Common Topics for Graduate School Admissions Essays

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Without a doubt, the admissions essay is the most challenging part of the graduate school application.  Fortunately, many graduate programs provide some guidance by posting specific questions for applicants to answer, grouped into the following categories:

  • Immediate Objectives: Why do you plan to attend graduate school? Explain how graduate school will contribute to your career goals. What do you plan to do with your degree?
  • Career Plans: What are your long-term career goals? Where do you see yourself, career-wise, ten years after graduation?
  • Academic Achievements: Discuss your academic background and achievements. Of which are you most proud?
  • Research Experiences: Discuss your research experiences.
  • Internships and Field Experience: Discuss your applied experiences in this field. How have these experiences shaped your career goals?
  • Academic Interests: What would you like to study? Describe your academic interests. What areas would you like to research?
  • Match to Faculty: Explain how your research interests match those of the faculty. With whom would you like to work? Who would you choose as your mentor?
  • Personal Experience and Philosophy: Write an autobiographical essay. Is there anything in your background that you think would be relevant to your application for admission to graduate school? Describe your life up to now: family, friends, home, school, work, and particularly those experiences most relevant to your interests in psychology. What is your approach to life?
  • Strengths and Weaknesses:  Discuss your personal and academic skills. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. How will these contribute to your success as a graduate student and professional? How do you compensate for your weaknesses?

Most of your grad school applications will require similar essays, but you not should write a generic essay for all of the programs to which you're applying.

Tailor your essay to match each program. This is especially true when describing your research interests and their match to the training provided by the graduate program. Your goal is to show how your interests and abilities fit the program and faculty. Make it clear that you are invested in the program by identifying how your skills and interests match specific faculty in the program as well as the grad program's stated objectives. Composing the graduate admissions essay will never be easy but considering the range of topics ahead of time may help you in planning an effective essay that aids your graduate school application.

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Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "Common Topics for Graduate School Admissions Essays." ThoughtCo, Apr. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/graduate-school-admissions-essays-common-topics-1686139. Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. (2017, April 4). Common Topics for Graduate School Admissions Essays. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/graduate-school-admissions-essays-common-topics-1686139 Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "Common Topics for Graduate School Admissions Essays." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/graduate-school-admissions-essays-common-topics-1686139 (accessed December 14, 2017).