Your graduate school personal statement may initially get only five minutes of an admissions officer's attention. In those five minutes you have to show that you are a good pick for the 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 EssayEdge.com.
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.
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When considering how to write a Masters essay, it can be tricky to understand and achieve the subtle differences between Masters and undergraduate level work. In short, a Masters level essay will generally require a deeper level of independent thought, which can be shown by adopting the following tried-and-testing tips.
As the name of the degree suggests, you should ideally demonstrate a mastery of your subject by confidently contextualising your arguments and making reference to trends, themes, theoretical paradigms and traditions within the discipline.
Delineate the scope of your paper
Position the issues you intend to discuss within the broader field of your subject area. This will demonstrate not only your understanding of the breadth of the academic landscape, but also your ability to focus on a particular part of it. It is not enough to analyse certain idea;, you must recognise their place in the whole.
Independence of thought
All parts of the essay must show more than a regurgitation of ideas and a proficiency in collating material. Discussion, analysis, evaluation and argument must all demonstrate your ability to interpret, understand and critique from a unique perspective. Challenge assumptions and explain the reasoning behind your contentions.
Abstract reasoning and comfort with interpreting unfamiliar concepts is a necessary requirement of work at this level. Do not be tempted to critique the academic literature through vague and impressionistic approaches; demonstrate instead a genuine conceptual engagement.
When considering how to write a Masters essay, you need to ensure that your arguments and conclusions are plausible; try throughout to make them properly convincing. Weigh evidence, analyse arguments and develop your own position. If on reading you have successfully convinced yourself, you will more likely convince the reader.
At undergraduate level, evidence of genuine originality almost certainly ensures top marks. At Masters level, originality is more routinely expected. A key aspect to this – the most challenging element of academic work – is confidence in your intellectual acuity. Lay the foundations through mastery of the more prosaic elements, then develop the confidence to speak with a new voice.
One of the biggest step-changes between undergraduate and Masters studies is the premium placed on research. Go beyond the reading lists provided by lecturers and directors of studies to demonstrate your initiative in finding your own sources. Live in libraries, use internet resources, become familiar with useful journals and, perhaps above all else, follow the footnotes!
Operate within the academic conventions
At this level of academia you should be fluent in your understanding of appropriate referencing, attribution of borrowed ideas and the proper approach to research. Much of this area can be solved through simple diligence, so don’t let minor errors erode the credibility of your essay.
The academic register
Spelling, punctuation and grammar are such basic considerations as to be taken for granted. Instead, the major linguistic concerns at this level are those of tone and style. An academic register is based in precision, formality, thorough understanding of subject-specific vocabulary, and an avoidance of familiarity and inappropriate use of the first person.
Perhaps seemingly trivial, presentation should not be disregarded. Demonstrate scholarly professionalism through due care and attention to all aspects of your work.