How to Write a Grad School Application Essay
Reviewer & Writer
www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Turn Your Dreams Into Reality
Take our quiz and we'll do the homework for you! Compare your school matches and apply to your top choice today.
Writing a graduate school admission essay can seem daunting. However, students can make the process easier by taking time to develop and organize their ideas before writing their personal statement.
Students can apply several practices to write a compelling grad school personal statement that gets readers to take notice. These steps include developing a solid outline, conveying a strong and memorable thesis, presenting specific points relevant to the topic, and taking sufficient time to edit and proofread the essay before submitting it.
What Is a Grad School Application Essay?
Graduate school admission or application essays allow graduate programs to get to know applicants better as people. Although an applicant's grade point average (GPA), transcripts, and test scores tell part of their story, grad school essays allow students to show how their personalities, achievements, and past experiences inform their career interests and potential for academic success.
Graduate schools often ask for personal statements or letters of intent from applicants. Prospective graduate students should know what distinguishes these documents.
- A personal statement allows students some freedom to discuss how their past experiences, career goals, and interest in a prospective program have shaped their likelihood of success in and fit for graduate study.
- A statement of purpose describes a student's reasons for applying to a program. The student typically explains how their career goals, qualifications, and research interests will affect their future beyond graduate school.
- A letter of intent is a brief essay describing a student's skills, accomplishments, and goals that pertain to the field of study they aspire to pursue while in graduate school.
What Are Admissions Officers Looking for in a Grad School Essay?
In general, admissions personnel review these essays to determine how well students might fit in with a graduate program and succeed academically. Reviewers also look for a sense of how well prospective students handle stress, overcome challenges, and stand up to the demands of a rigorous program.
Grad school essays should shed light on how well students respond to criticism of their work. Also, graduate school provides a setting where individuals can explore diverse theories and perspectives. To this end, admissions personnel look for clues about students' openness to different viewpoints and their ability to express their ideas in written form.
Popular Online Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
What to Know Before You Start Writing
Review the prompt.
The prompt for the application essay gives students a sense of how to focus their writing. Before starting to write, students should read the instructions within the prompt carefully. These directions shed light on readers' expectations.
Prompts for grad school application essays vary greatly, with some offering little detail on what the statement should cover. Applicants should pay close attention to the requirements, including word count, format, and submission method.
Some graduate essay prompts offer few instructions or requirements, leaving applicants a lot of room for choosing a topic. To determine the most appropriate topic, focus, and personal examples to include, students should devote considerable time to brainstorming before they start writing.
Students should give themselves time to reflect on their strengths, accomplishments, and research interests. They should also consider the qualities they want in a graduate program and pick out benefits provided by the program so they can speak to the specific reasons they're applying.
Create An Outline
Outlining is a crucial step in creating a compelling and memorable grad school personal statement. Just as architects need a blueprint to design and build a skyscraper, grad school applicants need a roadmap to organize and write their essays.
The most effective application essays include an attention-grabbing introduction, a body with solid and concise points, and a memorable conclusion. An outline will likely change somewhat during the writing process, but it still allows the writer to stay on top of the essay's construction.
Know the Point You're Trying to Get Across
A grad school personal statement should present a clear point or thesis to help it stand out. An overall thesis statement or claim answers the question, "What is this essay about?" A reader should not have to work hard to understand the thesis. If the point of an essay is unclear or confusing, an admissions officer might stop reading.
Applicants should place their thesis in the introduction so that the reader clearly understands what the following essay will address. Students can insert their thesis immediately after an anecdote, quotation, or other attention-getter to provide a smooth transition into the main topic.
Be Aware of Topics to Avoid
Brainstorming allows an applicant to consider a variety of topics and ways of writing about them. However, some subjects may be inappropriate for a grad school application essay because they could alienate certain readers or make them lose interest.
Topics that writers should consider omitting from an admission essay include the following:
- Traumatic personal experiences
- Subjects that make the writer appear overly negative or cynical
- An exhaustive list of accomplishments
Students should also avoid using well-known phrases or expressions. For example, common cliches offer virtually no advantage because they suggest little to no originality of thought. Also, students should not use words or terms (e.g., vulgar language) that detract from their professionalism.
What to Consider While You're Writing
Grab the reader's attention.
A strong grad school personal statement starts with writing a concise introduction that gains the reader's attention. The writer can make the essay more memorable by using a brief anecdote, quotation, compelling statistic, or rhetorical question.
The introduction should also provide a clear preview or roadmap for the rest of the essay. After the attention-getter, the essay should quickly transition into the thesis statement or main idea, followed by a preview of the upcoming points.
Writers should revisit the introduction once their essay is complete to double-check that it accurately reflects the main points of the essay.
Students should not just focus on what they think admissions personnel will want to read. Instead, they should use their voice to present their ideas in meaningful ways that reflect their true selves. In other words, write with authenticity. While the essay should reflect a polished draft, it should also show applicants as they are.
Graduate school applicants shouldn't lie or misrepresent themselves in the grad school essay. In addition to strengths and accomplishments, admissions departments want to read what applicants say about their shortcomings and how they have worked to overcome them.
Be Relevant and Specific
While students can use creative anecdotes and personal examples, they need to make their points relevant to the prompt or question. Admissions personnel generally want to learn why students wish to enroll in the program and what makes them qualified. These elements can serve as the foundation when writing the main body of an essay .
Also, the main points should be specific. For example, in expressing why they are applying to a particular program, applicants can use a brief anecdote to explain their desire to work with a faculty member who shares their research interests. While stories and examples add a personal touch, they should not distract from essential information that grad schools want to know about an applicant.
Have a Strong Ending
When writing the conclusion of a graduate school admission essay, writers should restate the thesis and reiterate the main points. Rather than presenting new information, the ending should remind the reader of the statement’s main ideas. Furthermore, it should refer back to those points while giving the reader something to think about after they have finished reading.
A conclusion can also end by tying back to the attention-getting statement in the introduction. This stylistic device brings the whole essay full circle, provides a sense of closure, and strengthens the emotional connection with the reader.
What to Do When You've Finished Writing
Finishing the draft of a graduate school admission essay does not signal the end of the writing process. Rather, polishing the draft requires re-reading, editing, and getting feedback before submitting it.
Reread Your Draft
A grad school essay containing errors or reflecting poor writing does not leave a favorable impression. Re-reading the essay allows for catching mistakes, clearing up confusing sentences, and strengthening the main points.
Unfortunately, writers can gloss over errors after reading the essay just once. As a rule of thumb, when students believe their draft has gone through enough editing and proofreading, they might take a little more time and read the document one more time.
Edit Your Draft
Students should not confuse editing with proofreading — a step that involves checking for grammar, punctuation, and stylistic errors. Editing is a more substantive process that includes checking for conciseness and ensuring that ideas flow well. Proper editing also allows writers to determine whether each paragraph or section expresses a single thought and make sure that sentences are concise and clear.
Students should allow enough time to edit their essays. Also, reading the essay aloud can provide another way to catch mistakes or confusing phrases.
Students should find individuals they trust to check their personal statement for clarity, errors, and other stylistic inconsistencies. Also, having others review the essay can give the applicant a sense of how others perceive its tone, organization, and potential to engage the reader.
Trusted peers, instructors, family members, friends, and students who have recently gone through the grad school application process often provide excellent feedback. Students can also seek out others who are applying to graduate school to share their personal statements and exchange constructive criticism.
Sample Grad School Application Essay
Prompt: Why do you wish to pursue a graduate degree in communication studies at the University of Oklahoma and how does it relate to your career goals?
Three years ago, I underwent a breast biopsy after two mammograms failed to rule out a suspicious lump. I met with my oncological surgeon before she was to perform the procedure. Although her technical skills were superior, her bedside manner left me feeling scared, uncertain, and lacking confidence in my capacity to handle a possible cancer diagnosis. Moreover, my doctor's inability to relate to me personally left me feeling powerless in meeting my health needs as a patient.
In poor health, many people feel robbed of their dignity. One of the most critical settings where patients can maintain dignity is during a doctor's visit. I wish to conduct research and teach courses in an academic setting to explore how doctor-patient interactions can help patients gain more confidence and improve their health outcomes. To this end, I am applying to the Communication Department at the University of Oklahoma to pursue a master's degree specializing in health communication. This master's will then allow me to continue my studies and earn a doctorate in this area.
I first learned a great deal about doctor-patient interactions while taking an undergraduate health communication class from Dr. Edith McNulty at the University of Nebraska. Dr. McNulty's class informed the way I view my breast biopsy experience. After completing her class, I enrolled in an independent study with Dr. McNulty transcribing qualitative interviews she conducted with patients. Through this independent study, I also learned how to perform constant comparative coding of those transcripts.
My independent study has fueled my interest in researching health communication and teaching classes on the subject. My interest in the communication studies program at Oklahoma stems partly from my interest in Dr. Dan O'Malley's studies of patients' expressions of ethnicity when they encounter healthcare workers. Working with Dr. O'Malley could expand my healthcare interest to include ethnicity as a factor in these settings.
I also am familiar with Dr. Wendy Wasser's research on communication efficacy during online video appointments. Given that increasing numbers of patients rely on telemedicine to receive their healthcare, studying with Dr. Wasser can help me understand the role of new communication technologies in doctor's visits.
Although my breast biopsy from three years ago was benign, I know that other patients are not as fortunate in their health outlook. All patients have the right to quality communication during doctor visits to help them gain confidence and take proactive measures toward their healthcare. My pursuit of a master's in health communication at the University of Oklahoma can set me on a path to contributing to our understanding of the interpersonal impact of doctor-patient interactions on medical care and patient well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions About Grad School Application Essays
How long should a grad school application essay be.
Most applicants should expect to write at least 500 words for their grad school admission essay. However, length varies by graduate program. Many application materials contain specific instructions on how to write the essay, including word limits.
What should I title my application essay for grad school?
If an online application submission page includes a text box for the title, the applicant should follow the word or character limit and make the title relevant to their grad school personal statement. However, students do not need to add a title if the application does not require it.
How do I make my application essay stand out for grad school?
Prospective students should write a clear and compelling grad school essay free of errors. Also, the statement should help make the applicant stand out from their peers. It can include specific examples of unique experiences that illustrate students' strengths and abilities.
What should you not do in an application essay for grad school?
Students should not wander off topic when answering a prompt, especially if it asks a specific question. Also, an essay should not include so many personal examples that they read as a list. Instead, the applicant can provide a brief anecdote for each main point they want to make.
How do you answer grad school application essay questions?
The best graduate school admission essays have a clear thesis statement and good organization. They also grab the reader's attention right away and maintain it to the end. The best essays also reflect the writer's careful attention to the application instructions by addressing the prompt thoroughly.
Explore More College Resources
Graduate admissions guide.
Should You Go to Graduate School?
Financial Aid Guide for Graduate Students
BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Compare Your School Options
View the most relevant schools for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to finding your college home.
- First Generation, Low Income
- International Students
- Students of Color
- Students with disabilities
- Undergraduate Students
- Master’s Students
- PhD Students
- Career Fairs
- Post Jobs, Internships, Fellowships
- Build your Brand at MIT
- Recruiting Guidelines and Resources
- Connect with Us
- Career Advising
- Distinguished Fellowships
- Employer Relations
- Graduate Student Professional Development
- Prehealth Advising
- Student Leadership Opportunities
- Academia & Education
- Architecture, Planning, & Design
- Arts, Communications, & Media
- Business, Finance, & Fintech
- Computing & Computer Technology
- Data Science
- Energy, Environment, & Sustainability
- Life Sciences, Biotech, & Pharma
- Manufacturing & Transportation
- Health & Medical Professions
- Social Impact, Policy, & Law
- Getting Started & Handshake 101
- Exploring careers
- Networking & Informational Interviews
- Connecting with employers
- Resumes, cover letters, and CVs
- Finding a Job or Internship
- Post-Graduate and Summer Outcomes
- Professional Development Competencies
- Preparing for Graduate & Professional Schools
- Preparing for Medical / Health Profession Schools
- New jobs & career transitions
- Career Prep and Development Programs
- Employer Events
- Outside Events for Career and Professional Development
- Events Calendar
- Career Services Workshop Requests
- Early Career Advisory Board
- Fall Career Fair Advisory Board
- Peer Career Advisors
- Student Staff
- Mission, Vision, Values and Diversity Commitments
- News and Reports
Graduate School Application Essays
- Share This: Share Graduate School Application Essays on Facebook Share Graduate School Application Essays on LinkedIn Share Graduate School Application Essays on Twitter
Types of Essays
Regardless of the type of school you are applying to, you will be required to submit an admissions essay as part of the application process. Graduate programs want students with clear commitment to the field. Essay prompts typically ask applicants to discuss their previous experience, future professional goals, and how the program can help them in achieving those objectives. The essay gives the applicant the chance to articulate these goals and display strong writing skills. Remember to tailor your essay to each school and the faculty committee that reviews your application. But first, take note of what kind of essay is being requested of you. Here are the two main admission essays:
A personal statement is a narrative piece describing how your character and experiences have formed you into someone who will contribute positively and effectively to not only the department but the academic discipline as a whole. This is often achieved by detailing social, educational, cultural, and economic obstacles you have overcome in your journey to get to where you are today and your future objectives. A personal statement is also an opportunity to highlight what is unique about you and how you will advance diversity within the institution.
