Application essay writing tips and advice. One page briefly covering the whole process. Content provided by EssayEdge.com. Put Harvard-Educated Editors to Work for You! College Admissions Essay Secrets EssayEdge.com contains thousands of pages of free admissions essay advice by Harvard-educated editors Each year, Harvard rejects four out of five valedictorians and hundreds of students with perfect SAT scores, leaving applicants and parents wondering what went wrong. While there is no secret formula for gaining admission to a top school, there are many ways to ensure rejection, and the most common by far is taking the admissions essay lightly. Over one-third of the time an admissions officer spends on your application is spent evaluating your essay. Admissions officers use the essay to compare hundreds or even thousands of applicants with similar grades, activities, and SAT scores. To stand out, your essay must not only demonstrate your grasp of grammar and ability to write lucid, structured prose, you must also paint a vivid picture of your personality and character, one that compels a busy admissions officer to accept you. Fortunately, unlike every other aspect of the application, you control your essay, and can be sure that the glimpse you give the admissions committee into your character, background, and writing ability is the most positive one possible. As the founder of EssayEdge.com, the Net's largest admissions essay prep company, I have seen firsthand the difference a well-written application essay can make. Through its free online admissions essay help course and 300 Harvard-educated editors, EssayEdge.com helps tens of thousands of student each year improve their essays and gain admission to schools ranging from Harvard to State U. Having personally edited over 2,000 admissions essays myself for EssayEdge.com, I have written this article to help you avoid the most common essay flaws. If you remember nothing else about this article, remember this: Be Interesting. Be Concise. TOP 10 ESSAY WRITING TIPS 1. Don't Thesaurusize Your Essay. Do Use Your Own Voice. Admissions officers can tell Roget from an 18-year-old high school senior. Big words, especially when misused, detract from the essay, inappropriately drawing the reader's attention and making the essay sound contrived. Before: Although I did a plethora of activities in high school, my assiduous efforts enabled me to succeed. After: Although I juggled many activities in high school, I succeeded through persistent work. 2. Don't Bore the Reader. Do Be Interesting. Admissions officers have to read hundreds of essays, and they must often skim. Abstract rumination has no place in an application essay. Admissions officers aren't looking for a new way to view the world; they're looking for a new way to view you the applicant. The best way to grip your reader is to begin the essay with a captivating snapshot. Notice how the slightly jarring scene depicted in the "after" creates intrigue and keeps the reader's interest. Before: The college admissions and selection process is a very important one, perhaps one that will have the greatest impact on one's future. The college that a person will go to often influences his personality, views, and career. After: An outside observer would have called the scene ridiculous: a respectable physician holding the bell of his stethoscope to the chest of a small stuffed bear. 3. Do Use Personal Detail. Show, Don't Tell! Good essays are concrete and grounded in personal detail. They do not merely assert "I learned my lesson" or that "these lessons are useful both on and off the field." They show it through personal detail. "Show don't tell," means if you want to relate a personal quality, do so through your experiences and do not merely assert it. Before: I developed a new compassion for the disabled. After: The next time Mrs. Cooper asked me to help her across the street, I smiled and immediately took her arm. The first example is vague and could have been written by anybody. But the second sentence evokes a vivid image of something that actually happened, placing the reader in the experience of the applicant. 4. Do Be Concise. Don't Be Wordy. Wordiness not only takes up valuable space, but it also can confuse the important ideas you're trying to convey. Short sentences are more forceful because they are direct and to the point. Certain phrases such as "the fact that" are usually unnecessary. Notice how the revised version focuses on active verbs rather than forms of "to be" and adverbs and adjectives. Before: My recognition of the fact that the project was finally over was a deeply satisfying moment that will forever linger in my memory. After: Completing the project at last gave me an enduring sense of fulfillment. 5. Don't Use Slang, Yo! Write an essay, not an email. Slang terms, clichÃ©s, contractions, and an excessively casual tone should be eliminated. Here's one example of inappropriately colloquial language. Well here I am thinking about what makes me tick. You would be surprised. What really gets my goat is when kids disrespect the flag. My father was in 'Nam and I know how important the military is to this great nation. 6. Do Vary Your Sentences and Use Transitions. The best essays contain a variety of sentence lengths mixed within any given paragraph. Also, remember that transition is not limited to words like nevertheless, furthermore or consequently. Good transition flows from the natural thought progression of your argument. Before: I started playing piano when I was eight years old. I worked hard to learn difficult pieces. I began to love music. After: I started playing the piano at the age of eight. As I learned to play more difficult pieces, my appreciation for music deepened. 7. Do Use Active Voice Verbs. Passive-voice expressions are verb phrases in which the subject receives the action expressed in the verb. Passive voice employs a form of the verb to be, such as was or were. Overuse of the passive voice makes prose seem flat and uninteresting. Before: The lessons that prepared me for college were taught to me by my mother. After: My mother taught me lessons that will prepare me for college. 8. Do Seek Multiple Opinions. Ask your friends and family to keep these questions in mind: Have I answered the question? Does my introduction engage the reader? Does my conclusion provide closure? Do my introduction and conclusion avoid summary? Do I use concrete experiences as supporting details? Have I used active-voice verbs wherever possible? Is my sentence structure varied, or do I use all long or short sentences? Are there any clichÃ©s such as cutting edge or learned my lesson? Do I use transitions appropriately? What about the essay is memorable? What's the worst part of the essay? What parts of the essay need elaboration or are unclear? What parts of the essay do not support my main argument? Is every single sentence crucial to the essay? This must be the case. What does the essay reveal about my personality? 9. Do Answer the Question. Many students try to turn a 500-word essay into a complete autobiography. Not surprisingly, they fail to answer the question and risk their chances of attending college. Make sure that every sentence in your essay exists solely to answer the question. 