While we try to provide clear guidance on the types of answers we seek, it can sometimes be difficult to understand how to apply that guidance to individual questions. Below, we provide a number of example responses to critical questions in the application. These responses are meant to be guidelines - you may have reason to ignore or adapt this advice to your particular situation. We also provide sample reader comments so you can understand the strengths and weaknesses of each response.
Question 7: Describe an example of your leadership
After volunteering with COMPASS (Cultivating of Minds in Primary and Secondary Schools) during my freshman year, I returned the next fall to find that the organization no longer existed. The student leaders who ran the COMPASS program, which grants college students the opportunity to work with public school students throughout Chicago, had abandoned it. Over the next quarter, I joined with former fellow volunteers to restart COMPASS and was elected vice-president. Being a student group leader, I soon discovered, was not as easy as it had seemed. Reestablishing contacts with teachers and regaining their trust in our program demanded perseverance and patience. Publicizing the return of COMPASS on a campus of 8,000 students required weeks of planning and execution. I posted flyers, placed advertisements about COMPASS in the school newspaper, and typed numerous e-mails. That winter, the new COMPASS welcomed over 50 new and returning volunteers at its first organizational meeting in ten months. To complement our steadily growing volunteer program, I organized a lecture series about public education in America with a focus on Chicago public school reform to help inform our volunteers about developments in educational policy. In continuing our tradition of offering information along with a high-quality volunteering experience, COMPASS is hosting a lecture and workshop series with Dr. George Farkas this February. Dr. Farkas, a critical contributor to the America Reads initiative, will work with student group leaders on modifying programs to have more tangible benefits. As president my duties have multiplied but I have still remained a volunteer tutor and a dedicated student group leader. COMPASS has been a great test of my leadership potential, my patience and my diligence. I feel that I played an integral part in rebuilding a program that once was down to three members and now sends over one hundred volunteers into Chicago public schools every week throughout the year.
[Good description of the problem and the actions taken and roles played by the writer. Cites the increase in volunteers. One hopes the volunteers had impact.]
During an international service trip in Bolivia, I visited a classroom in which the students did not have a wide range of books to enhance their studies. I realized that the problems facing society could not wait until I’ve established myself in a career and I must act immediately. This international experience and my passion for education led me to create the Books for Bolivian Children Foundation. Books for Bolivian Children is committed to promoting global education through the collection and redistribution of books. At the beginning of this journey, I was directing Books for Bolivian Children with the help of a few friends, community volunteers, and faculty members. We collected a surprising 2,000 books by the end of the semester and began expanding the Foundation to other universities in the area. In order to fulfill one of my larger goals, I created the Books for Bolivian Children Board of Students. This board sought to expand the book collection efforts and build community relationships with larger universities and the community. As the president of the board, my peers and I increased our volunteer numbers, collection sites, and statewide project awareness. Today, I continue to direct the vision of Books for Bolivian Children and lead its inspiring volunteers. To date, we have collected well over 15,000 books from 11 universities and used them to facilitate educational collaboration in communities all over Bolivia.
[Describes program and individual role played. Slightly unclear how this program works on the ground given student's minimal contact with Bolivia other than a service trip. Impressive scaling, hopefully time frame is clearer elsewhere in the application.]
"I need your help. There's little enthusiasm or participation in the Residence Hall Association and this campus and its community needs what we can offer..." Of course, I couldn't decline my friend Kelly's challenge to make RHA a light for new, bewildered freshmen, diverse members of the community, or anyone else seeking to feel a sense of community within the residence halls. When Kelly didn't return for our sophomore year, I suddenly was faced with an exciting, but scary opportunity. Discouragement was the biggest battle I had to fight. I started "Friday Night Live" to stimulate discussion on issues college students often confront such as stress and relationships. Yet, despite mass advertising and other "plugs" for the program, attendance was poor. Frustrated, I thought about quitting, but I simply couldn't abandon the dream. The key lesson was realizing that change doesn't happen all at once, but often in small increments. I saw that even one new person becoming involved was an achievement. As new faces began to appear, I encouraged them to stay active by giving them roles in various programs. Through delegating such responsibilities, new members quickly became active supporters, and RHA came to life. It has been a year since our campaign to reach the campus and community began, and participation and enthusiasm have both increased. The RHA has begun to take a more active role on-campus. Although there is still a lot to accomplish, the vision of broader service is steadily becoming reality.