Check out Personal Statement Resources for Graduate School Applications in the Resources section of Handshake for a brainstorming activity and essay samples that can help you get started on your personal statement.
Statement of Purpose
Interchangeably called a “research statement”, a statement of purpose will prompt you to describe your research interests and professional goals, how you plan to accomplish them, and why a specific program is best suited for you to do so. Be specific about your specialized interests within your major field. Be clear about the kind of program you expect to undertake, and explain how your study plan connects with your previous training and future goals.
Use the Outlining Your Statement of Purpose guide in the Resources section of Handshake to get started on your statement outline.
How to Write a Powerful Admission Essay
Whatever required format, your essay should be thoughtful, concise, compelling, and interesting. Remember, admissions officers read hundreds of personal essays. Below are some tips for your admissions essay writing process:
- Read the question: Be sure you are aware of all aspects of the prompt. Failing to pay attention to details in the prompt won’t reflect well on you as a potential candidate.
- What is distinct, special, and/or impressive about me and my life story?
- Have I overcome any particular hardships or obstacles?
- When did I become interested in this field and what have I learned about it?
- What are my career goals?
- What personal traits, values, and skill sets do I have that would make me stand out from other applicants?
- Create an outline: You might have a lot that you want to say, but you will need to whittle down your many thoughts and experiences to a concrete thesis with a select number of examples to support it. Create an outline for your draft, not only to organize your points and examples, but to help tailor your essay for your readers.
- Know your audience: Consider how your narrative can best meet the expectations of admissions committee members. Will faculty be reading this? Administrators? Experts in the field? Knowing your audience ahead of time will assist you in addressing the prompt appropriately.
- Grab your reader’s attention: Start your essay with something that will grab the reader’s attention such as a personal anecdote, questions, or engaging depiction of a scene. Avoid starting things off with common phrases such as “I was born in…” or “I have always wanted to…” Consider the experiences that have shaped you or your career decision, and delve into them with a creative hook.
- Write well: Your essay is a sample of your writing abilities, so it’s important to convey your thoughts clearly and effectively. Be succinct—you don’t need to write out your full autobiography or resume in prose. Exclude anything that doesn’t support your thesis. Gentle humor is okay, but don’t overdo it. Also, don’t make things up! Be honest about your experiences.
- End strong: End your essay with a conclusion that refers back to the lead and restates your thesis. This helps unify your essay as a whole, connecting your detailed experiences back to the reason you are writing this essay in the first place—to show your qualifications for your graduate program of choice.
- Use resources: The MIT Communication Labs have a CommKit that collects all of the Comm Lab resources relevant to the grad application process , including recommendation letters & interviews
- Revise: Give yourself enough time to step away from your draft. Return with a fresh pair of eyes to make your edits. Be realistic with yourself, not your harshest critic. Make a few rounds of revisions if you need.
- Ask for help: Have your essay critiqued by friends, family, educators, and the MIT Writing and Communication Center or our Career Services staff.
- Proofread: Read your essay out loud or even record yourself and listen to the recording, to help you catch mistakes or poor phrasing you may have missed when reading to yourself. Also, don’t rely exclusively on your computer to check your spelling.
- Crimson Careers
- For Employers
- Harvard College
- Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
- Harvard Extension School
- Premed / Pre-Health
- Families & Supporters
- Faculty & Staff
- Prospective Students
- First Generation / Low Income
- International Students
- Students of Color
- Students with Disabilities
- Undocumented Students
- Explore Interests & Make Career Decisions
- Create a Resume/CV or Cover Letter
- Expand Your Network
- Engage with Employers
- Search for a Job
- Find an Internship
- January Experiences (College)
- Find & Apply for Summer Opportunities Funding
- Prepare for an Interview
- Negotiate an Offer
- Apply to Graduate or Professional School
- Access Resources
- Arts & Entertainment
- Business & Entrepreneurship
- Climate, Sustainability, Environment, Energy
- Government, Int’l Relations, Education, Law, Nonprofits
- Life Sciences & Health
- Technology & Engineering
- Still Exploring
- Talk to an Advisor
- Share This: Share How to Apply to Grad School: A Complete Guide on Facebook Share How to Apply to Grad School: A Complete Guide on LinkedIn Share How to Apply to Grad School: A Complete Guide on Twitter
Whether you’ve just finished your undergraduate degree or you want to pivot your career, grad school may be the next logical step in your educational and professional development.
But how do you apply to graduate school so you have the best chance at receiving that coveted acceptance letter? Read on to learn how to submit the perfect graduate school application to impress admissions officers. For information on due dates and a printable timeline, check out our grad school application checklist .
How Grad Schools Evaluate Your Application
The exact criteria for graduate school admissions vary depending on the school and program. Still, there are certain qualifications, including GPA and grades from specific undergraduate courses, that all admissions officers consider. Most graduate programs look for a minimum 3.0 GPA.
A Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score of at least 318 is considered strong and can help your application. A professional resume with work experience related to your program is often helpful or required. Programs typically ask for letters of recommendation and a graduate school admissions essay as well.
Are You a Good Fit for the Program?
Whichever program you apply for, you must first make sure it’s a good match. Consider the following questions before submitting your application:
- Do you love the field of study the program you’re applying to focuses on?
- Do you have an undergraduate degree or work experience in an area related to your graduate school program of choice?
- Will earning this degree help you advance your career or earning potential?
- Do you have the resources to pay for graduate school, either through your own funds or through loans, grants and scholarships? For more information about this, see our guide on how to pay for graduate school .
Taking time to reflect on these questions can help you decide whether graduate school is right for you. You can also reach out to professors, students and alumni to get a better feel for your prospective program. You might even schedule a tour of the campus before applying.
Do You Have Relevant Internship or Research Experience?
Internships and relevant work experience may not make or break your graduate school application, but they can help set your application apart from the rest. Once you’re in a graduate program, you may be required to complete an internship or research work to graduate.
What Does Your Statement of Purpose Demonstrate?
A statement of purpose or personal statement tells admissions committees more about you. This essay should touch on your interests, especially as they relate to the graduate school program. The statement of purpose should also describe what you can bring to the program and why you want to be a part of it.
What Do Your Letters of Recommendation Demonstrate?
Letters of recommendation are important for graduate school because they show that credible academics and professionals think highly of you and believe you would be a good asset to the program you’re applying to.
An effective letter of recommendation is written by someone who knows you well academically or professionally, such as a professor, mentor or work supervisor. It should include titles of relevant research articles you’ve written, academic awards and honors and relevant academic activities like projects, presentations or research studies.
What Do Your Undergraduate Transcripts Show?
Simply put, official undergraduate transcripts verify that you attended the school you said you did and maintained a GPA that’s consistent with the program’s requirements. Undergraduate transcripts also allow admissions officers to see whether you took courses relevant to your prospective course of study.
How Are Your GRE Scores?
Most graduate school programs require students to take the GRE as part of the application process. An overall score of 318 or higher is considered a good score, so you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to study and retake the test if needed before your grad school application is due.
Is Your Prior Academic Experience Relevant?
While you don’t always need an undergraduate degree in the same field as the graduate program you’re applying to, admissions officers typically consider relevant undergraduate coursework, research projects and work experience when reviewing applications.
Statement of Purpose Tips
Your statement of purpose gives you the chance to show some individuality and let your personality shine through. You should aim to leave a memorable impression and craft a well-written, concise statement of purpose to boost your application. See our tips below for writing a statement of purpose.
Follow the Prompt Carefully
Be sure to answer all of the questions in the prompt to give admissions officers all the information they need. Additionally, make sure to follow any guidelines for things like style, font and file format. While these factors may seem small, incorrect formatting can lead to your application being disqualified.
This is your chance to tell your story. Write a statement of purpose that only you could write. Does your passion for medicine date back to an injury or illness you had as a child? Did you grow up watching Law & Order and feel inspired? These details remind graduate admission committees that you are a well rounded person with much to offer.
Discuss Your Goals
Aside from how your own personal and career goals relate to the program, you should also touch on how you can contribute to your school or program of choice. Do you plan on collaborating with colleagues or contributing to your institution’s research goals? Make this known in your statement of purpose.
Know Your Audience
What is the culture of the school or program you’re applying to? What does the institution value? Spend some time on its website and social media accounts to find out. You can even reach out to current students and alumni to get a better idea so you can tailor your statement of purpose accordingly.
Proofread and Revise as Needed
Don’t just write your first draft and send it off. After writing it, take some time to sleep on it, then come back and read and revise with fresh eyes. You should also have someone like a professor or tutor read your statement of purpose and provide feedback.
The interview is a big part of the graduate school application process if your program requires one. Make sure to come ready and prepared.
Do Your Research
Read up on the university and program you’re applying to so you can sound knowledgeable and interested during the interview. Answer questions such as, how big is the program or school? What have its graduates gone on to do? What are the program requirements?
You can also read up on any academic articles or research professors in your program have created.
Prepare Questions for Your Interviewer
Remember, this isn’t just about the school interviewing you. You’re also interviewing the program to determine if it’s a good fit for you. What career and network opportunities are available to students and alumni? What about grants and scholarships? Will you be paired with a mentor or an advisor?
Practice With Mock Interviews
Practice makes perfect. Look into common graduate school interview questions, and practice with a professor, classmate or friend. You can even practice solo using these 20 Graduate School Interview Questions .
Bring a Professional Portfolio
Depending on the nature of your work, it may be helpful to bring in a professional portfolio, such as if your speciality is print graphic design. Other subject areas like writing or research lend themselves to online portfolios, which you can send to your interviewers ahead of the scheduled interview.
What Does a Grad School Application Look Like?
In addition to your transcripts, test scores, statement of purpose and portfolio, your graduate school application will require some basic background information about you.
- Full legal name
- Any previous legal names used
- Age and date of birth
- Social Security number
Ethnicity information about applicants and current students is used by the university to see if it is meeting diversity quotas and to share with stakeholders. You may select one particular ethnicity, or choose options like “other,” “multiracial” or “decline to state.”
Scholarships, grants and special services can be available to active-duty and reserve military service members and veterans.
- Current mailing address
- Current phone number
- Current email
- The program you’re applying to
- Any speciality or concentrations available as part of your program
- Specialities in your program that you want to focus on
- Research topics or projects you want to pursue
History of Education
- Undergraduate degree and major
- Academic achievements and awards
Standardized Test Information
- *GRE scores (Check with your program as some may no longer require or accept GRE scores )
- Scores from any other required tests
Deadlines for financial aid often coincide with deadlines for admissions. Make sure to submit the FAFSA to ensure you qualify for as many financial aid resources as possible. Visit the Federal Student Aid website for more information, and check out our guide on how the FAFSA differs for graduate school .
- Relevant work history related to your program
- Internship or research experience related to your program
Do you speak the primary language spoken in the area where your campus is located? Do you speak more than one language? These are things admissions officers will want to know.
- Certifications or special licenses or training
- Special Awards
- Contact information, like phone numbers and emails, for professors, mentors and work supervisors who are willing to provide a reference
When submitting your online application, make sure to upload all required documents so your application will not be disqualified.
- Graduate school application fees can range from around $60 to more than $100. You must pay this fee before you can submit your application.
Confirm and Submit Form
- Finally, make sure to confirm that all your information is correct and all necessary documents are uploaded before you submit your application.
This article was originally published on Forbes.com on Feb. 3. 2023. Author is Ryah Cooley Cole, and Editor is Brenna Swanston.
How to write a standout graduate admissions essay, article highlights.
- Reflect before you begin your application essays.
