Education application essay

The education application essay is part of the application process for acceptance into the teacher preparation program at the College of Education and Human Development. Typically, applicants are in their sophomore or junior year. In the past this essay has prompted students to write about their experiences in education, how they will face issues in the field, and their education philosophy. The College of Education and Human Development will now provide a different prompt each semester. The deadlines are still, October 1 for spring and March 1 for summer or fall.

Academic or personal?

While this essay is for an academic purpose, it does not call for a strictly academic style/voice. This is also not the space to outline your resume or explore all of your achievements.

This essay is an opportunity for the applicant to illustrate to the review board

  • their personality as a teacher, their understanding of the field of education
  • their chosen content areas and/or grade level
  • how they will excel in the profession

The use of first person pronouns and personal experience is welcome. Therefore, this paper has the potential to include research, personal anecdotes, current events, scholarly thinking, and personal opinions. Strive for a professional tone that highlights your personality; think of this as a written interview for a teaching position.

Remember, it needs to be personal enough that the committee knows you have written it, but scholarly enough to show the committee that you are committed.

How do I format this essay?

This essay is a response to a prompt. The format can be MLA or APA. However, education is a social science and depends on up-to-date information; therefore, APA is highly recommended. Additionally, APA is the format/citation style chosen in education classes, so this is a chance to demonstrate skill and knowledge in this style.

For further information on APA formatting and citations, see the APA resources under Writing & Speaking Resources.

Do I need to include sources?

Sources are not required for this essay, but they are recommended. Using sources is a way to illustrate knowledge of educational pedagogy and to support your claims. This is not to say you need a full page of sources and copious amounts of research, but a small amount can go a long way.

For example, if I were to talk about certain strategies or concepts I used (or will use) in classrooms or volunteer positions, I would cite research about why those strategies or concepts are recommended/used in classrooms.

  • I could also use a source when I talk about research or reading that has really influenced me. For example, I would write, “Fisher & Frey (2017) have helped me understand disciplinary literacy, which is a key aspect to teaching in a classroom.”
  • If I wanted to reference something that happened, is happening, or is significant to education that will impact me as an aspiring teacher, I could write, “X policy change could impact the way I am able to teach kids, I would overcome this by changing my differentiation strategies”

Keep in mind that sources should follow the criteria below.

  1. Sources should be recent.
  2. Sources should be either specific to Reno or general enough to apply to education anywhere . It is advised not to use sources that are too specific in region, or focus. For example, citing a source that focuses on the Silver Falls District in Marion County Salem, Oregon, is too specific because the research and findings may not be applicable to general education elsewhere.
  3. Sources should be scholarly rather than popular. Popular sources are artifacts like movies, YouTube, Twitter, magazines (Us Weekly, People, Reader’s Digest, etc.). These sources are not peer reviewed by scholars in the field nor intended for an academic audience.   


  • The rose-colored glasses approach: e.g., “Education is great, and we don’t have to change anything. I love everything about it!” This approach is a trap. Anyone in education should recognize that education is not perfect, and it is always seeking ways to improve. This approach will come off as naïve and impersonal.
  • The I’m-doing-it-for-the-children-approach: e.g. “I want to be a teacher because I love children, and I want to teach the younger generation.” This belief is already assumed of applicants, but the key to statements such as these is what distinguishes you as someone who will make a positive impact in schools.
  • The it-is-all-about-me-approach: e.g. “I have done this, and gone to X, helped here and volunteered there…” It is understandable that you want to talk about yourself and your achievements in an essay that lends itself to narrative. The trouble with this approach is that it takes away from the education aspect and becomes a story of accomplishments. Make sure you are explaining why your experiences make you suited to education, to your discipline, to the grade level, etc.
  • The Dictionary-definition-define approach: e.g. “Education is defined as…” If you are going to use this approach, make sure to define what education means to you as a teacher and not how it is defined in a dictionary.

The committee’s note to applicants

The committee reminds you this should be excellent writing. All teachers have to write; often times writing is a reflection of a teacher’s care and competence. Your essay should reflect your best efforts because it plays an important part in the committee’s decision; so plan ahead, take your time, and put your best foot forward.