Skip to main content

Tips for Graduate School Applications Essays

Want to ensure you get into the graduate school of your dreams? Improve your chances with this list of four graduate school application tips.

1. Apply early

It might seem obvious, but some applicants underestimate just how time-consuming a graduate school application can be, even with the right qualifications and a passion for your intended field of study. From writing the personal statement to gathering exam results, transcripts, and references, the process is not all that straightforward.

This is particularly the case for those applying to graduate schools abroad, which can involve additional requirements (e.g., IELTS, TOEFL, and TOEIC test results). Different schools might also have different requirements, demanding extra attention; therefore, a one-size-fits-all application is unlikely to pass muster when applying to multiple programs.

Some competitive postgraduate programs involve temporary application windows, while others fill up on a first-come, first-served basis (both apply to PGCE courses in the UK).

Get your application away in good time to avoid any unforeseen complications.

2. Tailor your application to the school and its requirements

As touched on in the last section, the importance of tailoring applications to individual graduate schools can’t be overemphasized. A generic statement of purpose that doesn’t provide any specific reasons for your interest in the school or potential contributions to it could put your application at a serious disadvantage. Without providing such motivations, the authenticity of your interest in the school and program could come into question, so make sure to take the time to cover all bases.

Similarly, as the application requirements vary from school to school, ensure to check these and thoroughly to avoid missing out on an opportunity to follow your dreams because of a technicality. Many universities have a mission statement and feature statements from former students – read these to provide a strong foundation for your application. If you have any questions, contact the university admissions department – they’re there to answer them.


3. Seek advice from people in the know

While researching a school for yourself is an essential initial step, talking to people with first-hand experience of attending a graduate school or the application process could give you an edge over the competition. This might mean reaching out to alumni, current students, staff, or advisors to make sure your choice is as informed as possible.

One way of doing this might be by attending graduate school open days or events. Not only would this enable you to ascertain if a school is right for you, but they’re also fantastic networking opportunities and would give you the chance to talk to members of the department you hope to join. These aren’t necessarily just held at the university in question; many graduate schools host open days and fairs for individual departments and institutes around the country and even internationally, so keep an eye out for relevant events.

4. Don’t rush your personal statement

Perhaps the most important part of your application, your personal statement is an opportunity to convey why you as an individual are ideal for the course – something your grades alone can’t achieve. The statement should cover what you can contribute to the program, why you’ll thrive in it, and what you’ll do with the valuable knowledge you’ll take away with you into the “real world.”

Avoid vague statements about your skills, qualities, and experience and ensure to back up any claims with concrete evidence or examples. Additionally, stick to concise, to-the-point language and structure your essay well to deliver your points with maximum impact; there are various example personal statements online for this purpose.

Have your personal statement looked over by someone; an editing or proofreading service that specializes in graduate applications is highly recommended for this.

In addition, select appropriate referees who can support your personal statement. If you don’t know anyone suitable, consider reaching out to a professor to discuss your academic interests with them or volunteering as a research assistant or at a relevant organization to make those all-important connections.