Admissions Talks: 4 Tips to Write a Strong Doctoral Admission Essay

Admissions Talks: 4 Tips to Write a Strong Doctoral Admission Essay

A Word from Deb Driscoll, PhD and post-Master’s DNP Recruiter


September already—is it time for Pumpkin Spice everything yet?

With applications open for programs that begin in summer and fall 2021, here are a few tips on how to write a strong essay—especially for students applying to the PhD program and post-Master’s DNP tracks.

It’s important to know that we have a very holistic review process, that there is no ‘formula’ to make an admission decisions, and that the Admissions Committee will review everything you submit. We want to know that you have the academic background to be successful and that you have been thoughtful about picking both Johns Hopkins and your program of interest.  So here are some suggestions to help you put yourself in our shoes when you write your essay.


#1: Why do you want to attend Johns Hopkins? 

Be specific.  It’s true that we are nationally ranked, but there’s more to us than that. We want to know what you hope to gain from our program, what success looks like to you, and how this step will help you on your journey.

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#2: Why do you want to pursue this program?

Tell us why you’re interested in the program you selected. Draw a straight line between what that program offers and why it is a good fit for you.

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#3: Will you be successful here?

Do you have the academic background to be successful? Can you show that you have the professional resources necessary to be successful with your project or research?  If you had any hiccups in your academic history, you can either explain in your essay or upload a supplemental statement of explanation to your application.

In the post-Master’s DNP tracks, include any conversations you have had with supervisors in your clinical setting about doing a clinical project and the institutional support you expect to receive.

For the PhD tracks, talk about specific faculty or research centers at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing that you would like to work with, and tell a story about where your interest in research comes from. These programs are rigorous and time-consuming; we really want to know how you are prepared to be academically successful, both personally and professionally.


#4: Do you have grit? 

Have you had any experiences that required patience and perseverance? For example, you may have worked full time during your degrees or navigated complex interpersonal relationships. These are skills you have put to work to address difficult issues and they will make you a strong student. Tell the Admissions Committee how they have contributed to your ability to be successful in a rigorous doctoral program (to the extent you are comfortable talking about your experiences).


I hope this is helpful! Remember, you are always welcome to contact the Admissions Office to schedule a one-on-one chat about your background and ways to make your application as strong as possible.  You can reach us at [email protected].

Don’t miss my next blog on letters of recommendation.  ‘Till then, stay safe, wear a mask, and practice social distancing!


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Admissions Talks is a series by the admissions team at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Hopkins nurses are full partners and leaders in the health care process, and their role in patient care is unmatched. The admissions team is here to offer advice and guidance on how to be a competitive applicant. Admissions & Financial Aid at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing


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Deb Driscoll is Assistant Director of Recruitment for the DNP Executive Track, DNP/MBA, PhD, and DNP/PhD programs at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. She has worked in higher education since 2008, and at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing since 2017. Born in Valencia, Spain, she is lawyer by education and a member of the Maryland State Bar Association. She believes strongly in the personal connection that is the hallmark of the ‘Johns Hopkins Experience’ and encourages nurses interested in Johns Hopkins School of Nursing graduate programs to reach out to her directly at 410-502-4132, [email protected], on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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