How To Write A Killer Graduate Admissions Essay

Part 3 - Voice

This is the last post in a three-part series. Before you dive into this post, make sure you read Parts 1 and 2 linked below. One the most difficult parts of writing a good admissions essay is ensuring that your voice and personality are reflected appropriately. While it may not be possible (or advisable) to exhibit all of the qualities that make you you, it is possible (and advisable) to add the right amount color to your narrative that helps your persona shine through the prose.


How to write a killer graduate admissions essay

Part 1 - Brainstorm

Part 2 - The Who, What, Where

Part 3 - Voice (This post)


Tip : Your voice shines through in the (not so) little details


As cliched as it may sound, passion is contagious. In writing a formal essay about your professional accomplishments and vision, a glimpse into your enthusiasm and the pride you feel for your work can offer a refreshingly human touch to your narrative.


Be specific. Quantify results, add imagery, name courses and Professors you're looking forward to. Specificity helps boost authenticity.


Use anecdotes sparingly; reserve them for where they will add most value to the narrative. For example, some like to open their essays with a vivid anecdote to grasp the reader's full attention.

An anecdote does not need to be a story or an event - it can just as well be a quote from the time your boss praised you for troubleshooting a manufacturing issue in record time.

Many candidates send suggestions to their recommenders on various qualities and achievements the recommender can highlight, so if you know your Professor is going to mention how you stepped in to lead your group project when the team lead fell ill, that might be an anecdote that you allude to in your essay as well. This approach can help you emphasize certain achievements in the mind of the admissions committee.

Your Story and Your Brand

Read through your essay. Does it come together as a compelling story? Does it sound like your story? Does it sound like you, ie, is it on brand? Loaded questions, I know. Let's break this down.

Your admission essay is all about telling your story as it relates to your admission to this program. Now that you've toiled through and pieced together your essay, take a big step back and examine it. Do all the individual pieces fall into a coherent story? Do you feel convinced that this candidate is suited for admission to the program?

When you feel satisfied with the story-telling, you may want to ensure it sounds like your story and not someone else's. This is more common that you'd think. For example, I once read an essay by a candidate whose work, life, vision - all revolved around South Asia. However, all the quotes in his essays were from British historical figures, which did not align with his brand. Similarly, when I wrote the first draft of my MBA admissions essay, I realized it didn't sound quite like me because it had none of my wry humor. Needless to say, feedback from a small, trusted group of people who know you and ideally who have also been through the admissions process can be extremely helpful in this part of the essay writing journey.

Finally, know that admissions essay writing is a mentally taxing process for everyone. Many candidates go from introspection to self-doubting to comparing themselves with others to feeling like they have nothing to offer the world. It's important to have a support network to help you out of spiraling and get you back on track. The same people may or may not be able to review and proofread your writing too. So with that in mind, assemble your squad, ready your thoughts, and dive into it headfirst.

Happy writing!


Don't forget to read:

Part 1 - Brainstorm

Part 2 - The Who, What, Where