Personal Essay Samples for Graduate School Application



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Personal Essay Samples for Graduate School Application

Remember: when writing essays you want to be sure and answer all questions and/or include all information the graduate school has requested. The following four examples are meant to be just that “examples”, you want your essay to be unique, informative, and personally directed to your life and not a copy of something you read here, online, or from any other source.



Example 1

The rapidly growing elderly population is becoming a serious social problem in many countries. Some countries have been successful at finding solutions for this problem but others have not. Japan is one of the latter countries. Although Japan has one of the highest life expectancy rates and a reputation for good quality of life for its elderly population, it has been unsuccessful at addressing this problem. Compared to other industrialized countries, Japan lags behind in programs for elders who are physically disabled, bedridden or in need of long term care. The current economic crisis is exacerbating this situation as the government is cutting funding for elder programs. This problem resonates deeply with me, and I hope to someday work on finding a solution. It is for this reason that I am applying to the graduate program in social work at Boston University: I seek the skills and knowledge I need to return to Japan and work for a social work service.

My interest in the elderly dates back to my childhood. Growing up with my grandparents greatly influenced my values and personality: they taught me to be self-motivated and disciplined. Their resilience and support has helped me to persevere even when confronted with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Because of their kindness toward me I have a deep respect for them and for elderly people in general. This is what motivates me to become involved in the field of social work.

Traditionally in Japanese society, the care of one's parents is believed to be the children's duty. After World War II, such traditions have evolved due to changes in family structure. No longer is the eldest child the only one to inherit his parent's property, and two-income families have become the norm. These changes have left Japanese people at a loss as to how to care for their aging parents. The current response to this problem seems to be hospitalization.

Families increasingly hospitalize their elders who are physically disabled, bedridden or in need of long-term care. These individuals are usually transferred to nursing homes, but because of sparse accommodations and a one to two year wait list, they end up staying with family members who are often ill equipped to care for them. As a result, there are a number of incidences of elder abuse by family members and elder suicide. Also, there are many other elderly people who live alone -- every year, many of them die with no one, not even their family members, having knowledge of their death.

Currently there is no social welfare program in Japan that offers assistance to these elders and their families. In the light of these terrible problems, the need for such a program is obvious. My interest in social work is to find ways to develop and improve the types of services available to the elderly in Japan at a systematic level. I want to be involved in the organizing, managing, developing, shaping and planning of social policies related to the elderly. I believe the social work program at Boston University will allow me to do that. By studying macro social work at Boston University, I will learn about established social systems, assessment and intervention strategies. In addition, Boston University's emphasis on urban issues appeals to me immensely. As I will be returning to work in Osaka, the second largest city in Japan, graduate work in this area will better equip me for the challenges I will be facing. To me, an urban mission is a commitment to identify and find solutions to issues faced by urban areas.

I believe I am well prepared for graduate work. During my undergraduate study, I acquired the necessary background knowledge by taking advanced courses in the areas of psychology and sociology, including sociological research methods, social theory, statistics, psychological research, and psychotherapy. Along with these courses, I had an internship at the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence, a non-profit organization. I also volunteered at Sawayaka-en, a nursing service, and Asunaro Children's Mental Hospital in Japan. From this internship and my volunteer work, I have gained practical experience which I feel will contribute to my academic and professional success.

I expect the graduate work at Boston University to be demanding, challenging, and ultimately rewarding. I look forward to the experience from an intellectual as well as social point of view -- I hope to learn and grow as an individual and a macro social worker. I hope that I will be allowed to do so at Boston University.



Example 2

Little Lessons I've learned on my way

Lesson 1: Don't Lose Your Path
In his poem, The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost wrote, "Two roads diverge in the woods, and I took the one least traveled by/ And that has made all the difference." In this poem, the narrator had a choice of two roads. However, I've discovered that life is a little more complicated. Sometimes the path we embark on is not always the one we choose. Sometimes we are pushed or pulled in certain directions and we have to react to our environment.

