Online EdD Application Personal Essay Tips

Submitting an essay is one of the items required to complete your application for the Online Doctor of Education (EdD) in Higher Education Leadership program. This tool is to provide clarity regarding what the content of that essay should be, as well as some helpful tips in order to submit a scholarly essay that addresses all elements the review committee looks for in an EdD application essay.

Writing plays a significant role within the program and it requires a high level of writing aptitude. It is important to note that your essay will act as a representation of your ability as a writer. The application essay consists of two parts. Part one contains four questions. Make sure to answer each question of each part thoroughly. The essay should contain between 250 – 300 words for each part.

Below is a basic outline on how to arrange your essay with the key elements to include:

Part One – Leadership Experience (250 – 300 words)

  • What specific qualities, traits, and skills would make you successful in the EdD program? Describe how a specific experience demonstrates these strengths.
    • Be descriptive and use a specific example from your history.
    • Think of your leadership strengths and how you think you will use them to become successful in the program. Think of how you “Lead by Example”, then describe.
  • What has most significantly influenced your development as a leader?
    • Describe how specific career experiences have helped you develop as a leader.
    • Include how your leadership skills have influenced and impacted others.
  • If you do not have experience in higher education, describe how your leadership skills and experience(s) would effectively translate to leading in a higher education environment.
    • This is a key question for those who do not have experience in higher education. Describe how your leadership and experience have helped you lead and influence larger segments while keeping in mind you have to tailor your response to the higher education environment.
  • What are you career goals upon graduation from the EdD program and how do you see this program helping you fulfill those goals? Also include why you selected this program over other program options.
    • Please be specific in what those goals are and how Maryville’s program will help you attain them.
    • The second part to this question is your time to shine. Provide the review committee with an insightful response to why you are choosing Maryville’s EdD program and be specific.

Part Two – Dissertation (250 – 300 words)

All EdD candidates will write an individual dissertation, which is an applied dissertation focusing on a problem of educational practice. As you consider your research and practice interests and experiences, identify a preliminary idea you might be interested in exploring for your dissertation study. Describe the problem and explain why this problem is significant to the future of higher education and/or educational practice.

If you are admitted you are not restricted to study this problem, but it will give program faculty an idea of your primary area of interest as you consider applying to a doctoral program of study. Include at least one citation (reference) in your essay.

  • Those with previous higher education experience should already have an idea of what problems exist within education practice. Simply address one specific issue and provide context around why you think this is a significant problem for the future of higher education. Again be specific in your response.
  • For those without higher education experience, consider conducting some research on your own before you begin. To help influence your thinking, consult research articles, videos, or interview higher education leaders to gain insight and perspective from real-world educational influencers. Be sure to cite your sources and include a reference page.


The essay should be written using the following specifics:

  • Times New Roman – 12 Point Font
  • 250 – 300 words per part
  • Double-Spaced
  • APA citation and reference page for sources


Do you need information on APA format?
We suggest visiting the APA style site at for more information.

Be sure to:

  • Write in a professional, scholarly tone
  • Proof-read your essay
  • Spell check!
  • Include an introduction and conclusion
  • The use of “I, me, my” is appropriate
  • Use appropriate grammar and punctuation
  • Address all required parts of the essay (see outline)
  • Avoid the use of a lot of acronyms
  • Set-aside your draft, come back to it and re-read from the perspective of the review committee reading it. Does it flow, make sense, and does it represent doctoral level writing?

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