10. Do Revise, Revise, Revise. The first step in an improving any essay is to cut, cut, and cut some more. EssayEdge.com's free admissions essay help course and Harvard-educated editors will be invaluable as you polish your essay to perfection. The EssayEdge.com free help course guides you through the entire essay-writing process, from brainstorming worksheets and question-specific strategies for the twelve most common essay topics to a description of ten introduction types and editing checklists. SAMPLE ESSAY The sun sleeps as the desolate city streets await the morning rush hour. Driven by an inexplicable compulsion, I enter the building along with ten other swimmers, inching my way toward the cold, dark locker room of the Esplanada Park Pool. One by one, we slip into our still-damp drag suits and make a mad dash through the chill of the morning air, stopping only to grab pull-buoys and kickboards on our way to the pool. Nighttime temperatures in coastal California dip into the high forties, but our pool is artificially warmed to seventy-nine degrees; the temperature differential propels an eerie column of steam up from the water's surface, producing the spooky ambience of a werewolf movie. Next comes the shock. Headfirst immersion into the tepid water sends our hearts racing, and we respond with a quick set of warm-up laps. As we finish, our coach emerges from the fog. He offers no friendly accolades, just a rigid regimen of sets, intervals, and exhortations. Thus starts another workout. 4,500 yards to go, then a quick shower and a five-minute drive to school. Then it's back to the pool; the afternoon training schedule features an additional 5,500 yards. Tomorrow, we start over again. The objective is to cut our times by another tenth of a second. The end goal is to achieve that tiny, unexplainable difference at the end of a race that separates success from failure, greatness from mediocrity. Somehow we accept the pitch--otherwise, we'd still be deep in our mattresses, slumbering beneath our blankets. In this sport, the antagonist is time. Coaches spend hours in specialized clinics, analyze the latest research on training technique, and experiment with workout schedules in an attempt to defeat time. Yet there are no shortcuts to winning, and workouts are agonizing. I took part in my first swimming race when I was ten years old. My parents, fearing injury, directed my athletic interests away from ice hockey and into the pool. Three weeks into my new swimming endeavor, I somehow persuaded my coach to let me enter the annual age group meet. To his surprise (and mine), I pulled out an "A" time. I furthered my achievements by winning "Top 16" awards for various age groups, setting club records, and being named National First Team All-American in the 100-Butterfly and Second Team All-American in the 200-Medley. I have since been elevated to the Senior Championship level, which means the competition now includes world-class swimmers. I am aware that making finals will not be easy from here--at this level, success is measured by mere tenths of a second. In addition, each new level brings extra requirements such as elevated weight training, longer weekend training sessions, and more travel from home. Time with friends is increasingly spent in the pursuit of the next swimming objective. Sometimes, in the solitude of the laps, my thoughts transition to events in my personal life. This year, my grandmother suffered a reoccurrence of cancer, which has spread to her lungs. She had always been driven by good spirits and independence, but suddenly my family had to accept the fact that she now faces a limited timeline. A few weeks later, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, my grandfather--who lives in Japan--learned he had stomach cancer. He has since undergone successful surgery, but we are aware that a full recovery is not guaranteed. When I first learned that they were both struck with cancer, I felt as if my own objective, to cut my times by fractions of a second, seemed irrelevant, even ironic, given the urgency of their mutual goals: to prolong life itself. Yet we have learned to draw on each other's strengths for support--their fortitude helps me overcome my struggles while my swimming achievements provide them with a vicarious sense of victory. When I share my latest award or triumph story, they smile with pride, as if they themselves had stood on the award stand. I have the impression that I would have to be a grandparent to understand what my medals mean to them. My grandparents' strength has also shored up my determination to succeed. I have learned that, as in swimming, life's successes often come in small increments. Sometimes even the act of showing up at a workout when your body and psyche are worn out separates a great result from a failure. The difference between success and failure is defined by the ability to overcome strong internal resistance. I know that, by consistently working towards my goals--however small they may seem--I can accomplish what I set for myself, both in and beyond the swimming pool. About EssayEdge.com - EssayEdge.com offers all users free access to the most extensive Admissions Essay Help Course on the Internet and over 300 Free Sample Admissions Essays accepted by the United States' top undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. Named "the world's premier application essay editing service" by the New York Times Learning Network and "one of the best essay services on the Internet" by the Washington Post. Put Harvard-Educated Editors To Work For You! 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Whenever I'm at a party, entrepreneurs seem to find me. Once they find out I work for Register.com, they start telling me about their business idea. The next thing I know, they want my advice on where they can find the money they need to start their company. How to find financing for your business Learn about the pros and cons of various sources of funding for your start up Whenever I'm at a party, entrepreneurs seem to find me. Once they find out I work for Register.com, they start telling me about their business idea. The next thing I know, they want my advice on where they can find the money they need to start their company. I think many entrepreneurs jump too fast to the fundraising stage, so I usually ask them to consider a few items before they start this process. Those questions include: How long can you live off your savings? I had a friend who started a small business with a decent amount in the bank. But he didn't realize it would be eight months with no dollars coming in at the beginning, and soon he was panicked. Many startups aren't able to borrow enough to cover their expenses in the initial months, just enough to operate the business. How in debt are you willing to go? This is a vital question to answer. Know your comfort level with being in debt, and how that squares with how much money it will take to start the business you have in mind. Some people might say, "I'm only willing to do $100,000." If so, what will you do if the business turns out to require more funding? Have you estimated how much money you'll really need? Many new business owners plunge ahead without a clear sense of how much money they