So you’re looking planning your graduate school applications: you’ve checked all the program admissions websites, you’ve listed all their requirements and have it under control. If you are like most people, you’re applying to more than five schools, and maybe more than ten. This process could make it really easy to overlook something important like the required essays.
How could you overlook them if you are checking the school program requirements sites? That should be the most reliable source of information about the admission requirements so why is there even a risk of missing something so fundamental? Schools have an obligation to make the application process clear and understandable for candidates, but unfortunately, most fall short in some way or another. The essay requirements are one area that can be confusing for students.
SDSU case study
If you are applying to the Master’s of Science in Computer Science at San Diego State University, you would likely easily find the “prospective students” website in their search for admissions requirements.
From here, the two links that stand out are “How to Apply” and “Requirements for Admission. Logically, you are on the right track to find out what you need to do to get into this program, right???
So you visit the “How to Apply” page and are reassured by the title: “Applying for Admission to the Graduate Program in Computer Science” that this is the process you need to use. Seems logical and really appropriate because it is. This is what the department says to do.
Notice that it is clearly a two step process and includes submitting the CSU Mentor online application form and sending a physical package to the Enrollment Services location they mention. There is nothing ambiguous about this and it seems simple compared to other universities.
Being a potential applicant, you probably have checked out all the websites and also focused especially on the “Requirements for Admission” site. This site tells you what the minimum GPA and GRE scores are for the program and, relieved you meet the minimums, you find nothing there about an essay requirement. Life goes well as you gather your materials and prepare to start the online application form. Then the trouble begins.
You see, the online application system is not just a form with your basic identification and biographical details. No, it is much more. The CSU Mentor system includes a section called Statement of Purpose!
You just found out that you need to write a “brief” 500 word SOP. This statement includes:
describing your reason(s) for pursuing graduate or postbaccalaureate study. Include any additional information concerning your preparation that is pertinent to the objective specified.
Where to find essay requirements
If you don’t find essay or statement of purpose requirements on the program’s admissions site, go start the online application and look inside. There is a really good chance you will find the essay requirements only in the online application system. Some schools have really unique questions, others have a number of short answer questions, and others are this same generic SOP prompt as above. Be sure you know what you have to do as early as you decide to apply to a school because you don’t want to be surprised like you would be at SDSU.