend to be skimmed rather than read thoroughly, and most any admissions officer will tell you that the best essays that they’ve read are always shorter essays. Think about what is absolutely essential, and write about those aspects of your experience with passion.

Personal, personal, personal

Did we mention personal? Some graduate programs will ask you to write an additional essay about an issue within your chosen field. However, your personal statement should be about you as an individual. Write about issues only if they relate specifically to your personal experiences. For example, ‘In Africa, a child dies every minute. This stark statistic prompted me to join an NGO aimed at providing nutrition and healthcare for children in Namibia.’

Keep your anecdotes focused on your life after you began college

It is common for graduate school applicants to start their personal statements with an anecdote about something that happened during childhood or high school. On the surface, this makes sense because that event was what started the journey that has culminated in an application to the program. However, graduate programs are for professionals, and writing about your childhood is more appropriate for an undergraduate essay than one for graduate school. If you feel that you absolutely must include something from your childhood, use it as the starting sentence of your concluding paragraph.

Know your program and make connections

Securing acceptance into a graduate program is more about being the best match than about being the most highly qualified. Among applicants who meet the program’s minimum requirements, they’ll choose an enthusiastic and informed applicant over one with higher test scores and a better GPA who doesn’t seem to know much about their program.

During your graduate studies, you’ll likely do research, and graduate programs want to know that you can both participate in ongoing research as well as find a mentor for your own project. In your essay, write about professors in the programs whose work interests you and why. Also, there is life outside of the classroom. Does the school have a close-knit traditional college campus? Is it located in the heart of the city? Especially if you will be moving with your family, show the admissions officers that you will thrive in their environment.

Finish with a strong statement about why the school is your top pick

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the school is your only pick. However, generic essays have no place in the graduate school application process. Form letters aren’t persuasive, and generic essays won’t help your application package. If you can’t sincerely write that the school is a top pick, then why are you applying there? Instead, focus on creating stellar essays for the ones that actually interest you. Help the admissions officers understand your overarching vision for your future career and how your time at the school will prepare you to realize these goals.

Admissions Essays grad school


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Sample Scholarship Essays

If you’re applying for a scholarship, chances are you are going to need to write an essay. Very few
scholarship programs are based solely on an application form or transcript. The essay is often the most important
part of your application; it gives the scholarship committee a sense of who you are and your dedication to your
goals. You’ll want to make sure that your scholarship essay is the best it can possibly be.

See the sample essays:

  1. The Book that Made Me a Journalist
  2. Planners and Searchers
  3. Saving the Manatees

Unless specified otherwise, scholarship essays should always use the following formatting:

  • Double spaced
  • Times New Roman font
  • 12 point font
  • One-inch top, bottom, and side margins

Other useful tips to keep in mind include:

  1. Read the instructions thoroughly and make sure you completely understand them before you start writing.
  2. Think about what you are going to write and organize your thoughts into an outline.
  3. Write your essay by elaborating on each point you included in your outline.
  4. Use clear, concise, and simple language throughout your essay.
  5. When you are finished, read the question again and then read your essay to make sure that the essay addresses
    every point.

For more tips on writing a scholarship essay, check out
our Eight Steps Towards a Better Scholarship Essay .

The Book that Made Me a Journalist

Prompt: Describe a book that made a lasting
impression on you and your life and why.

It is 6 am on a hot
day in July and I’ve already showered and eaten
breakfast. I know that my classmates are all sleeping in and enjoying their summer break, but I don’t envy them; I’m excited to start my day interning with a local newspaper doing investigative journalism.
I work a
typical 8-5 day during my summer vacation and despite the early mornings, nothing has made me
happier. Although it wasn’t clear to me then, looking back on my high school experiences and everything that led to me to this internship,
believe this path began with a particularly savvy teacher and a little book she gave me to read outside of

I was taking a composition class, and we were learning how to write persuasive essays. Up until that point, I had
had average grades, but I was always a good writer and my teacher immediately recognized this. The first paper I
wrote for the class was about my experience going to an Indian reservation located near my uncle’s ranch in
southwest Colorado. I wrote of the severe poverty experienced by the people on the reservation, and the lack of
access to voting booths during the most recent election. After reading this short story, my teacher approached me
and asked about my future plans. No one had ever asked me this, and I wasn’t sure how to answer. I said I liked
writing and I liked thinking about people who are different from myself.

She gave me
a book and told me that if I had time to read it, she thought it would be something I would enjoy. I was
actually quite surprised that a high school teacher was giving me a book titled Lies My Teacher Told Me.

