Chapter Four: The Essays with Many Names

When we last left our hero, Sir Stu was in the midst of completing his online application forms, the “paperwork” that needed to be filled out as part of an application.

Now if you recall, Sir Stu did not have all the requisite parts of his application yet. Among other things, he still needed to write his essays! After going through all of his applications and writing down the essay topics for each school, Stu began to plan out his personal statements, which were also often referred to as Statements of Purpose, SoPs, or just plain essays.

Most essay topics were quite similar between schools. They asked Stu to write about his interests in the field, why he wanted to become an SLP, what experiences he had had, and what his future plans were. Some schools got creative, and asked questions completely unrelated to this. They wanted Stu to write about a time he had overcome a challenge, to propose an idea for a research project, and so on and so forth.

Stu decided that he would focus first on the topic that most schools wanted him to write about – himself and his interests and goals. So, he began by asking himself the very same questions that the essay topics did. Why did he want to become an SLP? What first sparked his interests? How did his academic, extracurricular, volunteer, and work experiences influence him? What goals did he have for the future? He also asked himself, for each school, why he wanted to go to that school in particular. Did it have unique classes that he liked? An on-campus clinic? A chance to be involved in research?

Once Stu had answered these questions, he began to write an outline for a general personal statement, which he could later edit to address the questions of each school that he was applying to. With great fervor, he wrote his personal statement. When he felt that it was ready to be looked upon by human eyes, he logged onto Rutgers CareerKnight, and made an appointment with a career counselor to specifically discuss his personal statement. This was a  free service that Rutgers offered, and it was very useful indeed! Sir Stu also asked his friends, family, trusted advisers, and current grad students to read his paper and give their opinions as well. With feedback in hand, Stu edited his essay – and sought more feedback, as needed. At last, Sir Stu had completed his personal statement. Next, he adjusted his statement to fit the specific questions and word limits for each program that he was applying to – finally submitting the essays when he felt that they were perfect. 

Sir Stu then moved on to the schools that had specific essay topics that did not ask Stu to write about himself (at this point, Stu was starting to feel like a narcissist, and these other essay topics were frankly a relief)! For each of those essays, he considered the questions carefully, made outlines, and wrote essays within the word limit. He looked for feedback on those essays as well, and soon, they too were ready for submission!

Stu had fed the essay-eating head of the many-headed graduate school monster. However, it had taken him several months to do so. And that was okay. This was one of the most important parts of the application, and as such, required careful consideration and great effort. With this step out of the way, Stu could move on to other parts of the applications process.

What would Sir Stu do next?
Read on tomorrow, as the journey continues…

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