Write a Compelling Graduate School Application Essay

Personal Statement... Statement of Purpose... Candidate's Admission Statement... These terms bring a shiver to the spine of many a potential grad student. However, you should think of the personal statement as an opportunity to show admissions officers what you're made of. They want to know why you want to attend their grad program and this essay is your chance to tell them as clearly and compellingly as you can.

How Do Schools Use Your Application Essay?

Personal statements serve two basic purposes. First, they show whether you can write a clear, coherent essay that's logically and grammatically correct. These days, students' writing ability is often presumed deficient unless proven otherwise.

Second, essays give you the opportunity to present the admissions committee with more of a "three-dimensional" portrait of yourself as a deserving candidate than GPA and GRE numbers possibly can. What you choose to write sends clear signals about what's important to you and what your values are. You can explain why you really want to pursue grad work and the career path it will enable you to follow. Your essay also enables you to explain things like a dubious grade or term in an otherwise creditable record.

Essays are the best way for admissions officers to determine who you are. So, don't hesitate to go beyond your current experience for essay topics. Feel free to discuss other events that help define who you are. If you have overcome significant obstacles, say so. If you were honored with an award, describe the award and what you did to achieve recognition.

Preparation pays off on your essays, so start early. Go over your goals and aspirations, write several drafts, talk to students and professors. Then give some thought to your goals. How will you accomplish them? What can you contribute to the grad school community? What can you contribute to this particular school or program? If you can answer these questions in a clear, concise manner, the statement will be a breeze.