- Outline your ideas before you put pen to paper.
- Write freely, and then return to edit your essay on the second draft.
- Take your time. Break between writing and editing for a fresh perspective.
- Gather feedback from a trusted source.
- Read your essay aloud to identify needed edits.
Everyone has a story to tell, and we know there’s more to you and your talents than what’s on your resume. But how will you stand out from the crowd when applying to Johns Hopkins Carey Business School?
The essay portion of the application is your opportunity to expand beyond your transcript and resume. Share your unique strengths, your background, your growth, or whatever else makes you a strong candidate for Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.
In this article, you will find a detailed explanation of how to write a standout admissions essay.
How to prepare
Before you begin writing, read the essay prompts carefully. Take a moment to reflect and explore why you’re pursuing a graduate business degree. Consider having a pen and notepad nearby as you participate in this reflection exercise. Think about your path thus far and pinpoint moments of growth and learning. Take note of how these moments have shaped you and how these experiences will guide you through your graduate business degree at Carey.
Map your ideas:
Now that you have an idea of how to share your story within the context of the essay prompts, it’s time to draft an outline . Map out your key points and outline the supporting examples. As you map the direction and flow of your essay through the outline, keep in mind your audience. Our admissions officers read thousands of application essays, so you want to find a creative hook to make your story stand out.
Don’t overthink it! Start writing:
As you start to write your first draft, let the words flow. At this stage, don’t fixate on grammar or finding the perfect word– just get your thoughts on paper. You will finesse and polish your essay in the second draft.
Share this Article
What to read next.
Take a break:
Once you complete your first draft, take a day or two before returning to edit it. Coming back to your writing with fresh eyes allows you to read it with a new perspective. Tackle the details of grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary during this second pass. Consider reading your essay backward to help catch typos.
Once you feel your essays are in a good place, it is highly recommended that you share them for review. Share them with your advisor, a trusted colleague, friend, or even your recommender . Getting insights from a trusted source can help you make your essay stronger, as well as catch any typos or small edits.
Finalize and submit:
You are almost done. Before submitting your essays, do a final review. Run a spell check and read the essays out loud to yourself. This trick allows you to identify areas that may need clarification or tweaks. As you review your final draft, make sure that you actually answered the question posed on the application.
Remember, the essay portion of your application is your chance to stand out from the crowd. By sharing who you are as a person, your growth thus far, your passions, your goals, and your voice, you can make a lasting impression. Best of luck with your application process!
Just the facts
Discover related content.
- How to apply: Full-time MS
- How to apply: Full-time MBA
What this handout is about.
This handout will help you write and revise the personal statement required by many graduate programs, internships, and special academic programs.
Before you start writing
Because the application essay can have a critical effect upon your progress toward a career, you should spend significantly more time, thought, and effort on it than its typically brief length would suggest. It should reflect how you arrived at your professional goals, why the program is ideal for you, and what you bring to the program. Don’t make this a deadline task—now’s the time to write, read, rewrite, give to a reader, revise again, and on until the essay is clear, concise, and compelling. At the same time, don’t be afraid. You know most of the things you need to say already.
Read the instructions carefully. One of the basic tasks of the application essay is to follow the directions. If you don’t do what they ask, the reader may wonder if you will be able to follow directions in their program. Make sure you follow page and word limits exactly—err on the side of shortness, not length. The essay may take two forms:
- A one-page essay answering a general question
- Several short answers to more specific questions
Do some research before you start writing. Think about…
- The field. Why do you want to be a _____? No, really. Think about why you and you particularly want to enter that field. What are the benefits and what are the shortcomings? When did you become interested in the field and why? What path in that career interests you right now? Brainstorm and write these ideas out.
- The program. Why is this the program you want to be admitted to? What is special about the faculty, the courses offered, the placement record, the facilities you might be using? If you can’t think of anything particular, read the brochures they offer, go to events, or meet with a faculty member or student in the program. A word about honesty here—you may have a reason for choosing a program that wouldn’t necessarily sway your reader; for example, you want to live near the beach, or the program is the most prestigious and would look better on your resume. You don’t want to be completely straightforward in these cases and appear superficial, but skirting around them or lying can look even worse. Turn these aspects into positives. For example, you may want to go to a program in a particular location because it is a place that you know very well and have ties to, or because there is a need in your field there. Again, doing research on the program may reveal ways to legitimate even your most superficial and selfish reasons for applying.
- Yourself. What details or anecdotes would help your reader understand you? What makes you special? Is there something about your family, your education, your work/life experience, or your values that has shaped you and brought you to this career field? What motivates or interests you? Do you have special skills, like leadership, management, research, or communication? Why would the members of the program want to choose you over other applicants? Be honest with yourself and write down your ideas. If you are having trouble, ask a friend or relative to make a list of your strengths or unique qualities that you plan to read on your own (and not argue about immediately). Ask them to give you examples to back up their impressions (For example, if they say you are “caring,” ask them to describe an incident they remember in which they perceived you as caring).
Now, write a draft
This is a hard essay to write. It’s probably much more personal than any of the papers you have written for class because it’s about you, not World War II or planaria. You may want to start by just getting something—anything—on paper. Try freewriting. Think about the questions we asked above and the prompt for the essay, and then write for 15 or 30 minutes without stopping. What do you want your audience to know after reading your essay? What do you want them to feel? Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, organization, or anything else. Just get out the ideas you have. For help getting started, see our handout on brainstorming .
Now, look at what you’ve written. Find the most relevant, memorable, concrete statements and focus in on them. Eliminate any generalizations or platitudes (“I’m a people person”, “Doctors save lives”, or “Mr. Calleson’s classes changed my life”), or anything that could be cut and pasted into anyone else’s application. Find what is specific to you about the ideas that generated those platitudes and express them more directly. Eliminate irrelevant issues (“I was a track star in high school, so I think I’ll make a good veterinarian.”) or issues that might be controversial for your reader (“My faith is the one true faith, and only nurses with that faith are worthwhile,” or “Lawyers who only care about money are evil.”).
Often, writers start out with generalizations as a way to get to the really meaningful statements, and that’s OK. Just make sure that you replace the generalizations with examples as you revise. A hint: you may find yourself writing a good, specific sentence right after a general, meaningless one. If you spot that, try to use the second sentence and delete the first.
Applications that have several short-answer essays require even more detail. Get straight to the point in every case, and address what they’ve asked you to address.
Now that you’ve generated some ideas, get a little bit pickier. It’s time to remember one of the most significant aspects of the application essay: your audience. Your readers may have thousands of essays to read, many or most of which will come from qualified applicants. This essay may be your best opportunity to communicate with the decision makers in the application process, and you don’t want to bore them, offend them, or make them feel you are wasting their time.
With this in mind:
- Do assure your audience that you understand and look forward to the challenges of the program and the field, not just the benefits.
- Do assure your audience that you understand exactly the nature of the work in the field and that you are prepared for it, psychologically and morally as well as educationally.
- Do assure your audience that you care about them and their time by writing a clear, organized, and concise essay.
- Do address any information about yourself and your application that needs to be explained (for example, weak grades or unusual coursework for your program). Include that information in your essay, and be straightforward about it. Your audience will be more impressed with your having learned from setbacks or having a unique approach than your failure to address those issues.
- Don’t waste space with information you have provided in the rest of the application. Every sentence should be effective and directly related to the rest of the essay. Don’t ramble or use fifteen words to express something you could say in eight.
- Don’t overstate your case for what you want to do, being so specific about your future goals that you come off as presumptuous or naïve (“I want to become a dentist so that I can train in wisdom tooth extraction, because I intend to focus my life’s work on taking 13 rather than 15 minutes per tooth.”). Your goals may change–show that such a change won’t devastate you.
- And, one more time, don’t write in cliches and platitudes. Every doctor wants to help save lives, every lawyer wants to work for justice—your reader has read these general cliches a million times.
Imagine the worst-case scenario (which may never come true—we’re talking hypothetically): the person who reads your essay has been in the field for decades. She is on the application committee because she has to be, and she’s read 48 essays so far that morning. You are number 49, and your reader is tired, bored, and thinking about lunch. How are you going to catch and keep her attention?
Assure your audience that you are capable academically, willing to stick to the program’s demands, and interesting to have around. For more tips, see our handout on audience .
Voice and style
The voice you use and the style in which you write can intrigue your audience. The voice you use in your essay should be yours. Remember when your high school English teacher said “never say ‘I’”? Here’s your chance to use all those “I”s you’ve been saving up. The narrative should reflect your perspective, experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Focusing on events or ideas may give your audience an indirect idea of how these things became important in forming your outlook, but many others have had equally compelling experiences. By simply talking about those events in your own voice, you put the emphasis on you rather than the event or idea. Look at this anecdote:
During the night shift at Wirth Memorial Hospital, a man walked into the Emergency Room wearing a monkey costume and holding his head. He seemed confused and was moaning in pain. One of the nurses ascertained that he had been swinging from tree branches in a local park and had hit his head when he fell out of a tree. This tragic tale signified the moment at which I realized psychiatry was the only career path I could take.
An interesting tale, yes, but what does it tell you about the narrator? The following example takes the same anecdote and recasts it to make the narrator more of a presence in the story:
I was working in the Emergency Room at Wirth Memorial Hospital one night when a man walked in wearing a monkey costume and holding his head. I could tell he was confused and in pain. After a nurse asked him a few questions, I listened in surprise as he explained that he had been a monkey all of his life and knew that it was time to live with his brothers in the trees. Like many other patients I would see that year, this man suffered from an illness that only a combination of psychological and medical care would effectively treat. I realized then that I wanted to be able to help people by using that particular combination of skills only a psychiatrist develops.
The voice you use should be approachable as well as intelligent. This essay is not the place to stun your reader with ten prepositional phrases (“the goal of my study of the field of law in the winter of my discontent can best be understood by the gathering of more information about my youth”) and thirty nouns (“the research and study of the motivation behind my insights into the field of dentistry contains many pitfalls and disappointments but even more joy and enlightenment”) per sentence. (Note: If you are having trouble forming clear sentences without all the prepositions and nouns, take a look at our handout on style .)
You may want to create an impression of expertise in the field by using specialized or technical language. But beware of this unless you really know what you are doing—a mistake will look twice as ignorant as not knowing the terms in the first place. Your audience may be smart, but you don’t want to make them turn to a dictionary or fall asleep between the first word and the period of your first sentence. Keep in mind that this is a personal statement. Would you think you were learning a lot about a person whose personal statement sounded like a journal article? Would you want to spend hours in a lab or on a committee with someone who shuns plain language?
Of course, you don’t want to be chatty to the point of making them think you only speak slang, either. Your audience may not know what “I kicked that lame-o to the curb for dissing my research project” means. Keep it casual enough to be easy to follow, but formal enough to be respectful of the audience’s intelligence.
Just use an honest voice and represent yourself as naturally as possible. It may help to think of the essay as a sort of face-to-face interview, only the interviewer isn’t actually present.
Too much style
A well-written, dramatic essay is much more memorable than one that fails to make an emotional impact on the reader. Good anecdotes and personal insights can really attract an audience’s attention. BUT be careful not to let your drama turn into melodrama. You want your reader to see your choices motivated by passion and drive, not hyperbole and a lack of reality. Don’t invent drama where there isn’t any, and don’t let the drama take over. Getting someone else to read your drafts can help you figure out when you’ve gone too far.
Many guides to writing application essays encourage you to take a risk, either by saying something off-beat or daring or by using a unique writing style. When done well, this strategy can work—your goal is to stand out from the rest of the applicants and taking a risk with your essay will help you do that. An essay that impresses your reader with your ability to think and express yourself in original ways and shows you really care about what you are saying is better than one that shows hesitancy, lack of imagination, or lack of interest.
But be warned: this strategy is a risk. If you don’t carefully consider what you are saying and how you are saying it, you may offend your readers or leave them with a bad impression of you as flaky, immature, or careless. Do not alienate your readers.
Some writers take risks by using irony (your suffering at the hands of a barbaric dentist led you to want to become a gentle one), beginning with a personal failure (that eventually leads to the writer’s overcoming it), or showing great imagination (one famous successful example involved a student who answered a prompt about past formative experiences by beginning with a basic answer—”I have volunteered at homeless shelters”—that evolved into a ridiculous one—”I have sealed the hole in the ozone layer with plastic wrap”). One student applying to an art program described the person he did not want to be, contrasting it with the person he thought he was and would develop into if accepted. Another person wrote an essay about her grandmother without directly linking her narrative to the fact that she was applying for medical school. Her essay was risky because it called on the reader to infer things about the student’s character and abilities from the story.
