How to Write a Graduate Admissions Essay

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One of the most telling pieces of a graduate school application is the graduate admissions essay. This is also the piece of the application over which you have the most control. Your transcript and list of credentials are set in stone and cannot be changed. You can, however, have in impact on your admission to graduate school by writing an effective admissions essay. This piece of writing demonstrates your writing ability and speaks to your character. By composing a well-written, personal graduate admissions essay, you will demonstrate your strengths as a student to the admissions department. Ensure that you write an effective and impressive college application essay and increase the likelihood that you are selected for the graduate school of your dreams.

Study the provided prompt carefully to ensure that you understand the question. In most cases, institutions of higher education will provide a prompt for applicants to use as a basis for their essays. Read the prompt carefully and think critically about what is asked. Follow the prompt as closely as possible and don't deviate from it or go off on tangents. Part of what the school is looking for when reviewing essays is the applicants' ability to stay on target and stick to the provided prompt.

Be honest and sincere. Heartfelt and personal application essays are the ones that admissions departments remember most. Don't be boastful or exaggerate facts. Try to select an event about which you have strong personal feelings and make that event central to your essay. The writing will come more easily if you write about something that you know and write from the heart. Highlight anything that you feel directly qualifies you for admission into the program for which you are applying. Above all, be honest. Do not make up events and attempt to pass them off as actual occurrences. Institutions of higher education take academic honestly seriously. Don't risk being accused of academic dishonesty by creating whimsical and far-fetched tales.

Stick to words with which you are comfortable. A graduate admissions essay is no time to pull out higher-level vocabulary. If you are not certain about the appropriate usage of a certain word, don't use it. While admissions departments may be impressed by someone who appears to have an extensive lexicon, they will be put off by someone who consistently misuses vocabulary. Using complex words in an attempt to impress will likely only do more harm than good. The practice is not worth the risk.

Stay within the word-count guidelines. Admission officials are often quite busy. If they ask for an essay that is between 400 and 600 words, they will not be impressed by your 1,200 word tome. Give them what they are asking for and only what they are asking for. Be concise and to the point and avoid excessively flowery language.

Proofread – then proofread again. Very little puts an admissions department off more than reading a graduate admissions essay that is riddled with errors. Proofreading is the most important step in the preparation of your graduate admissions essay. Read the essay carefully numerous times and ask a family member or trusted friend to look over the essay and give you suggestions or point out areas of weakness. Address any areas of concern and correct spelling or grammar errors to improve your essay and prepare it for submission.

Follow submission instructions strictly. You will likely be advised as to how you should submit your admissions essay. Carefully review the instructions and be sure that you follow them exactly. Your font, margins and page layouts should be aligned with the school's requests as this shows your ability to follow specific instructions.

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.