[Nice description of candidate's actions and perseverance. Very campus focused example, however. If there is another leadership example closer to their career aspirations, that might be a better choice. Would benefit from some numbers to understand how participation increased.]
As an orientation leader, I was awarded the opportunity to play an active role in the initial experiences of new students at my school. While the position required activities such as monitoring placement tests and assisting with class registration, I reveled in the opportunity to answer students and parents questions about the college experience. While I was required to sit on parent panels and present flip chart presentations, I enjoyed the one-on-one experiences. During one of the orientation sessions, a new student and I started talking about how he was afraid that he was going to be surrounded by a bunch of pot-smoking, binge-drinking, and not-studying classmates. I enjoyed being able to serve as an individual that could show him that college was not about those things, but was about studying, meeting new people, learning new things, and enjoying new experiences. I emphasized that there was partying in college; but, you did not have to participate or be looked down upon if you did not "party". I recommended that he join a couple of clubs in the fall and meet people with similar interests. When I walked by him on campus in the fall, I said "hi" and proceeded on my way. That Tuesday, at my student government meeting, he was sworn in as a representative-at-large. I do not know if it took talking to me to begin to change his perception or if some other individual may have provided the same information. However, I enjoy knowing my one-on-one interaction might have made a difference-perhaps even more than my flip chart and skit presentations to 1200 freshmen regarding the same issues.
[Any orientation leader could write this essay - there is no evidence that they expanded the traditional role of orientation leader or stepped in to lead when others did not. They were responsive to the needs of an individual, but it is difficult to translate that type of experience into leadership without being able to show direct causation and pretty significant impacts.]
I waged my election campaign for Student Senate from overseas last spring. Never before had a student attempted such a thing, but I found it to be a brilliant strategy: if an opponent engaged in mudslinging, I never had to listen to it! True, not knowing the results of the election until 3 in the morning after the election was a little nerve-wracking, but the results made the wait worthwhile. I was one of the rare students who ran (and won) as an Independent. I have set myself apart in Senate by demonstrating my capacity to stand alone on issues without losing the support of members of the majority. One recent incident illustrates this ability well. A bill advocating the investigation and implementation of a new computerized enrollment system came before the Senate. I was the only one to question to the bill. "How much will it cost?" I asked. The framers of the bill did not have cost estimates or a survey of student opinion regarding the new technology. I proposed amending the bill to mandate research of the computerized system, but not its immediate implementation. I won support and the bill passed with my amendment. The chairmen who proposed the bill invited me to be a part of the research process. The changes that I aim to bring about in the Senate are twofold: first, I attempt to improve the legislation that we pass, and second, I work to improve the way in which the Senate itself operates. Another of my goals is to change the Senate's relationship to the rest of the University community. I have reached out this year to student organizations which had never before been contacted by a member of the Senate. As a member of the Senate Academic Committee, I am responsible for resolving student allegations of unfair examination policies. I have had notable success in bringing students and faculty to mutually satisfactory compromises, mostly due to a diplomatic approach that is non-confrontational and shows genuine concern for the positions of both parties.
[There is a lot going on here. It might have been better to chose one of these activities and tease out more detail. Additionally, it sounds a bit like we are asked to consider future leadership but not provided a lot of evidence of current leadership. This essay is very focused on the author but does little to help us understand the other people being led.]
Having recognized the stress that food insecurity causes students, I decided to work to make change on the campus. I proposed a research project where I looked at student hunger on campus and proposed potential solutions. I surveyed 500 students as well as 45 administrators. The data suggested that a centrally located food bank open to students on meal plans would help to alleviate student hunger. I presented my findings to the student government and several members of the administration. The food bank opened last semester and has already served the needs of 5000 students.
[The most important part - how the research became action - is missing from this essay. It is clear the student engaged in a lengthy and detailed project, but we should see more evidence of them persuading people or involving people in the project.]
