Tips for Writing the Essay for Your Master's in Education Application

Pursuing a Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree signifies that you are ready to take the next step in your career. If you are currently working in education, an advanced degree offers a number of benefits that range from increased salary to additional leadership opportunities. If you are considering a change and have decided to become a teacher or administrator as a second career—welcome to the world of education!

No matter what your current situation, you’ll need to decide on the best school and program for you. Many schools offer master’s degrees in various fields, including curriculum and instruction, counseling, and school administration. In addition to Master of Education programs, there are Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degrees for teachers focused on taking their classroom practice to the next level.

Once you’ve decided on the best school and program for you, you’ll need to start completing your application. Writing the essay or the statement of purpose is possibly the most complex and time-consuming part of the application process. Collecting reference letters and transcripts seems easy compared to sitting down to write an essay that proves to the review board that you deserve a spot in the program.

We’ve put together some tips for writing your application essay that should make the process a little easier. We also know that some of you are currently in education and others are switching careers, so we’ve provided tips for both populations.

Follow Directions

Advice for everyone: Read the application and essay directions carefully. Each application requires different information tailored to what qualities the university and program hold in high regard. When possible, use keywords from the program description and writing prompt in your essay. Part of following directions means staying on topic, keep your essay within word count requirements, and adhering to any specifically recommended essay structures.

Advice for current educators: Use your knowledge about and experience in education to make your essay stand out, but don’t drop too much jargon and avoid using too many abbreviations and acronyms.

Advice for career changers: Take some time to research any unfamiliar topics or vocabulary included in the application or essay prompt. Though applications shouldn’t include too much educational jargon, there are words that best describe certain aspects to the educational field. If you’re not sure about something, look it up!

Use Personal Examples

Advice for everyone: Include stories and personal examples that show dedication and commitment to education. Because graduate degrees are professional programs, these stories should be focused on professional situations. While it’s tempting to talk about your childhood education, stick to what you’ve accomplished and learned as an adult.

Advice for current educators: Write about experiences in your classroom with specific students who’ve inspired you to continue learning. Be specific about the impact you want to make by continuing to advance your practice.

Advice for career changers: Write about your own recent educational experience or someone who had inspired you to go back to school for an advanced degree. Recent educational experiences can include attending conferences, engaging in professional development at work, or even being mentored by your boss.

Know the Program

Advice for everyone: Read through the website and application in order to tailor your essay to the specifics of the program. If the program focuses on social justice in education or using technology to further learning, be sure to understand why those issues are important to the university and faculty. You’re trying to show that you’re a good match for the program, so don’t submit a generic essay.

Advice for current educators: Make connections in your essay between classes in the program or faculty research and work you’ve done in the classroom. If you don’t have much experience or can’t think of a logical connection, explain how learning more about those topics will enhance your teaching practice.

Advice for career changers: Relate what you’ve read and learned about the program and courses to your professional experiences so far. Make the connections as logical as possible, but don’t force something that can’t be easily explained.

Explain Your Qualifications

Advice for everyone: Education experts will read your essay, so don’t be vague about your skills. Tie them directly to education and specifically explain how they relate to the type of master’s degree you’re looking to earn.

Advice for current educators: Explain any steps you’ve taken to continue to learn and grow as an educator. You can include an explanation of any relevant professional development or leadership positions you’ve held.

Advice for career changers: Like educators, you should also explain the steps you’ve taken to learn and grow within your current profession. Show that you have been willing to put in extra work no matter what your field.

Discuss Questions with an Advisor

Advice for everyone: It’s common to wonder what kind of tone to take in your essay or whether you should begin right away with an anecdote or go with a direct introduction instead. You may question if the essay should include explanations about GRE scores or nontraditional work histories. The answer is that all of these factors vary by institution. Contact an advisor during the application process to discuss. They’d be happy to let you know about how successful candidates have tackled these issues in the past or what the university wants or expects. Don’t leave any essay questions up to assumptions, use the resources available to you.

If earning a master’s degree in education is the next step to advance your career, make sure you find the right program for you. Use these tips to knock your essay out of the park and get started on becoming a next-level educator.

Amanda Ronan is an Austin-based writer. After many years as a teacher, Amanda transitioned out of the classroom and into educational publishing. She wrote and edited English, language arts, reading, and social studies content for grades K-12. Since becoming a full-time writer, Amanda has worked with a diverse set of clients, ranging from functional medicine doctors to design schools to moving companies. She blogs, writes long-form articles, and pens YA and children's fiction. Her first YA series, My Brother is a Robot, is slated for release by Scobre Educational Press in September 2015.