My path to a college education has been filled with bumps, potholes, detours and roadblocks. The signs often read "yield" and "do not enter." The path has not always been clear, but I've kept my eyes opened, focused on the road ahead, and the experience has made all the difference.

During my freshman year in high school, my mother remarried and I had to move from Colorado to Kentucky. One year later, we relocated back to Colorado after they divorced. During my junior year in high school, my mother remarried again and I had to change schools again, although we remained in Colorado. Thus, I did not have a sense of continuity during high school and although I recognized that my path would lead me to college, I was not ready to commit myself to school full time. Instead I went to work full time as a grocery clerk and worked my way up to assistant manager. I then moved into customer service work and finally fell into an advertising manager position. I took several night courses during this period until I was ready to commit to school full time. Although I could have continued with work, I knew that it was not what I wanted to do and once I committed myself to attending school and realized that I wanted to study Sociology, I have proven myself to be an above average student. This past year, I earned all "A’s” in my courses.

Although it took me a bit longer to complete my undergraduate education, I consider it to be my greatest success. I paid for it, I struggled through it, and I gave up a great deal of my life for it. I also realize that my educational path is not complete. I believe that my struggles, perseverance, and triumph through my undergraduate studies qualify me as an excellent PhD candidate in your Political Sociology department.

Lesson 2: Become an Active Listener
When I was growing up, whenever the phone would ring, my mother would say, "the doctor is in." I believe that one of my strengths lie in the way I communicate and deal with children. I think that we must become active listeners in order to understand each other. During my internship with the Institute for Social Justice, I worked with inmates on research for alternative social models of punishment. In order to do the job effectively, I needed to empathize with the inmates so that I could understand their concerns and needs and remedy any self-destructive conduct they exhibit. The work also involved an all out hunt on my part to place these inmates into environments and programs that would prove healthy for them.

I maintained a working relationship with my friends at the Institute and checked their progress weekly. I believe that the power to empathize, or the ability to put yourself in someone else's place begins with an open mind. When I say that we must become active listeners in order to understand one another, I mean to say that there are subtle movements in our speech, certain words that we use, certain utterances that are not directed towards us, certain circumstances unrevealed to us. We must endeavor to hear all of them. I believe that this skill will help me greatly as a PhD candidate in your department.

Lesson 3: Learn From Your Experiences

In 1997, my mother was diagnosed with lupus. I was enrolled in a full course load but I dropped three classes so that I could spend more time with my mother and comfort her as much as I could. I felt so helpless because I did not know how to help her. I resolved to know more about the disease; I attended Lupus support group meetings and found out about a diet that helps regulate the body's immune system. I also talked to several neurologists and researched several drugs that were FDA approved. Through our collective effort, we found a terrific drug and the disease has stabilized for almost a year. This experience has taught me that even if a subject is miles away from the reach of your contemplation, you can learn much from research and from the knowledge and experience of others.

And as I offer myself as a PhD candidate in your Political Sociology department, I bring to the table years of work experience which includes steady and continuous promotions, an unrelenting pursuit for knowledge, a compassion for children and people, and a belief that anything is possible if we can actively imagine it into existence. Throughout my adult life, I never lost my path and I hope that you will allow me to continue this path at the University of Nebraska.


Example 3

Of all the characters that I’ve “met” through books and movies, two stand out as people that I most want to emulate. They are Attacus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird and Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham from Field of Dreams. They appeal to me because they embody what I strive to be. They are influential people in small towns who have a direct positive effect on those around them. I, too, plan to live in a small town after graduating from college, and that positive effect is something I must give in order to be satisfied with my life.

Both Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham are strong supporting characters in wonderful stories. They symbolize good, honesty, and wisdom. When the story of my town is written I want to symbolize those things. The base has been formed for me to live a productive, helpful life. As an Eagle Scout I represent those things that Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham represent. In the child/adolescent world I am Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham, but soon I’ll be entering the adult world, a world in which I’m not yet prepared to lead.

