Graduate Essay

Perfecting the Graduate Essay: The Do’s and Don’ts

A detailed description of what you should never do, as well as what you should do when crafting the iconic graduate essay.

A graduate essay is the first initiation mandate of a college student. Also referred to as the graduate application essay, and similar to the undergraduate application essays, the essay offers you an opportunity to demonstrate your competence to join the ranks of higher education. It should therefore carry with it a symbolic style unique to you, alongside a signature of competence and potential.  The essay is far much more than an application for college, and incorporates a strategic presentation of the justification upon which your admission is anchored.

The Craft of an Iconic Graduate Application Essay

  • Configuring the Personal Statement

To begin with, you must understand that the essay serves the purpose of a letter of intent, or a statement of purpose personified by your application. It thus serves the role of a personal statement, unique to you, and in reflection of joining the graduate program. It must therefore be unique to you, your future goals, your line of scholarship, and your intent after graduation.

Avoid a literal narrative that is generalized and referring to any other potential student. Make it yours, and let the application be defined by your goals and intent, your area of interest and future plans. In essence, the graduate essay should personify you as a scholar, and justifiably make the case for your admission to the target college or university. Do not, create a literature or philosophical narrative about ideologies or principles. Just make the essay uniquely reflect you, and express your past, your present, and your future from the perspective of a scholar and or a professional practitioner.    

  • The Art of description

While the essay should present your unique personal statement, it should also adopt a descriptive value of what really matters to the admission committee. The committee members do are not interested in your political ideology or personality. All they want to know is your value and relevance to the graduate program. As such, while assuming a personalized approach as a scholar/practitioner, the graduate essay should employ concise description of:

  • Why the program is important and relevant to you
  • Short and long-term goals of your scholarship, practice, and career
  • How the program will serve your needs, goals, and plans
  • Why you are suitable for the program and the likely outcome if enrolled
  • The role and purpose of the degree in your personal, academic, and professional life
  • Previous experiences or occurrences, which prompted your selection of the degree program
  • Justify the choice of that specific school, for that program, to your preferences and life realities

When all is done, avoid using a descriptive language to detail issues that are of no value to the admission committee. Even when you personalize the description, limit your scope to the academic and professional/career dynamics in relation to the program. As such, do not:

  • Incorporate your racial, gender, and socio-political subscriptions
  • State any controversial issue regardless of your stance
  • Volunteered any personal or social details that profile you negatively
  • Make generalist statements of the value of that degree program
  • Plead for an emotive impact as the basis of your application
  • Suggest that the program and or the school are options among available alternatives     
  • Precision, Tone, Audience Match, and Passion

Rather than wordy and generalized, a good graduate essay is precise and to the point. It always focuses on a specific academic field, employ discrete examples for illustration, and remains brief but clear. It is a factual statement that must adopt the right tone of a promising student, who is neither ignorant, nor presumptuous.  Always employ the active voice and a formal language, making smooth transitions with attention-grabbing sentence beginnings. Always open with a predictive but precise introduction, and terminate with a concrete conclusion of your personal statement.

The target audience is of academicians. As such, replace all the jargon and industry prompts that practitioners may often use, and address people who have dedicated their careers to the world of academics. This also allows you a few words to highlight why you applied to that specific school, commendably. Rather than use humour, demonstrate passion to contribute to the area of interest with new knowledge. Be clear on what you are interested in, and infiltrate the statements with an underlying commitment for further knowledge in that, and only that area of scholarship. Mention a few current challenges, and thus express your excitement to participate in developing feasible resolution for such challenges.

  • Be Unique yet Relevant

Again, as noted severally above, the graduate essay must be unique to you, personalized to your area of interest, and defined from your perspective as a scholar. It must therefore stand out as unique from the crowd of other applicants under review. It must set you apart, from the essay topic to its coverage to the lingua used, and from the academic standard attained to the logical symmetry of arguments made.   

However, even as you pursue that unique identity, remain relevant to the topic under discussion. Highlight the skills, competence, masterly, education background, and experience you have in consonance with your area of interest. Mention your internships, academic achievements, published works, and any other qualifications but only in alignment with your area of interest. Make everything relevant to your goals and plans for the future as a graduate.

  • Promise a Future and Serve a Purpose

The hallmark of a graduate student is understanding the current knowledge base, available for application, and then identifying what is still unknown. Graduate scholarship is pegged on empirical research. As such, the graduate essay should be testament of how you plan to identify, validate, and fill a gap in current knowledge for your specific discipline. The essay must promise your role in expanding knowledge in your area of scholarship, towards the future. The essay is your opportunity to convince the admission committee that you are an important addition to the program, and that you are ready for their guidance in your pending research study.   

  • Read, Edit, and Proofread

Finally, when you have created the graduate essay, read it around and listen to the emerging flow and logic. That is exactly what the admission committee will do. During and after the reading process, copy edit all the syntactic, morphological, and semantic errors contained. Then spend some time going through the essay severally, and ensure that there are no spelling, tense, and punctuation errors. Remember that you have to remain within the – or + 10% of the required word length. Do not go below or above this limit in word length.

The proofread copy of the essay should be a perfect representation of the picture you want the committee to have of the applicant. Preferably at a later date before submission, allocate some time to check for tone, style, clarity as well as grammatical mistakes. Be concise, clear, organized, and specific. Present your perspective as a scholar, and the graduate essay is now ready to channel your academic future. Best of luck.

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