Steps and Tips for Writing a Graduate School Application Essay

Last Updated: 15 July 2023

Graduate schools worldwide require applicants to submit a graduate school application essay. A graduate school essay can be a statement of purpose (SOP), otherwise known as a research or personal statement.

Even though the prompts will differ depending on the university or graduate school departments, you will most likely write a two-page application essay.

Most graduate school essays are between 500 and 750 words long. The limited number of pages and words makes writing such an application essay challenging. You only have a few words to pitch your candidacy to an admission committee comprising a few department members skimming through hundreds of other essays. Therefore, you must give it your best shot.

In this guide, our top graduate essay writers have contributed insights, tips, and steps, including examples to help you convince a graduate admission committee that you will meaningfully contribute to their institution and departments.

What Is a Graduate School Essay?

A graduate school essay is an application essay, either a personal statement or a statement or purpose (SOP)/ research statement that a potential graduate school student writes to convince the admissions committee members that they deserve a chance in the school or department.

It is a common means the admission committees use to screen those fit to pursue graduate school programs from the many applications they receive every year, ranging from hundreds to thousands. Only the candidates whose graduate school essays stand out get admission.

Types of Graduate School Admission Essays

A personal statement will mostly be a story or narrative describing how your personality, motivations, and experiences put you ahead of other candidates for the graduate program. It entails explaining how you will contribute to the specific department and the academic discipline. If you are required to write a personal statement, you will have a unique prompt or question to answer. However, the aim is to narrate a remarkable story about how you became who you are and what you intend to achieve. You can describe how a summer internship or practicum experience influenced your interest in a particular field or problem and connect it to the department/institution. You must also share your plan after completing the grad school program.

The statement of purpose (SOP) or research statement responds to a prompt or question (s). Sometimes, your admissions committee is interested in how you comment on a given set of topics. Unlike the personal statement where you tell a story, here you objectively discuss your academic interests and future academic and career goals. In most cases, you must highlight your professional goals, a road map to attaining them, and why the program will be the best to help you achieve them. You need to specifically pitch your specialized interests within a given field and be clear about how the program is fit to help you achieve the goals.

The Length of a Graduate School Essay

The typical graduate school admission essay is between 500 and 750 words (2 to 3 pages long). This estimation is based on what we commonly see when graduates send us graduate school essay instructions for assistance.

It is rare to see one over 750 words (3 pages). Therefore, there is no need to panic or to feel overwhelmed when you find out you need to write one.

Given the brevity of the admission essay, it is essential to plan your essay carefully so that you can discuss all your relevant achievements and goals while relating them to the program.

When there is a minimum and maximum word count, ensure your essay word count is perfect. You can do the average and stay within limits. Going below the minimum word limit shows your disinterest or lack of seriousness. Besides, writing too many words will show you are not keen on following instructions.

Common Graduate School Essay Prompts

The most common graduate school admission essay prompts include:

Whatever essay prompt you get, you should work hard to ensure you respond to it accurately. Being off-topic in your essay is the worst thing you can do. Of course, you must also try to let your personality show through as a person, even when writing the research statement.

Steps To Write a Brilliant Grad School Admission Essay

When writing a graduate school application essay, focusing your work on your academic achievements is essential.

For an undergraduate school application essay, you can get away with focusing on a creative personal story or some other extra-curricular achievement, like the famous Costco essay. This is not the case for a graduate school application essay.

A graduate school essay must focus on both personal and academic achievements. You can also focus on a research problem you want to address during your studies. In most cases, the prompt or instructions you receive will guide how to approach writing the essay or statement of purpose.

Now that you know all the critical facts about graduate school essays, it is time to discover the exact steps to follow to write the best essay.

1. Identify Your Audience

Before writing the essay, you should identify who will read, assess, and qualify it. Even if you do not have their specific details, investigate their personalities and the everyday things the admission panel likes to hear. Doing so ensures that you write an admission essay that is unique and piques the interest of the admission panel. You do not want to write a flat generic essay that will score average points.

Going all in means identifying the audience. Therefore, try as much as possible to find out about the admissions panel reading your essay.

Thanks to the internet, you can visit the school website and focus specifically on a given department. Once you identify who they are, go a step ahead and research their social media profiles, professional profiles, or personal websites.

As much as you can, read everything you can about the school and the instructors there. Find out what the school likes, the students it exalts as model students, etc.

Finding out as much as you can about the school that you are applying to and the people working there will help you to develop an essay that the school and its staff prefer over other essays.

