Graduate Blog / Graduate Admissions

5 Tips for Nailing Your Graduate School Essay

When applying for graduate school, the essay is a great way to stand out from the rest of the applicants. Johanna Beers, associate director of Graduate Admissions, at Babson College gives an insider perspective on what makes a graduate school essay that will set you apart.

Find your story

In the application process, the essay is a key opportunity to round out the admissions committee’s understanding of who you really are. Your résumé and recommendation focus on your professional life, and your test scores and transcripts focus on your academics, but the essay is where we get to know you. This is a chance to share your values, what your goals are, and why you are specifically interested in pursuing a graduate degree at our college. While you are forming a picture of what life might be like as a student, the essay helps us to picture you as a member of the community.

Find the “X” factor

Every graduate school you will be applying to is different. They all have unique offerings and mindsets of what a graduate degree means. When you are writing your essay, make sure you understand what makes that specific school unique. It can be tempting to copy and paste an essay from another school that is similar, but resist the temptation. For example, at Babson, one of the essay prompts asks about “entrepreneurs of all kinds,” understanding what that means in the context of Babson will be vital to a great essay. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a graduate school essay, each one needs to be personalized and tailored to the specific school and program.

Proofread! Proofread! Proofread!

This may sound obvious, but never forget the final review of your essay. This is crucial to catch any last mistakes, like using the wrong school name, or using a word in the wrong context that spell check did not catch. Something as simple as using the word “university” vs. “college” can turn off an admissions counselor and come off as careless. Sometimes it is the little things!

Take ‘optional’ literally

Most schools have an optional essay, and some people may tell you that you should always complete it. We do not believe that is the case. The optional essay should be for explaining anything in your professional or academic offerings that needs additional information. Is there a gap in your résumé? Did you have a year in undergraduate that did not go particularly well? This is the place where you can give context to anything that might stand out. If you do not have anything of that nature, do not force yourself to write the optional essay. Just because it is there, does not mean that you need it.

Be authentic

We know there is a lot of pressure around the essay to hit all the important topics: leadership, teamwork, professional development, and others, but do not just tell us what we want to hear. We want to hear a story about you, a story that only you can tell. Trying to write to what you think we want to hear does not come off as authentic. We want to make sure that the details do not get in the way of your personality. We should be able to know who you are from the story of your essay.