Monday Morning Essay Tip: Putting Your Educational Objectives in Context

When tailoring their essays to specific schools, many candidates do not go far enough to show a clear and understandable connection between themselves and their target programs. Offering school-specific information is good, but you must go beyond merely mentioning the particular resource(s) that appeal to you—adding context is key.

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 ‘Small Business Finance,’ ‘Real Estate Marketing’ and “Introduction to Mergers.’ I also plan to join the …”


“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 strive to refine my business plan and learn more about how to source investments…”

In the first example, the candidate shows an awareness of the Entrepreneurial Sounding Board but does not provide the context necessary for the reader to fully understand how the candidate will use this resource; therefore, the mention is entirely superficial. As a result, it is easily forgettable, unconvincing and impersonal (i.e., it could be made by pretty much any candidate with any background and any goals). The candidate has seemingly not taken the time to reflect on this resource and how he/she would use it to progress toward his/her stated goals. The applicant then goes on to begin listing the classes he/she plans to take and essentially succeeds in merely cataloging resources rather than offering a reasoned consideration of how the school’s offerings are necessary.

The second example better explains exactly how the candidate will use the resource mentioned; the applicant has clearly done the necessary homework on the school and truly grasps how Columbia will satisfy his/her academic and professional needs. Because the latter example is more informed and serious minded, the reader can be certain that the candidate has a set path and a clear plan to achieve specific goals.

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