2. Read the Instructions and Brainstorm

You need to be very thorough when addressing the essay prompt or questions. You want to come out as a strong candidate, which means following the instructions in the letter.

Skim through the instructions or prompt first, then read it critically two times as you take notes. Start brainstorming only after making sure you understand the instructions.

Brainstorming is all about thinking carefully about what you will write (how you will respond to the essay prompt). Try as much as you can think of something very passionate or exciting to respond to your essay prompt. Write down three to five potential topics or points and settle on the most interesting one.

If your essay prompt requires a straightforward response, you can make the answer enjoyable using facts, data, stats, and evidence.

3. Create an outline

Make sure you create a strong outline for your grad school essay. Remember, the stronger your outline, the easier it will be for you to write a brilliant essay.

At the very least, your outline should capture your opening statement (attention grabber), thesis, paragraph starters, evidence, examples, and a closing statement. These are enough to guide you when writing your intro, body paragraphs, and conclusion.

4. Write Your First Draft

After creating an outline, you should proceed to write your first draft. You should work hard to reach the end when writing your admission essay draft.

Since you have mapped out the skeleton of the essay, you need to expand the points. Do not care about making the essay exciting or something of the like. Just write. Focus on writing rather than perfecting everything.

Write and do not stop writing until you write the closing statement. When you write your essay this way, you will unlikely experience writer’s block.

As you write the first draft, ensure that you have an attention-grabbing opening to enthuse your readers to read the essay from top to end. Pique the reader’s interest within the first few lines. The introduction should introduce who you are so the reader can understand your overall big picture. Ensure that the first paragraph highlights your career or professional goal and how admittance to the program would allow you to achieve it.

In the body paragraphs, support your decision to pursue the program by describing experiences and lessons that made you understand the importance of the program. You can also expound on the research topic, indicating its significance. Ensure that you link the paragraphs together and write chronologically.

Finish your essay stronger by including a conclusion that restates your thesis to unify the essay as a whole. Connect your experience to the reason for applying into the program and detail your career goals. You should also briefly state how the program would give you the skills, tools, and opportunity to improve the department, school, country, or world.

5. Refine Your Essay

After writing the first draft of your essay, you should proceed to refine it into a final draft.

Carefully read the essay to make sure everything is clear and understandable. Also, try to make sure all your points are relevant, and there is excellent flow throughout the essay. You can read the essay aloud and listen to how it flows. Ensure that you have placed the linking words correctly. You can use grammar checkers such as Grammarly, Hemmingway Editor, or Ginger to ensure the correct syntax, tenses, punctuation, vocabulary use, word choice, spelling, and flow. A graduate school admission essay should be error-free to show you are serious about your candidacy.

Once you have refined your essay, try to read it from a critic’s perspective to identify more mistakes and polish your essay to the level where it is ready to submit.

Asking for help writing your graduate school essay is not proof that you are weak. It means that you want a professional paper that can guide you as you write your paper. You can hire an admission essay writer from our website and complete it quickly. Check out other graduate school writing services that we offer.

6. Get Someone to Read Your Essay

You will most likely have some subjective opinions about the points you have made in your essay. You need an extra pair of eyes to ensure it is objective enough. Therefore, try to find someone, a friend, colleague, professional essay proofreader, or family member, for one more review. Ask them to read your essay and highlight all the issues they identify.

When they submit the essay back to you, you should check the highlighted issues and correct them. After you do this, your essay should be ready for submission.

Tips to Help You Make Your Grad School Essay the Best

Follow the tips below to make your graduate school essay the best. If you follow the steps above, you should be able to write a good essay. If you want to write an excellent essay, follow the tips below.