Question 8: Describe your most satisfying public service activity
Last fall, I tutored high school drop-outs at the Youth Development Center once a week. Coming from a small town with a low high school drop-out rate, I was originally intimidated by the dynamics of a large city and concerned about my abilities to work with a group of teens I saw as very different from myself. But it was something I wanted to do because I’m passionate about access to education and education policy, so I made the commitment to tutor. The program was billed as promoting vocational skills and preparing students to take a high school equivalency exam. I helped with everything from cleaning up the back yard of the center, to math review, to reading and writing skills and resume preparation. The more time I spent with the students, the more I looked forward to seeing them. I began to think of my experience in quite a different way from when I had begun. These teens were no longer the "city drop-outs" so different from myself, but were instead people from whom I was continuously learning. They were smart and funny and kind, and I was grateful to have them in my life. Going to the center became an important complement to my academics. In my view of an 'academic citizen,' people involved in academia should use their research and theorizing to create knowledge for the public good. I introduced students at the YDC to my studies in environmental racism through a prepared discussion. I was able to share my analytical skills in a way that fostered independent and confident thinking. Working at the center was rewarding because the students appreciated my help so much, and insightful because of all they taught me. The experience was significant because it solidified for me one of my goals in life: to become an academic citizen.
[Carefully presented. Shows sustained effort and personal growth.]
The South Side of Chicago is well known for its dangerous housing projects, street violence, and economic devastation. First-year students are warned by more experienced colleagues not to venture past the campus let alone explore Hyde Park's neighboring communities. Although I heeded this advice, I was crushed - I thought of college as a homecoming. My grandparents' 1950s apartment is still there on 53rd St. across from Mr. G's supermarket (of course they knew the original Mr. G) and so is the 59th St. train platform where my father proposed to my mother. I was only five years old when we moved. I came back to Hyde Park to stake my claim in the area that so vividly colors four generations of family history. Luckily, within my first year I found a group of students who also felt a genuine desire to be a part of the neighborhood. Together we labored for two years to restore a campus chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-ed service fraternity. Through service projects with community organizations we have built new connections between the University and the neighborhood. Projects are diverse, from serving meals to participating in neighborhood cleanups to group tutoring, but each active member puts in a minimum of twenty-five hours of service each quarter. We have grown from a petitioning group of twenty students to a full chapter with over fifty members and a new pledge class activated each quarter. Our initiatives have even inspired the university to bolster its own community service center. It is through working with students and other residents of the neighborhood that I have come to feel true solidarity with the community and the singular knowledge that I am home.
[Well presented with interesting detail. Very easy to understand why the writer found the experience satisfying. Good variety of detail if a bit vague on specifics.]
The Sustainable Society" (TSS) is a facet of the University’s Harvest Project, which is a collaborative effort on the part of the University, local non-profit groups, and health and social services agencies to promote self-sufficiency and sustainable agriculture through organic community gardens. The program is designed to produce food for needy families. TSS is the portion of the University’s Harvest Project that is directly linked with the university. Logistically, TSS involved weekly lectures on the social, political, and economic factors of our food system. In addition, we made a six-hour commitment to physical labor on the farm, constructing tables, building fences, mixing soils, and planting, transplanting, and managing crops. In addition to the personal satisfaction I experienced from my participation, the University Harvest Project has provided a paradigmatic framework for solutions to problems that concern me. First, it has been a collaborative and interdisciplinary effort from the project's beginning. Second, TSS demonstrates the success of focusing a multitude of perspectives within the context of a local community. The program organizers were concerned with the dependence created by importing ninety percent of the city's food supply and with forecasted social policy reform. As a result, they organized a program calling for the community to come together, practice sustainable, agriculture, and help forty needy families, thereby creating a concrete spirit of goodwill and charity.
[Too much on TSS, not enough on the candidate's involvement and why they found it satisfying. The writing is very academic and dry when the topic could have been engaging.]
About a year ago, I boarded a plane for San Francisco. I was headed there to work in two homeless shelters as part of my community service requirement for graduation. At the homeless shelters, I assisted the Coordinators with whatever they needed. This included, but is not limited to such things as meal preparation, serving meals, creating toiletry. The whole experience lasted only a few weeks, so in the beginning I did not expect to get close to the individuals. I was sure wrong! I became close to them and they opened up to me...telling me their life stories and encouraging me to pursue the things I’m passionate about. These interactions and moments made me realize that not only was I helping them, but that they were helping me.
