Sample Degree Essay

Below is a pdf link to personal statements and application essays representing strong efforts by students applying for both undergraduate and graduate opportunities. These ten essays have one thing in common: They were all written by students under the constraint of the essay being 1-2 pages due to the target program’s explicit instructions. In such circumstances, writers must attend carefully to the essay prompt (sometimes as simple as “Write a one-page summary of your reasons for wanting to pursue graduate study”) and recognize that evaluators tend to judge these essays on the same fundamental principles, as follows:

  • First, you are typically expected to provide a window into your personal motivations, offer a summary of your field, your research, or your background, set some long-term goals, and note specific interest in the program to which you are applying.
  • Second, you are expected to provide some personal detail and to communicate effectively and efficiently. Failure to do so can greatly limit your chances of acceptance.

Good writers accomplish these tasks by immediately establishing each paragraph’s topic and maintaining paragraph unity, by using concrete, personal examples to demonstrate their points, and by not prolonging the ending of the essay needlessly. Also, good writers study the target opportunity as carefully as they can, seeking to become an “insider,” perhaps even communicating with a professor they would like to work with at the target program, and tailoring the material accordingly so that evaluators can gauge the sincerity of their interest

Overview of Short Essay Samples

Geological Sciences Samples

In the pdf link below, the first two one-page statements written by students in the geological sciences are interesting to compare to each other. Despite their different areas of research specialization within the same field, both writers demonstrate a good deal of scientific fluency and kinship with their target programs.

Geography Student Sample

The short essay by a geography student applying to an internship program opens with the writer admitting that she previously had a limited view of geography, then describing how a course changed her way of thinking so that she came to understand geography as a “balance of physical, social, and cultural studies.” Despite her limited experience, she shows that she has aspirations of joining the Peace Corps or obtaining a law degree, and her final paragraph links her interests directly to the internship program to which she is applying.

Materials Sciences Student Sample

For the sample from materials sciences, directed at an internal fellowship, the one-page essay has an especially difficult task: The writer must persuade those who already know him (and thus know both his strengths and limitations) that he is worthy of internal funds to help him continue his graduate education. He attempts this by first citing the specific goal of his research group, followed by a brief summary of the literature related to this topic, then ending with a summary of his own research and lab experience.

Teach for America Student Sample

The student applying for the Teach for America program, which recruits recent college graduates to teach for two years in underprivileged urban and rural public schools, knows that she must convince readers of her suitability to such a demanding commitment, and she has just two short essays with which to do so. She successfully achieves this through examples related to service mission work that she completed in Ecuador before entering college.

Neuroscience Student Sample

The sample essay by a neuroscience student opens with narrative technique, telling an affecting story about working in a lab at the University of Pittsburgh. Thus we are introduced to one of the motivating forces behind her interest in neuroscience. Later paragraphs cite three undergraduate research experiences and her interest in the linked sciences of disease: immunology, biochemistry, genetics, and pathology.

Medieval Literature Student Sample

This sample essay immerses us in detail about medieval literature throughout, eventually citing several Irish medieval manuscripts. With these examples and others, we are convinced that this student truly does see medieval literature as a “passion,” as she claims in her first sentence. Later, the writer repeatedly cites two professors and “mentors” whom she has already met, noting how they have shaped her highly specific academic goals, and tying her almost headlong approach directly to the National University of Ireland at Maynooth, where she will have flexibility in designing her own program.

Beinecke Scholarship Student Sample

The Beinecke Scholarship essay is written by a junior faced with stiff competition from a program that awards $34,000 towards senior year and graduate school. This student takes an interesting theme-based approach and projects forward toward graduate school with confidence. This writer’s sense of self-definition is particularly strong, and her personal story compelling. Having witnessed repeated instances of injustice in her own life, the writer describes in her final paragraphs how these experiences have led to her proposed senior thesis research and her goal of becoming a policy analyst for the government’s Department of Education.

Online Education Student Sample

Written during a height of US involvement in Iraq, this essay manages the intriguing challenge of how a member of the military can make an effective case for on-line graduate study. The obvious need here, especially for an Air Force pilot of seven years, is to keep the focus on academic interests rather than, say, battle successes and the number of missions flown. An additional challenge is to use military experience and vocabulary in a way that is not obscure nor off-putting to academic selection committee members. To address these challenges, this writer intertwines his literacy in matters both military and academic, keeping focus on applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), his chosen field of graduate study.

Engineer Applying to a Master’s Program Sample

This example shows that even for an engineer with years of experience in the field, the fundamentals of personal essay writing remain the same. This statement opens with the engineer describing a formative experience—visiting a meat packaging plant as a teenager—that influenced the writer to work in the health and safety field.  Now, as the writer prepares to advance his education while remaining a full-time safety engineer, he proves that he is capable by detailing examples that show his record of personal and professional success. Especially noteworthy is his partnering with a government agency to help protect workers from dust exposures, and he ties his extensive work experience directly to his goal of becoming a Certified Industrial Hygienist.