Assess your credentials and your likelihood of getting into the program before you choose to take a risk. If you have little chance of getting in, try something daring. If you are almost certainly guaranteed a spot, you have more flexibility. In any case, make sure that you answer the essay question in some identifiable way.
After you’ve written a draft
Get several people to read it and write their comments down. It is worthwhile to seek out someone in the field, perhaps a professor who has read such essays before. Give it to a friend, your mom, or a neighbor. The key is to get more than one point of view, and then compare these with your own. Remember, you are the one best equipped to judge how accurately you are representing yourself. For tips on putting this advice to good use, see our handout on getting feedback .
After you’ve received feedback, revise the essay. Put it away. Get it out and revise it again (you can see why we said to start right away—this process may take time). Get someone to read it again. Revise it again.
When you think it is totally finished, you are ready to proofread and format the essay. Check every sentence and punctuation mark. You cannot afford a careless error in this essay. (If you are not comfortable with your proofreading skills, check out our handout on editing and proofreading ).
If you find that your essay is too long, do not reformat it extensively to make it fit. Making readers deal with a nine-point font and quarter-inch margins will only irritate them. Figure out what material you can cut and cut it. For strategies for meeting word limits, see our handout on writing concisely .
Finally, proofread it again. We’re not kidding.
Don’t be afraid to talk to professors or professionals in the field. Many of them would be flattered that you asked their advice, and they will have useful suggestions that others might not have. Also keep in mind that many colleges and professional programs offer websites addressing the personal statement. You can find them either through the website of the school to which you are applying or by searching under “personal statement” or “application essays” using a search engine.
If your schedule and ours permit, we invite you to come to the Writing Center. Be aware that during busy times in the semester, we limit students to a total of two visits to discuss application essays and personal statements (two visits per student, not per essay); we do this so that students working on papers for courses will have a better chance of being seen. Make an appointment or submit your essay to our online writing center (note that we cannot guarantee that an online tutor will help you in time).
For information on other aspects of the application process, you can consult the resources at University Career Services .
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Asher, Donald. 2012. Graduate Admissions Essays: Write Your Way Into the Graduate School of Your Choice , 4th ed. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
Curry, Boykin, Emily Angel Baer, and Brian Kasbar. 2003. Essays That Worked for College Applications: 50 Essays That Helped Students Get Into the Nation’s Top Colleges . New York: Ballantine Books.
Stelzer, Richard. 2002. How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School , 3rd ed. Lawrenceville, NJ: Thomson Peterson.
Make a Gift
- Search This Site All UCSD Sites Faculty/Staff Search Term
- Contact & Directions
- Climate Statement
- Cognitive Behavioral Neuroscience
- Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental Psychology
- Social Psychology
- Adjunct Faculty
- Non-Senate Instructors
- Psychology Grads
- Affiliated Grads
- New and Prospective Students
- Honors Program
- Experiential Learning
- Programs & Events
- Psi Chi / Psychology Club
- Prospective PhD Students
- Current PhD Students
- Area Brown Bags
- Colloquium Series
- Anderson Distinguished Lecture Series
- Speaker Videos
- Undergraduate Program
- Graduate School Resources
Applying to Graduate Programs
- Writing Statements of Purpose and Other Application Essays
As noted in the application qualifications and admissions criteria section of this website, the statement of purpose (in other words, the primary application essay; sometimes also called personal statement , background statement , and other names) can play a major role in determining whether an applicant is invited to interview and in final selection decisions. Specifically, the statement can be used to assess the applicant’s fit with the program, match with faculty members, writing ability, and more. Thus, spending the time to craft a well-written statement of purpose or other types of application essays is necessary in order for your application to have a chance of succeeding. To help with this process, here we provide an overview of the process of writing such statements and other application essays.
Types of Statements of Purpose and Other Application Essays
Depending on the program, you may be required to provide a statement of purpose , application essay , autobiographical essay , personal statement , career goal statement, background statement , or other similarly named piece of writing. Each of these commonly is your opportunity to provide information about yourself beyond that communicated in the rest of your application materials. You may also be asked to provide supplementary essays such as a diversity statement.
Typically, graduate applications provide an essay prompt which includes specific questions or themes that you should address in the essay. Common themes include: 1,2
- Your long-term career plans
- Your research interests or areas of interest in psychology
- Your reasons for choosing the program that you are applying to
- Your prior research experiences
- Your academic background or objectives
- Your motivation for pursuing your field of study
It is common for programs to specify how the essay should be formatted, or at a minimum, its maximum length. For instance, an application essay may be stated to be “no longer than 2 double-spaced pages” or no more than 500 words. It is important to follow all directions and not exceed that limit.
Using the same exact essay for each application is not advised . 1,3 Each program typically has specific information that they are seeking, and if you do not directly address those details in your essay, your application will suffer. You may be able to reuse different parts of your application essays, but you should expect to have to write new material for each application.
Are there example statements of purpose that I should examine? A variety of online sources do contain example statements, and you can find links to example statements at the bottom of this page. However, application essays in general are unique to each individual – each person has a different set of experiences and different aspects that they may wish to emphasize. Moreover, writing an application essay that resembles someone else’s can result in that essay appearing derivative – and given the highly competitive application process, that is something you should avoid. Thus, examples are for reference only.
How to Write a Statement of Purpose and Other Application Essays
When writing an application essay, it can be helpful to rely on the following steps. Please note that these procedures represent a common approach for writing application essays; you may wish to adapt some of the steps, or use/add others, for best results. 1,3
At this first stage, jot down your thoughts as you think of answers to the essay prompt. Try to think of themes that you wish to emphasize, as well as concrete examples that you may wish to describe in the essay. You can organize them into clusters (for example, write ideas in circles and draw connecting lines). Remember that the overall goal of the essay is to convince the admissions committee that you are an attractive candidate and a good fit for their program.
This is an optional step. Take your brainstorming/clustering notes and organize them into an outline of how the essay will be structured. You might have a chronological structure that begins with your earlier experiences and advances towards your more recent activities. Alternatively, you may organize your essay around themes (for example, research topics). A common outline involves an opening paragraph, then discussion of academic accomplishments, research experience, other experiences, future plans and suitability for the program of interest, and a concluding paragraph. 4
3. Freewriting/initial draft
Often one of the biggest hurdles is just getting words on the page. The key here is to not worry about having your words sound perfectly the first time around. Try drafting several sentences, a paragraph or two, and see whether your thoughts translate well into prose. It is common at this stage to discard whole sections of text in favor of new material. At this conclusion of this process, you should aim to have a completed first draft.
It is easy to get burned out on writing, so after you have completed that first draft, set it aside for a while. Then, return with fresh eyes and read through it carefully. You are likely to find areas that need improvement – be sure to take notes or highlight them. It can help to read the essay out loud; a general rule is that if it sounds unusual when spoken aloud, it should be rewritten. Then, revise the essay.
5. Solicit feedback
Have another individual or individuals read your essays critically and provide feedback. Your mentor can be an ideal person to provide that feedback; alternatively, you might try a university writing center or your peers.
6. Revise and finalize your essay
Using the feedback and your own thoughts while reading the essay, edit it further until it is a polished product. Be sure to proofread, check formatting, and make sure that all aspects of the essay prompt are clearly and thoroughly addressed.
Statement of Purpose Do’s and Don’ts
Here are some recommended elements to include, strategies to try, and recommended elements or strategies to avoid. 1,3
- Do emphasize your individual strengths
- Do customize each statement to the program that you are submitting it to
- Do provide specific examples of relevant experiences (such as research, coursework, etc.)
- Do thoroughly address all aspects of the essay prompt
- Do use clear topic sentences, connective words or phrases, and paragraph transitions (for more information, please see the improving scientific writing section of this website)
- Do consider emphasizing your fit to the program that you are applying to
- Do consider discussing faculty mentors of interest
- Don’t use jokes, humor, or try to be funny
- Don’t excessively self-disclose personal problems
- Don’t be very general or vague in your research interests
- Don’t include complaints and criticisms
- Don’t use clichés such as “since my childhood I have always been interested in” or “I just want to help everyone”, unless you can genuinely and convincingly use them
Financial Aid, Fellowships, and Scholarship Application Essays
As you complete your graduate applications, you might also consider applying for financial aid or some sort of graduate research fellowship such as the Ford Foundation Fellowship or the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship . Such fellowships typically require a background statement that is similar in some aspects to the statement of purpose.
Workshops and Downloadable Resources
- For in-person discussion of the process of applying to graduate programs in psychology, neuroscience, and related fields, please consider attending this department’s “Paths to PhDs” workshop and other related events (for dates and times, please check the undergraduate workshops calendar).
- Tips for Applying to Graduate Programs in Psychology (a brief summary) [ PDF ]
- Applying to Grad School Videos
- American Psychological Association (2007). Getting in: a step-by-step plan for gaining admission to graduate school in psychology . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Keith-Spiegel, P., & Wiederman, M. W. (2000). The complete guide to graduate school admission: psychology, counseling, and related professions . Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Slideshow guide to writing winning statements of purpose from UCLA
- Guide to writing statements of purpose from Purdue Online Writing Lab
- Tips for writing the statement of purpose from UC Berkeley
- 10 tips for writing statements of purpose from USC
- 11 tips for writing powerful statements of purpose from CrunchPrep.com
- Choosing a graduate program from the Association for Psychological Science
- Smart shopping for psychology doctoral programs [PDF]
APA Videos on Graduate Applications
- Preparing and applying for graduate school in psychology [12-part video series]
- Preparing and applying for graduate school in psychology [video slides in PDF format]
- UCSD Graduate Division Statement of Purpose Prompt
- UCSD Career Center Graduate Application Process
- UCSD OASIS Language and Writing Program
- UCSD Writing Programs and Resources
- UCSD Muir College Writing Hub
- UCSD Writing Hub
1 American Psychological Association (2007). Getting in: a step-by-step plan for gaining admission to graduate school in psychology .
2 norcross, j. c., & hogan, t. p. (2016). preparing and applying for graduate school in psychology: 12 modules. american psychological association [video workshop]., 3 keith-spiegel, p., & wiederman, m. w. (2000). the complete guide to graduate school admission: psychology, counseling, and related professions . psychology press., 4 rutgers university camden college of arts and sciences. writing a personal statement ., prepared by s. c. pan for ucsd psychology, graphic adapted with permission from leoncastro under creative commons attribution-share alike 4.0 international license..
- Finding and Choosing Graduate Programs of Interest
- Timelines for the Graduate Application Process
- Applicant Qualifications, Admissions Criteria, and Acceptance Rates
- Requesting Letters of Recommendation
- Preparing for the Graduate Record Examination
- Graduate Admissions Interviews
- Applying to Clinical Psychology Programs
- Applying to Medical School and Professional Health Programs
- Accepting Graduate Admissions Offers
Login or sign up to be automatically entered into our next $10,000 scholarship giveaway
- College Search
- College Search Map
- Graduate Programs
- Graduate Program Search
- Scholarship Search
- Lists & Rankings
Articles & Advice
- Ask the Experts
- Campus Visits
- Catholic Colleges and Universities
- Christian Colleges and Universities
- College Admission
- College Athletics
- College Diversity
- Counselors and Consultants
- Education and Teaching
- Financial Aid
- Graduate School
- Health and Medicine
- International Students
- Internships and Careers
- Majors and Academics
- Performing and Visual Arts
- Public Colleges and Universities
- Science and Engineering
- Student Life
- Transfer Students
- Why CollegeXpress
- $10,000 Scholarship
- CollegeXpress Store
- Corporate Website
Articles & Advice > Graduate School > Articles
6 Tips for Writing a Killer Grad School Application Essay
You don't have to write the great American novel to get into grad school. You probably only have 500 words or fewer! Here are six ways to make them count.
by Dawn Papandrea Freelance Writer
Last Updated: Mar 16, 2023
Originally Posted: Jan 15, 2014
As any graduate school admission officer will tell you, numbers don’t always tell the complete story. If that was the case, students would be admitted or denied solely on their numerical grades and test scores. Instead, graduate school applications usually require an essay component so that school officials can get a sense of a student’s personality, ideals, and commitment to their studies. Depending on the type of program you wish to enter and the essay question itself, the writing portion of your application could be a chance to tout your achievements, offer a lighthearted glimpse into your personality and writing style, and/or explain what contributions you’d make as a student. Don’t fret: you don’t have to write the great American novel to get into grad school. On the contrary, you probably have to share your thoughts in 500 words or fewer. Here are six ways to make those words count.