It had never occurred to me that teachers would lie to students. The title intrigued me so much that on Friday night
I found myself staying up almost all night reading, instead of going out with friends.

short, the book discusses several instances in which typical American history classes do not tell the whole
story. For example, the author addresses the way that American history classes do not usually address about
the Vietnam War, even though it happened only a short time ago. This made me realize that we hadn’t discussed the
Vietnam War in my own history class! The book taught me that, like my story of the Indian reservation, there are
always more stories beyond what we see on the surface and what we’re taught in school. I was inspired to continue to
tell these stories and to make that my career.

For my next article for the class, I wrote about the practice of my own high school suspending students, sometimes
indefinitely, for seemingly minor offenses such as tardiness and smoking. I found that the number of suspensions had
increased by 200% at my school in just three years, and also discovered that students who are suspended after only
one offense often drop out and some later end up in prison.

article caused quite a stir. The administration of my school dismissed it, but it caught the attention of my
local newspaper.

A local journalist worked with me to publish an updated and more thoroughly researched version of my article in the
local newspaper.

article forced the school board to revisit their “zero tolerance” policy as well as reinstate some indefinitely
suspended students.

won no favors with the administration and it was a difficult time for me, but it was also thrilling to see how
one article can have such a direct effect on people’s lives .

It reaffirmed my commitment to a career in journalism.

This is why I’m applying for this scholarship. Your organization has been providing young aspiring journalists with
funds to further their skills and work to uncover the untold stories in our communities that need to be reported. I
share your organization’s vision of working towards a more just and equitable world by uncovering stories of
abuse of power. I have already demonstrated this commitment through my writing in high school and I look
forward to pursuing a BA in this field at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. With your help, I will hone my
natural instincts and inherent writing skills. I will become a better and more persuasive writer and I will learn
the ethics of professional journalism.

I sincerely appreciate the committee’s time in evaluating my application and giving me the opportunity to tell my
story. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Scholarship Essay Do’s and Don’ts

Do:Follow the prompt and other instructions exactly. You might write a great essay but it may get your
application rejected if you don’t follow the word count guidelines or other formatting requirements.
DON’T:Open your essay with a quote. This is a well-worn strategy that is mostly used ineffectively. Instead of
using someone else’s words, use your own.
DON’T:Use perfunctory sentences such as, “In this essay, I will…”
DO:Be clear and concise. Make sure each paragraph discusses only one central thought or argument.
DON’T:Use words from a thesaurus that are new to you. You may end up using the word incorrectly and that will make
your writing awkward. Keep it simple and straightforward. The point of the essay is to tell your story, not
to demonstrate how many words you know.
Try Our Free Scholarship Search

Planners and Searchers

Prompt: In 600 words or less, please tell us
about yourself and why you are applying for this scholarship. Please be clear about how this scholarship will help
you achieve your personal and professional goals.

African, I recognize Africa’s need for home- grown talent in the form of “planners” (assistants with possible
solutions) and “searchers” (those with desperate need) working towards international development. I represent
both. Coming from Zimbabwe my greatest challenge is in helping to improve the livelihoods of developing
nations through sustainable development and good governance principles. The need for policy-makers capable of
employing cross-jurisdictional, and cross- disciplinary strategies to solve complex challenges cannot be
under-emphasized; hence my application to this scholarship program.

graduating from Africa University with an Honors degree in Sociology and Psychology, I am now seeking
scholarship support to study in the United States at the Master’s level . My
interest in democracy, elections, constitutionalism and development stems from my lasting interest in public
policy issues. Accordingly, my current research interests in democracy and ethnic diversity require a deeper
understanding of legal processes of constitutionalism and governance. As
a Master’s student in the US, I intend to write articles on these subjects from the perspective of someone born,
raised, and educated in Africa. I will bring a unique and much-needed perspective to my graduate program in
the United States, and I will take the technical and theoretical knowledge from my graduate program back with me to
Africa to further my career goals as a practitioner of good governance and community development.

To augment my theoretical understanding of governance and democratic practices, I
worked with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) as a Programs Assistant in the Monitoring and
Observation department. This not only enhanced my project management skills, but also developed my skills in
research and producing communication materials. ZESN is Zimbabwe’s biggest election observation
organization, and I
had the responsibility of monitoring the political environment and producing monthly publications on human
rights issues and electoral processes . These publications were disseminated to various civil society
organizations, donors and other stakeholders. Now I intend to develop my career in order to enhance Africa’s
capacity to advocate, write and vote for representative constitutions.

I also participated in a fellowship program at Africa University, where
I gained greater insight into social development by teaching courses on entrepreneurship, free market economics,
and development in needy communities . I worked with women in rural areas of Zimbabwe to setup
income-generating projects such as the jatropha soap-making project. Managing such a project gave me great insight
into how many simple initiatives can transform lives.

organization has a history of awarding scholarships to promising young students from the developing world in
order to bring knowledge, skills and leadership abilities to their home communities. I have already done some of
this work but I want to continue, and with your assistance, I can . The multidisciplinary focus of the
development programs I am applying to in the US will provide me with the necessary skills to creatively address the
economic and social development challenges and develop sound public policies for Third World countries. I thank you
for your time and consideration for this prestigious award.