will need. They end up having to raise money repeatedly during their startup period, exhausting their energy and risking the business's future if they're unsuccesful in finding subsequent loans. Once you have a clear idea of your appetite for debt and the amount you'll need to raise, it's time to consider your possible funding sources. Sources of funding Your retirement accounts. I'm not personally in favor of taking money out of your 401(k) account, but its something to think about. Under some circumstances, you can borrow this money out and repay it without penalty - consult a good tax professional to make sure the way you're doing it is best from a tax perspective. Advantages of this method: It's fast, little paperwork is required, nobody asks you how you plan to use the money, and rates can be low. Liquidate assets. If you own a boat, vacation home, appreciated stock or other assets you could liquidate, consider using them to fund the business. Your business won't be burdened by interest payments if you can find the cash to start it from your own assets. Friends and family. Often, a loan source may be close to hand - not just your family members and personal friends, but the people within their extended network. To give everyone a clear understanding of the loan terms and avoid bad feelings, write a contract and then carefully track payments - Web sites such as Virgin Money and ZimpleMoney make it easy to do online. Peer loans. If your personal network fails you, try a peer-to-peer lending site such as Zopa.com. Peer sites check your credit, assign you a credit rating, and then let you make your case to their large networks of individual lenders. If enough lenders contribute to your loan to fund it, the site packages and administers the loan. Loans can take as little as two or three weeks to obtain here. On the downside, interest rates will likely be fairly high. Microloans. If you need an amount under $35,000, consider a microfinance lender such as Kiva.org or Accion. They fund a lot of one-person businesses, and rates are usually fairly reasonable. On the downside, they may want to disburse the money in stages, not all at once. Revolving line of credit. Rather than getting a loan with a set term and interest rate, it's sometimes easier to get a bank to give you a revolving line of credit. With this loan type, as you pay back money it becomes available for borrowing again. SBA-guaranteed bank loans. Many new businesses get funding through bank loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. If you plan to approach bank loan officers, come prepared. Write a business plan and bring materials you need to illustrate your concept. Whether it's a PowerPoint presentation, a mock-up, or maybe a software demonstration, come prepared to demonstrate your idea to bankers. People think if they have good credit they can show up at the bank and get a business loan, but that isn't the case. Banks need to know it's a real idea that can become a viable business. Also know what the SBA guarantee means - it helps the lending bank if you don't repay the loan. It is not a guarantee that the SBA will cover your loan obligation if your business doesn't succeed. This article is brought to you Register.com Learning Resource Center for their Register.com Affiliate Program.
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Sample graduate school personal statements Content provided by Put Harvard-Educated Editors to Work...
Sample graduate school personal statements. Content provided by EssayEdge.com. Put Harvard-Educated Editors to Work for You! Graduate School Statement Samples This section contains five sample graduate school personal statements: Why Graduate School? Essay Why Qualified? Essay One Why Qualified? Essay Two Why Unique? Essay One Why Unique? Essay Two Why Graduate School? Essay My freshman year at Harvard, I was sitting in a Postcolonial African Literature class when Professor Ngugi wa Thiong'o (the influential Kenyan author) succeeded in attracting me to the study of African literature through nothing more than a single sentence. He argued that, when a civilization adopts reading and writing as the chief form of social communication, it frees itself to forget its own values, because those values no longer have to be part of a lived reality in order to have significance. I was immediately fascinated by the idea that the written word can alter individual lives, affect one's identity, and perhaps even shape national identity. Professor Ngugi's proposal forced me to think in a radically new way: I was finally confronted with the notion of literature not as an agent of vital change, but as a potential instrument of stasis and social stagnancy. I began to question the basic assumptions with which I had, until then, approached the field. How does "literature" function away from the written page, in the lives of individuals and societies? What is the significance of the written word in a society where the construction of history is not necessarily recorded or even linear? I soon discovered that the general scope of comparative literature fell short of my expectations because it didn't allow students to question the inherent integrity or subjectivity of their discourse. We were being told to approach Asian, African, European, and American texts with the same analytical tools, ignoring the fact that, within each culture, literature may function in a different capacity, and with a completely different sense of urgency. Seeking out ways in which literature tangibly impacted societies, I began to explore other fields, including history, philosophy, anthropology, language, and performance studies. The interdisciplinary nature of my work is best illustrated by my senior thesis ("Time Out of Joint: Issues of Temporality in the Songs of Okot p'Bitek"). In addition to my literary interpretations, the thesis drew heavily on both the Ugandan author's own cultural treatises and other anthropological, psychological, and philosophical texts. By using tools from other disciplines, I was able to interpret the literary works while developing insight into the Ugandan society and popular psychology that gave birth to the horrific Idi Amin regime. In addition, I was able to further understand how people interacted with the works and incorporated (or failed to incorporate) them into their individual, social, and political realities. On a more practical level, writing the thesis also confirmed my suspicion that I would like to pursue an academic career. When I finished my undergraduate career, I felt that a couple of years of professional work would give me a better perspective of graduate school. I decided to secure a position which would grant me experiences far removed from the academic world, yet which would also permit me to continue developing the research and writing skills I needed to tackle the challenges of graduate school. I have fulfilled this goal by working as a content developer at a Silicon Alley web start-up for two years. The experience has been both enjoyable and invaluable -- to the point where colleagues glance at me with a puzzled look when I tell them I am leaving the job to return to school. In fact, my willingness to leave such a dynamic, high-paying job to pursue my passion for