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How to Write a Graduate School Entrance Essay

by Kate Beck, studioD

When you apply to a graduate program, either for a master's or doctoral degree, you need to carefully follow its application process. If you do not have all of the required elements in your application packet, the program may not consider you for placement. The personal essay makes up one of the main components of most graduate program applications, so knowing how to write an effective essay may help application reviewers notice you.

Required Questions

While some graduate programs give you the freedom to include the information you choose in your entrance essay, other programs have a list of questions they want you to answer in your personal statement. You will want to focus your essay on these questions, but you may choose to expand on them if necessary, including information you believe the entrance committee would find beneficial in considering you for admission. Keep a list of these questions nearby so you can ensure that you cover each one.


Research your target schools and graduate programs, considering any particular goals outlined by the programs. Many graduate schools take great pride in the way they assist students in pursuing their desired careers. They often have specific goals outlined for the program as a whole, so you may want to make notes on how your particular goals line up with a particular program's, as well as identifying faculty members whose research interests align with yours. As you build your essay, you can include this information, showing the application reviewers how you will benefit from the program but also how the program may benefit from your knowledge, experience and future goals.


Once you research the program and know any specific questions it wants your entrance essay to answer, create an outline. This will help you stay on track and may help you stay within any word-count guidelines. Share your volunteer and work experience, as well as your goals. Give personal details that allow the application reviewers to understand what you have achieved and how your past shaped your goals. If you have a low GPA from your undergraduate degree or another academic flaw, address this in your essay as well. Once you have your outline, you can begin writing your essay.


With a draft of your entrance essay completed, you can begin the revision process. Start by evaluating the content of your essay. Did you address the questions posed by the graduate program? Did you explain how the graduate degree or program itself will help you achieve your goals? You should also read through the essay to make sure you have a solid beginning, middle and end to your essay. If possible, create an eye-catching beginning and end that will keep you in the application reviewers' minds. Your final revision step should include looking at grammar, punctuation and overall sentence structure. Graduate programs will expect you to have a solid grasp on written communication, and an error-free essay will help show your writing skills.

About the Author

Kate Beck started writing for online publications in 2005. She worked as a certified ophthalmic technician for 10 years before returning to school to earn a Masters of Fine Arts degree in writing. Beck is currently putting the finishing touches on a novel.

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