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Dos and Don’ts of Writing the Perfect Graduate Admissions Essay

Sun, Apr 22nd, 2018

While grades and test scores play a major part in the graduate school admissions process, the application essay can make or break your graduate school application. The application essay gives the graduate school admissions committee a chance to get to know you beyond your GPA and GRE scores. This is your chance to stand out for the hundreds and sometimes thousands of students applying to graduate programs.

Many graduate programs require at least one essay as a part of their admissions application while top graduate schools may require three or even more. In any case, this free-response section of the college application should be used as an opportunity to put your best foot forward and make a lasting first impression.

Many graduate school admissions deans have admitted that a poorly written admissions essay can negatively impact a student’s application, even if they have stellar grades and GRE scores. On the flip side, a great admissions essay can cause a student with average grades to be accepted.


Don’t stress. Here are some dos and don’ts of writing graduate admissions essays.



  1. Be yourself
  2. Follow directions
  3. Answer each part of the essay prompt
  4. Prepare an outline and first draft
  5. Support your ideas with personal examples
  6. Let others read and edit
  7. Present yourself as having a positive attitude
  8. Use a variety of descriptive words
  9. Start writing early
  10. Focus on your strengths
  11. Highlight hobbies, community service, relevant jobs, or research experience
  12. Elaborate on why you are interested in the school/program and how it aligns with your personal, academic, and career goals
  13. Use first person (I…)
  14. Use a mixture of sentence structures



  1. Ramble to fill space
  2. Brag or come across as arrogant
  3. Ignore directions or specified word counts
  4. Recycle the same essay for each graduate program you are applying for
  5. Make excuses for your weaknesses
  6. Be repetitive
  7. Discuss politics or religion
  8. Use clichés
  9. Write a summary of your resume
  10. Complain
  11. Swear or use foul language
  12. Forget to proofread
  13. Use slang
  14. Preach at the admissions committee


With some effort and time, your graduate admissions essay can be a wonderful opportunity to show graduate school admissions essays who you really are, what motivates you, and why you think you will be a good fit for their graduate program.


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