Monday Morning Essay Tip: Contextualizing Academic Objectives

When tailoring essays to specific schools, many candidates do not go far enough to connect themselves with their targets. Offering school-specific information is good, but merely mentioning the particular resource that will be used is not enough—you need to take the extra step, adding context to your educational objectives.

What is the difference between a mere mention and providing context?


“With a focus on entrepreneurship, I will participate in Columbia’s Entrepreneurial Sounding Board process. Further, I am attracted to classes such as…”


“With clear plans to launch my start-up immediately after graduating from Columbia, I look forward to testing my ideas through the Entrepreneurial Sounding Board; I find this opportunity to meet with faculty and gain critical feedback and mentoring invaluable as I…”

In the first example, the candidate shows an awareness of the Sounding Board but does not provide the context necessary for the reader to truly understand how the candidate will actually use the resource; therefore, the mention is entirely superficial. Further, because the candidate has seemingly not taken the time to reflect on this resource, he/she has to move on to listing the classes he/she plans to take and thus begins to merely catalog resources rather than offering a reasoned consideration of how the school’s offerings fit his/her plans.

In the second example, the reader can better understand exactly how the candidate will use the resource mentioned; he/she has shown that he/she has done the necessary homework on the school and truly grasps how Columbia will satisfy his/her academic and professional needs. The reader is drawn to the latter example because it is more informed and serious minded; the reader can be certain that the candidate is set on his/her path and has a plan to achieve specific goals.

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