Tips on writing winning admission essays

An admission essay is among the most important few hundred words you’ll write. Get it wrong, and you’ll have to apply at another grad school, perhaps one you’re not very enthusiastic about attending.

Or worse, you don’t get into any grad school at all, setting you back from achieving your dreams for another year or perhaps even a lifetime once you settle into the routine of career, marriage and family.

The good news is writing a winning admission essay is easier than you think. You just have to know the four key traits of a successful admission essay:
• Structure is vital – Make an outline with your traditional topic sentence and three supporting points. Those looking over your essay want to see if you possess various traits and qualities, so you must be clear that you have them, not leave everyone guessing if you’re a match. By the way, organization and succinctness are a couple of the secondary traits they want in their students.
• Incorporate key words – Look over the school’s brochure. If it says “The University of Florida’s graduate students help reshape our social and economic culture,” use the key words “help reshape our social and economic culture” when describing how you’ve shown leadership. This shows that you’re not just using the shotgun approach in applying for grad school but have researched the university/school and are serious about going there.
• Be specific – Give very definite examples of your supporting points. On the leadership question, don’t just say you were president of the German Club but also list and explain innovative programs you initiated while president to improve the club for its members and the university.
• Use active voice verbs – Stay away from passive voice such as is, was, were, had, have, etc. Almost every other applicant will use passive voice verbs, so your energy and enthusiasm when you write in active voice will make you stand out.

If applying to multiple grad schools, you’ll likely notice that many ask very similar questions or have the same key words. While each admission essay should be written specifically for the university in question, you likely can reuse sections of answers for one school when applying to another; if you see the key word “leadership” in a lot of university brochures, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, as the saying goes. This can save you some writing time.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.