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* Academics

Undergraduate Program

Graduate School Guide

Essays

  • Should be 1-2 pages. Just a paragraph is too short, but if it is too long, it won't get read.
  • Make sure you answer the question asked.
  • Can start out by writing all your ideas, then edit later.
  • Good things to include:
    • Describe the experiences and events which led you to decide you wanted a graduate degree in this field.
    • Describe research you have done, how it has aroused your intellectual curiosity, and the research you want to do in the future.
    • Use specific details. Don't just say "I love computer science." Instead, tell about some important moment in your decision to become a computer scientist. Don't say, "I have good leadership skills." Instead, describe an incident which demonstrates those skills.
    • You should be familiar the research done at the school. Read the publications of the faculty you may be working with, and let that knowledge show.
    • Think about yourself and what makes you different.
  • Avoid:
    • Tale of how it was love at first sight when you got your first computer at age 4.
    • Recap of your resume and transcripts.
    • Boasting about your accomplishments to the extent that it appears that you think they are more important than they actually are. If your work appears mediocre, but you claim it is brilliant, that shows that not only is your work mediocre, but you also have an inflated ego and an inability to discern excellence. Those who review your application can judge your accomplishments for themselves.
    • Occasionally RPI receives essays saying things like, "I would fit in perfectly at the University of Maryland." If you use the name of the university in your essay, make sure you use the right one and spell it correctly. The same goes for other specific information, such as the names of faculty in the department, the name of the department, and the research done there.
    • Don't say you are interested in something if you can't back it up. If you apply to a school with lots of funding for computer vision research and claim to be passionately interested in computer vision, but you have never actually taken a class or done research in that area, you will seem insincere.
  • You can look at the book Graduate Admissions Essays: Write Your Way into the Graduate School of Your Choice by Donald Asher in Terry Hayden's office (Lally 208).

* Return to main Undergraduate Program page



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