  1. Make your essay as unique as it can be. You must make sure your essay is as unique as it can be. This is the best way to make your essay stand out. Do this by highlighting your unique experiences, using unique language & writing, and/or using stats & data.
  2. Make your writing passionate. Passionate writing is another way to make your essay stand out. You can make your writing passionate by talking about what excites you. Remember, you are competing against dozens of other applicants. So making your writing passionate is vital to catch the reader’s eye.
  3. Don’t tell. Telling an experience takes you out of it. You should prioritize showing rather than telling. Showing is all about expounding, explaining, and telling your story from the first-person point of view. This often makes your story more personal and relatable, which is a good thing if you want maximum points for your essay.
  4. You must be relevant. You should ensure everything is relevant in your essay from the first sentence to the last. This will help you to ensure your essay is on-point throughout. Points, sentences, or arguments irrelevant to your essay prompt should not be featured anywhere in it. If they do, they will quickly make your essay disconnected and uninteresting to the reader.
  5. Explain gaps. You should do your best to explain if there is a gap in your academic record or anything odd. Just make sure anything odd or missing is explained, and do not go overboard. One or two sentences are enough. Of course, you should do your best to ensure you put the sentences in the right part of the essay where they do not affect flow.
  6. Don’t give out damaging info. Many people unknowingly provide damaging information in their application essays. No matter how interesting or relevant to a story, any such information should be left out. Most admissions officers will quickly dismiss your application when they read damaging information.
  7. Don’t repeat yourself. Repeating yourself or over-emphasizing specific points in your essay will not make it any better. It will quickly make it stale for the reader resulting in average or low marks. So avoid repeating yourself.
  8. Revise and edit your essay thoroughly. After writing your essay, you should revise and edit it thoroughly. This will help you to create an essay that is perfect and ready for review by the admissions panel.
  9. Keep off controversial topics. Do not mention any controversial topics or figures in your essay, even if they are significant in your personal story. This is because mentioning them can offend or irritate someone leading to your application essay being dismissed or rejected.
  10. Avoid flowery language. An essay is an academic writing. Therefore, it should be written in plain and straightforward language. This means writing parts of your essay or your entire essay using flowery language will make it odd and reduce the likelihood of you getting top points.
  11. Avoid technical language. No matter how smart you are, you should keep your essay simple to make it easy to understand. Nobody wants to read an essay full of jargon and technical language. Nobody wants to see your mastery of English. Therefore, do your best to avoid technical language and jargon.
  12. Avoid copying. Copying a similar essay from the internet and presenting it as your own will quickly lead to your essay and your application being dismissed by the admissions office. Most admissions offices check application essays using a plagiarism checker before reading them. Therefore, a copied essay will quickly be flagged as plagiarism leading to the quick rejection of your essay.
  13. Make it about yourself. In social interactions, it is advisable not to make things about yourself. This is because it makes you look self-centered and selfish. However, when writing a grad school essay, it is very much advisable to make it about yourself. Make it about yourself by focusing it on what you have achieved. Ensure the essay highlights your educational, professional, and extra-curricular achievements. While making your essay about yourself is good, you must not forget to relate your achievements to the program you want to be admitted to. Remember, admission officers have a few minutes to decide if your essay is worth it. Therefore, you must quickly show them it is worth it by relating your achievements to the program. Highlight how your achievements make you a good fit or a perfect fit for the program you are applying for.

Sample Graduate School Admission Essays

With all the valuable hints and tips on how to construct the best essay possible, you need to get inspired. Here are two samples, one a personal statement and the other a research statement, to stimulate your authentic creativity by seeing what counts as a winning graduate school essay.  

Graduate School Essay Example 1 (Personal Statement)

Essay prompt 1: Describe a recent situation where your actions exhibited leadership

Recently in 2022, there was a controversial rule by the US Supreme Court that essentially allowed states to legislate abortion on their own. While initially, I did not care much about this decision, reading about the impact of the ruling and how states were acting to limit women rights made me angry. I joined subsequently joined several marches in my state to protest against the Supreme Court decision.

While the marches I joined and the petitions I signed yielded very little results, I quickly realized that the only way to make sure my voice is heard is to vote and participate in politics. My first opportunity to do so was first approaching (the recent mid-term elections).

I opted to vote for a candidate who promised to do something to protect women’s rights and freedoms in this country. However, I knew my one vote was not going to make much of a difference so I joined my candidate’s neighborhood campaign team. Through this team, I was able to mobilize many people from across the political divide to vote for my candidate.

By the end of the campaign period, I was the team’s co-chairperson thanks to my efforts and the fact that I got so many people to sign and commit to vote for our candidate. The candidate did eventually win and my vote district did record one of the highest turnout percentages in the state thanks, in part, to my efforts.

I believe my actions as a campaign team chairperson helped to put a man of integrity and action in the US Senate. I also believe that through this person, we will, in the near future, see more laws that protect women’s rights and freedoms. In short, my leadership helped to indirectly protect the rights and freedoms of American women.

With the proper education, I believe I can play an even more significant leadership role in protecting the rights and freedoms of American women and other communities that are facing the limitation of rights and freedoms. This is why I am applying to join your leadership program. From my research, I believe your program has what it takes to prepare me for such a role in the future.

