Writing a Graduate School Statement? Put Harvard-Educated Editors to Work for You!

Writing a Graduate School Statement? Put Harvard-Educated Editors to Work for You! was originally published on College Recruiter.

Content provided by EssayEdge.com.

Graduate School Statement Samples

This section
contains five sample graduate school personal statements:

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

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

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.

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

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. 

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.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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!

Special Discount Coupon: Use coupon code CYB7 for $5.00 off EssayEdge.com’s critically acclaimed admissions essay editing services valued at $150 or more. Enter the coupon code on the order form when placing your order.

By College Recruiter
College Recruiter believes that every student and recent grad deserves a great career.