Writing the Perfect Graduate School Application Essay

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The average application receives less than 15 minutes of a college admissions officer’s time, and the essay is the most important component to your success.

Writing the Perfect Graduate School Application Essay

The average application receives less than 15 minutes of a college admissions officer’s time. Let that sink in. All of your years of hard work in high school and hours of hard work on your application boil down to less than 15 minutes. A lot is on the line, and the essay is the single most important component to your success. Thankfully, Prompt has identified the three keys to writing a killer application essay.

1. Be Memorable

You need your application to stick out in the reader’s mind. The average admissions officer reads through 30+ applications per day of which less than 3 will be accepted by a top school. You do not have much time to make an impression. After a while, every application begins to look the same to the admissions officers. You need to be memorable. You need your application to be the one the admissions officer remembers distinctly.

Memorable can be a lot of things – it can be something quirky, impressive, passionate, different, funny, inspirational, heartbreaking, or even gut-wrenching (if done right). When one of our founders applied to MIT, he wrote about how he wanted to be a roller coaster designer – something he was deeply passionate about at the time. His interest in designing roller coasters was memorable because it differentiated him from all of the other math and science Olympiad geeks. Other candidates we know have written about a variety of memorable topics, including starting a video game company, starting a non-profit organization for teaching underprivileged kids in Latin America, being a member of a rock band, fighting robots, biking cross-country to raise awareness for ALS, and moving to Asia for a semester to learn Tae Kwon Do. At the same time, your topic does not need to be some big, crazy thing; it can be as simple as interning at an exciting company, experiencing the loss of a loved one, or a challenge you faced that forced you to confront your flaws and strengths. There is no perfect answer, but the most important quality you can show is how your experiences have led you to a passion for your chosen field of study.

Action:

Write on what you are passionate about, and how a graduate degree will help you pursue your passions. Write several introductory paragraphs, then run them by your friends, your loved ones, and your teachers and ask them which ones they find the most memorable. Choose one or two of your paragraphs and use them to write full essays . Submit your essays on Prompt to receive professional feedback from college admission essay experts. We will provide feedback on your topic and help you select the right language to make your essays memorable.

2. Be Authentic

It is impossible to be memorable (in a good way) if you are not authentic. Think of your essay as the Miss America Pageant. A running joke is that every candidate is passionate about “world peace.” How many of those beauty pageant candidates do you actually believe?  None? While contestants struggle to come across as authentic, you cannot afford to sound insincere.

Do not write about how you want to save starving kids in Africa unless that is truly what you are passionate about in life. Our founder really did want to be a roller coaster designer. It didn’t work out for him, but he was true to himself and was accepted to MIT because his writing was both memorable and authentic. It is easy to see right through deceptive writing. You need to carefully select your language to sound sincere and speak from the heart.

Action:

Carefully select your language. Review your work and then carefully select your language again. Submit your essay on Prompt to receive professional feedback from college admission essay experts. We will help you select the right language to make sure you come across as authentic.

3. Flow, Flow, Flow, Grammar

Flow is one of the keys to a successful essay. Great flow captivates the reader, makes your writing more memorable, and makes you sounds more authentic. You need to review your essay repeatedly and give it to other readers for feedback on word choice and sentence structure. Read your essay out loud and make sure it does not sound choppy. You are Shakespeare; the admissions office is your audience.

Do not screw up grammar. Missing a comma here or there is not the end of the world, but including sentence fragments, run-on sentences, using incorrect verbiage, and making spelling mistakes can literally spell your R-E-J-E-C-T-I-O-N. Why? Grammar errors indicate carelessness – a trait no school wants. 

Action:

Start your personal statement several weeks before you submitting your application. Review your work extensively, and then have your friend or professors provide feedback. If you have colleagues in your field, have them read it as though they were on an admissions board. Submit your essay on Prompt to receive professional feedback from admission essay experts. We will make sure your essay flows well, that your grammar is perfect and professional, and that you are poised for success.

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Juan Hurtado
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