One of our earlier posts focused on getting started from the perspective of a person who works best with deadlines. Everyone has a different style, and what is helpful for some doesn’t work for others. So, we’ve gathered some tips below from the writers in our department, our colleagues, and even our personal Facebook feeds. (Side note – if you’ve worked in higher education long enough a substantial portion of your friend’s list will include other higher ed professionals and faculty – so don’t be surprised when a call for essay advice and tips receives A LOT of comments.)

  1. Read the question – multiple times. This was a frequent tip among those we asked.
  2. Outline before writing – for some outlining is a very detailed process, for others it’s bullet points, and for others it’s visually mapping your ideas. Whatever works best for you – and make sure you’re answering each question in the prompt! (see tip #1).
  3. Be concise and direct – remember the person who is reading your essay has already read your application documents; jump right in to answering the question.
  4. Proofread! Spelling, grammar, and read it out loud!

We don’t want to see students holding on hitting submit because they are worried about the essays! Few things pain us more than seeing someone who is an otherwise stellar candidate, and chances are if you’re this worried about the essays that describes you, holding off on hitting submit because they aren’t sure if their essays are perfect.

Remember your audience! In this case, your audience is a committee that is eager to get to know you! We’ve had brief interactions on the phone or at events, or answered a quick email, but rarely have we had an opportunity to really learn what inspires you. The person reading your essay isn’t jumping in looking for errors or mistakes – we’re looking to learn more about you and your passion for policy.