How to Write an Essay for Doctorate Admissions

Your doctoral personal statement details your personality, mission and purpose.
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Graduate school admissions essays must immediately provide the admission officer with a reason to continue reading. The admission officers play a significant role in whether you're accepted, and each department has its own officers. Starting your essay with generic statements and failing to grab the officers' attention immediately won't help your chances for admission. Craft a strong personal statement that grabs the readers' attention. Give them a reason to want to hear your story.

1 Process

The process of writing a doctoral essay should begin several months before it's due. The process consists of creating lists detailing your main points and reviewing common interview questions to help you organize and prepare your thoughts. Gather information about each program and write an essay tailored to each department. Some information from each essay may be included in other letters, but the goal of the essay is to explain why you are capable of completing doctoral work and how the specific school can help you meet that goal. Don't be afraid to abandon a completed statement if you decide that the essay doesn't effectively portray your motivations and goals. If you have difficulty coming up with ideas, brainstorm by thinking about the topic and writing down any thoughts that come to mind.

2 Unifying Theme

Your essay should have a central theme that supports the work you completed in your undergraduate and master's programs. Avoid discussing information already included in your transcript and use this opportunity to develop a compelling statement that reinforces your purpose. Remember that the doctoral essay requirement is a statement or purpose and should reflect how your past accomplishments have prepared you to complete your education. The theme should permeate every section of your essay without being overtly obvious.

3 Personal Questions

Your personal statement provides a chance for you to tell the admissions officer what you value and how your life experiences make you an ideal candidate. Use specific examples for any statements or declarations you make. Simply telling the committee you're an honest person doesn't provide the evidence to support your claim. Instead, talk about an experience that compelled you to decide on graduate school. Expanding on that, explain how your decisions and experiences molded you as a person and affected your life and decisions. Provide interesting background information that supports your claims.

4 Professional Questions

Doctoral essays often include information that helps the admissions committee determine your commitment to your profession. Discuss the suitability of the college and how the prospective college would benefit your career. Doctoral work must be specific and narrowly defined. Be specific without becoming longwinded while explaining your focus. Vague and general fields show a lack of focus and suggest you might not have the interest or knowledge to do well in graduate school. When explaining why the college fits your goals, talk about professors you admire or research that has been conducted in your field.

5 Word Limits

Doctoral essays have word limits that you should follow, usually between 250 to 500 words. Not adhering to the word limits sends one of two messages -- you can't follow instructions or you don't respect the admission officers' time. If you can't get all of the information you want into your essay with the designated word limits, look for ways to simplify wording. Reduce thoughts that are expressed in two or three phrases to a single conceptual idea. Be creative and find ways to trim your paper to meet the word limit. Some colleges might not mind if you go over, but it's not worth taking the chance of being denied admission.

Avery Martin holds a Bachelor of Music in opera performance and a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian studies. As a professional writer, she has written for, Samsung and IBM. Martin contributed English translations for a collection of Japanese poems by Misuzu Kaneko. She has worked as an educator in Japan, and she runs a private voice studio out of her home. She writes about education, music and travel.