Admissions essays can be one of the most daunting parts of the application process. Applicants often spend hours (or days) staring at a blank computer screen, just hoping for the perfect words to flow from their fingers to the keyboard. They don’t want this opportunity to go up in proverbial flames by writing down the wrong response, and neither do admissions officers. But in reality, we’re not looking for the perfect response. We’re looking for your truth. So don’t be afraid to be honest in the words you choose.
To help you in the writing process, here are some tips that are sure to help your writing shine.
1. Follow directions.
It’s an easy step, but it’s one that applicants often fail to follow. We know you’re applying to multiple schools, so every year we develop essay questions and set word limits that will save you time. The guidelines also help our admissions committee make the best decision about your eligibility. So answer the essay question—and only the essay question—and abide by the word limit. (OK, you can go over by a few words.) And if you want to expand upon another topic, take advantage of the optional essay question.
2. Be concise.
Keep your responses short and to the point. Don’t waste your word limit on Brobdingnagian (really, really big) words and long-winded sentences. There’s a word limit for a reason: we want you to get to the truth of your educational/professional desires as quickly as possible.
3. Show us your hunger.
This is your chance to tell us your truth that we mentioned at the beginning of this post. Show us that you really want to be here and why SIPA is the only place for you. Introduce yourself, your intended program of study and your motivations and experiences. Did something interesting happen that led you on your path to SIPA? Then tell us about it, and what you want to accomplish. Don’t forget to cite specific examples of how SIPA can help you achieve your deepest aspirations.
4. Take advantage of the optional essay.
This is your chance to talk about deficiencies in your application. If you don’t have as much professional experience or your lacking quantitative skills, explain to use why you’re still a stellar candidate. There’s a reason you’re applying even if you don’t “check off all of the boxes,” so elaborate on exactly why. Or, just tell us something unexpected about yourself. What makes you unique compared to other applicants? What’s something specific you can bring to the program?
5. Don’t quote Mahatma Gandhi. Seriously.
It’s nice to read that applicants admire great people throughout history, but admissions officers don’t want to read the same inspirational quotes time and time again. (Besides, you’re quoting them wrong.) We want to read about what you have to say, not what other great people in history have said or done. So keep your essays focused on you, and you alone.
6. Proofread your work. When you’re finished, proofread it again.
Believe it or not, spell check doesn’t catch everything. So make sure you proofread your work carefully. Heck! Ask someone else to read it as well. A great trick is to print out your essay and read every single word backwards. (You’d be surprised at how mistakes you’ll catch!) Also, a good way to catch grammatical and sentence-structure mistakes is to read the essay aloud. For example, if you have trouble catching your breath between sentences, tighten things up.
Are you ready to write an outstanding admissions essay? We thought you might be. You can start (or finish) your MIA/MPA application here: MIA/MPA Admissions Application.