Part of a school’s job to ensure the success of their students. One filter you are put through, especially in upper degrees such as a master’s program or doctorate degree, is to assess your ability to write. It’s not necessarily a given that you learned to write well in your previous education, especially if an English teacher felt bad for you and cut you a break by passing you, even though your work was subpar (not really a break in my estimation). At this level the classes are not meant to teach you how to do this, but rather to help you use it. To evaluate your abilities in this area they will often ask you to submit a personal essay as part of your application process for their online school. I am going to get you caught up to speed on what that entails and what they’re looking for.

If you are applying for an undergrad degree you will most likely be asked to write a “getting to know you” type essay that gives them some idea about your past work, the awards you’ve received and clubs you’ve been involved with. If not also asked one of the following questions you may also add how these things have molded and shaped you. Often you may also be asked to describe in greater detail some of the following:

  • An important event in your life and how it changed you.
  • An individual that has made a deep impact on you and how.
  • Personal passions and why you value them.
  • A topic of your choice.

In each of these topics you have the opportunity to show your writing skills and ability to construct a well thought out idea around a theme.

If you are applying for a grad degree you’re going to be in for a different experience. Online grad schools know that your work experience can add richness to online classroom discussions. They are eager to hear you blend your work experience with your educational ambitions. It’s important for them to assess your level of motivation because again, they have a vested interest in seeing their student succeed and know that self-motivated individuals have the best chance of graduating.

There is a story of the ancient teacher that is relevant to illustrate what grad programs are looking for in the personal essays they have you write. A young man once came to Socrates and asked him to teach him. Socrates asked him how bad he wanted it, and the prospective student told him that he desired it greatly. Socrates had the young man follow him down to the river. He invited the boy into the water. He told him to go under the water. Socrates held him down till he just about passed out. When the young man came up flailing he insisted on an explanation. Socrates told him that when he wanted to learn as bad as he wanted air, he would teach him.

In whatever kind of essay you write, if you have a sincere passion to learn and grow, it should be apparent in your writing. Let them know how bad you want it and you should be find. Check out my next article to get some more pointers on how to complete your personal essay for online school application.

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