Admission Essay Tips

If you have begun an SSTP application, then you know two essays must be submitted as part of the admission process. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you complete your essays:

  1. Write the essay in a Word document first.  Check for spelling and grammar errors. In addition, perform a word count to make sure you have not exceeded the word limitations for the essay.
  2. Have someone you trust proofread your essay and ask for their honest feedback.  It is unlikely that the first draft of your essay will really be your best work.
  3. Make the essay personal.  Your essay should tell your story.  No one else has the experiences you have! What sets you apart from other applicants?
  4. Be honest.  Don’t overstate your experiences or your expectations.  The essays are a way for us to try to determine whether or not this program and the research group will be a good fit for you.

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Essay #1: Describe your academic areas of interest. (750 word max)

The first essay question is meant to help the selection committee try to narrow down which research group may be a good match based on your research interests. This essay should highlight any work you have already done in your area of interest.  It should also highlight any previous experience you have in the area of research, research design, computer programming, or upper level academic coursework. For example, if you’re interested in physics and you’ve already taken AP Calculus, we know we can try to place you in a research group using advanced levels of mathematics. Or, if you’re interested in environmental science and you’ve already had experience with GIS, this is something we would want to know!  When highlighting your interests and experiences in this first essay question it is important not to over-state your abilities and experiences.  The best way for us to find you a research group that will be a good fit is if we truly know your strengths as well as areas that will need a little more guidance.  If you don’t have any research experience in the area you’re interested in, just say so! Tell us why you’re interested in this area and what life events have lead you to your academic interests in this area.

Essay #2: Why are you applying to the Secondary Student Training Program? Describe your career aspirations and explain what you hope to gain from the SSTP experience. (750 words max)

The second essay question is the essay many, many research mentors will request to see when determining whether or not you will be a good fit in their research group. It is very important that you answer both questions posed as part of this essay! Also, it is important to remember that research mentors are interested in mentoring interested students who want their guidance. It’s important that you honestly answer the questions in this essay. Mention your career goals and how SSTP may help you get there. If you want to come to the Secondary Student Training Program to learn research design to help you with projects you’re working on at home, or if you just want to know what it’s like to do research at a Research I institution, then include this in your essay. Mentors are interested in knowing what you hope to get out of this experience because it helps them determine whether or not you will be a good match in their research group, and it will also help them determine which of their projects may best fit your expectations.

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