Can You Send the Same Personal Essay for Grad School? — The Admit Lab

Philippe Barr, PhD
9 min readApr 4, 2023

Going to grad school is a big decision, so it makes sense that you’ve done your research and probably have some questions. Can you send the same personal essay when applying to grad school, you say?

-Sure, why not! After all, if it works once, why wouldn’t it work multiple times? Right?

WRONG. DEFINITELY WRONG.

In this blog post, we’re going to dive into exactly why sending in the same essay isn’t such a great idea and how you can make sure you get admitted with compelling essays tailored to each individual grad school program. Keep reading — because an awesome grad school experience starts with amazing applications!

What is the personal essay/personal statement and how does it differ from the statement of purpose?

The statement of purpose and the personal essay are both important pieces of the graduate school application, but there are several key differences between them. The statement of purpose is designed to provide admissions committees with an overview of your academic background and goals for pursuing a graduate degree, while a personal essay allows you to share more detailed information about yourself to provide a clearer picture of who you are and why you would be an ideal candidate for the program.

The statement of purpose is typically longer than a personal essay, with more space devoted to discussing your accomplishments and goals, while the personal essay should focus on providing insight into your unique personality and character traits. Additionally, while both prompts generally require research and thoughtful reflection, the statement of purpose should be primarily analytical and argumentative, while the personal essay can focus more on narrative storytelling. Understanding the subtle differences between these two application components is essential to making a successful case for admission into your desired graduate program.

What is the role of the personal essay in the context of graduate admissions?

The answer to the “Can you send the same personal essay?” question heavily relies on the purpose of this specific essay. The personal essay is an important part of the graduate admissions process. It allows applicants to share their story in a meaningful way and provide additional insight into who they are as an individual beyond their academic record. The personal essay is used to showcase an applicant’s unique experiences, qualities, ambitions, and motivations that make them stand out from other applicants.

It helps demonstrate an applicant’s fit with the program and their ability to think critically, communicate effectively, and make a positive contribution to the academic or professional community they are joining.

Why is it important to tailor each personal essay for each graduate school?

Writing a personal essay for each graduate school you are applying to is an important process that requires careful thought and consideration. There are three primary reasons why it is important to tailor the personal essay for each individual school. First, your essay should highlight why you believe the particular institution is the best fit for your academic goals. By customizing the essay, you can emphasize why the program or school is an ideal match for your career aspirations and why you would be an exceptional candidate.

Second, customizing your essay allows you to address any particular qualifications a school may seek in its students. By highlighting your relevant strengths and experiences that relate to the institution’s criteria, you demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have the qualifications they value and are looking for in students.

Finally, a tailored essay demonstrates your commitment to the school by showing that you’ve taken the time to research and understand what makes it unique. When an admissions committee sees an applicant who has made an effort to customize their essay, it shows dedication and enthusiasm that can improve your chances of getting admitted.

Should you write a brand new essay for each graduate school?

Ok, so how that we have answer the crucial “Can you send the same personal essay?” question, another important question comes along: “Should you start from scratch with each application?” You’ll be glad to learn that the answer is no. Since many personal essays or personal statements are identical, it is always a good idea to come up with a few templates that you can later on adapt to each school if all essays are basically asking the same question. It is important, however, to read the prompts attentively to make sure that there are no additional sub-questions that you don’t want to miss. When crafting or revising an essay, always maintain the school’s image in mind. Even if the questions are similar, never copy and paste your entire essay. Instead, try to personalize each response as much as possible and reread all of the prompts at least once more before submission to make sure you accurately answered every query within that prompt.Once you have a few templates that showcase different sides of your personality or that address specific queries laid out by the schools, it is time for some tailoring!

Three ways to tailor your personal essay for each target program

You should tailor your personal essay for each graduate program by first researching the school and its program, second by understanding why you wish to attend that particular school, and third by emphasizing how you will contribute to the learning environment of the graduate program.