1. Don’t become a graduate school essay cliché
Grad school essays may require you to answer a specific question (i.e., Discuss a piece of literature that changed your life.); ask you for a general statement (Tell us about yourself.); or about your goals (What do you hope your graduate studies will help you achieve?). No matter the question, you don’t want to end up boring the admission committee with a clichéd response. They have already read thousands of submissions detailing how a traumatic childhood experience influenced your career goals or how a volunteer endeavor changed the way you see the world. Don’t write about lofty ideals or brag about academic triumphs either, just because you assume it’s what admission officers want to hear. Instead, write about something that’s honest, reveals your personality in some way, and makes you a standout applicant.
Related: 7 Ways to Stand Out as a Graduate School Applicant
2. Follow the directions
Forget about the content of your essay for a second. The quickest way to blow it is to ignore the directions. If there is a suggested word count, aim to come as close to it as possible. If there is a direct question, answer it without veering off on a tangent. If you are asked to submit the essay as a single-spaced document in Comic Sans font (okay, probably not, but you never know), then so be it.
3. Keep it clean
You should have impeccable spelling, grammar, and punctuation throughout your essay, and avoid texting slang or vulgar language unless there is an absolutely compelling reason why it needs to be in your story. (Hint: there’s probably not.) If you’re sending in a hard copy, it should be on also be on crisp, white paper without fold marks, crumples, or pizza stains. If you’re emailing or attaching a file, be sure it’s named appropriately, and keep the formatting simple (or as directed).
4. Tell your story, in your words
Ditch the thesaurus. Admission folks will not be impressed by a litany of 14-syllable words or Shakespearean quotes, unless there is a reason why they tie into your story. Use conversational language and a consistent, friendly tone. Try reading your essay out loud to make sure it sounds natural. And this probably goes without saying, but it’s a good reminder anyway—never, ever plagiarize or lift words from another source in your personal essay. With the exception of a quote, which you’ll attribute appropriately, the words in your essay must come from your brain. Better yet, they should come from your heart. Try these brainstorming techniques to help get past writer’s block.
Related: Good Strategies for Writing Grad School Personal Essays
5. Take the Instagram approach
No, we’re not saying to use photos and hashtags in your essay. It’s just a modern way of telling you to “show, don’t tell” (remember that from Creative Writing 101?). In other words, be descriptive and detailed, use colorful metaphors, and avoid superlative terms. You want to try to take your reader to a place or time and help them understand who you are and what makes you tick. Generalized statements like “attending BLANK University will help me achieve my dreams” or “BLANK made me the person I am today” are throwaway sentences.
6. Know your audience
You should never write a one-size-fits-all essay if you’re applying to multiple programs and schools. Even if the topics are similar, you still want to tailor your writing so that each university you're applying to feels like you’re writing it for them. For instance, you might take a different approach for a small Christian university like Olivet Nazarene in Illinois as opposed to a large urban public institution like New York University or a more specialized program like at the Rhode Island School of Design .
Related: 3 Great Grad School Application Essay Examples
Writing your grad school essays needs to be handled with care. They carry big weight in the graduate admission process, and you only have one chance to submit them, so you want to get it right. Now that you’re armed with these prose pointers, you can put them into practice and wow any grad school admission officer. Happy writing!
While you’re working on your essays, make sure you’re on track with your other steps in the application process with our Essential Grad School Search and Application Timeline .
Like what you’re reading?
Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.
Tags: admission essays essay writing grad school graduate admission graduate programs graduate school personal statements
Join our community of over 5 million students!
CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.
$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2013
CollegeXpress has tremendously helped me in my search for financial aid opportunities as I enter my college career. It is easy to navigate and quickly narrowed down scholarships that I could apply for. Being awarded the scholarship will greatly help me in my finances regarding books and tuition. Thank you for this opportunity. Without CollegeXpress, it would have been more difficult to apply. I would recommend this site to everyone!
$10,000 Scholarship Winner, 2021
I first discovered CollegeXpress during my sophomore year of high school while researching colleges that interested me. My SAT prep class the following year further familiarized me with the opportunities available through the organization. CX has personally helped me by exposing me to a diverse selection of schools as well as scholarships and life tips that have provided valuable guidance in my college search. This scholarship will help me adjust to college life without worrying as much about tuition. This gives me more room to truly explore and benefit from all aspects of higher education. I plan to study Conservation Biology and work protecting species/ecosystems. I’m looking forward to getting field experience and seeing firsthand the problems research is solving.
High School Class of 2021
CollegeXpress helped me by providing me with many scholarship opportunities and information about universities I want to attend. What I love about CollgeXpress is how it provides a variety of information, and as the first child attending a university next year, it has been very essential and helpful. I’m so grateful for this because the information provided by CollegeXpress has also helped me see that there are so many college opportunities, and it always informs me by email. In other words, CollegeXpress has been like a guide for me as a future college student.
High School Student
CollegeXpress has helped me find so many scholarships that fit me. They match me to colleges I have specific interest in to make searching for colleges way easier and more efficient. CollegeXpress refers me to schools that have my major of interest and backup schools if I want to change my mind. CollegeXpress also gives out their own scholarships, so you have even more of a chance at gaining multiple scholarships. This website has helped me de-stress from the pressure of not being able to afford college, [of finding] what schools are right for me, and how to find easy access to scholarships that most people never knew existed.
$2,000 Spring Scholarship Contest Winner, 2021
This year has been tough for my family and myself, so receiving this scholarship has been a blessing in disguise! CollegeXpress has been an excellent resource in helping me prepare financially for college. Thank you again for this amazing opportunity!
- The Top Things to Know About Prerequisites for Graduate School
- When Is the Best Time to Apply to Law School?
- The Ultimate Guide to Graduate School Applications
- What Grad School Tests Should You Take (or Not)?
- Advice for Writing Your Grad School Personal Statement
Colleges You May Be Interested In
Framingham state university.
Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Saint Peter's University
Jersey City, NJ
Cornell University Graduate School
Personalize your experience on collegexpress..
With this information, we'll do our best to display content relevant to your interests. By subscribing, you agree to receive CollegeXpress emails and to make your information available to colleges and universities, scholarship programs, and other companies that have relevant/related offers.
Already have an account?
Log in to be directly connected to
Not a CollegeXpress user?
Don't want to register.
Provide your information below to connect with
How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School
Congrats! You’ve chosen a graduate program , read up on tips for applying to grad school , and even wrote a focused grad school resumé . But if you’re like many students, you’ve left the most daunting part of the application process for last—writing a statement of purpose. The good news is, the task doesn’t have to feel so overwhelming, as long as you break the process down into simple, actionable steps. Below, learn how to write a strong, unique statement of purpose that will impress admissions committees and increase your chances of getting into your dream school.
What is a statement of purpose?
A statement of purpose (SOP), sometimes referred to as a personal statement, is a critical piece of a graduate school application that tells admissions committees who you are, what your academic and professional interests are, and how you’ll add value to the graduate program you’re applying to.
Jared Pierce, associate director of enrollment services at Northeastern University, says a strong statement of purpose can be the deciding factor in a graduate student’s admission.
“Your statement of purpose is where you tell your story about who you are and why you deserve to be a part of the [university’s] community. It gives the admissions committee the chance to get to know you and understand how you’ll add value to the classroom,” he says.
How long is a statement of purpose?
“A statement of purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words,” Pierce says, noting that it should typically not exceed a single page. He advises that students use a traditional font at a readable size (11- or 12-pt) and leave enough whitespace in the margins to make the statement easy-to-read. Make sure to double-space the statement if the university has requested it, he adds.
Interested in learning more about Northeastern’s graduate programs?
Get your questions answered by our enrollment team.
How to Write a Statement of Purpose: A Step-by-Step Guide
Now that you understand how to format a statement of purpose, you can begin drafting your own. Getting started can feel daunting, but Pierce suggests making the process more manageable by breaking down the writing process into four easy steps.
1. Brainstorm your ideas.
First, he says, try to reframe the task at hand and get excited for the opportunity to write your statement of purpose. He explains:
“Throughout the application process, you’re afforded few opportunities to address the committee directly. Here is your chance to truly speak directly to them. Each student arrives at this process with a unique story, including prior jobs, volunteer experience, or undergraduate studies. Think about what makes you you and start outlining.”
When writing your statement of purpose, he suggests asking yourself these key questions:
- Why do I want this degree?
- What are my expectations for this degree?
- What courses or program features excite me the most?
- Where do I want this degree to take me, professionally and personally?
- How will my unique professional and personal experiences add value to the program?
Jot these responses down to get your initial thoughts on paper. This will act as your starting point that you’ll use to create an outline and your first draft.
2. Develop an outline.
Next, you’ll want to take the ideas that you’ve identified during the brainstorming process and plug them into an outline that will guide your writing.
An effective outline for your statement of purpose might look something like this:
- An attention-grabbing hook
- A brief introduction of yourself and your background as it relates to your motivation behind applying to graduate school
- Your professional goals as they relate to the program you’re applying to
- Why you’re interested in the specific school and what you can bring to the table
- A brief summary of the information presented in the body that emphasizes your qualifications and compatibility with the school
An outline like the one above will give you a roadmap to follow so that your statement of purpose is well-organized and concise.
3. Write the first draft.
Your statement of purpose should communicate who you are and why you are interested in a particular program, but it also needs to be positioned in a way that differentiates you from other applicants.
Admissions professionals already have your transcripts, resumé, and test scores; the statement of purpose is your chance to tell your story in your own words.
When you begin drafting content, make sure to:
- Provide insight into what drives you , whether that’s professional advancement, personal growth, or both.
- Demonstrate your interest in the school by addressing the unique features of the program that interest you most. For Northeastern, he says, maybe it’s experiential learning; you’re excited to tackle real-world projects in your desired industry. Or perhaps it’s learning from faculty who are experts in your field of study.
- Be yourself. It helps to keep your audience in mind while writing, but don’t forget to let your personality shine through. It’s important to be authentic when writing your statement to show the admissions committee who you are and why your unique perspective will add value to the program.
4. Edit and refine your work.
Before you submit your statement of purpose:
- Make sure you’ve followed all directions thoroughly , including requirements about margins, spacing, and font size.
- Proofread carefully for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
- Remember that a statement of purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words. If you’ve written far more than this, read through your statement again and edit for clarity and conciseness. Less is often more; articulate your main points strongly and get rid of any “clutter.”
- Walk away and come back later with a fresh set of eyes. Sometimes your best ideas come when you’re not sitting and staring at your computer.
- Ask someone you trust to read your statement before you submit it.
Making a Lasting Impression
Your statement of purpose can leave a lasting impression if done well, Pierce says. It provides you with the opportunity to highlight your unique background and skills so that admissions professionals understand why you’re the ideal candidate for the program that you’re applying to. If nothing else, stay focused on what you uniquely bring to the classroom, the program, and the campus community. If you do that, you’ll excel.
To learn more tricks and tips for submitting an impressive graduate school application, explore our related Grad School Success articles .
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in March 2017. It has since been updated for thoroughness and accuracy.
Subscribe below to receive future content from the Graduate Programs Blog.
About shayna joubert, related articles.
Why Earn a Professional Doctoral Degree?
5 Tips to Get the Most out of Grad School
Is Earning a Graduate Certificate Worth It?
Did you know.
Advanced degree holders earn a salary an average 35% higher than bachelor's degree holders. (State Higher Education Executive Officers)
Northeastern University Graduate Programs
Explore our 200+ industry-aligned graduate degree and certificate programs.
Tips for taking online classes: 8 strategies for success, public health careers: what can you do with a master’s degree, 7 international business careers that are in high demand, edd vs. phd in education: what’s the difference, 7 must-have skills for data analysts, in-demand biotechnology careers shaping our future, the benefits of online learning: 8 advantages of online degrees, the best of our graduate blog—right to your inbox.
Stay up to date on our latest posts and university events. Plus receive relevant career tips and grad school advice.
How to Become a Human Resources Manager
Effective Leadership in Healthcare: 5 Essential Traits
What to Look for in an Online College: A Guide
PrepScholar GRE Prep
Gre prep online guides and tips, 3 successful graduate school personal statement examples.