literature only reflects my keen determination to continue along the academic path. Through a Masters program, I plan to further explore the issues I confronted during my undergraduate years by integrating the study of social, cultural, and linguistic anthropology into the realm of literature. I believe that, by adopting tools used in such disciplines, methods of inquiry can be formulated that allow for the interpretation of works that are both technically sound and sociologically insightful. Thus far, my studies have concentrated largely on African and Caribbean literatures, and I am particularly interested in studying these geographic areas in more specific historical and cultural contexts. I also seek to increase my knowledge of African languages, which will allow me to study the lingering cultural impact of colonialism in modern-day African literature. Eventually, I would like to secure an academic post in a Comparative Literature department, devoting myself to both research and teaching at the college level. I believe the Modern Thought and Literature program at NAME is uniquely equipped to guide me toward these objectives. While searching for a graduate school that would accommodate my interdisciplinary approach, I was thrilled to find a program that approaches world literature with a cross-disciplinary focus, recognizing that the written word has the potential to be an entry point for social and cultural inquiry. The level of scholarly research produced by the department also attracts me. Akhil Gupta's "Culture, Power, Place", for instance, was one of my first and most influential experiences with the field of cultural anthropology. Professor Gupta's analysis of the local, national, and foreign realms, achieved through a discussion of post-colonial displacement and mixed identifications, has led me to believe that -- given the complexity of modern societies -- comparative literature's focus on borders (national and linguistic) has been excessively arbitrary. Even more significant is the accurate rendering of individually-lived realities that may then be synthesized with other experiences. I believe that I could greatly benefit from Professor Gupta's teaching and guidance in applying these ideas to the literary arena, and I believe that his work is representative of the rigorous yet creative approach I would pursue upon joining the department. Why Qualified? Essay Ever since my first psychology lecture, I have been fascinated by the nature of human memory. Indeed, human memory is one of the most tenacious and enigmatic problems ever faced by philosophers and psychologists. The discussion of memory dates back to the early Greeks when Plato and Aristotle originally likened it to a "wax tablet." In 1890, pioneer William James adopted the metaphorical framework and equated memory to a "house" to which thirty years later Sigmund Freud chimed that memory was closer to "rooms in a house." In 1968, Atkinson and Shrifren retained the metaphorical framework but referred to memory as "stores". The fact that the controversy surrounding human memory has been marked more by analogy than definition suggests, however, that memory is a far more complex phenomenon than has been uncovered thus far. I intend to spend the rest of my professional life researching the nature of human memory and solving the riddle posed yet cunningly dodged by generations of philosophers and psychologists. When I first came to psychology, however, I wanted to be a clinical psychologist. Only upon enrolling in Dr. Helga Noice's Cognitive Psychology course, did I discover the excitement of doing research. The course required us to test our own autobiographical memory by conducting an experiment similar to the one run in 1986 by W. Wagenaar. Over the course of the term, I recorded events from my personal life on event cards and set them aside without reviewing them. After studying the effect serial position on the recollection of autobiographical memories, I hypothesized that events that, when I sat down at the end of therm to recall those same events I had described on the event cards, that events that had occurred later in the term would be recalled with greater frequency than events that had occurred earlier. Although the experiment was of simple design and predictable results, I found the processes incredibly exciting. Autobiographical memory in particular fascinated me because I realized how crucial, yet fragile, memory is. Why was my memory of even ten weeks so imperfect? What factors contributed to that imperfection? Could such factors be controlled? I had ignited my passion for experimental psychology. Suddenly, I had many pressing questions about memory that I wanted to research. Under the guidance of Dr. Noice, I continued to study human memory. I worked closely with Dr. Noice on several research experiments involving expert memory, specifically the memory of professional actors. Dr. Noice would select a scene from a play and then a professional actor would score it for beats, that is, go through the scene grouping sections of dialogue together according to the intent of the character. Some actors use this method to learn dialogue rather than rote memorization. After they were finished, I would type up the scene and the cued recall test. Next, I would moderate the experimental sessions by scoring the actor's cued recall for accuracy and then helping with the statistical analysis. My work culminated with my paper, "Teaching Students to Remember Complex Material Through the Use of Professional Actors' Learning Strategies." My paper accompanied a poster presentation at the Third Annual Tri-State Undergraduate Psychology Conference. In addition, I presented a related paper entitled "Type of Learning Strategy and Verbatim Retention of Complex Material" at the ILLOWA (Illinois-Iowa) Conference the following year. Again, I was involved in all aspects of the experiment, from typing the protocol and administering it to the subjects to analyzing the data and finally presenting my results. The opportunity to perform this research was invaluable, particularly as I began taking independent research seminars in my senior year. For the seminars, I was required to write an extensive review of the literature and then design a research proposal on any topic of my choice. Although I had participated in all aspects of research previously, this was my first opportunity to select my own topic. I was immediately certain that I wanted to explore at human memory. But I spent a long time considering what aspect of memory I found most intriguing and possible to tackle within the confines of the research seminar. I had always been interested in the legal implications of memory, so I to investigate eyewitness memory. In retrospect, my choice was also informed by my recollection about an experiment I had read about several years earlier. In the experiment, subjects read about Helen Keller. Later they were given a recall test. Still later they were given an additional test to determine the source of their knowledge about Helen Keller. The authors discovered that subjects could not determine the source of their knowledge, that is, they could not distinguish whether specific details of their knowledge about Helen Keller came from the information