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How to Write a Graduate School Entrance Essay

by Casey Tolfree, Demand Media

    The process of applying to graduate school is tedious. Each school has its own admissions requirements, essay topics and application fees. The graduate school entrance essay is not easy, but it is one of the application components that admissions committee members weigh most heavily. To write a good admissions essay, spend some time with the topic, think through your ideas and then write and revise.

    Five Minutes

    According to Peterson's, a college guide publisher, a "graduate school personal statement may initially get only five minutes of an admissions officer's attention." In those five minutes, it is your job to convince the admissions officer that your essay and application need a second look. Craft an essay that is crisp, creative, energetic and well-written. It needs to answer all of the important questions mentioned in the application material and paint a picture of you and your ability to succeed at the graduate school of your choice.

    Be Picky

    Graduate school entrance essays focus on you, your experience, your life and why that makes you the perfect candidate for graduate study in your chosen field at an institution of your choice. Graduate school entrance essays are also fairly short, ranging from 500 to 1,000 words; you will not have space to tell your life story. According to Dartmouth University's Writing Program, start by making a list of what you think is most important, read through it several times and eliminate all but the most important things.

    Paint a Picture

    Once you have picked the most significant events in your life, think about their meaning and effect both in and on your life. Dartmouth also advises that you consider each event and whether it will make the admissions person uncomfortable when reading your essay. Consider how the event(s) you have chosen to showcase will show who you are and who you hope to be. Graduate school entrance essays are about you: past, present and future. Your essay needs to include personality to a degree. Do not use cliches or shorthand, but bring to life the character of you. Let the admissions person get to know you through your writing. Let the readers of your essay understand why you need to attend their institution and what you will add to the program.

    Revision and Proofreading

    After you've decided on your topic and written your essay, reread it. Maybe as soon as you hit "Save" but more likely an hour, a day or a week later. Give yourself the chance to clear your head and read the essay with an open mind. The essay should tell your story in a clear, convincing and interesting way. It should include past experiences, future goals and plans. It should read easily and be free of spelling or grammatical errors. Printing out the essay and reading it out loud will help with the revision and proofreading process. In places where you stumble over a sentence or a phrase sounds strained, focus on that paragraph and make it flow and sound better. If you struggled with it, so will the admissions counselor.

    Style Your World With Color

    About the Author

    Casey Tolfree is a communications and social media professional. She has worked as a writer for more than five years in both the newspaper industry and higher education. Tolfree received a M.F.A. in creative writing from Adelphi University and a B.S. in journalism from St. John's University.

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