Guide to Postgraduate Applications • Postgraduate

Common Mistakes in Master’s Application Essays for Studying Abroad

POSTED ON 05/03/2023 BY The Red Pen

Whether it’s a personal statement or statement of purpose (SOP), your master’s application essay is an opportunity to showcase who you are to the admissions committee beyond just your grades. However, writing these essays can be tricky. We at The Red Pen work with hundreds of postgraduate applicants every year. Despite providing clear guidelines and customised assistance, our experts have identified common essay mistakes that applicants tend to make. 

Here are three mistakes that could kill your master’s application essay and how to avoid them: 

Mistake 1: Not focusing enough on your undergraduate learnings in the master’s application essay

Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary learning have become crucial components of postgraduate curricula around the world. However, many applicants pursuing cross-disciplinary courses overlook the knowledge and skills acquired as undergraduate students. For example, a marketing student wanting a master’s in business analytics may overlook or underplay their marketing skill and knowledge, assuming they have no analytical experience. But having a degree in one field does not necessarily mean that you won’t succeed in another. 

Tip to avoid the mistake: Always highlight your previous academic skills and abilities, even if they aren’t related to the master’s programme you wish to pursue. The previously mentioned marketing student should demonstrate that they are proficient learners who can comprehend, apply, and derive strategic outcomes. By doing so, they can showcase their academic strengths and prove they can succeed in a cross-disciplinary course.

Mistake 2: Not connecting course deliverables with long-term goals in your master’s application essay

Studies show that most industries prefer hiring candidates with a master’s degree. But industries are complex, and succeeding within them depends on various factors. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that applicants have a clear vision or strategic plan for their future in a specific industry. However, many do not research the industry enough to determine or align their goals. The essay comes across as superficial when the applicant doesn’t align their long-term goals with the postgraduate course they wish to pursue. Such an essay can negatively impact your application. 

Tip to avoid the mistake: Conduct in-depth research on the industry you wish to be a part of and think of the goals you want to achieve. Seek guidance from influencers, mentors, faculty members, friends, or advisors to help you establish clear objectives. In your essay, mention these objectives and elaborate on how you intend to use the skills and knowledge you acquire at the university to achieve them. 

Mistake 3: Unintentionally revealing weaknesses in the master’s application essay

Many advisory websites suggest that your master’s application essays should reveal your vulnerabilities and obstacles, and they aren’t wrong. However, more than your vulnerabilities, admissions officers want to see how you have or plan to overcome them to achieve your goals. Furthermore, they tend to read between the lines. For instance, saying that you played cricket at the district level in school but were unable to play in college because of the demanding curriculum, it may imply that you weren’t skilled enough. It could raise flags about your ability to handle rigour. 

Tip to avoid the mistake: While revealing obstacles, mention how you’ve overcome them. Don’t turn your essay into a sob story. Also, select extracurricular activities that you’ve consistently pursued from school right through college. Doing so demonstrates an unwavering focus and commitment that most universities appreciate. 

We at The Red Pen tell our postgraduate applicants to look at their master’s application essays as an interview in writing. Assume that the prompts are questions an interviewer asks and that your response will create a specific impression. To learn how to write a compelling master’s application essay, read about the importance of showcasing your voice in your SOP. You may also read about what admissions officers want beyond GRE/GMAT scores. However, if you need any guidance with your postgraduate applications, please get in touch with us.