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6 Tips for Getting Started on Your Application Essays

Procrastination is a monstrous beast that can get in the way of our most important goals. Check out these Accepted tips for defeating that beast when it comes to your grad school applications!

Sometimes the hardest part of writing a personal statement or application essay for college or grad school is finding the discipline to sit down and focus. Often, once you accomplish that, the ideas begin to form and the words begin to flow. The following 6 tips will help motivate you to start writing, and then to continue writing until you’ve got some solid material for a compelling essay.

1. Words beget more words. Here’s an important concept to think about when it comes to getting started – one word leads to another. Once you BEGIN writing, your brain will begin to generate ideas that will inspire you to CONTINUE writing. So even if you don’t think you have anything to say, just sit down and write whatever comes to mind. Set a timer for 10 minutes and don’t stop writing until the timer dings. I guarantee that when the buzzer goes off, SOME idea will have surfaced.

2. Write now, edit later. Do NOT get bogged down in the editorial details of your essay during the early writing stages. Now is the time to simply get your ideas out on paper (or computer screen). Write as you think – in fragments, in run-on sentences, or in vivid descriptions of images as they pass before your mind’s eye. Work on making them sound good later on.

3. Use details. During the brainstorming phase of your writing, as well as later on when you’re clarifying your work, you’re going to want to include details that will engage your reader. Think about what attracts someone to a good book – is it boring summaries and abstractions, or a few descriptions of people and places or specific dialog?

4. Include meaning. Description is key, but if you don’t internalize (and then show that you’ve internalized) the MEANING of the scene you’ve described, then the adcoms won’t care much about it. What do your experiences say about YOU?

5. Prove impact. Now that you’ve expressed what your experiences say about your qualifications or characteristics, it’s time to explain how those traits and strengths will contribute to your class. You’ve proven that you are a leader; how do you plan on using those skills? 

6. Have faith. Maybe you’ve hit a wall and feel like you’ll never spin your ideas into a coherent essay. Have faith – the writing process takes time. Take a break and then return to your computer with a clear mind and a positive attitude to begin the brainstorming process from scratch.

Now, sit down, think, and start writing! Good luck!


This article was originally published on the Accepted Admissions Blog.


By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.

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