Looking for grad school personal statement examples? Look no further! In this total guide to graduate school personal statement examples, we’ll discuss why you need a personal statement for grad school and what makes a good one. Then we’ll provide three graduate school personal statement samples from our grad school experts. After that, we’ll do a deep dive on one of our personal statement for graduate school examples. Finally, we’ll wrap up with a list of other grad school personal statements you can find online.
Why Do You Need a Personal Statement?
A personal statement is a chance for admissions committees to get to know you: your goals and passions, what you’ll bring to the program, and what you’re hoping to get out of the program. You need to sell the admissions committee on what makes you a worthwhile applicant. The personal statement is a good chance to highlight significant things about you that don’t appear elsewhere on your application.
A personal statement is slightly different from a statement of purpose (also known as a letter of intent). A statement of purpose/letter of intent tends to be more tightly focused on your academic or professional credentials and your future research and/or professional interests.
While a personal statement also addresses your academic experiences and goals, you have more leeway to be a little more, well, personal. In a personal statement, it’s often appropriate to include information on significant life experiences or challenges that aren’t necessarily directly relevant to your field of interest.
Some programs ask for both a personal statement and a statement of purpose/letter of intent. In this case, the personal statement is likely to be much more tightly focused on your life experience and personality assets while the statement of purpose will focus in much more on your academic/research experiences and goals.
However, there’s not always a hard-and-fast demarcation between a personal statement and a statement of purpose. The two statement types should address a lot of the same themes, especially as relates to your future goals and the valuable assets you bring to the program. Some programs will ask for a personal statement but the prompt will be focused primarily on your research and professional experiences and interests. Some will ask for a statement of purpose but the prompt will be more focused on your general life experiences.
When in doubt, give the program what they are asking for in the prompt and don’t get too hung up on whether they call it a personal statement or statement of purpose. You can always call the admissions office to get more clarification on what they want you to address in your admissions essay.
Quick side note: we've created the world's leading online GRE prep program that adapts to you and your strengths and weaknesses. Not sure what to study? Confused by how to improve your score? We give you minute by minute guide.
You don't NEED a prep program to get a great GRE score. But we believe PrepScholar is the best GRE prep program available right now , especially if you find it hard to organize your study schedule and don't know what to study .
Click here to learn how you can improve your GRE score by 7 points, guaranteed .
What Makes a Good Grad School Personal Statement?
A great graduate school personal statement can come in many forms and styles. However, strong grad school personal statement examples all share the same following elements:
A Clear Narrative
Above all, a good personal statement communicates clear messages about what makes you a strong applicant who is likely to have success in graduate school. So to that extent, think about a couple of key points that you want to communicate about yourself and then drill down on how you can best communicate those points. (Your key points should of course be related to what you can bring to the field and to the program specifically).
You can also decide whether to address things like setbacks or gaps in your application as part of your narrative. Have a low GPA for a couple semesters due to a health issue? Been out of a job for a while taking care of a family member? If you do decide to explain an issue like this, make sure that the overall arc is more about demonstrating positive qualities like resilience and diligence than about providing excuses.
A great statement of purpose uses specific examples to illustrate its key messages. This can include anecdotes that demonstrate particular traits or even references to scholars and works that have influenced your academic trajectory to show that you are familiar and insightful about the relevant literature in your field.
Just saying “I love plants,” is pretty vague. Describing how you worked in a plant lab during undergrad and then went home and carefully cultivated your own greenhouse where you cross-bred new flower colors by hand is much more specific and vivid, which makes for better evidence.
A strong personal statement will describe why you are a good fit for the program, and why the program is a good fit for you. It’s important to identify specific things about the program that appeal to you, and how you’ll take advantage of those opportunities. It’s also a good idea to talk about specific professors you might be interested in working with. This shows that you are informed about and genuinely invested in the program.
Even quantitative and science disciplines typically require some writing, so it’s important that your personal statement shows strong writing skills. Make sure that you are communicating clearly and that you don’t have any grammar and spelling errors. It’s helpful to get other people to read your statement and provide feedback. Plan on going through multiple drafts.
Another important thing here is to avoid cliches and gimmicks. Don’t deploy overused phrases and openings like “ever since I was a child.” Don’t structure your statement in a gimmicky way (i.e., writing a faux legal brief about yourself for a law school statement of purpose). The first will make your writing banal; the second is likely to make you stand out in a bad way.
While you can be more personal in a personal statement than in a statement of purpose, it’s important to maintain appropriate boundaries in your writing. Don’t overshare anything too personal about relationships, bodily functions, or illegal activities. Similarly, don’t share anything that makes it seem like you may be out of control, unstable, or an otherwise risky investment. The personal statement is not a confessional booth. If you share inappropriately, you may seem like you have bad judgment, which is a huge red flag to admissions committees.
You should also be careful with how you deploy humor and jokes. Your statement doesn’t have to be totally joyless and serious, but bear in mind that the person reading the statement may not have the same sense of humor as you do. When in doubt, err towards the side of being as inoffensive as possible.
Just as being too intimate in your statement can hurt you, it’s also important not to be overly formal or staid. You should be professional, but conversational.
Graduate School Personal Statement Examples
Our graduate school experts have been kind enough to provide some successful grad school personal statement examples. We’ll provide three examples here, along with brief analysis of what makes each one successful.
Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 1
PDF of Sample Personal Statement 1 – Japanese Studies
For this Japanese Studies master’s degree, the applicant had to provide a statement of purpose outlining her academic goals and experience with Japanese and a separate personal statement describing her personal relationship with Japanese Studies and what led her to pursue a master’s degree.
Here’s what’s successful about this personal statement:
- An attention-grabbing beginning: The applicant begins with the statement that Japanese has never come easily to her and that it’s a brutal language to learn. Seeing as how this is an application for a Japanese Studies program, this is an intriguing beginning that makes the reader want to keep going.
- A compelling narrative: From this attention-grabbing beginning, the applicant builds a well-structured and dramatic narrative tracking her engagement with the Japanese language over time. The clear turning point is her experience studying abroad, leading to a resolution in which she has clarity about her plans. Seeing as how the applicant wants to be a translator of Japanese literature, the tight narrative structure here is a great way to show her writing skills.
- Specific examples that show important traits: The applicant clearly communicates both a deep passion for Japanese through examples of her continued engagement with Japanese and her determination and work ethic by highlighting the challenges she’s faced (and overcome) in her study of the language. This gives the impression that she is an engaged and dedicated student.
Overall, this is a very strong statement both in terms of style and content. It flows well, is memorable, and communicates that the applicant would make the most of the graduate school experience.
Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 2
PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 2 – Musical Composition
This personal statement for a Music Composition master’s degree discusses the factors that motivate the applicant to pursue graduate study.
Here’s what works well in this statement:
- The applicant provides two clear reasons motivating the student to pursue graduate study: her experiences with music growing up, and her family’s musical history. She then supports those two reasons with examples and analysis.
- The description of her ancestors’ engagement with music is very compelling and memorable. The applicant paints her own involvement with music as almost inevitable based on her family’s long history with musical pursuits.
- The applicant gives thoughtful analysis of the advantages she has been afforded that have allowed her to study music so extensively. We get the sense that she is insightful and empathetic—qualities that would add greatly to any academic community.
This is a strong, serviceable personal statement. And in truth, given that this for a masters in music composition, other elements of the application (like work samples) are probably the most important. However, here are two small changes I would make to improve it:
- I would probably to split the massive second paragraph into 2-3 separate paragraphs. I might use one paragraph to orient the reader to the family’s musical history, one paragraph to discuss Giacomo and Antonio, and one paragraph to discuss how the family has influenced the applicant. As it stands, it’s a little unwieldy and the second paragraph doesn’t have a super-clear focus even though it’s all loosely related to the applicant’s family history with music.
- I would also slightly shorten the anecdote about the applicant’s ancestors and expand more on how this family history has motivated the applicant’s interest in music. In what specific ways has her ancestors’ perseverance inspired her? Did she think about them during hard practice sessions? Is she interested in composing music in a style they might have played? More specific examples here would lend greater depth and clarity to the statement.
Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 3
PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 3 – Public Health
This is my successful personal statement for Columbia’s Master’s program in Public Health. We’ll do a deep dive on this statement paragraph-by-paragraph in the next section, but I’ll highlight a couple of things that work in this statement here:
Want to improve your GRE score by 7 points? We have the industry's leading GRE prep program. Built by world-class instructors with 99th percentile GRE scores , the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through machine learning data science, then customizes your prep program to you so you get the most effective prep possible.
Try our 5-day full access trial for free:
- This statement is clearly organized. Almost every paragraph has a distinct focus and message, and when I move on to a new idea, I move on to a new paragraph with a logical transitions.
- This statement covers a lot of ground in a pretty short space. I discuss my family history, my goals, my educational background, and my professional background. But because the paragraphs are organized and I use specific examples, it doesn’t feel too vague or scattered.
- In addition to including information about my personal motivations, like my family, I also include some analysis about tailoring health interventions with my example of the Zande. This is a good way to show off what kinds of insights I might bring to the program based on my academic background.
Grad School Personal Statement Example: Deep Dive
Now let’s do a deep dive, paragraph-by-paragraph, on one of these sample graduate school personal statements. We’ll use my personal statement that I used when I applied to Columbia’s public health program.
Paragraph One: For twenty-three years, my grandmother (a Veterinarian and an Epidemiologist) ran the Communicable Disease Department of a mid-sized urban public health department. The stories of Grandma Betty doggedly tracking down the named sexual partners of the infected are part of our family lore. Grandma Betty would persuade people to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, encourage safer sexual practices, document the spread of infection and strive to contain and prevent it. Indeed, due to the large gay population in the city where she worked, Grandma Betty was at the forefront of the AIDS crises, and her analysis contributed greatly towards understanding how the disease was contracted and spread. My grandmother has always been a huge inspiration to me, and the reason why a career in public health was always on my radar.
This is an attention-grabbing opening anecdote that avoids most of the usual cliches about childhood dreams and proclivities. This story also subtly shows that I have a sense of public health history, given the significance of the AIDs crisis for public health as a field.
It’s good that I connect this family history to my own interests. However, if I were to revise this paragraph again, I might cut down on some of the detail because when it comes down to it, this story isn’t really about me. It’s important that even (sparingly used) anecdotes about other people ultimately reveal something about you in a personal statement.
Paragraph Two: Recent years have cemented that interest. In January 2012, my parents adopted my little brother Fred from China. Doctors in America subsequently diagnosed Fred with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). My parents were told that if Fred’s condition had been discovered in China, the (very poor) orphanage in which he spent the first 8+ years of his life would have recognized his DMD as a death sentence and denied him sustenance to hasten his demise.
Here’s another compelling anecdote to help explain my interest in public health. This is an appropriately personal detail for a personal statement—it’s a serious thing about my immediate family, but it doesn’t disclose anything that the admissions committee might find concerning or inappropriate.
If I were to take another pass through this paragraph, the main thing I would change is the last phrase. “Denied him sustenance to hasten his demise” is a little flowery. “Denied him food to hasten his death” is actually more powerful because it’s clearer and more direct.
Paragraph Three: It is not right that some people have access to the best doctors and treatment while others have no medical care. I want to pursue an MPH in Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia because studying social factors in health, with a particular focus on socio-health inequities, will prepare me to address these inequities. The interdisciplinary approach of the program appeals to me greatly as I believe interdisciplinary approaches are the most effective way to develop meaningful solutions to complex problems.
In this paragraph I make a neat and clear transition from discussing what sparked my interest in public health and health equity to what I am interested in about Columbia specifically: the interdisciplinary focus of the program, and how that focus will prepare me to solve complex health problems. This paragraph also serves as a good pivot point to start discussing my academic and professional background.
Paragraph Four: My undergraduate education has prepared me well for my chosen career. Understanding the underlying structure of a group’s culture is essential to successfully communicating with the group. In studying folklore and mythology, I’ve learned how to parse the unspoken structures of folk groups, and how those structures can be used to build bridges of understanding. For example, in a culture where most illnesses are believed to be caused by witchcraft, as is the case for the Zande people of central Africa, any successful health intervention or education program would of necessity take into account their very real belief in witchcraft.
In this paragraph, I link my undergraduate education and the skills I learned there to public health. The (very brief) analysis of tailoring health interventions to the Zande is a good way to show insight and show off the competencies I would bring to the program.
Paragraph Five: I now work in the healthcare industry for one of the largest providers of health benefits in the world. In addition to reigniting my passion for data and quantitative analytics, working for this company has immersed me in the business side of healthcare, a critical component of public health.
