Demystifying the Graduate Admission Essay UW-Madison | Engineering Professional Development

Few steps in the application process cause more dread among prospective students than the personal essay.

Though undeniably daunting, keep in mind you have complete control over the contents—and an unmatched opportunity to make a compelling case for your admission.

The key to a winning graduate admission essay is allotting enough time to write and revise it. Check out our tips before you begin your essay.
Preparation Is Key

Ease into the process by drafting an outline--and don’t worry about its roughness. Getting your thoughts on paper will get the thinking process underway, and reduce the anxiety often associated with this component of the application.

Analyze your audience. What information does the admissions committee need to know about you? Of your education and professional experience, what is most relevant for your application? What questions do reviewers want answered?

Make sure you pick one solid angle to support.

Make It Personal

Your essay should be a compelling story about how your goals and interests align with your program of interest.

A graduate student in an online degree program must be proactive, critical and independent, so when you write your statement, underscore these and other abilities that make you an ideal candidate for distance education.

Your essay is the perfect place to explain deficiencies or lapses in your work or education history. The admissions committee is not after perfection, but it is looking at fit, so be sincere and convey your enthusiasm for your chosen field of study.

Make Connections

The more connections you make among your motivations, talents and qualifications to pursue graduate education and what admission officers are seeking, the more persuasive your essay will be.

Make sure these connections are clear and explicit by relating anecdotes and professional experiences to the program. Don’t just list these experiences, but emphasize the qualifications you developed from them.

Go For A Clean Structure And Format

Keep your essay personal in content and professional in delivery. Tell your story in first person and express interest for the field, but avoid an overly casual tone.

Your essay should make it evident that you can express yourself coherently.

Use a format that shows your attention to detail and looks professional.
Don't turn in an essay that looks crowded or lengthy. If it looks like too much--it is too much.
Shorter manuscripts are often better received. As a general rule of thumb, aim for a one-page essay.

The graduate admissions committee is interested in learning how good you are at collaboration, writing, handling conflict and communicating with others. The skills you will learn will be immediately applicable on the job—and your essay should reflect this.

For more information on our distance education degrees and courses, contact the Department of Engineering Professional Development at 800-462-0876, or visit us at
Created By
Alberto Orellana-Campos

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