provided by the experimenters or if the details came from another source at an earlier time. Once their new knowledge about Helen Keller had been assimilated into their previous knowledge about Helen Keller, there was no way to separate the information according to the source it came from. I wondered what the implications of that conclusion would be for eyewitnesses. I wondered if an eyewitness account could be corrupted by misleading post-event information. My research proposal was entitled "The Rate of Memory Trace Decay and its Effect on Eyewitness Accuracy." While I was not able to complete the experiment in its entirety, I was excited by the fact that I created a possible research protocol. Immediately, I knew I wanted to pursue the field of experimental psychology. My success in course work and my passion for research demonstrated to me that I had both the interest and ability to enter this challenging and rewording field. I have dedicated my undergraduate years to preparing myself for graduate work in experimental psychology. Once receive my doctorate, I intend to pursue research on human memory while teaching psychology to undergraduates at a small, liberal arts college, similar to the one I attended. It was, after all, my undergraduate research experience that gave me the opportunity to come to psychology with an interest in counseling people, but to leave with a passion for investigating the nature of human thinking. Undergraduates at smaller liberal arts colleges are often left out of research, which makes my desire to provide such experiences that much stronger. In the years ahead, I look forward to teaching as well as continuing my research. In the company of such greats as Aristotle, James, and Freud, I endeavor to leave behind my own contribution on the nature of human memory. Why Qualified? Essay Two "To be nobody but yourself--in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else--means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting." When I first read this passage by E.E. Cummings, I realized I have been fighting the same battle my whole life. When choosing the direction for my future, I have often accepted jobs based on a compromise between my own dreams and what others thought my dreams should be. This, of course, has led to an unfulfilling career. Looking back, I always knew that I wanted to work in public service; but I also knew my staunchly conservative father would not be pleased. To him, the government is too big, too intrusive and too wasteful. I see things differently. And yet, his approval means a lot to me and his opinion has certainly influenced my the direction of my career. But I have finally come to understand that I must pursue my own path. After careful deliberation, I am confident that public service is, without a doubt, the right career for me. Ever since my childhood I have detected in myself a certain compassion and innate desire to help others. I was the kid that dragged in every stray cat or dog I came across--and I still do. When I was eight years old, I rescued a rat from my sister's psychology lab and brought her home. I even coaxed my father into taking Alice--I called her Alice--to the vet when she became ill. But aside from my humanitarian kindness to animals, as a child I learned first-hand about America's need to reform and improve medical care. I spent years of my childhood on crutches and in hospitals because of a tumor that hindered the growth of my leg. Without adequate health insurance and proper care, I might still be on crutches, but I was fortunate. Today, as a public servant, I still desire to help others who are not so fortunate. Providing health care to 44 million uninsured Americans, while keeping insurance affordable, is one of the most difficult challenges facing policymakers. I want to work in state or local government to resolve this health care crisis and ensure that the disadvantaged get the care they need and deserve. In order to succeed in my endeavors toward public service, I now realize that a master's degree in public policy is essential. But when I graduated from college in 1990, I didn't know how to continue my education, only that I should. For a while, I considered such options as law school or international relations, but I always returned to my desire to impact public life. My career in public policy began as a legislative assistant at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a non-profit educational organization that couples voices from the state legislature and the private sector to work on salient policy issues. My enthusiasm for ALEC's mission was evident, as I quickly moved up from legislative assistant to the director of two task forces. As manager of ALEC's task force on federalism and its tax and fiscal policy task force, I explored these issues thoroughly, never quite satiating my appetite for more information and knowledge. I found my integral role in the legislative process to be the most valuable and worthwhile experience I've had in my career to date. Following ALEC, I took a position as a junior lobbyist for the Automotive Parts and Accessories Association (APAA). As a lobbyist, I voiced the APAA's concern over regulatory and environmental issues affecting the automotive aftermarket. Although I was able to help small automotive parts manufacturers battle the "Big Three" automakers, I quickly realized that being an advocate for the automotive aftermarket was not my calling in life. I wanted to promote policies which had the potential to improve life for the greater public, for I could not see myself spending a lifetime working within an isolated industry. With that frame of mind, I accepted employment as a policy analyst in the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) research department in Washington, D.C. Helping small business owners is a cause close to my heart. For nearly 30 years, my family has owned a barbecue restaurant in the Washington, D.C. area. I've worked in the business at several different times, since the age of 14. Because of my involvement in my family's business, I understand the unique problems facing small business owners. At the NFIB, I valued my contributions because I know small businesses have a huge economic impact on our country and they are unquestionably an important constituency. Nevertheless, I felt uncomfortable working for a special interest group--even for one I deeply cared about. From my experiences at the APAA and the NFIB, I have learned how I want to shape my future. My goals are now clear: I want to develop and advocate policy decisions that will benefit society as a whole, not just a few influential special interest groups. I want to uncover the objective truth of issues and tackle them in the best interests of the nation, not distort the facts for the benefit of a small group. I know I am able to look beyond partisan politics to solve problems for this country. Because of these unbending desires to reveal truth and to remain committed to fair and equal advancement for all citizens, I think of myself as an ideal candidate for public service. Additionally, I consider my active interest in politics to aid my pursuit of a career in public policy. I've always found my interest in politics exceptional, ever