This brief paragraph highlights my relevant work experience in the healthcare industry. It also allows me to mention my work with data and quantitative analytics, which isn’t necessarily obvious from my academic background, which was primarily based in the social sciences.
Paragraph Six: I intend to pursue a PhD in order to become an expert in how social factors affect health, particularly as related to gender and sexuality. I intend to pursue a certificate in Sexuality, Sexual Health, and Reproduction. Working together with other experts to create effective interventions across cultures and societies, I want to help transform health landscapes both in America and abroad.
This final paragraph is about my future plans and intentions. Unfortunately, it’s a little disjointed, primarily because I discuss goals of pursuing a PhD before I talk about what certificate I want to pursue within the MPH program! Switching those two sentences and discussing my certificate goals within the MPH and then mentioning my PhD plans would make a lot more sense.
I also start two sentences in a row with “I intend,” which is repetitive.
The final sentence is a little bit generic; I might tailor it to specifically discuss a gender and sexual health issue, since that is the primary area of interest I’ve identified.
This was a successful personal statement; I got into (and attended!) the program. It has strong examples, clear organization, and outlines what interests me about the program (its interdisciplinary focus) and what competencies I would bring (a background in cultural analysis and experience with the business side of healthcare). However, a few slight tweaks would elevate this statement to the next level.
Graduate School Personal Statement Examples You Can Find Online
So you need more samples for your personal statement for graduate school? Examples are everywhere on the internet, but they aren’t all of equal quality.
Most of examples are posted as part of writing guides published online by educational institutions. We’ve rounded up some of the best ones here if you are looking for more personal statement examples for graduate school.
Penn State Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School
This selection of ten short personal statements for graduate school and fellowship programs offers an interesting mix of approaches. Some focus more on personal adversity while others focus more closely on professional work within the field.
The writing in some of these statements is a little dry, and most deploy at least a few cliches. However, these are generally strong, serviceable statements that communicate clearly why the student is interested in the field, their skills and competencies, and what about the specific program appeals to them.
Cal State Sample Graduate School Personal Statements
These are good examples of personal statements for graduate school where students deploy lots of very vivid imagery and illustrative anecdotes of life experiences. There are also helpful comments about what works in each of these essays.
Want to improve your GRE score by 7+ points?
Check out our best-in-class online GRE prep program . We guarantee your money back if you don't improve your GRE score by 7 points or more.
PrepScholar GRE is entirely online, and it customizes your prep program to your strengths and weaknesses . We also feature 2,000 practice questions , official practice tests, 150 hours of interactive lessons, and 1-on-1 scoring and feedback on your AWA essays.
Check out our 5-day free trial now:
However, all of these statements are definitely pushing the boundaries of acceptable length, as all are above 1000 and one is almost 1500 words! Many programs limit you to 500 words; if you don’t have a limit, you should try to keep it to two single-spaced pages at most (which is about 1000 words).
University of Chicago Personal Statement for Graduate School Examples
These examples of successful essays to the University of Chicago law school cover a wide range of life experiences and topics. The writing in all is very vivid, and all communicate clear messages about the students’ strengths and competencies.
Note, however, that these are all essays that specifically worked for University of Chicago law school. That does not mean that they would work everywhere. In fact, one major thing to note is that many of these responses, while well-written and vivid, barely address the students’ interest in law school at all! This is something that might not work well for most graduate programs.
Wheaton College Personal Statement for Graduate School Sample 10
This successful essay for law school from a Wheaton College undergraduate does a great job tracking the student’s interest in the law in a compelling and personal way. Wheaton offers other graduate school personal statement examples, but this one offers the most persuasive case for the students’ competencies. The student accomplishes this by using clear, well-elaborated examples, showing strong and vivid writing, and highlighting positive qualities like an interest in justice and empathy without seeming grandiose or out of touch.
Wheaton College Personal Statement for Graduate School Sample 1
Based on the background information provided at the bottom of the essay, this essay was apparently successful for this applicant. However, I’ve actually included this essay because it demonstrates an extremely risky approach. While this personal statement is strikingly written and the story is very memorable, it could definitely communicate the wrong message to some admissions committees. The student’s decision not to report the drill sergeant may read incredibly poorly to some admissions committees. They may wonder if the student’s failure to report the sergeant’s violence will ultimately expose more soldiers-in-training to the same kinds of abuses. This incident perhaps reads especially poorly in light of the fact that the military has such a notable problem with violence against women being covered up and otherwise mishandled
It’s actually hard to get a complete picture of the student’s true motivations from this essay, and what we have might raise real questions about the student’s character to some admissions committees. This student took a risk and it paid off, but it could have just as easily backfired spectacularly.
Key Takeaways: Graduate School Personal Statement Examples
In this guide, we discussed why you need a personal statement and how it differs from a statement of purpose. (It’s more personal!)
We also discussed what you’ll find in a strong sample personal statement for graduate school:
- A clear narrative about the applicant and why they are qualified for graduate study.
- Specific examples to support that narrative.
- Compelling reasons why the applicant and the program are a good fit for each other.
- Strong writing, including clear organization and error-free, cliche-free language.
- Appropriate boundaries—sharing without over-sharing.
Then, we provided three strong graduate school personal statement examples for different fields, along with analysis. We did a deep-dive on the third statement.
Finally, we provided a list of other sample grad school personal statements online.
Want more advice on writing a personal statement ? See our guide.
Writing a graduate school statement of purpose? See our statement of purpose samples and a nine-step process for writing the best statement of purpose possible .
If you’re writing a graduate school CV or resume, see our how-to guide to writing a CV , a how-to guide to writing a resume , our list of sample resumes and CVs , resume and CV templates , and a special guide for writing resume objectives .
Need stellar graduate school recommendation letters ? See our guide.
See our 29 tips for successfully applying to graduate school .
Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?
Author: Ellen McCammon
Ellen is a public health graduate student and education expert. She has extensive experience mentoring students of all ages to reach their goals and in-depth knowledge on a variety of health topics. View all posts by Ellen McCammon
Which program are you applying to?
Grad school admissions: free resources, get accepted speak with a grad school admissions expert today, everything you need to know about admissions to graduate school programs, find grad school resources by topic, resources while you prepare to apply, resources for your application (essays, resume, letters of recommendation), resources for after you submit your application, advice for specific grad programs.
R esources that will teach you how to apply to grad school as efficiently and effectively as possible
Download our guide to learn how to start the grad school application process
R esources to help you prepare for the GRE including understanding scoring and time management
Resources to teach you how to create a grad school resume that will impress the adcom
Download our guide to learn how to craft an amazing admissions resume/CV
Resources that will teach you what to write about in a graduate statement of purpose, how to choose your topic, and how to follow through
Resources to help you create a captivating, thoughtful, and well-written personal statement or statement of purpose
Download our guide to learn the five fatal flaws to avoid in your grad school statement of purpose
Read our sample graduate school personal statements to learn what works
Learn how to obtain winning letters of recommendation that present you at your best
Hear from grad school admissions directors and experts about graduate school and the application process
Learn how to prepare for graduate school interviews
Resources to help you transform your waitlist status into acceptance
Resources to guide you to graduate school funding
Listen to the real stories of grad school students as they share what it's really like at graduate school
Resources to guide you through the PhD application process
Download our guide to help you unlock your competitive advantage in PhD admissions
Download our guide to learn what the best PhD program is for YOU
Resources to guide you through the Master's in Engineering application process
Download our guide to learn how you can get into a graduate engineering program
Resources to guide you through the Master's in Data Analytics application process
Resources to guide you through the Master's in Finance application process
Download our guide to learn how you can get into a master's in finance program
Meet Accepted's Expert Grad School Admissions Consultants
Choose Accepted and get matched with your own personal mentor, handpicked specifically for you from our team of uncommonly talented professionals, including former admissions directors, published authors, and PhDs.
35 years of experience in career and admissions advising for undergraduate and graduate students
Learn more about Alice >
30 years of career and admissions experience at four universities, including Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Business and College of Engineering
Learn more about Karin >
More than seven years of graduate school and scholarship consulting experience with specialties in engineering, English, social sciences, and business.
Learn more about Vanessa >
More than 10 years of experience in higher education, reviewing SOPs, personal statements, and resumes at Harvard University
Learn more about Sadie >
Dr. Mary Mahoney
Director of medical humanities at a liberal arts college in New York and a tenured English professor, specializing in the personal essay, for more than 20 years
Learn more about Mary >
25+ years of experience as admissions director and career coach at Dartmouth Tuck and Vanderbilt Owen.
Learn more about Christie >
23 years of experience as executive director of admissions at CMU Tepper and assistant dean of admissions at Georgetown McDonough and Pittsburgh Katz
Learn more about Kelly >
Former admissions committee member at the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine and curriculum development team member at the UW School of Dentistry
Learn more about Cydney >
Dr. Barry S. Rothman, Ph.D.
Emeritus professor of biology, former health professions advisor, and former director of three post-bac programs at San Francisco State University
Learn more about Barry >
Nine years in admissions as former Yale SOM associate director of admissions, Michigan State director of MBA admissions, and Cardiff Business School consultant
Learn more about Esmeralda >
Dr. Herman "Flash" Gordon
Tenured faculty member at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, he was also the admissions committee chair and a neuroscience graduate admissions committee member
Learn more about Flash >
Nearly two decades of admissions experience as former admissions dean/director at Michigan Ross, Cornell Johnson, and ASU Carey
Learn more about Natalie >
Dr. Valerie Wherley
Former assistant dean of student affairs at the William Beaumont School of Medicine and former director of pre-health advisement and the Postbac Certificate Program at Sacred Heart
Learn more about Valerie >
24 years of experience helping applicants get into top graduate programs and business schools
Learn more about Jennifer >
Graduate School Admissions Consulting Services
Interested in taking the next step in your grad school admissions journey with a proven expert by your side? We offer help and guidance through every step of the application process from CV review to essay editing to interview prep, all through hourly or comprehensive services.
"The service I received from Jamie was 10/10 – her experience in this area is clear and she was an absolute pleasure to work with. She is precise, highly efficient and clearly knows the admissions and applications game very well. Her writing and language skills are top-notch, and she was kind enough to bend our agree working schedule to accommodate my busy work schedule.
I can go on and on about the great and precise service i received from jamie, but the truth is simple; she knows her stuff and her background serves her excellently. most importantly, it seems that she really likes and enjoys what she does – this made it a wonderful experience working with her as it not only means that my resume and essays turned out much stronger but it feels like i’ve made a new friend., i would recommend jamie any day of the week", graduate school admit, " karin was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise anxiety-inducing journey that is graduate admissions. as a non-stem major applying for a stem graduate program, i knew i had to get all aspects of my application just right. karin helped me to do that by carefully going over my application materials, suggesting edits and strategies, and generally answering any questions i had. thanks to her help, i got into top mscs programs, including columbia and uchicago. i am incredibly happy with my result, and it wouldn't have been possible without karin's help. ", " dr. rothman was very helpful in my application process for a masters program and i appreciate it greatly. he was able to walk me through all the steps in a patient and easy to understand way. i needed the most help with my statement of purpose and research abstract and i definitely felt like i could not have written them without dr. rothman's help. even though organic chemistry was not his area of expertise, he was still able to understand my writing and help me improve the written portions. i also really appreciated the prewriting questionnaire he sent, as it was a great way for me to organize my thoughts and essay. some other parts that he helped with were deciding on programs and asking for recommendation letters. overall, i dr. rothman provided an invaluable amount of help and resources in this process and i would not have gotten to where i am without him. ".
- Dallas Fort Worth
- Kansas City
- Long Island
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- San Francisco-Bay Area
- Washington DC
- ACT Tutoring
- SAT Tutoring
- PSAT Tutoring
- ASPIRE Tutoring
- SHSAT Tutoring
- STAAR Tutoring
- MCAT Tutoring
- GRE Tutoring
- LSAT Tutoring
- GMAT Tutoring
- AIMS Tutoring
- HSPT Tutoring
- ISEE Tutoring
- ISAT Tutoring
- SSAT Tutoring
Search 50+ Tests
- Elementary Math
- Mandarin Chinese
- Computer Science
Search 350+ Subjects
- Video Overview
- Tutor Selection Process
- Online Tutoring
- Mobile Tutoring
- Instant Tutoring
- How We Operate
- Our Guarantee
- Impact of Tutoring
- Reviews & Testimonials
- Media Coverage
- About Varsity Tutors
4 midterm mistakes to avoid.
