Data Science Masters

October 29, 2018

Application Advice Part 4: The Essays

Most graduate school applicants will agree – writing application essays is the most difficult and stressful part. While writing your essays may seem daunting, this is your chance to differentiate yourself from other applicants with comparable qualifications. It is likely that dozens of applicants, if not more, have academic records and professional backgrounds that are similar to yours, but strong essays may put you ahead of the competition.

Before you write:

  • Read the questions. Before you begin writing, take the time to carefully read the questions in each essay prompt. Make you sure you understand everything that is being asked of you.
  • Reflect on the purpose. Ask yourself: What purpose does this essay serve? For example, Essay 1: Why UW MSDS? should give the admissions committee insight into your short-term and long-term goals, why you want to attend our program specifically, and what kind of career you envision after graduation.
  • Create an outline. Drafting an outline will help you organize your thoughts and identify the building blocks of your essay. An outline will also help you better understand what you are trying to communicate to the admissions committee.

Writing your essays:

  • Write a compelling introduction. Do not start with “My name is…” or “I am applying because…”. Your name or the fact that you are applying are not the most interesting things about you! You should choose to begin your essay, for example, with an anecdote, a question, or an attention-grabbing statement, but make sure it is directly relevant to your essay.
  • Don’t repeat your resume. If you do talk about your work experience, do so briefly and only to make a larger point.
  • Show, don’t tell. Offer examples, stories, or descriptions when writing your essays. For example, rather than just stating that you want to work as a data scientist in the healthcare sector after graduation, describe what you find the most compelling about the industry or job role.

Revising your essays:

  • Edit, edit, edit! Give yourself enough time to write multiple drafts of your essays. One of the most common mistakes applicants make is to leave too little time for writing their essays.
  • Proofread. Proofread your essays carefully and try reading your essays out loud to help catch any awkward phrasing. Ask your classmates, instructors, or colleagues to proofread your essays. Make sure your work is free of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
  • Stick to the word limit. It might be tempting to ignore the word limit, but we want to see that you can get your point across clearly and concisely.

Last, but not least, make sure you do not duplicate the content of your essays. Each essay has its own purpose. There is no reason to repeat the same ideas in your writings.