since my college roommates used to tease me for faithfully watching C-SPAN. However, my faith in the political process began to wane as I witnessed sensible public policy proposals torn apart by partisan conflict. I saw advocacy groups distort facts, and provide extreme, over-blown examples, jeopardizing prudent policy decisions. I observed how powerful elected officials, ensnared in their own partisan rancor, would block fair and balanced legislation which offered the most practical solution for their constituents. But I also encountered many thoughtful and wise people who devote their lives to public service. These devoted individuals inspired me. Like them, I want to be actively involved in the design and delivery of essential government services that improve the lives of the citizens in our society today. I am positive that by avoiding partisanship and urging the private industry, the public sector and non-profit groups to collaborate, many difficult problems can be resolved. In order to be an effective public servant, I recognize the indispensability of an advanced degree. I've gained a lot of "real world" experience, but I need more training in the fundamentals of economics and statistics, as well as direction in sharpening my analytical and quantitative skills. I also want to devote time to studying the ethical dimensions of policy decisions. In graduate school, I'll have the opportunity to truly understand and appreciate the competing interests surrounding so many complex issues like health care reform, environmental protection and economic policy. I've chosen Duke's public policy program for several reasons. Duke's program stands out because there is an emphasis on quantitative and analytical skills, which are so critical to policy analysis. As I mentioned, I feel that if I can strengthen my ability to approach problems logically and systematically, I will have succeeded in sharpening skills I consider necessary to succeed in the public realm. And possibly even more importantly, Duke's program bridges the gap between abstract principles and reality. This interdisciplinary approach is essential for responding to today's policy problems. I am excited by the possibility of combining the MPP program with the Health Policy Certificate Program. I am particularly interested in studying the problem of reforming state health to reduce the number of uninsured, and I believe Duke's curriculum will offer me a chance to do just that. From my own research into Duke, I feel confident in my knowledge of the public policy program and its potential to teach me. And after meeting with Helen Ladd, the Director of Graduate Studies, I'm even more convinced that Duke's program is right for me. On the road "to be nobody but" myself, I've encountered twists and turns, and some detours--it is unquestionably the hardest battle I could fight. However, in the process, I've accumulated a tremendous amount of valuable experience and knowledge. My diversity of experience is my biggest asset. Because I can relate a Duke education to concrete examples from my own past, it is the perfect time for me to join the public policy program. I know that my past can be used to prepare myself for the promises of the future. At Duke, I hope to synthesize the two and truly learn what it means to become myself. Why Unique? Essay One Perhaps the most important influence that has shaped the person I am today is my upbringing in a traditional family-oriented Persian and Zoroastrian culture. My family has been an important source of support in all of the decisions I have made, and Zoroastrianism's three basic tenets-good words, good deeds, and good thoughts-have been my guiding principles in life. Not only do I try to do things for others, but I always push myself to be the best that I can be in all aspects of my life. I saw early the doors and opportunities that a good education can open up; thus, I particularly tried hard to do well in school. Another important experience that has had a large influence on me the past few years has been college. Going from high school to college was a significant change. College required a major overhaul of my time-management techniques as the number of things to do mushroomed. In high school, I was in the honors program, with the same cohort of students in all my classes. Thus, I was exposed little to people very different from myself. College, on the other hand, is full of diversity. I have people of all backgrounds and abilities in my classes, and I have been fortunate enough to meet quite a few of them. This experience has made me more tolerant of differences. Furthermore, a variety of classes such as the Humanities Core Course, in which we specifically studied differences in race, gender, and belief systems, have liberalized my world view. My undergraduate research has occupied a large portion of my time in college. Along with this experience have come knowledge and skills that could never be gained in the classroom. I have gained a better appreciation for the medical discoverers and discoveries of the past and the years of frustration endured and satisfaction enjoyed by scientists. I have also learned to deal better with the disappointments and frustrations that result when things do not always go as one expects them to. My research experience was also important to me in that it broadened my view of the medical field. Research permitted me to meet a few medical doctors who have clinical practices and yet are able to conduct research at the university. This has made me seriously consider combining research with a clinical practice in my own career. From my earliest memories, I can always remember being interested in meteorology. I believe that this interest sparked my love for the outdoors, while my interest in medicine molded my desire for healthy living. As a result of these two influences, I try to follow an active exercise routine taking place mostly in the outdoors. I enjoy running and mountain biking in the local hills and mountains, along with hiking and backpacking. All of these activities have made me concerned about the environment and my place in it. Why Unique? Essay Two My longtime fascination with politics and international affairs is reflected in my participation, starting in high school, in activities such as student council, school board meetings, Vietnam war protests, the McCarthy campaign, and the grape boycott. As each new cause came along, I was always ready to go to Washington or the state capital to wave a sign or chant slogans. Although I look back on these activities today with some chagrin, I realize they did help me to develop, at an early age, a sense of concern for social and political issues and a genuine desire to play a role. As an undergraduate, I was more interested in social than academic development. During my last two years, I became involved with drugs and alcohol and devoted little time to my studies, doing only as much as was necessary to maintain a B average. After graduation my drug use became progressively worse; without the motivation or ability to look for a career job, I worked for a time in a factory and then, for three years, as a cab driver in New York City. In 1980 I finally ''hit bottom'' and became willing to accept help. I joined