Your graduate school application essay is your best chance to make a great impression on admissions officers and to distinguish yourself from other candidates. So use that opportunity to write an outstanding essay that highlights your personality and your qualifications – the ones that will make you a stand-out candidate for the university or B-school you want to attend.
What follows is some good advice for you to utilise your time and energy in a way that will be most effective in convincing an admissions officer that you not only will be an asset to their Master’s or MBA programme, but also that you have the personal motivation and commitment to succeed.
Purpose of a graduate school application essay
Your transcripts and standardised test scores demonstrate your ability to handle coursework and study, but that is only part of your story. To get a more complete picture of you as a candidate, admissions officers will often ask for a personal graduate school application essay, which may also be called a statement of purpose or a motivation letter. Whatever it is named, its purpose is clear.
You are investing in a university or B-school by enrolling in its Master’s or MBA programme, and the school is making an investment in you as a student and potential alumnus. So they want to be sure you are prepared, willing, competent, and motivated to make the best of the opportunity you have been given to excel, both academically now and professionally throughout your life.
It is not unusual for a student or professional to evolve in knowledge and skill beyond what earlier transcripts or test scores can reveal. If you fear your transcripts or test scores do not accurately reflect your capabilities, the graduate school application essay is also a perfect opportunity to supplement your academic record.
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Before you begin writing your graduate school application essay
By the time you apply to a Master’s or MBA programme, you have probably done enough self-analysis that you know what your career goals are and how further education will support them. If not, that is certainly your first step. Do you know what you hope to achieve with a post-graduate degree? Are you certain you want to invest this time and money in that particular programme? Have you studied the various career options this degree will allow, and are you committed to this particular path of study? You cannot convince an admissions committee of your commitment if you have trouble convincing yourself. Neither would you want to.
To crystallize what you want to communicate in your essay, start by listing your professional goals and noting exactly how this degree programme will further them. For example, if you are deeply interested in applying for higher-level jobs for which only degreed candidates are eligible, that demonstrates an obvious need for the programme. If you begin the writing process with a clear picture of what the degree will add to your life professionally, you will have a much easier time communicating those points in your graduate school application essay.
Next, think of the experience you hope to have during your Master’s or MBA studies. What amenities, student groups, and career services do you want from the school you select? Illustrating how a particular school meets all your needs and wants demonstrates a fully thought-out decision-making process, which is fundamental to the entire application.
Finally, think of your personal goals. How will your personal life benefit from the degree and experience you will receive by graduating from a challenging Master’s or MBA programme? Search within yourself to find what motivates you most and what that degree will mean to you on a personal level. For example, if you would be the first person in your family to receive a post-graduate degree and that would bring you great pride and fulfillment, or if you think it would demonstrate to your children that anything is achievable with dedication and hard work, that is certainly a personal detail you would want to include.
Writing process for your graduate school application essay
Ideally, by this time in your education or career, you will have learned that procrastination works against you. If not, heed this warning: start early. Allow yourself enough time to make several drafts and to have people with vastly different experiences and viewpoints to read it and offer suggestions.
Overall, you want your essay to reflect your own ideas and ambitions, so it needs to be – above all else – authentic and sincere. Do not attempt to flatter the institution in the hope of winning over the committee, but instead personalise the experience ahead of you with your goals and dreams and how they will motivate you to succeed.
Begin the actual writing process by determining the essay topics available to you. Does the university or B-school to which you are applying have one specific topic or a series of questions from which to choose? Whether you are given a topic or you can pick from a list, make sure your essay stays on topic throughout. Keep a focus on your objectives for the essay, and be careful not to ramble or include too much extraneous information.
Once you have a topic in mind, go back to your initial brainstorming about your personal and professional goals as well as what you want to gain from the experience itself. Where can you draw parallels between what they want to know and what you want them to know? Try to call to mind specific examples in your life that have led to your decision to obtain this Master’s or MBA degree, and include those in your text.
Getting stuck in the writing process is rather common. If it happens, set it aside for a day or week and come back to it with a fresh perspective. Once your mind has time to digest the information, you will be surprised at how easily new ideas will come to you.
Set a goal for a first draft long before the essay is due. Ask friends and relatives with diverse experiences and opinions to critique it, and be open to their suggestions. Once you have a new draft, take it to them again. Chances are they will welcome the opportunity to assist you in pursuing such an important goal.
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Your graduate school application essay is your chance to supplement impersonal transcripts and test scores with interesting information about who you are as a student, as a professional, and as a person. Selling yourself as a candidate in a succinct yet informative way, without being boastful or insincere, can be tricky, but it can be done well if you allow yourself enough time for thorough reflection and multiple drafts. It may be that one opportunity you have to impress the admissions committee that you are the right candidate, and to get the degree you want so badly.
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Sample Graduate Application Essay - Before
My purpose for seeking a Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership is to expand my knowledge of theory and research methods as it pertains to education. I especially want to fine-tune my research skills as I feel that the importance of gaining research skills is imperative to becoming a lifelong learner and developing intellectual self-actualization as I prepare myself for a career in Education. I realize the importance of gaining credibility among my future colleagues and people that I will be serving in the field.
My view of Education is that of a reformist. I have a particular interest in the improvement of homeless individuals, single mothers and women of color. Because of my own experience with both homelessness and single motherhood, I know the feeling of helplessness as you are sinking deeper and deeper in desperation that you feel that you will never recover from it. I have seen how generations of these people have become prisoners by being illiterate and /or insufficiently educated around our city with little or no hope of getting free from their bondage. Although I have struggled hard to get myself out of this situation I refuse to forget.