[First sentence has no impact and second sentence suggests this was not voluntary. Poor start. The writer needed to make clearer that, although this was required, either they selected to location or they were enthusiastic about the work. Lacks reflection and context for clarity.]
I was asked to attend a meeting to discuss the possibility of putting "Bills For Ordinance" on a shared drive when filing them with City Council each Thursday morning and presenting same to Council. Having the bills on a shared drive would allow the City Council staff to set up the City Council agenda for Monday nights more quickly and having this information in one place, for many different local offices and agencies to access. Representatives from five offices deliberated for nearly three hours. Their main concern was "loss of control". They felt having their ordinance on a shared drive would give other agencies the opportunity to "change" them. Under a cloud of frustration, I sat through the entire meeting without saying a word. The meeting ended in a stalemate. It was up to the director to make the final decision. He said he would let everyone know his decision in a couple of days. As the meeting ended, the director of the meeting asked me to stay after. He asked why I hadn't said anything during the meeting. I said, "MY continuing concern is the inability of these agencies to cooperate with one another. We just wasted three hours discussing a matter of distrust. Putting the ordinances on a shared drive would take about an extra 30 seconds of time, but would literally save hours of work." The director sat for a moment, rocking back and forth in his chair and then chuckled as he retorted "You have just settled this debate without uttering a word. That's a first! Thank you."
[Too much narrative, not enough reflection on why this was "most satisfying." Writer comes across as being more satisfied at being "right" than serving. Avoid the 'scare' quotes, please.]
Question 9: Describe the problems or needs of society you want to address when you enter public service
Although global health statistics such as life expectancy and infant mortality have improved during the last one hundred years, the world currently faces the most unacceptable health disparities of the century. The poor are disproportionately burdened by disease. The World Heath Organization (WHO) has listed extreme poverty as the world's leading killer and greatest cause of poor health. Individuals in poor countries carry 90% of the world's burden of disease as measured by WHO. These countries have only 10% of the world's health dollars to spend, and annual expenditures on health are as low as $6 per person (WHO). Poverty is the main reason why children do not receive vaccinations, why the sick cannot obtain curative drugs or other treatments, and why the poor do not have access to food or clean water. Every year more than ten million children in the world die before their fifth birthday, and a majority of these lives could have been saved for just a few cents per child (WHO). These discouraging health outcomes are also found in the United States. African American men living in Harlem have a life expectancy equivalent to men living in rural Bangladesh. In both locations, infections and violence are the leading causes of death in young adults. As an advocate for the poor, I hope to alleviate unnecessary suffering in the United States and other nations by formulating pro-poor health strategies that will ensure adequate health to all people.
[Well written - which saves the essay from being too dense. Specific data provided. Good explanation of problem and conveys candidate's interest and passion.]
In 1996, the top twenty percent of the population received nearly fifty percent of the nation's income, averaging over $125,000 per year. The bottom fifth of the population received 4.2 percent, averaging less than $11,500 (Economic Policy Institute 1998). A decline in the value of the minimum wage, a weaker and smaller unionized workforce, and fewer high-paying manufacturing jobs; and growth in low-wage, service sector, temporary and part-time work all contribute to widening income inequality in the U.S. Many of the poor work but without benefits or job security. Welfare reform moves thousands off the rolls, while training programs lead to the worst jobs. Over-represented at the bottom are people of color, single mothers, and their children. A decline in the well-being of low income people is on the horizon. Without resources, individuals forgo medical care, engage in risky activities to generate income, and stay in abusive relationships. Those with the lowest incomes choose between lesser evils regularly, and those with slightly more stay one crisis from the bottom. Social mobility is limited to cycling between destitute and seriously struggling, with few resources and many obstacles to competing in the market. Through my work in sociology, public health, and public policy, I hope to develop multi-dimensional, pre-crisis approaches to the medical, psychological, and subsistence problems concentrated in low-income communities.
[Good explanation of the problem. Sufficient data presented. Candidate included information about their role in addressing the issue.]