both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, and for the next several years the primary business of my life was recovery. Although I had several ''slips'' in the beginning, I have now enjoyed nearly seven years of complete freedom from drug and alcohol use. I mention my bout with addiction because I think it is important in answering two issues that presumably will be of concern to the admissions committee: my lackluster undergraduate record and the fact that I have waited until the age of 34 to begin preparing academically for a career in public policy. It would be an oversimplification to call addiction the cause for either of these things; rather I would say it was the most obvious manifestation of an underlying immaturity that characterized my post adolescent years. More importantly, the discipline of recovery has had a significant impact on my overall emotional growth. During the last years of my addiction I was completely oblivious to the world around me. Until 1983 I didn't even realize that there had been a revolution in Nicaragua or that one was going on in El Salvador. Then I rejoined the Quaker Meeting, in which I had been raised as a child, and quickly gravitated to its Peace and Social Order Committee. They were just then initiating a project to help refugees from Central America, and I joined enthusiastically in the work. I began reading about Central America and, later, teaching myself Spanish. I got to know refugees who were victims of poverty and oppression, became more grateful for my own economic and educational advantages, and developed a strong desire to give something back by working to provide opportunities to those who have not been so lucky. In 1986 I went to Nicaragua to pick coffee for two weeks. This trip changed my whole outlook on both the United States and the underdeveloped world. The combination of living for two weeks amid poverty and engaging in long political discussions with my fellow coffee pickers, including several well-educated professionals who held views significantly to the left of mine, profoundly shook my world view. I came back humbled, aware of how little I knew about the world and eager to learn more. I began raiding the public library for everything I could find on the Third World and started subscribing to a wide variety of periodicals, from scholarly journals such as Foreign Affairs and Asian Survey to obscure newsletters such as Through Our Eyes (published by U.S. citizens living in Nicaragua). Over the intervening two years, my interest has gradually focused on economics. I have come to realize that economic development (including equitable distribution of wealth) is the key to peace and social justice, both at home and in the Third World. I didn't study economics in college and have found it difficult to understand the economic issues that are at the heart of many policy decisions. At the same time, though, I am fascinated by the subject. Given my belief that basic economic needs are among the most fundamental of human rights, how can society best go about providing for them? Although I call myself an idealist, I'm convinced that true idealism must be pragmatic. I am not impressed, for example, by simplistic formulations that require people to be better than they are. As a Quaker I believe that the means are inseparable from the end; as an American I believe that democracy and freedom of expression are essential elements of a just society, though I'm not wedded to the idea that our version of democracy is the only legitimate one. Although I have carved out a comfortable niche in my present job, with a responsible position and a good salary, I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the prospect of a career in business applications programming. More and more of my time and energy is now being absorbed by community activities. After getting my master's in public administration, I would like to work in the area of economic development in the Third World, particularly Latin America. The setting might be a private (possibly church-based) development agency, the UN, the OAS, one of the multilateral development banks, or a government agency. What I need from graduate school is the academic foundation for such a career. What I offer in return is a perspective that comes from significant involvement in policy issues at the grass roots level, where they originate and ultimately must be resolved. 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15 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a School According to the National Center for Education...
15 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a School According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 4 million students engaged in online education at U.S. universities in 2007-08. That's why almost every school now offers some form of online learning, or a combination of online and traditional classes, to students across the globe. Are you about to join the ranks? If so, you already know the benefits of online classes: convenience, flexibility, life balance and comfort (to name a few). But do you feel prepared to have the best experience possible? Forewarned is fore-armed â€¦ read on to familiarize yourself with some of the common pitfalls of choosing an online school. 15 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a School 1. Getting Sold on a School that Doesn't Work for You Before searching for schools, decide on your deal breakers and must-haves. They'll help you stay focused when schools start competing for your attention. Some common considerations: Â· Do you want the flexibility to transfer to another school or program later? If so, you will need the university's credits to move with you. Â· How much can you afford (and not afford) to pay for your education? Â· Does the school offer a full degree or certification for your career path, or will you need additional courses? Â· What class size do you prefer? Red flags to watch for: no clear answer to your questions, online classes that require hands-on training and misguided financial aid information. 2. No Accreditation? No way! Ensure the schools you apply for are accredited by accrediting organizations recognized by the Counsel for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or United States Department of Education. Why it matters: Â· Assures you of a quality education and a level of excellence you can trust Â· Credits will more likely transfer to other colleges and degree programs Â· Graduating from a reputable college could help improve your chances of employment after graduation Red flags to watch for: no request for your high school records, an overseas location, a significant number of negative reviews on the web. Find Degrees Now! Get Matched with Schools 3. Settling for Less-Than-Qualified Teachers Whether you communicate face-to-face or screen-to-screen, always expect academic excellence from school faculty. Look on the school's website to see a list of qualifications, such as number of years teaching, level of education and general experience. Other questions to ask about educators: Â· How accessible are instructors? Â· What methods do they use to teach (example: posted lectures, video, audio), and are they compatible with your learning style? Red flags to watch for: no information available about the educators and their credentials. 