Grad School Essay Sample 2 (Research Statement (SOP))

Clinical Problem: The ongoing global pandemic (COVID-19 Virus) is responsible for increasing demand for healthcare providers. The ratio of providers to patients at my clinic has increased significantly, and it is causing stress, burnout, and fatigue among providers and patients. QUESTION: Describe a clinical problem in your practice setting and explain why it is a‌‍‍‌‌‍‌‌‌‌‌‍‍‍‌‌‌‌‍ problem warranting a change to impact patient and or organizational outcomes. (IDENTIFIED CLINICAL PROBLEM IS ABOVE)

The Essay

          The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19. Over 2,800,000 known cases and nearly 200,000 deaths attributed to SARS-CoV-2 had been recorded by April 26, 2020; a few months after the epidemic began. Because of major disease outbreaks, the need for healthcare professionals is on the rise (Vizheh et al., 2020). A persistent increase in infected patients, a spike in the number of mortalities, a shortage of relevant treatment or vaccination, widespread media attention, large workload, a shortage of personal protective equipment, and perceptions of insufficient assistance will all add to the emotional strain on these medical service workers (Vizheh et al., 2020). Health care workers are forced to work extra shifts while under extreme stress in these conditions. When managing sick people, they run the risk of being compromised. On the other hand, they, like other people, are subjected to a significant percentage of false news and gossip, all of which contribute to their fear (Vizheh et al., 2020). According to research, many health workers were contaminated with SARS-CoV-2 after coming into near contact with infected persons (Vizheh et al., 2020). At the early stages of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, health care workers made up 29% of all admitted patients. Serving in these environments puts medical personnel at risk for a variety of psychological and psychiatric disorders, and cognitive and psychosocial trauma.

          Although the negative psychological impacts of SARS have been noted, the number of SARS-CoV-2 affected patients and associated deaths have been many occasions that of SARS. Some also compared the present scenario of SARS-accelerated CoV-2's disperse to the end of the planet (Vizheh et al., 2020).  Hospitals are overburdened, and many people's everyday lives are in jeopardy. This global situational system has the power to place healthcare professionals in an unparalleled scenario, putting them under extreme stress (Kringos et al., 2020). As a result, healthcare professionals are more likely to suffer from social and psychiatric issues. As a result, in this sensitive situation, the personal health of the medical team should be taken into consideration (Vizheh et al., 2020). With the lessons learned from recent global crises and their psychosocial consequences, it is critical to evaluate the mental wellbeing of the clinical personnel early and take into account effective treatments (Vizheh et al., 2020). As a result, it is important to take systematic and realistic steps to secure the mental health of healthcare staff (Kringos et al., 2020). Few reports have looked at the psychological health of health care staff who interact with COVID-19 clients to date.

Besides, many therapeutic services are given to enhance this focus group's general psychological state. As part of a wider public health approach, performance intelligence is critical in directing healthcare system stakeholders' choices on the execution of contextualized interventions to combat COVID-19 or another potential disease, as well as their impact on the healthcare system as a whole (Kringos et al., 2020). This can be focused on widely agreed-upon streamlined statistics and associated systems of metrics, using established health information institutions to the fullest extent possible (Kringos et al., 2020). Legislators should promote the growth and application of performance knowledge built on this concept, and encourage other healthcare experts to participate and improve this strategy for the long-term transition of pandemic-resilient health care.


Kringos, D., Carinci, F., Barbazza, E., Bos, V., Gilmore, K., Groene, O., Gulácsi, L., Ivankovic, D., Jansen, T., Johnsen, S. P., De Lusignan, S., Mainz, J., Nuti, S., & Klazinga, N. (2020). Managing COVID-19 within and across health systems: Why we need performance intelligence to coordinate a global response. Health Research Policy and Systems18(1).

Vizheh, M., Qorbani, M., Arzaghi, S. M., Muhidin, S., Javanmard, Z., & Esmaeili, M. (2020). The mental health of healthcare workers in the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review. Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders19(2), 1967-1978.

A Final Note

Writing a powerful application essay that earns you admission is never easy. It is a process riddled with anxiety, nervousness, and mixed feelings. To ensure that you have a strong graduate school application essay, one that is transferrable across all graduate programs, ensure that:

  1. You read the instructions
  2. Share the most meaningful events, qualities, or moments. You can share a vision or begin with an anecdote.
  3. Enlist the accomplishments that have prepared you for excellence.
  4. Explain your academic, personal, and career/professional goals.
  5. Detail why you need admission to graduate school to achieve your goals.
  6. Explain why the graduate school is the ideal place to achieve your goals (e.g., state-of-the-art equipment, learning system, curriculum, faculty members, etc.)
  7. Your contribution to the community once you attain your goals

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