How should I start my grad school application essay?

How should I start my grad school application essay? In this blog you will teach ways to start your grad school application essay.


As one great philosopher said, “In almost all cases the most difficult thing is the beginning.” While there are many ways to start an essay, one thing you should always keep in mind is that you are telling a story. Imagine that your essay is like a movie or a book. In order to keep your reader engaged, the beginning has to be captivating, exciting and powerful.

Based on my experience, my suggestions are the following:

  1.  A Strong opening statement clearly indicating why you are applying (no 4-5 paragraphs of introduction to state the obvious). Check out my friend’s first sentence in the application(more by link, who got accepted to Princeton and Columbia!

I want to enroll in the Master of Public Policy at [the name of the School and the University] to increase my understanding of international policy challenges, develop my ability to analyze policy developments, and prepare to enter the US Foreign Service as a Public Diplomacy officer in [year].

         Very clear, specific and straightforward.

      2. A memory or puzzle that you encountered in life. You can start by telling how you encountered a situation in life that didn’t make sense (and how you are trying to understand it, study it, decipher the issue). Maybe you have experienced injustice or have been discriminated in your life and you felt obligated to do something about it. No matter what it is…it has to be relevant to what you are hoping to study in the future.

         See below how my friend who specializes in water security and development started her essay:

Though I was young during my last trip to Cambodia, I vividly recall riding a boat and passing through the floating villages along the murky, brown Tonle Sap Lake. Having no proper waste management system, trash and excrements are dumped into the water. Ironically, “tonle sap” in Khmer means “freshwater lake,” yet the thousands of people that live along the Tonle Sap Lake suffer from a lack of clean water access, resulting in numerous health concerns and a depletion of natural resources.

       3. Deep emotion (tell a “drama” story or anecdote). This is personally my favorite way to start. Again, your essay is a story. The admission’s committee is much more likely to remember you if your essay triggers human emotions. (It is important not to overdose though=). This is how one of my friends started her application:

Born and raised in Kazakhstan but of Russian nationality, at the age of 14 I was forced to relocate to Saint-Petersburg, Russia. Being chased out of my own homeland due to anti-Russian sentiment in consequence of the fall of the USSR, my interest in the world of International Relations was thrown into a catalyst. The generation of my peers in Russia is called “Children of Perestroika” or “survivors” as we had to grow up in a rather severe atmosphere. The fall of the Soviet regime left everyone to suddenly fend for themselves in a way they never previously had to; society was unequipped to manage their own money, property, or basic living needs. Due to inflation, people’s savings were lost and Soviet currency value plummeted. The collapse of the USSR was presented to us as an absolute disregard for the laws of economics. These assertions are what prompted my interests and studies of macroeconomics.

     4. General opening. It is fine to have a more general opening paragraph. People DO go to Harvard and Stanford if they make a general statement at the beginning of their essays =)  Just make sure it is relevant(you can check examples by following this site Here is how my other friend (who was interested in IT and information security) started his essay:

Nowadays, almost every business organization has large, independent databases, and these organizations heavily rely on information-based systems and experts to extract crucial sets of data which play a pivotal role in growth forecasting, exploring new business opportunities and adding to the significance of management decisions. The scope of such challenging work propels me to keep in tune with the dynamic world of technology and continuously strive towards attaining knowledge along with management and analytical skills.

Or check this one (taked from resume review service):

When I first started working in consulting, I immediately fell in love with the process: there is something almost poetic in the way one can impose a definite structure onto an abstract problem and reduce something complex to a series of easily executable stages. Although there is certainly an element of craft in the process, comparison to a science rather than art is more fitting. Successful management strategies and techniques can be taught and learned.


If you can think of any other creative ways, please, let me know. These are just some of my suggestions. You are welcome to pick your own poison =)



P.S. Please, mind that the abovementioned examples are meant to be examples only and shall not be modified, altered, copied or reused for personal or commercial reasons! Don’t put yourself into a trouble. 

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