Click here to download a pdf of ten short essay samples.

B.S. Degree Annotated Rationale Essay

SAMPLE

Introduction

I completed my associate degree three years ago, and as I am getting closer to the completion of my bachelors degree, my outlook now is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The process has been very long, and at times I became frustrated with myself, but I’ve prevailed. Completing college is essential if I want to be successful and competitive in today’s economic environment, but most importantly, I have a 20 and a 15 year old, that I need to continue to set an example for — that is essentially what drives me to complete my degree. [s1]

Academic Expectations

My goal is to complete a bachelor degree in Business, Management, and Economics with a concentration in Marketing, especially concentrating in markets for the multicultural segments in the United States. [s2] Additionally, I want to focus generally on the cultures of segmented groups and how to market to those specific cultures from a knowledgeable perspective. As such, I have designed a concentration that interweaves those broader elements of culture (how humans understand their worlds and the contexts in which they understand them) with a study of different groups that represent major ethnic groups within the United States — after all this is the direction that this country is headed for. Although I have changed my degree plan several times I seem to always come back to marketing, coupled with a focus on multicultural marketing. This country will continue to develop into a diverse society; it will be essential for companies that want to market their products to the diverse consumer to understand the various multicultural consumers in the U.S.

According to The University of San Francisco School of Business, business leaders need a sophisticated understanding of their target audiences – often multiple audiences with significant differences of race, culture, and, of course, gender. The University of San Francisco Multicultural Marketing curriculum is designed to give the student the skills needed to market successfully to many demanding, though sometimes very subtly different cultural groups. Their multicultural marketing curriculum adds Marketing Research, Consumer Behavior, Marketing Management, and three courses dealing with culture to the standard expectations for a business degree. Blending these with ESC guidelines, I have marketing Research, Consumer Behavior, and multiple courses that provide insight into different cultures (e.g., American Ethnic History, Sex and Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective, Caribbean History and Culture).

I have introductory marketing from Colorado Technical University, and will take the Marketing Communications, Marketing Research, and Consumer Behavior courses at ESC.

The ESC Area of Study Guidelines for a concentration in Marketing also state that students who work in Marketing need to develop skills in “critical reading, interpretation, and writing. Students should have an understanding of ethics, globalization, diversity and cross-cultural differences, and organizations.” Students pursuing upper-level work in Marketing should acquire conceptual vocabularies, knowledge of sources, and critical skills appropriate to their areas of focus or lines of inquiry.” I will gain the critical reading, interpretation, and writing skills in all of my upper-level courses, and especially my upper-level courses in marketing, which require analysis and advanced-level writing skills. I address the ethics guideline in my course in Marketing Communication, which has a strong “focus on ethical issues confronting marketers.” I address the globalization guideline with courses such as E-Business and Marketing and the Virtual Marketplace. I have addressed the organizations guideline through my course in Organizational Behavior Principles. And I have addressed the guideline about diversity through my many courses dealing with culture.

I want to combine the more specific focus on marketing with a more general focus on ethnic groups and culture, or the context in which marketers operate. Although the courses that provide these ethnic and cultural perspectives are not in my concentration, they do provide important background for my concentration, given my goals to focus on marketing to diverse populations. [s5] To provide a broad sociological perspective, I have included a course in American Social Problems, which provides an introduction to sociological concepts. To provide historical, artistic, sociological, philosophical, and cross-cultural perspectives, I have included American Ethnic History, Sex and Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective, Television and Culture, American Ethnic History, Artistic Expression in a Multicultural America, and Cultural Anthropology. All of these courses provide a broad investigation of the concept of “social and cultural norms and belief systems,” and create a good understanding of social, creative, philosophical, and historical contexts in which I am applying the concepts of marketing. These courses will help fulfill my general goals of completing a bachelor degree in marketing, and gaining a focus to better understand ethnic groups within the U.S. The classes in Cultural Studies will give me an in-depth insight into the concept of culture and a better understanding of being in someone else’s shoes — so to speak.

Lastly, I have addressed the ESC General Business guidelines in my degree. These guidelines state that students need to show knowledge in the following: [s6]

  • Communication skills – I have courses in Communications for Professionals and Interpersonal and Small Group Communications.
  • Information management – I have a course in Information Design and I have extensive knowledge utilizing an information system designed to disseminate information at my workplace.
  • Economics – I have a course in Principles of Economics 2.
  • Ethical and social responsibility – My course in Marketing Communications has a strong focus on ethics in marketing.
  • Quantitative skills – I have courses in Statistics: An Activity Based Approach and Marketing Research.
  • Understanding people in an organizational context – I have courses in Organizational Behavior Principles and Managing Human Resources. Additional courses such as Sex and Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective provide deeper understanding of people in an organizational context.
  • Understanding organizations within broader contexts – I have courses in Marketing and the Virtual Marketplace and E-Business. My extensive experience working in a large non-profit organization, along with my courses dealing with various cultures, creates a good understanding of organizations within a broader context.

