How to Start a Personal Essay for a Graduate School Application

This is the first post of a new series I’ll be sharing on the blog. “How to Start a Personal Essay for a Graduate School Application” was originally written by me on January 25, 2010 for my old blog. I’ve decided to share some of my old posts on days when I’m either too busy to post something new or feeling uncreative and have nothing original to share with you. I hope you enjoy! (Oh, and please excuse any horrific grammar mistakes)

I’ve spent the entire weekend obsessing about applying to graduate school, yet I’ve failed to do any of the required writing I literally set aside the whole weekend for. So that the entire weekend isn’t a waste, I decided to write a blog post about my advice for other folk who are desperate like me and have no clue where to start. Here goes:

“Dear Admissions Committee…

  1. …I really want to go to your school and study creative writing. I’ve got lots of stories, and I occasionally am told I’m quite funny.  Sincerely, Erin
  2. …I’m quite popular, and if you advertise that I’m a student in your program, you’re going to be inundated with applicants. And by popular, I mean there is about three people who read my blog regularly, and I’ve got hoes in different area codes. heehee, jk lol OMG! Your Bestie, Erin
  3. …. One of my strengths is procrastination. I am super good at waiting until the last-minute to do very important things like this essay. I’ve even written a few blog posts about my applications, instead of just completing my required stuff. We’ve all got to be good at something, Erin
  4. … If you deny my application, there is a good chance I will jump off a bridge or just cry for my whole life. You don’t want that on your conscience do you? I thought not, Erin
  5. … I’ve told so many people that I’m applying to grad school lately that it would be a serious blow to my street-cred if my people found out I got denied to your school. That would suck.  Have pity on a girl, Erin
  6. … My name is Erin, and I am applying to your school’s MFA in Creative Writing program. I’d like to study in the nonfiction genre, because I like to tell the truth.Always honest, Erin
  7. … I just spent about $500 applying to all these MFA programs. I’ll give you $500 more if you just slide my application all the way to the top of the stack. You know, the acceptance stack. What, you want more? Fine, I’ll double it. Just make it happen, Erin
  8. … Please, please, please take me. I’m begging you. Please! With a cherry on top. Yeah, I’m not even creative enough to come up with something better than ‘with a cherry on top.’ Try not to hold that against me, Erin
  9. …. If you accept me I’ll sing you songs and send you flowers and tuck you in at night. Pinky swear! I’ll hug you in the morning and tell you how wonderful you are! Besos, Erin
  10. ….Just listen to the people who wrote me recommendations. They are like the smartest people EVER! (Seriously, they are uber intelligent). If they think I’m cool enough to go to your grad school, then I absolutely am. Holla at ya girl, Erin
  11. … You’ll never know what you’re missing if you don’t accept me. You don’t want to wonder about me the rest of your life, now do you? I’m a rock star, Erin
  12. … I really want to be a graduate student, and I promise to work the hardest that I possibly can to develop my craft. I can promise to try my hardest and be a great representative of your school in the community. Respectfully, Erin
  13. … I want in. Make it happen. Or else, Erin
  14. …. I like long walks on the beach and trashy romance novels….wait. Wrong “personal essay,” Erin
  15. … I’m one cool kid. The end, Erin


  1. Sara says:

    Hello long lost friend! While this may not be entirely helpful, I’ve started every admissions essay I’ve ever written with a story. Okay, at least I think so – I can’t actually remember what I wrote in my undergraduate college essay. But when I applied to law school I started out with a nice story about how my divorced parents attended my parent-teacher conferences together and I know how fortunate I am and I want to be a lawyer to work in family law to help families get through this. I realize now that it sounds terrible, but a few of the admissions committees liked it enough to accept me into their programs. Then, when I applied to grad school the second time around (because, really, who wants to be a lawyer?) I also started out with a story, this time about how when I was little I visited Boston with my parents and told them when I grew up I wanted to move here and teach history (this actually happened, btw). This, while also pretty lame sounding now, has actually worked and I’ve gotten in to 3 of the 4 programs I applied to (maybe 4, I haven’t heard back from one yet). So, although this was super long and probably didn’t help you anyway, my advice is start personal and take it from there. Also, I ended all of my essays with some line about how I am looking forward to obtaining my degree from ____ University. I figure that a little bit of confidence never hurt.

    • erin says:

      Aww long lost friend!
      How are you? Its sooo funny, I was thinking of you and the BBBos conference last week!
      I love your suggestions, and they are totally perfect for personal essays. I prpbably should have made it clearer though that this post is a re-post from a blog I wrote in 2010!!! I’m giong to edit it now to make it more clear.
      I’m actually graduating from grad school next month! So I guess one of my ideas worked 😉

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