Midterm season can be a stressful time. You’ve made your study guide, attended study groups, and flipped through your flashcards one last time. However, on exam day, there are mistakes students often make when tackling the test. These mistakes can cost you points that may affect your overall grade in the course. Midterm exam mistakes can include poor time management, spending too much time on individual questions, and not showing your work. Your midterm exam grade can be crucial to your success in the course. So set yourself up for success—here are four midterm mistakes to avoid: Midterm mistake #1: Failing to read th ... Read More About 4 Midterm Mistakes to Avoid
5 Books to Read With Your Family to Celebrate World Book and Copyright Day
Did you know that World Book and Copyright Day falls on Thursday, April 23? Hosted by the United Nations, World Book and Copyright Day celebrates the joys and connections of reading and literacy. Here are five books to read with your family to join in on the worldwide celebration: 1. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña Written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson, Last Stop on Market Street chronicles a bus ride through the city with CJ and his grandmother. It’s a rainy Sunday. CJ is inquisitive; no question is too big or too small for him. “How come we gotta wait for the bus in all thi ... Read More About 5 Books to Read With Your Family to Celebrate World Book and Copyright Day
8 Books to Read With Your Kids While Social Distancing
As many schools have closed in response to COVID-19 and nearly everyone is social distancing, we’re all reworking our routines and reimagining what it means to learn from home. There are excellent online resources for students—a number of zoos and museums have opened their virtual doors, for example. But for an analog break, consider creating a reading list with your child. Here are eight books to get you started. Books to read with elementary school students Reading is built into elementary-age students’ school days, and it’s important for them to incorporate it into their home learning in order to keep up with fluen ... Read More About 8 Books to Read With Your Kids While Social Distancing
How to Stay Focused When You’re Working from Home
If you’re accustomed to doing your job in an office setting, transitioning to working from home can feel unexpectedly difficult. Often, it’s easy to envision how simple working from your home might be. Once you start to do it, however, you may find yourself struggling to stay focused and to keep up with your work at the same pace as you could before. With the uncertainty COVID-19 brings in regards to when you’ll return to the office, it’s vital to find strategies to thrive while working from home. Here are five: Choose a specific work area It can be tempting to sit on your couch or in bed while working from home. This ... Read More About How to Stay Focused When You’re Working from Home
Caltech Admissions Information
CalTech, a world-renowned institution for science and technology, has a highly competitive admissions process. Here is important information about the admission process for CalTech. When to Apply and Early Application CalTech operates on a regular decision application deadline for most applicants. The regular decision deadline is typically in early January, with admissions decisions released in late March. CalTech also offers Restrictive Early Action (REA), which is a non-binding early admissions process for students who are confident that Caltech is their first-choice university. REA applications are due in early November and applicants wil ... Read More About Caltech Admissions Information
Columbia University Admissions Information
Columbia University is a highly esteemed institution with a competitive admissions process. To give you a comprehensive overview of the admissions process for Columbia University, here are the key details you need to know: Application Deadlines: Columbia University operates on a regular decision application deadline for most undergraduate programs. The deadline for regular decision applications is typically in early January. However, it's important to note that Columbia also offers an Early Decision (ED) program for students who have a strong preference for attending Columbia and are ready to commit to enrolling if admitted. The Early Decisi ... Read More About Columbia University Admissions Information
Duke University Admissions Information
Duke University is a highly selective institution with a competitive admissions process. When applying to Duke, it's important to showcase your academic achievements, personal qualities, and fit with the university. Here's some comprehensive information about the admissions process for Duke University: Application Deadlines: Regular Decision: The regular decision deadline is typically in early January. Admissions decisions are released by late March. Early Decision: Duke offers an Early Decision (ED) program, which is binding. The deadline for ED is usually in early November, and decisions are released by mid-December. Application Require ... Read More About Duke University Admissions Information
Princeton Admissions Information
As a highly competitive Ivy League institution, Princeton University is known for its rigorous academic environment and prestigious reputation. The admissions process is thorough and selective, and it's important to approach it with both preparation and genuine passion for what Princeton has to offer. When to Apply Princeton University has two main admissions cycles: Early Action and Regular Decision. The Early Action deadline is typically November 1st, and this is non-binding, meaning you can still apply to and accept offers from other universities if you're accepted. The Regular Decision deadline is usually January 1st. Application Requir ... Read More About Princeton Admissions Information
Swarthmore College Admissions Information
Swarthmore College is a highly selective liberal arts institution known for its rigorous academics and diverse intellectual community. To provide you with a comprehensive overview of the admissions process for Swarthmore College, here are the key details you need to know: When to Apply and Early Application: Swarthmore College operates on a regular decision application deadline for most applicants. The regular decision deadline is typically in early January, with admissions decisions released in late March. However, Swarthmore also offers an Early Decision (ED) program, which is a binding commitment to enroll if admitted. The Early Decision ... Read More About Swarthmore College Admissions Information
- Advanced Placement
- Application Essay
- Ask an Admissions Expert
- Business School
- Business School Admissions
- Career Advice
- College Admissions
- College Applications
- College Essays
- College Experience Interviews
- College Interviews
- College Life
- College Majors
- Education Trends
- Elementary School
- Graduate School
- Graduate School Admissions
- High School
- Law School Admissions
- Learning and Studying Tips
- Med School Admissions
- Middle School
- Summer Programs
- View All Past Articles
Find the Best Tutors
Common Topics for Graduate School Admissions Essays
- Admissions Essays
- Choosing a Graduate Program
- Tips & Advice
- Recommendation Letters
- Medical School Admissions
- Homework Help
- Private School
- College Admissions
- College Life
- Business School
- Distance Learning
- Ph.D., Developmental Psychology, Fordham University
- M.A., Developmental Psychology, Fordham University
Without a doubt, the admissions essay is the most challenging part of the graduate school application . Fortunately, many graduate programs provide some guidance by posting specific questions for applicants to answer. However, if you are still in need of ideas for an admissions essay, look no further. Composing the graduate admissions essay will never be easy but considering the range of topics ahead of time may help you in planning an effective essay that aids your graduate school application.
Experience and Qualifications
- Academic Achievements: Discuss your academic background and achievements. Of which are you most proud?
- Research Experiences : Discuss your work in research as an undergraduate.
- Internships and Field Experience: Discuss your applied experiences in this field. How have these experiences shaped your career goals?
- Personal Experience and Philosophy: Write an autobiographical essay. Is there anything in your background that you think would be relevant to your application for admission to graduate school? Describe your life up to now: family, friends, home, school, work, and particularly those experiences most relevant to your interests in psychology. What is your approach to life?
- Strengths and Weaknesses: Discuss your personal and academic skills. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. How will these contribute to your success as a graduate student and professional? How do you compensate for your weaknesses?
Interests and Goals
- Immediate Objectives: Why do you plan to attend graduate school? Explain how you expect graduate school will contribute to your career goals. What do you plan to do with your degree?
- Career Plans : What are your long-term career goals? Where do you see yourself, career-wise, ten years after graduation ?
- Academic Interests: What would you like to study? Describe your academic interests. What areas would you like to research?
- Match to Faculty: Explain how your research interests match those of the faculty. With whom would you like to work? Who would you choose as your mentor ?
Most of your grad school applications will require similar essays , but you not should write a generic essay for all of the programs to which you're applying. Instead, tailor your essay to match each program. This is especially true when describing your research interests and their match to the training provided by the graduate program.
Your goal is to show how your interests and abilities fit the program and faculty. Make it clear that you are invested in the program by identifying how your skills and interests match specific faculty in the program as well as the grad program's stated objectives.
- How to Write the Graduate Admissions Essay
- FAQs About Writing Your Graduate Admissions Essay
- What to Expect During a Grad School Interview
- Self Assessment and Writing a Graduate Admissions Essay
- It's Never Too Late: How to Apply to Grad School When You're Over 65
- How to Write Your Graduate School Admissions Essay
- How to Ace the Graduate School Admissions Interview
- How to Get Recommendation Letters for Grad School
- Timeline for Applying to Graduate School
- 6 Tips Applying to Grad School for a Different Major
- Applying to Graduate School: What You Need to Know
- How to Choose Between Grad Schools
- Graduate School Admissions Interview: Dos and Don'ts
- Reasons Why Some Don't Get into Graduate School
- Can I Reapply to a Graduate Program After Being Rejected?
- Admissions Interview? Be Prepared to Interview with Graduate Students
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
How to Write a Compelling Grad School Personal Statement
Your graduate school personal statement is your opportunity to make a lasting impression on admissions committees. It is your chance to demonstrate why you are the perfect candidate for your desired program. But often, the task of writing a personal statement can be overwhelming.
To help guide you through this process, here are some valuable tips compiled by UK Online recruitment specialists.
Tips Before You Start Writing
Be authentic and reflect.
Before you put pen to paper, take some time to reflect on your life experiences, academic journey, and career aspirations. Be authentic and true to yourself in your writing. Highlight the unique aspects of your life that have led you to this point. The admissions committee is interested in who you are as an individual.
Showcase your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree. Explain what drives you, why you are passionate about your chosen field, and how this program fits into your long-term goals. Admissions committees want to see that you have a clear sense of purpose and a genuine interest in the subject.
Your personal statement is the perfect place to highlight your academic and extracurricular experiences that have prepared you for this program. Discuss any research, internships, or projects that have influenced your decision to pursue graduate studies. Connect these experiences to your future academic and career goals.
Convey Writing Skills
Effective communication is a crucial skill for graduate students. Your personal statement should showcase your writing abilities. Ensure your statement is well-structured, free of grammatical errors, and flows logically. Seek feedback from peers or writing centers to enhance its quality.
Make an Impression
Your opening paragraph is your chance to make a memorable first impression. Craft an engaging introduction that captivates the reader's attention. Use a powerful anecdote, a thought-provoking question, or a striking statement to draw them in. Admissions committees review numerous applications, so standing out from the beginning is vital.
Things You Should Include in Your Personal Statement
Your introduction should provide a glimpse of your personality and what motivates you. It sets the tone for the entire personal statement, so make it compelling.
Share your academic history and personal background. Discuss your achievements, academic journey, and relevant experiences. Explain how your background has led you to the point of applying for this specific program.
Motivation and Goals
Clearly articulate your reasons for pursuing this graduate program. What are your short-term and long-term goals? Explain how the program aligns with your aspirations. This section should convey your enthusiasm and commitment.
Relevance of Experience
Highlight the experiences, internships, or research projects that have contributed to your readiness for this program. Connect these experiences to the skills and knowledge you will bring to the graduate program. Show that you are well-prepared.
Discuss what makes you unique. Mention your unique qualities, skills, or attributes that set you apart from other applicants. This is your chance to stand out and show why you're a valuable addition to the program.
In your conclusion, summarize your key points and reiterate your passion for the program. Express your enthusiasm for the opportunity to join the institution. End on a positive note and leave the reader with a memorable impression.
Remember to be authentic, showcase your motivation, highlight your experiences, convey your writing skills, and make a lasting impression. Craft a personal statement that reflects your unique journey and demonstrates your readiness for graduate studies. Best of luck with your application!
- Apply Grad School
Get a UK Degree, Your Way
Choose from one of our 80+ degrees and certificates, designed to be flexible with your lifestyle and career..
In the Fall 2022 term, 75% of students enrolled in UK Online programs received some form of financial aid.
In This Article:
About uk online.
We launch critical & innovative thinkers, creators and doers. The University of Kentucky has a long history of successful alumni who are leaders in their roles, industries and communities. Choose from one of our 80+ degrees and certificates, designed to be flexible with your lifestyle and career.
Explore Online Programs
- Bachelor’s Degrees
- Master's Degrees
- Doctorate Degrees
- Undergraduate Certificates
- Graduate Certificates
- External Certifications
- All Programs
- Art & History
- Business, Administration & Leadership
- Criminal Justice & Legal Studies
- Information Science
- Professional Writing & Communication
- Social Work & Behavioral Sciences
- Sustainability & Agriculture
Start achieving your career goals
And earn your uk degree, from anywhere, learn online., expand your skill set. grow your career..
Pay the same tuition anywhere in the world with our online tuition rate
Fit learning into your busy schedule with the flexibility of learning online
Have access to support services and success coaches to help you succeed
Degrees conferred by the University of Kentucky, a long-standing land-grant university