Our nation has yet to fulfill its promised vision of equal opportunity for all citizens. Every day, as domestic violence occurs and our full resources are not used to end this problem, we deny opportunities to the victims. The abused live in fear, cannot fully succeed at work, and are often withdrawn from society. They fail to realize their true potential since dignity and safety are lost. Children, as innocent onlookers, are put at a disadvantage when they are caught up in an abusive home. Many times, they grow in anger repeating the violence they witness. The cycle of domestic violence begins again for a new generation. I believe that government is responsible to its citizens and that government is the great actor by which social improvement is achieved. Rather than focusing on tracking polls and selective domestic interests, our leaders should focus the energy and resources of government on the problem of domestic violence. I would like to work toward utilizing the powers of government to provide more protection for victims, counseling services for abusers, and increased awareness of the problem among citizens. If we accept domestic violence as an impossible problem, more of the abused will be lost because there are too few shelters, too few laws, or too few counselors. The abused must be given an opportunity to start life with safety and happiness.
[No data. The essay seems disjointed even though it is focued on one issue. Too much attention to what the candidate wants to do and a recipe for change (the question does not ask for solutions).]
I have always known that I want to help people. The various careers that I have considered throughout the years have a unifying theme: helping, treating, and listening to people. However, I do not want to help a small portion of the people in society, I want to do work that will affect a larger population. Through work with legislation and public policy I can accomplish this. My internship this past summer with the Divisions of Developmental Disabilities taught me that although great strides have been taken in order to incorporate individuals with developmental disabilities and other disabilities into the community more fully, there are still hurdles that need to be overcome. There continue to be too many people in our society who look upon people with disabilities negatively. These people do not understand that the individuals they are ridiculing are not too unlike themselves. The individuals with disabilities can work, own their own residences, and attend community activities just like the rest of society. The negative attitudes are major obstacles that need to be addressed and conquered. I do not want to focus my attention solely on developmental disabilities. There are an unfortunate number of people who need assistance and support in our communities. I would like to keep my options open throughout my career in order to assist various types of people. By working in the big picture of the problems of society there will be potential to attack these problems head on.
[Vague. Not clear what candidate wants to do. No data.]
From the ecological stresses to the impending Social Security crisis, unmanaged population growth threatens the nation. Currently, the United states grows annually in population by 1%. Total fertility rate remains above the replacement rate of 2.0 -- developed nations typically sit below this threshold - with immigration maintaining one third of the population increase. This growth pattern demands attention. And since the resultant ecological changes will catalyze social and political changes, there must be a greater cooperation between legislation and the sciences. Food supply, urban management (the majority of the world's population is moving to cities), and biodiversity loss are particular areas of concern. But whether from principle or practicality, words like "bioregionalism," "ecocentrism," and "evolutionary psychology" must soon incorporate into American slang.
[Limited data and no source provided. Unclear candidate understands the issues. Poor definition of problem.]
Question 11: Describe the graduate program you intend to pursue if you receive a Truman Scholarship.
I intend to enter a four-year joint program, earning a Master of International Affairs (MIA) and a law degree (JD). While a joint degree program is undoubtedly rigorous, I believe both degrees are necessary to provide the tools for strengthening national and international legal structures. While the choice of a law degree may seem obvious, equally important is the more general knowledge of international relations as the larger framework within which human rights violations take place and cooperation for their protection is possible. In addition, outsiders may act as catalysts in building up national legal systems, but to be truly effective they must also possess a deep appreciation of the complicated cultural and political context in which they operate. It is a common requirement of MIA programs that students focus on one region of the world to develop just such an appreciation. With training that combines legal knowledge, advocacy skills, and an in-depth understanding of the complexities of international affairs, I would be well equipped to affect the sort of change necessary for the long-term protection of human rights throughout the world. Columbia University, with its enduring commitment to the study of human rights and its ideal location in the city of New York, is the best choice for the program I have described. Both the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and the School of Law offer a human rights concentration, while the SIPA's unique Regional Institutes provide the additional opportunity for expertise in one geographic area. Columbia also sponsors numerous human rights programs such as lecture series and summer internships through the Center for the Study of Human Rights and the Center for Public Interest Law. Beyond the university, New York itself provides a vast array of opportunities: the United Nations and the offices of most major human rights organizations are just a short distance away."
[Good justification for joint program. Would like to see a little more about the programs and the geographic area(s) of interest.]