I have strove to make a difference wherever I can. As volunteer at Christian Assistance Ministry I witnessed the overworked conditions that the social workers and volunteers faced. Worn from these conditions these dedicated workers had no respite from their daily work of feeding, clothing and providing funds for the homeless and families who have found themselves in a desperate situation. Although I had many job responsibilities at Christian Assistance Ministry the most common was that of interviewer where I assessed the clients situation and offered help either monetary or that of food and clothing. I soon found that intake and interview forms as well as information that was distributed to the patrons. I took it upon myself after approval from the Director to redo and modernize these forms and lists. Also I had initiated lists of other agencies that would assist clients find additional help that they needed in the Greater Houston Area. One of theses lists that I have generated has been used by City Public Service to refer customers that are in need of financial assistance to pay their utility bills. I had contacted each of the agencies personally to get up to date hours, addresses and contact names and numbers before adding them to the list. Many patrons of Christian Assistance Ministry were included in my project as I compiled lists of job hotlines, shelters and affordable housing options. This inclusion also gave many of the patrons a sense of community collaboration, as I would discuss information with them.
In my present job at SeaNet I felt that it was necessary to know what our clients, Small businesses Development Center and Small business administration Counselors felt about the services we were providing them since in the job we do we don't have personal contact with them. With my directors approval I sent out surveys asking various questions about the service we provide and got an overwhelming response. This information was used in a quarterly report that is submitted to our funding agency in Washington DC. At SeaNet I am known as an individual that prides herself in thorough research techniques. I am often being asked to do research for special projects that are beyond our usual information requests. Most recently I have done research on the availability of renewable energy sources in South Texas. This research was for a consortium of various Universities in Texas, The Economic Development Center, Solar Energy and Brooks Air Force Base investigating who are examining the feasibility using various energy sources.
I am also an advocate of 21st Century Learning Centers that would provide a safe refuge for the millions of latch-key children in this country that go home to an empty house on any given school day. Along with that thought are full service schools that would provide many of the health and social services so desperately needed in many school districts. I have and continue to research community programs that are available to school children and their families. I recently collaborated with three such agencies (Upward Bound, Peace Center, and Davis....) in Houston to present to my fellow classmates the importance and impact community collaboration makes on our schools in our city. I also provided information in the form of brochures and handouts about other such organizations that could assist in the needs of their own schools. I feel that it is imperative that every teacher, principle and administrative staff in all schools be aware of these resources in our community. After the presentation many of my classmates who are teachers and administrators contacted several of the organizations that I had introduced them to in that hour presentation and have started programs within their schools.
Although I have not yet formally been employed in the educational work environment I have been a mentor for many students attending Davis Middle School as well as a tutor for several home-schooled children. During the years of my own children attending school, I was very involved in their schools both private and public and took on many organizational and leadership roles. I served on many boards and was very active in assisting instructors and administrators in the schools my children attended. Because of these 15 years of experience, I am very familiar with the diverse educational system in Houston.
I have helped develop leadership in others by serving as an example of how far you can go in education with dedication and hard work. By being a student I have been example to others who didn't feel they could juggle school with work and raising a family. I have a very hard working and decisive character that has earned me a 4.0 GPA. I have never been one to do anything halfway but instead show the dedication and integrity it takes to finish a project to its fullest.
My short-term goals include: establishing a network of scholars and future administrators, participating in a rigorous intellectual process.
My short-term goals include taking full advantage of the Doctorate program to fine-tune and learn more about research and writing skills. I want to use and improve my knowledge in quantitative research using programs such as SPSS and Microcase, in tandem with qualitative researching techniques. I want to develop a clear and concise understanding of leadership and the education profession and how the two mesh as one while enjoying the opportunity to develop a network of scholars. To experience the community and closeness that my fellow cohort mates can provide enjoy the opportunity to brainstorm and discuss pressing issues in our schools today and how we/I/they plan on changing them for tomorrow. After researching many doctorate programs in the area I feel that Texas A&M is unique in the standpoint of wanting to create a bonding collaborative experience among all the Educational Leadership Students and especially among cohort mates. I feel that the young and innovative program suits the fresh outlook on Educational Leadership that I am in search of. I have seen the department of education blossom in the last 4 years that I have been involved with it. I can appreciate the effort and future seeking work that is going on in the department, everyone has the attitude of moving forward and evolving with the times. To me this is the true example of reform, there is no lip service in this program, and it is practicing what it preaches. I know that in the classes that I have taken there is open invitation for research and suggestions for improvement solicited. Although I have no trouble working independently on projects it is reassuring that there will be others to inspire the creative juices that comes from group interaction that this program invites. I will look forward to working with professors that I have worked with before and I am anxious to meet those I have not. There is camaraderie in the Education Department that I do not feel is quite like any other at Texas A&M.
My long-term goals take what I have learned in my master's courses in combination with the doctorate courses that will well have prepared me to enter any job in Education. I intend to prepare much of the research using the foundations for a higher level of research I have established at Texas A&M and be published and make a difference in how the underprivileged will be educated. I know that the preparation for that higher plane of achievement that has been instilled in me will serve me well in any Educational or Governmental Occupation I will find myself in. Above all I will be secure in my ability to someway participate in the nation's urgent need to educate moor efficiently and comprehensively.
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