4. Ignoring Negative Reviews & Online Complaints You found some schools that look good, and now it's time to find out what people are saying about them. Do a search for "ratings" or "rankings" and the name of your online school. You can also check out online forums for comments. What you want to find: Â· Is the school getting more good reviews than bad? Â· Does the school often rank high for reasons important to you? Â· What's the latest news about the school? Will it still have a good reputation after you graduate? Red flags to watch for: the reviews or ranking sites are sponsored or the school is under investigation for current scandals. 5. Graduating with Crippling Debt Be certain you understand all the details of the financial obligations you're getting ready to incur â€“ especially if you're taking advantage of student loans. Before speaking to enrollment advisors, gather all potential sources of financial aid that can apply toward your college costs. Federal financial aid (FAFSA) is a great place to start -- the U.S. Department of Education provides over $150 billion each year in grants, work-study and federal loans to qualified students attending community colleges, four-year colleges, trade schools and career schools. Private sources can also add up and save you money. Places to look: Â· Tuition reimbursement programs offered by employers Â· Scholarships and grants offered by private organizations and associations Â· Programs that waive credits, such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) or Life Experience credits Â· Industry-related scholarships and discounts Â· Public and private student loans Â· GI Bill benefits Red flags to watch for: new "gainful employment" regulations require colleges to prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation or risk access to federal student aid. Once these requirements are in full effect, a college's lack of federal student aid could be a red flag.* * Financial aid is available to those who qualify. Program length varies by each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guaranteed. Find Degrees Now! Get Matched with Schools Talking to School Advisors Getting Straight Answers 6. It's Just Another Mediocre Online School â€œWhy should I choose your school over the others that I'm considering?â€ The question may sound a bit forward, but if the answer impresses you, you'll be glad you asked. In fact, the top 10 reasons students pick a certain college don't typically include national rankings, according to the UCLA Freshman Survey: Fall 2008, which involved 240,580 freshmen at 340 colleges. Many students choose a school for these reasons: Â· Good academic reputation Â· Graduates get satisfying jobs Â· Financial assistance offered Â· Connection to the school Â· Cost of attending the college 7. Inconvenient Scheduling and Lack of Flexibility A selling point of online education is flexible scheduling â€“ make sure that's true for the school you choose. While some online schools run parallel to traditional university semesters, others have their own timelines. Part of getting the most out of your online college education is creating an organized schedule. If classes end up intersecting with a busy season of your life, you may want to consider starting after the event. Some events to plan around: Â· Holidays, vacations and family visits Â· Weddings -- your own or one you are in Â· Birth of a child Â· Starting a new job 8. Available Programs are Incompatible with Your Goals Some majors have different departments that may or may not apply to your future career goals. For example, if you want to work in couples counseling, you may want to consider a degree in marriage and family therapy rather than general psychology. Find Degrees Now! Get Matched with Schools 9. Just Way Too Expensive Be absolutely certain you have a clear understanding of all the costs associated with your degree program. Once you're armed with that information, ask about school-sponsored scholarships. Look into all the ways the school offers tuition help, discounts or work-study programs for students. And while you're on the topic, here are three other ideas to explore: Â· Student loan default rates Â· Federal student aid* Â· Programs that meet your goals faster * Financial aid is available to those who qualify. Program length varies by each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guaranteed. 10. Ignoring Dropout and Gainful Employment Rates Learn from the experience of others. Of the students who start the program, how many actually graduate? It's a telling answer; after all, who wants to attend a college that has a high student drop-out rate? With the latest news about online education, it's also smart to ask about student placement rate and if the school complies with all applicable "gainful employment" regulations. Note: the new regulations went into effect on July 1, 2012 and are expected to be fully implemented over a period of four years. Deciding on Your School Don't Start Something You're Not Ready to Finish 11. â€œIt Sounded Good At the Timeâ€ Does your college choice includes all the must-haves and avoids the deal breakers? Is it a good season in your life to go back to school? Are you feeling confident? Make sure the answer to these questions is yes so you don't wind up starting something you can't finish, wasting time and money. Find Degrees Now! Get Matched with Schools Once You've Started: Study Tips for Success Don't Stall Out! 12. Lack of Motivation You've heard it before: Failing to plan is planning to fail. And guess what? It's true. If you start the week without a plan, Monday turns into Friday in the blink of an eye. Don't let the weekend go by without having a plan for the week ahead. Some things to consider noting: Â· Times you can set aside for school work each day Â· Upcoming quizzes, test, homework assignments Â· Class chat hours and mandatory (or optional) online gatherings Â· Upcoming events that require long periods of wait time -- which now can become time to study (see sidebar on page x). 13. Trying to Study in a Chaotic Environment Think about your education like you would a home business: pick a place to study that's quiet, organized and out of everyone's way for less disruption and more productivity. Some items to consider adding to your space: Â· Computer Â· Scanners or printers Â· Coffee machine or tea assortment Â· Dry-erase board Â· Plants, pictures or other soothing elements 14. Wasting Time & Missing Deadlines Set reminders on your phone or email so you know when it's time to power down the time-consuming devices (i.e. email, social media sites) and begin working on your online class. You may find it's better to study for shorter periods more frequently than one long block of time. 15. Failing to Network You'll earn more than college credits from your online courses when you make connections and network with your new-found colleagues. After all, you have the same interests and possible career goals, right? Find out who you can help -- and who can help you -- as you move out into the workforce and your chosen field. Find Degrees Now! Get Matched with Schools
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