I plan to pursue a doctoral degree in Interdisciplinary Ecology from the University of Florida. The curriculum, provided by 48 participating departments, would allow me to select a broad, integrated study program in my multiple areas of interest. Since students are hosted by one of these departments, I would seek entrance through the Sociology Department. The program requires courses in advanced principles of ecology and a focused study of a particular ecosystem. Students and their advisors develop a course plan consisting of 90 credit hours in natural and social sciences. I have identified several natural science courses in ecosystem management that I would be eager to take. My main focus will be in the university's specialized studies, which include the use of community analysis, Geographical Information Systems, advanced environmental planning and design, and environmental health. In the social sciences, I am interested in studying environmental policy, environmental economics and benefit-cost analysis. The doctoral program requires a minor focused on a recognized discipline. I would pursue a sociology minor, focusing on courses in metropolitan growth and development, urban ecology, social inequality, collective behavior and movements, and studies of organizational and political structures.
[Good program specifics. Program makes sense for candidate. Presented well.]
Through my work with housing and homeless advocacy groups, I have met several activists who found that they were unable to have the kind of impact on issues that affect the homeless and marginally housed because they lacked a law degree. I have been inspired to pursue a degree in law so that I will have the experience to organize homeless people and low-income tenants, advise them of their rights, represent them in negotiations and court if necessary, and co-author legislation on the local, state, and national levels that will extend housing as a right for all people. I am particularly interested in attending Northeastern University because of its focus on social justice law. I have been very impressed with the resources of their Urban Law and Public policy Institute, especially their philosophy of collaboration and support of community organizations based on the model of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, a grass-roots urban renewal program in Roxbury that was designed and implemented by Roxbury residents, not by the Boston Housing Authority. I am open to considering any law school with a strong social action law program. New York University Law School's Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy has a strong emphasis on urban housing law, and Harvard Law School runs a Tenant Advocacy project that aids low income tenants in fighting evictions. It is important to me to be at in institution that emphasizes the role law can play in fighting for social justice and that attracts a student body with an interest in public service. My colleague from the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless has been satisfied with Northeastern for this reason. The Co-op program at Northeastern will allow me to spend 50% of my last two years gaining direct legal experience while making a real impact by working with community organizations and activist groups. Without the experience of collaborating with community members, a law degree will not be useful in effecting social change.
[Good justification for JD. Well researched. Specific.]
I plan on building upon my background in sociology and education throughout the remainder of college and far into my graduate studies. I am planning on pursuing a joint BA/MA degree in sociology in my senior year of undergraduate studies and using this degree as a starting point for further combined study of sociology and education. I intend to pursue a Doctor of Education degree (Ed.D.) with a strong focus on the sociology of education. A program like Columbia's Sociology and Education doctoral program at Teachers College would equip me with a thorough understanding of education in a sociological perspective. Classes like "Social stratification and education," "Gender and inequality: The role of the school." and "School improvement in the inner city: A sociological view" would provide a vast sociological understanding of education. Stanford's Graduate School of Education offers a similar Ed.D. degree in the sociology of education in its Social Sciences: Policy and Educational Practice (SSPEP) program. An Ed.D. degree combining education with sociology would increase my understanding of actual processes of education and the critical societal factors that are inextricably linked to the institution of education. The combination would start me on my lifework of changing the experience of education for many Americans.
[Specific. Direct, to the point.]
If I receive a Truman Scholarship, I plan to pursue a Masters Degree in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University or a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Cornell University or Columbia University. These three schools all offer excellent MPA programs that will prepare me for work in the public policy sector. As a graduate student at any one of these schools, I will not only enjoy an excellent education, I will also receive a number of chances for summer internships within the federal government. Any such opportunity to gain experience in areas of public policy that interest me, such as improving government efficiency and streamlining the bureaucratic structure, will no doubt prove invaluable in the years to come. I am currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in both Military History and Systems Engineering, two disciplines that will substantively prepare me for an MPA and my intended are of public policy.
[No specifics on courses or concentrations. Too many programs presented with only a surface assessment of the degree.]