I have also addressed the SUNY General Education guidelines in my overall degree plan. [s8] My range of courses includes Television and Culture (humanities), Statistics (math), Human Nutrition (natural science), American Social Problems (social science), College Reading and Composition (basic communication), American Ethnic History (American history), Ballet & Artistic Expression in a Multicultural America (the arts), Cultural Patterns in Western Civilization (western civilization), and Caribbean History and Culture and Cultural Anthropology (other world civilizations). Many of my general education courses helped to create my liberal arts associate degree. I have covered nine of the ten general education areas with over 50 credits of general education. I have addressed the ESC guidelines for a degree in Business, Management & Economics with a concentration in Marketing as well as the SUNY General Education requirements in my degree plan.

Professional Expectations

These careers will require my expertise in marketing, communication, and knowledge of the world’s cultures and how to interact within diverse communities. Additionally, I have numerous work experiences in the Music & Film Industries, and the nation’s largest non-profit organization that allows me to work with a diverse group of people, coupled with my academic learning which will add to my repertoire of communication, creativity, and inclusion. The ability to effectively communicate with my colleagues through written communication, and to use computer application programs to heighten my presentations, the understanding of the specific demographics that we need to reach, and knowing the proper marketing plan to implement will all collectively aid in my ability to develop a successful professional career in marketing.

Conclusion

The decision to attend SUNY/Empire State College’s Center for Distance Learning may not perhaps be the most traditional method, but was by-far the best decision to complete my education. In certainty, having the knowledge and fortitude to successfully move up the ladder to a career that I will enjoy for many years to come was my motivation. If I decide to pursue a master’s degree it will more than likely be after by 15-year-old son finishes high school and is on his way to college — to begin just what I have successfully completed. Currently, at my job there will be tremendous opportunities for growth in the multi-cultural communities in the California regions; this coupled with an Empire State College Business Degree with a concentration in Marketing will enable me to be more competitive as I strive to climb the ladder of success. [s10]

NOTES:

Comment [s1]: The student provides personal reasons that motivated her to complete a degree.

Comment [s2]: The student clearly states her Area of Study and Concentration. Additionally, she indicates briefly how she has individualized her concentration by focusing on multicultural marketing. The rest of this paragraph deals with her educational goals.

Comment [s3]: The student offers her research, providing evidence that the concentration she designed is academically valid. Because ESC guidelines deal with marketing concentrations in general, and do not specifically include information about multicultural marketing concentrations, the student researched another college that did offer that focus. She used the information she found to help understand and realize her goals; she knew that she did NOT have to mimic the other college’s program exactly. The rest of this section presents her research and conclusions based on that research.

Comment [s4]: The student clearly refers to the ESC Area of Study Guidelines and shows in this section how she has addressed those expectations in her concentration.

Comment [s5]: The student explains her individualized focus here, and talks about how courses in her general learning support and integrate with her concentration courses.

Comment [s6]: The student explains how she has addressed the general business guidelines as well as the specific concentration guidelines. Both general and specific guidelines are important, as each one identifies somewhat different areas of skills and knowledge that are expected in this type of degree.

Comment [s7]: Here the student reflects briefly on the importance of certain liberal arts courses to marketing professionals.

Comment [s8]: The student explains briefly how she is fulfilling the SUNY General Education Requirement.

Comment [s9]: The student briefly explains her research into potential career paths, conducted through interviews with professionals at her current place of employment. She reflects on how she has developed important skills related to these career paths.

Comment [s10]: A nice way to close, as this last paragraph parallels the thoughts in the introduction.

The student provides personal reasons that motivated her to complete a degree.

The student clearly states her Area of Study and Concentration. Additionally, she indicates briefly how she has individualized her concentration by focusing on multicultural marketing. The rest of this paragraph deals with her educational goals.

The student offers her research, providing evidence that the concentration she designed is academically valid. Because ESC guidelines deal with marketing concentrations in general, and do not specifically include information about multicultural marketing concentrations, the student researched another college that did offer that focus. She used the information she found to help understand and realize her goals; she knew that she did NOT have to mimic the other college’s program exactly. The rest of this section presents her research and conclusions based on that research.

The student clearly refers to the ESC Area of Study Guidelines and shows in this section how she has addressed those expectations in her concentration.

The student explains her individualized focus here, and talks about how courses in her general learning support and integrate with her concentration courses.

The student explains how she has addressed the general business guidelines as well as the specific concentration guidelines. Both general and specific guidelines are important, as each one identifies somewhat different areas of skills and knowledge that are expected in this type of degree.

Here the student reflects briefly on the importance of certain liberal arts courses to marketing professionals.

The student explains briefly how she is fulfilling the SUNY General Education Requirement.

The student briefly explains her research into potential career paths, conducted through interviews with professionals at her current place of employment. She reflects on how she has developed important skills related to these career paths.

A nice way to close, as this last paragraph parallels the thoughts in the introduction.

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