Scholarship Essay Do’s and Don’ts

DO:Research the organization and make sure you understand their mission and values and incorporate them into
your essay.
DO:Focus on your strengths and turn in any problems or weaknesses into a success story.
DO:Use actual, detailed examples from your own life to backup your claims and arguments as to why you should
receive the scholarship.
DO:Proofread several times before finally submitting your essay.
DON’T:Rehash what is already stated on your resume. Choose additional, unique stories to tell sell yourself to the
scholarship committee.
DON’T:Simply state that you need the money. Even if you have severe financial need, it won’t help to simply ask
for the money and it may come off as tacky.
Try Our Free Scholarship Search

Saving the Manatees

Prompt: Please give the committee an idea of
who you are and why you are the perfect candidate for the scholarship.

It is a cliché to say that I’ve always known what I want to do with my life, but in my case it happens to be true.
I first visited Sea World as a young child, I fell in love with marine animals in general. Specifically, I felt
drawn to manatees. I was compelled by their placid and friendly nature. I knew then and there that I wanted to
dedicate my life to protecting these beautiful creatures.

that day in Orlando, I have spent much of my spare time learning everything there is to know about manatees.
As a junior high and high school student, I attempted to read scholarly articles on manatees from scientific
journals. I annoyed my friends and family with scientific facts about manatees– such as that they are close
relatives of elephants–at the dinner table. I watched documentaries, and even mapped their migration pattern on a
wall map my sister gave me for my birthday.

When I was chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in a summer internship with Sea World, I fell even more
in love with these gentle giants. I
also learned a very important and valuable lesson: prior to this internship, I had imagined becoming a marine
biologist, working directly with the animals in their care both in captivity and in the wild. However, during
the internship, I discovered that this is not where my strengths lie. Unfortunately, I am not a strong student
in science or math, which are required skills to become a marine biologist . Although this was a
disheartening realization, I
found that I possess other strengths can still be of great value to manatees and other endangered marine
mammals: my skills as a public relations manager and communicator . During the internship, I helped write new lessons and
presentations for elementary school groups visiting the park and developed a series of fun activities for
children to help them learn more about manatees as well as conservation of endangered species in general. I also
worked directly with the park’s conservation and communication director, and helped develop a new local outreach
program designed to educate Floridians on how to avoid hitting a manatee when boating . My supervisor
recommended me to the Save the Manatee Foundation so
in addition to my full-time internship at Sea World, I interned with the Save the Manatee Foundation
part-time . It was there that I witnessed the manatee rescue and conservation effort first hand, and worked
directly with the marine biologists in developing fund-raising and awareness-raising campaigns. I
found that the foundation’s social media presence was lacking, and, using skills I learned from Sea World, I
helped them raise over $5,000 through a Twitter challenge, which we linked to the various social media outlets
of the World Wildlife Federation.

I know that your organization typically awards scholarships to students planning to major in disciplines
directly related to conservation such as environmental studies or zoology, I feel that the public relations side
of conservation is just as important as the actual work done on the ground . Whether it is reducing one’s
carbon footprint, or saving the manatees, these are efforts that, in order to be successful, must involve the larger
public. In fact, the relative success of the environmental movement today is largely due to a massive global public
relations campaign that turned environmentalism from something scientific and obscure into something that is both
fashionable and accessible to just about anyone. However, that success is being challenged more than ever
before–especially here in the US, where an equally strong anti-environmental public relations campaign has taken
hold. Therefore, conservationists need to start getting more creative.

I want to be a part of this renewed effort and use my natural abilities as a communicator to push back against the
rather formidable forces behind the anti-environmentalist movement. I sincerely hope you will consider supporting
this non-traditional avenue towards global sustainability and conservation. I
have already been accepted to one of the most prestigious communications undergraduate programs in the country
and I plan to minor in environmental studies . In addition, I maintain a relationship with my former
supervisors at Save the Manatee and Sea World, who will be invaluable resources for finding employment upon
graduation. I thank the committee for thinking outside the box in considering my application.

Scholarship Essay Do’s and Don’ts

DO:Tell a story. Discuss your personal history and why those experiences have led you to apply for these
DO:Write an outline. If you’ve already started writing or have a first draft, make an outline based on what
you’ve written so far. This will help you see whether your paragraphs flow and connect with one another.
DON’T:Write a generic essay for every application. Adapt your personal statement for each individual scholarship
DO:Run spellcheck and grammar check on your computer but also do your own personal check. Spellcheck isn’t
perfect and you shouldn’t rely on technology to make your essay perfect.
Try Our Free Scholarship Search
Sample Essays

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