The oldest piece of clothing I own is a gray Harvard college sweatshirt, purchased at The Coop during a family vacation in the summer of 1987. VERITAS, the burgundy and white logo proclaims. At the age of 10, my first inquiry into Latin focused on deciphering this word, a word that, once revealed, seemed stronger to me than hate or death or war: the word TRUTH. I have since come to understand that discovering truth is an elusive ideal. I believe that the most important element in the search for truth and knowledge is a diversity of opinions. The graduate education programs I hope to pursue with the assistance of a Truman Scholarship would incorporate a mix of viewpoints through varied experiences and courses of instruction. I hope to attend an institution with a strong tradition of developing students for careers in public service. I am particularly interested in the Woodrow Wilson School of Law and Diplomacy at Princeton, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, The Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University , or the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. I will pursue a program of study which culminates in a Masters Degree in Public Affairs/Policy, Public Administration, or Foreign Service. I also expect that my chosen graduate education program will include opportunities to interact with scholars and thinkers in the fields of International Relations and Public Policy. Speakers, forums, and public debates as well as internship program offerings and field observations are important factors in my choice of graduate programs. I will also seek out guidance in preparation for the Foreign Service Examination, as well as further opportunities to study abroad as a graduate student.
[First section is unhelpful. Woodrow Wilson is "School of Public and International Affairs." No specifics on studies. Too many programs presented.]
After extensive research regarding universities that offer graduate degrees in sustainable agriculture and related topics I have isolated Wye College of the University of London as my primary choice for graduate studies. I wish to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in the Environment Department. The Doctorate of Philosophy Program can be completed in three years with full-time registration. I wish to concentrate my study in the areas of biodiversity studies, landscape and habitat restoration, and management of soil and water resources. Additionally, I would study subjects in international aspects of environmental change and sustainability, the ramifications of agri-environmental policies, rural planning, and sustainable agriculture practices. A possible focus of my research is the conservation and promotion of heirloom crop varieties of traditional communities."
[States "extensive research" but does not share any specifics. Does not offer criteria used to evaluate programs.]
I want to attend Georgetown University Law School and receive a Juris Doctor degree with a dual degree program with a Masters of Public Policy. From my observations, law seems like a natural pathway to public office. Leaders and representatives must have an extensive knowledge and understanding of the law to conduct and interpret legislation. My end goal is to enter Oregon state politics to improve economic and social policy in the state that I call home. By attending this prestigious law school, I will have the opportunity to network and make connections with individuals in Washington D.C. who may be able to advise me in my road to public office. The required curriculum of the first year at Georgetown Law includes Civil procedure, Constitutional Law, Torts, Contracts, etc. Following my first year, I will continue to expand upon my legal knowledge by taking more advanced courses and I will choose a particular area of law to study. My dream job is to become a member of the United States Supreme Court.
[No indication why the MPP is needed and that is critical when proposing joint degrees. Listing of classes is unhelpful.]
Question 14: What additional information do you want to share with the Truman Scholarship Foundation
I am an unbridled idealist. Frequently my family and friends ask me, with exasperation, through what lens I am viewing the world. I admit that my idealism is somewhat misplaced. I have never lived outside urban centers, and the realities of these "concrete jungles" are harsh. Behind my childhood in San Francisco, beyond the breathtaking hilltop views, and intricate architecture, there is a reality of homelessness, drug addiction, and crime. I faced these sufferings daily as a bright-eyed young girl, a teenager, and then, rather than leaving the reality behind and attending a traditional college life on a pleasant campus, I came to New York City. Before, urban decay and its victims were tucked behind a veil of aesthetic beauty. In New York there is no veil, and reality is up close and personal. I cannot take full credit for planting the seeds of my ideals alone. My parents always assured me that there could be something better for desolate people, and they supported my endeavors when I took the task on myself. My mother has imparted to me more than once that "People are not really that different. We all survive on the same basic things: love and respect." Holding this belief close to me, I have not let the harshness of reality, even the harshness of New York City, harden me or fade my ideals. I grapple daily to reconcile the idealism that I found nestled in the hillsides of San Francisco and in the hearts of people around me with realism; a sense of what is within arms reach and how to utilize limited resources. My idealism is my energy, it focuses my passion. It is my belief that there is a goodness in all people, but that it might take some work, encouragement, and realism to find it.
[Captures the candidate's commitment and energy. Nice framing of experiences--provides a helpful context for the reader.]