I’m quite sure that as teenagers Attacus Finch and Moonlight Graham often wondered what they could do to help others. They probably emulated someone who they had seen live a successful life. They saw someone like my grandfather, 40-year president of our hometown bank, enjoy a lifetime of leading, sharing, and giving. I have seen him spend his Christmas Eves taking gifts of food and joy to indigent families. Often when his bank could not justify a loan to someone in need, my grandfather made the loan from his own pocket. He is a real-life Moonlight Graham, a man who has shown me that characters like Dr. Graham and Mr. Finch do much more than elicit tears and smiles from readers and movie watchers. Through him and others in my family I feel I have acquired the values and the burning desire to benefit others that will form the foundation for a great life. I also feel that that foundation is not enough. I do not yet have the sophistication, knowledge, and wisdom necessary to succeed as I want to in the adult world. I feel that Harvard, above all others, can guide me toward the life of greatness that will make me the Attacus Finch of my town.



Example 4

For many years, I have been interested in studying international relations. My interest in pursuing this field stems from several factors which have affected me. First, I have been exposed to international affairs throughout my life. With my father and two of my brothers in the Saudi Foreign Service, I have grown up under the shadow of inter-national affairs. Second, I am fascinated by history, economics, and diplomacy. I believe, through the study of international relations, I can effectively satisfy my curiosity in these fields. A third factor which has affected my interest in international relations is patriotism.



Through the Foreign Service, I would not only have the opportunity to serve my country, but also have the chance to help bridge gaps between my country and others. Finally, as a Saudi living abroad, I have been bridging cultures throughout my life. This experience has taught me to look for differences to compromise and similarities to synthesize in order to balance different cultures. In short, I believe that my experiences in life, combined with a rigorous academic education, will enable me to pursue a successful career in the Saudi Foreign Service.

Georgetown, Favorite Class:
At St. Albans, especially in our later years, we are given the freedom to choose from a vast array of classes. Using this freedom, I have selected classes which have personal significance to me, regardless of difficulty or appearance on my transcript. However, from these classes, one holds an extraordinary amount of value to me. This course is A.P. Omnibus History, a combination of American and European history. There are several reasons for my great interest in this class. First, I am fascinated by the cyclical nature of the past. I see these recurring political, economic, and social trends as a means of looking forward into the future, while allowing us to avoid the mistakes of the past. Second, history teaches many lessons about the nature of human behavior, both past and present, providing insight into the actions, desires, and aspirations of those around me. Finally, it lays a solid foundation for several disciplines, including political science, economics, and international relations, three fields of great interest to me.

Georgetown, Visual Arts:
Another major interest of mine, which I have not had the opportunity to express elsewhere on my application, is the visual arts. Throughout high school, I have used a variety of media to express myself. I began with black and white photography, focusing on the presence of lines and balance in nature. For my work in this medium, I received an award at the St. Albans School Art Show. From photography, I moved on to glass etching. Using a sandblaster to etch the glass, I again concentrated on lines and balance in my works. Moreover, by arranging several glass panes into a sculpture, I moved my study into three dimensions, winning another Art Show award. Currently, I am working on canvas, using oil and acrylic in a Mondrian style, which is based on lines and balance. Eventually, I hope to explore the effects of combining these and other media, creating my own style of artistic expression.

Georgetown, Wrestling:
In the past four years of my life, no activity has affected me more than wrestling. Four years of varsity wrestling and the honor of being a team captain have instilled many qualities in me. First, through years of hard work and continuous dieting, wrestling has given me discipline. This discipline has spread to other parts of my personality, including my moral character, work ethic, and perseverance. Another quality wrestling has given me is leadership. As a team captain, I have learned to lead by example, both on and off the mat. Above all, though, wrestling has given me a love of life. Through this sport, I have experienced pain, sacrifice, adversity, and success. Exposure to these feelings— which are, in my opinion, the essence of being— has allowed me to truly appreciate life. I hope to continue wrestling at Georgetown.


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