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Student Professional Development Center

About the Entrance Essay

You will find that the entrance essay can have various names: personal statement, letter of intent, statement of purpose, autobiographical statement, objectives of graduate study, etc.

 The entrance essay is an extremely important part of your graduate school application. Admissions committees go through countless stacks of applications from applicants with similar test scores, grades, and academic backgrounds. The entrance essay can be the element that differentiates you. It provides admissions committees with an opportunity to get to know you on a more personal level. This is where you can portray yourself as an individual and distinguish yourself from the rest of the applicants.

Once you have a rough draft, we suggest you meet with someone in Career Services to make sure your essay content matches what the graduate program is seeking. We also suggest taking your essay(s) to the Writing Center in Belk Library, room 108, and consulting with a faculty member to ensure your essay is perfect before sending it to the school.

What kinds of things will I be asked to write about?

Some graduate programs don’t specify a topic for you to write about; they might simply request an essay and won’t give you any guidelines. Others will provide more firm guidelines or topics on which to compose your essay.

While each school will have their own guidelines, most admissions committees are looking for the same pieces of information:

  • What you want to study while in graduate school: What are your academic interests?
  • Why you want to study it: How did you get interested in the field? What do you hope to get out of graduate school?
  • Why you are applying to this particular program: How will this particular graduate program contribute to your career goals?
  • What experiences you have in the field: What kinds of relevant research, academic, clinical, personal, or field experiences have you had that have prepared you for graduate study?
  • What you plan to do with your degree once you finish it: What are your career goals? What do you hope to contribute to your field?

Address anything that is less than flattering in the rest of your application: For example, did you receive a poor grade in a significant class? Are your GRE scores below average?

Tailor your essay to match the specific essay requirements of each program. Make sure you address each part of the question they ask you to address. Also be careful to keep within the page limit or word number limit asked of you.