I grew up in a multiracial, multicultural, trilingual family of adopted and blood-related, native and immigrant, urban and rural, middle and working class people. I was a "gifted" child, won art contests, and was elected to student government. Family problems perhaps led me to drop out, to crime and to polydrug addiction. I ran away repeatedly but returned worse off than ever, hiding the proof under long sleeves while working the graveyard shift. I survived the bad days because a community of urban Black cowboys, a prominent African American reverend, and my dogs, among others, watched over me. Through travel abroad, I saw problems like mine, but bigger. Through the punk rock and reggae subcultures, I saw social criticism through art. At 20, I decided to get involved with community issues, which certainly saved my life. Learning about the size and scope of social ills, experiencing collective action, and finding a positive role make my own problems seem smaller. Opportunities opened up. My work in emergency medicine and research, contact with student activists, and exposure to education as a vehicle for social change drew me back to school later in life. Unfortunately, huge losses accompanied my transformation. My brother always said he would not see 26 and didn't; I'm unsure whether his case was a biological anomaly, an egregious case of malpractice, or a confirmation of black male life expectancy rates. Many loved ones are dead, incarcerated, or otherwise lost. On campus, I chuckle silently, in nervous awe of the fact that I am actually here. I am granted time away, "up there" in the university and am given immeasurable support, because people know I'm here to increase my effectiveness. I bring a commitment to keeping real people from becoming points around a regression line, to assuming that changing lives is the reason for measuring them, and to representing those who will never enter the university as anything but janitors, food servers, or research subjects.
[Honest, powerful, straight forward. Well written.]
------------------------------------------------------------------------------"Before I die," Granny declared three years ago on Christmas morning, "I gotta teach you girls how to POLKA!" And with that, my grandmother began to lead my sister, then me, spinning around the kitchen in a whirl of pajama-clad splendor. The smell of warm povitica bread and Granny's voice singing "Roll out the Barrel!" rounded out the scene. It is through moments like these that I begin to understand my roots. My family does not fervently embrace its ethnic heritage. One cousin who attempted to trace our family lineage back to its European roots must half jokingly that "our ancestors seemed to shift their nationality every time a war shifted the borders." The events of 1997 have pushed my family to define exactly what "being an American" means. In September 1997, my parents left the city where I had lived my entire life. They will spend the next two years in Frankfurt, Germany. My sister and I have become parents to our parents, who rely on our support and advice in the difficult adjustment to living abroad. It has fallen to us to maintain the family home, pay the bills, and care for our grandmother, who has aged far beyond her polka-dancing days. My parents are experiencing the unnerving sensation of being suspended between two homes. One home is the physical structure where you keep your toothbrush and your bathtub. The other is Home ... it is the one whose address is etched in your psyche. I decided after three weeks of living in a foreign country that I wanted to make a career out of being away from Home. This is far from a desire to escape the city of my birth and the country of my citizenship. I am learning in my travels to love my country more. As my mother remarked, "I never realized how much I like living in the United States until I wasn't living there anymore." Generations ago, my ancestors immigrated to America. I am eager to traverse the Atlantic in the opposite direction. The difference is that I will not forget my Home.
[Too much on family, not enough on the candidate.]
I fully understand that there are many qualified nominees for this scholarship. It has been a privilege filling out this scholarship for your consideration. The past two and a half years of college have been fantastic. I have gained a love for learning no matter what the class I am taking. I have not made all A's, but I am just as proud of any of the B's I have made because I earned them and worked hard for them. Going on active duty in the Marines is something I look forward to. I have wanted to serve in the military since I was about 16 years old. For me, it is my way of giving back for the sacrifices so many have made for me. My Great-Grandfather, Grandfather, and Father were all drafted in World War I, World War II, and in Vietnam. I have never had any pressure from any of these to serve, (actually it concerns them greatly), but it is the right thing for me to do. From working with people of literally all walks of life, I have learned that everyone has something to contribute. My parents are hard-working people, not at all wealthy, but very successful because of who they are and how they have lived their lives. My Father is a pastor who has instilled in me Christian principles, these guide my life and decisions. From him I learned that a relationship with Christ is something that happens on the days between church services, something many people, even ministers, have forgotten today. He is a man who "practiced what he preached." Because I have never seen him be dishonest in business dealings, I have the courage to want to be that honest in life as well. Everything I have written down in the way of plans was already in place before I even knew I had been nominated for this scholarship and I thank you for even considering my nominee information sheet.
[Scattered. Hard to follow and find the focus. Nothing compelling. Opening sentence adds nothing.]