Each graduate program has different requirements for the application packet. Most require at least official transcripts from each academic institution you attended, a personal statement or admissions essay, letters or recommendation, and entrance exam scores.
Grade point averages are strong indicators of your ability to manage graduate-level work. Ideally, you should have a B average or higher, but mediocre grades do not mean that you won’t be accepted into a program though. Application packets are reviewed as a whole. If your GPA does not meet the program’s requirements, you should focus on doing well on your entrance exam.
The personal statement/admissions essay
Personal statements serve as your introduction to the admissions committee. In one page, you will succinctly state why you are interested in the program, why you believe the school will serve your needs, and why you are an ideal candidate for admission into the program.
This is the most appropriate way to explain any low grades you may have. If you do so, do so briefly. Do not dwell on the reasons behind your grades, or make any excuses. The purpose of the statement/essay is to answer questions asked by the admissions committee. Be sure to answer each question; each question is asked for a reason.
Create a thesis for your essay if the school has not assigned you one. This will help keep you on track, and will help you design a logical flow Do not include information that does not support your thesis. Once you’ve written your essay, review it at least three times. Better yet, have someone you trust to review it for additional suggestions. Give yourself at least one day between each revision.
As for the format, there should be an introduction which leads with a statement that grabs the reader’s attention. The next three paragraphs should: 1) summarize your educational background;, 2) describe personal experiences that have prepared you for the graduate program; and 3) an explanation of why you should be accepted. In your conclusion, restate the key points contained in numbers 1-3 and end with an equally powerful statement that links to the lead statement of your introduction.
Donald Asher, in his book Graduate Admissions Essay, What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why, cautions applicants to avoid making the following errors noted by admissions committees:
- They just seem to be saying what they think we want to hear.
- Our application is a little different. We want original work. I hate it when I can tell that they’re recycling material they wrote for other schools.
- The essay sounds like they want to be the next Mother Teresa, but nothing in the application backs up the claims of altruism.
- An essay on deep personal problems or excuses for past performance. It should be upbeat, convincing, and persuasive.
- We ask for dates on activities. It’s a red flag if all activities are brand new.
- There is always at least one essay from someone who tells us how proud he would be to be admitted to _______ School, but it isn’t that school.
- Some students think they can use the essay to manufacture a person who doesn’t exist. It doesn’t work.