A student's hands type a personal statement on a blue laptop.
30 minutes

Applications Made Easy: Write a Top-Notch Essay or Cover Letter

Need a personal statement to apply to a teaching program? Or a cover letter that gets you the job? Our guide can help you figure out what to say and how to say it.

Your essay response—a.k.a. a personal essay, statement of purpose, statement of intent, cover letter, or some combination thereof—is your opportunity to tell exactly why you are the perfect fit for a teaching program or job.

For many (maybe even most?) people, the essay response is the hardest part of the application. If that’s you, you’re definitely not alone. 

Here, we’ll look at ways to make it more manageable.

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Download the Template

Gather your ideas

Before writing, take a breath. Get up, grab your phone, and call a friend or family member. Explain to them why you’re applying and why you think you’re a great fit. This will be helpful practice for starting your statement.

Better at brainstorming alone? Make a bulleted list of all the reasons you want to be a professional educator. More of an artist? Draw your feelings around the subject. No joke.

The goal here is to hone your thoughts and feelings around teaching. Once you’re clear on “why,” writing a statement becomes a straightforward task that you can spend time perfecting (rather than stressing over).

Some questions to think about as you're brainstorming:

  • Why do you want to teach?
  • What do you believe is the purpose of an education?
  • What do you believe about kids?

Now that you have some ideas going, you're ready to plan your essay.

Write Your Essay or Letter

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    In your essay, you want to:

    • Consider your audience. Write for your readers. Whether you’re applying to a teaching program, a job, or both, study up on the organization or school’s mission. Ask yourself: What does this program or organization pride itself on? This is your chance to directly connect with their mission statement and prove you know your stuff.
    • Answer the application question clearly and stay on topic throughout. If they tell you what to include in your statement—include it! Believe it or not, people miss this detail all the time!
    • Support your key ideas with relevant and specific information, ideas and experiences.
    • Mention relevant education. Describe why you want to be a teacher, tying in your academic record.
    • Include personal experience. Select one or two examples from your life that show how your background and personal experience make you a good fit for this opportunity.

    Some applications break essay responses out into individual parts or questions. When this is the case, remember to choose reasons and specific examples that directly relate to the topic.

    Visit the school, organization or program’s website and social media profiles. You can get a good sense for what they value (and what you might speak to in your essay) by doing a little recon.

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    Your statement is an opportunity to be creative—to a point. You still want to show your relevant skills, experience and vision.

    Suggested Outline

    Here’s our recommended outline. Just remember: You’re the expert on you! Take what works; revise what doesn’t.

    • Introduce yourself. (1 paragraph)
      • Hook: Grab the reader’s attention with a strong statement that speaks to your interest in this opportunity specifically.
        • Be sure to state the exact name of the program or job you’re applying to!
      • Connect: In one or two sentences, tell your reader what you want them to know. You’ll give the details in the next paragraphs, but this is your chance to tell them right away that you’re qualified and excited! In other words, write a thesis statement that connects your background and future goals. 
    • Get personal. (2-5 paragraphs)
      • Background: Briefly summarize the parts of your educational background that relate directly to your ambitions of becoming a professional educator. If you know what grades or subject areas you want to teach, this is a good time to make that known.
      • If there’s anything on your resume or transcript you’re not proud of, consider addressing it here to use it to your advantage. Offer what you learned or how you grew from that experience.

      • Anecdote: Tell your story. What made you want to become a teacher? What inspires you about the profession? How have events in your past—including pre-teaching experience—prepared you to pursue this career?
    • Seal the deal. (1-2 paragraphs)
      • Validate: We could easily call this step “Connect again.” Revisit your thesis statement and make sure you’ve proved what you set out to show. In other words: What about your background and personal anecdote make you a good fit for this particular teaching program or role?
      • Conclude: Reaffirm your commitment to teaching, emphasizing what excites you the most.
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    Phrases to Avoid

    When writing your essay, you want to sound authentic and set yourself apart from other applicants. Stay away from these sayings and clichés:

    • "I want to make a difference.”
      • Doesn’t everyone want to make a difference? Get more nitty-gritty than this catch-phrase. Consider how teachers uniquely provide a vital social service, and what exactly about the profession resonates with your own mission.
    • “While this isn’t my first choice program…”
      • While honesty is usually the best policy, you don’t need to reveal to staff that their teaching program or job might not be your #1 choice. Instead, focus on the parts of the program or role that are most compelling to you.
    • “I’ve always wanted to work in education.”
      • Prove it! Use your personal anecdote to show that you’re the right person to assume a teaching position.
    • “I love working with children.”
      • While we’re sure that’s true, focus instead on the specific rewards (and challenges) of working with students of a certain age.
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    Before you upload your essay, revise, revise, revise.

    • Pay close attention to the word count, grammar and spelling in your personal response. Use spell check and ask a friend to help you edit! 
    • Read your essay to yourself out loud. It’s easier to catch typos and figure out which phrases aren’t working when you have to slow down and really listen to your words. 
    • Have someone else take a look. Your friends and family know you best, so if you can, ask someone to read over your essay for you. People who care about you can help you figure out if you’re selling yourself short, if you could share your experiences in a more effective way or if you’re clearly communicating the ideas you want to share. 

    Proofread, again. As any editor will tell you, it can take a few read-throughs to catch everything! Take another pass or two before you send off your application.

    If you have any questions about your teaching program applications, reach out to a TEACH coach or admissions staff for support. We’re here for you.