Researching the school is important because it will help you understand what unique qualities the school offers and how the qualities align with yours. Knowing why you want to attend that particular school will help you tailor your essay by highlighting what specifically drew you to the program, rather than just listing generic reasons for wanting a graduate degree.

Lastly, emphasizing how you will contribute to the learning environment of the graduate program can show an admissions team that you are a good fit for the school. By doing this, you can help assure that their application stands out from others competing for admission.

Showing how you will contribute to the school demonstrates your commitment and dedication to the program, as well as illustrates that you are already thinking ahead about how you can productively use your skills and knowledge within the academic context. It also shows that you understand what the particular graduate program is all about, as well as its specific mission and goals. Showing how you plan to contribute to the school is an important part of proving yourself as a valuable asset, and one that should not be overlooked when writing your personal essay for admission into graduate programs.

How to demonstrate your future contribution to each program

One of the best ways to demonstrate your enthusiasm for and commitment to a graduate program in your personal essay is to identify specific activities, groups, or events that you would like to participate in if admitted.

For example, by listing a particular research project or seminar you are interested in attending, an organization that you’d like to join and contribute to, or an event that you think would be beneficial for your studies, you can demonstrate a clear understanding of the program’s offerings and how it can help you further your academic goals.

Additionally, mentioning any prior experience in similar activities or events and how they have enriched your knowledge and skills will show admissions committees how well-prepared you are for the graduate program in question. Ultimately, by expressing your enthusiasm and ambition through concrete examples of activities you aim to take part in if admitted, you can give admissions officers a better understanding of how their graduate program could help shape your future.

Finally, make sure to use strong language and detail within your essay to show that you have done your research about the school and are really excited about attending it. By taking the time to write an individualized essay, you demonstrate your commitment and enthusiasm for the school, which can help give your application the edge it needs to stand out.

A few tricks to come up with different templates and save time:

Ensure that each essay has a unique and captivating message

Maximize your writing material by exploring various angles of the same experience! By doing so, you can showcase distinct perspectives that have opened up numerous pathways to personal growth. Not only are you taking advantage of an opportunity to write, but also getting more value out of a single moment in time.

Connect each essay with an overall attribute you would like to showcase

As you grapple with a flurry of essays and personal statements, consider utilizing a spreadsheet to organize each inquiry. This will allow you to keep track of the school, questions being asked as well as any accomplishments or skills associated with it. Doing this ensures that while answering questions from different schools, your experiences remain distinct and do not overlap.

Reveal multiple facets of yourself

Take a moment to rattle off ten of your finest qualities, then craft a much shorter list (two or three items max) of what you consider to be your least desirable traits. As you write your essays, remember to include the different elements of your character. For example, some schools may ask you to list a drawback and how you have strived to conquer it — acknowledging any weak points isn’t necessarily damaging to your application.

Finally…

Can you send the same personal essay for all grad school applications? Now, you know the answer. You have the power to make yourself stand out as an applicant for grad school by customizing your personal essay in creative and captivating ways. Always remember that you are not alone on this journey; some professionals are more than willing to answer and help you with any questions you may have. Don’t be shy! And don’t let fear stop you from achieving your dream. Start exploring today. Gain knowledge. Research schools, their application processes, and tips to improve your essay. If you feel fried after all of that, take a breather and check out our graduate school application services-you won’t regret it! Keep grinding, keep pushing, and keep climbing towards your goal one word at a time until you reach the top! And don’t forget: getting into grad school is closer than it appears- so stay focused, stay positive, and never give up!

Got questions? Sign up for a consultation, or send us your draft for an estimate. It’s FREE!

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Dr. Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Dr. Barr spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Dr. Barr has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

Follow me on Instagram and TikTok for tips and tricks on navigating the grad school application process and weekly live Q&A sessions!

Originally published at https://admit-lab.com on April 4, 2023.

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Philippe Barr, PhD

I am Philippe Barr, founder of The Admit Lab, a graduate school admissions consultancy that helps students get admitted into grad school: https://admit-lab.com/