Essay Tips from Andrew K. Strickler, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid
Over the years, students who tell me they absolutely love to write have said they struggle with the application essay. So if you’ve been biting your nails or tearing your hair out even a little, you’re not alone.
The good news is, I can help. I’ve been in the admission business long enough to have gleaned a few tips that I think are worth passing along. I also want to recommend you take a look at our Essays that Worked: real essays submitted by real students who have since matriculated at Connecticut College. These essays are terrific, and you can find them listed on the right side of this page.
Now for my tips.
- Allow yourself plenty of time to write the essay. Do not wait until the last minute. I know this sounds absurdly simple, but it really does make a difference to be as relaxed as possible when you sit down to write.
- Choose the prompt that comes closest to something you’d like to write about. The purpose of the prompt is to help you reflect on something that matters to you. Your application will be full of information that illuminates dimensions of you and your abilities, but only the essay gives you a vehicle to speak, in your own voice, about something personally significant. Choose something you care about and it will flow more naturally.
(a) Fallacy: If you haven’t experienced a life-changing event, you have nothing to write about. Wrong. You care about things now. Write about one of them and show us why it matters to you.
(b) Fallacy: If you haven’t had a major international service experience, you’re sunk. Wrong again. If you’ve had such an experience and you feel it says something important about you, great. If you haven’t, just choose something that says something important about you. That’s all.
- When you’ve written a first draft, let it sit. Then go back to it another day. Ask people you trust for their feedback, but don’t let anyone else tell you how you should write it. This is your story, or some small but significant part of it, as told or reflected upon by you.
- When you’ve revised it to your heart’s content, proofread with care. Spellcheck isn’t always the most reliable friend, as I have learned on occasion with a quickly typed email that gets sent before it was proofread!
- Submit it, and treat yourself to something nice — like your favorite film, a run, quality time with your dog or whatever it is that you enjoy.
That’s it for tips. Now you should read the Essays that Worked, and be inspired by their example!
Admission to graduate study at The College of New Jersey is selective and competitive. Prospective applicants are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the contents of the bulletin and to observe carefully the particular requirements of each individual program or option. Admission decisions are based generally on evidence of achievement in appropriate undergraduate studies, performance on nationally standardized tests, strength of recommendations, and other materials submitted with the application. Standards are applied rigorously but not mechanically, the purpose being to identify applicants who show promise of benefiting from advanced studies and of making significant contributions to both the college community and their chosen professions.
Those who wish to apply or to learn more about the graduate program should begin by contacting the Office of Graduate Studies at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609/771-2300.
Most students entering The College of New Jersey at the graduate level are candidates for a degree or certification program. Program options and requirements are outlined throughout this website and in the Graduate Bulletin. Students who are applying for admission into a specific degree or certificate program are applying for matriculation.
Individuals applying for matriculation are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States or proof of equivalent preparation from a foreign college or university. Applicants should have a 2.75 cumulative average or a 3.0 in the major at the undergraduate level, although some programs may have a higher requirement; must submit letters of recommendation from individuals who can evaluate their academic performance, relevant work experience, and/or ability to pursue graduate studies; must submit an essay calling for a personal evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses as prospective graduate students; and must provide scores from the general standardized test appropriate to the discipline. Some programs require scores from specialized sections of standardized tests; other programs require interviews or auditions (see program requirements). Graduate program candidates are approved for admission by the program admissions committee and endorsed by the dean. Notification of a decision will occur in writing.
Qualified applicants who wish to pursue graduate studies for professional renewal or personal growth may apply for non-matriculation.* Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and a 2.75 cumulative average or 3.0 in the major from a regionally accredited institution in the United States or proof of equivalent preparation from a foreign university or college. Admissions are competitive, and decisions are made by program admissions committees. Notification of a decision will occur in writing. A non-matriculant wishing to matriculate into a program must submit a separate application and all documentation necessary for matriculation according to the appropriate deadlines. Subsequent admission as a matriculant is not guaranteed.
Once accepted, a non-matriculant may enroll in graduate classes open to them if they meet the prerequisites and if space is available. Permission from the graduate coordinator and/or the instructor teaching the course may be required for registration for a particular course. Occasionally, a graduate student wishes to enroll in an undergraduate course. On such occasions, the graduate tuition rate would still apply.
A non-matriculant may choose to apply for admission as a matriculant in a graduate degree or certificate program; however, matriculation is not guaranteed. A non-matriculant has one year from the time of initial enrollment to matriculate into a degree program in order to utilize up to six credits taken prior to matriculation toward that degree or program. Failure to matriculate within this timeframe will negate the use of these credits toward a degree or program at TCNJ.
A non-matriculant is not eligible for need-based or federal financial aid.
*Non-matriculation is not available to students intending to apply for matriculation into the RTCM program. Students intending to study at one of TCNJ’s global sites, and are not ready to apply for matriculation into a specific program, may contact the Global Office at email@example.com regarding attendance as a visiting student.