How to Write a Personal Statement
Welcome to EssayEdge's Graduate School Statements 101! Our experts have assembled the most comprehensive course on the Internet to help you compose successful graduate school essays. A personal statement or autobiographical essay represents a graduate school's first qualitative introduction to the way you think and to the way you express yourself. The personal statement must serve as a reflection of your personality and intellect. You must sell yourself through this statement, just as you would through a successful job interview. Preparation and personal reflection are essential.
If you find it difficult to write about yourself, don't be discouraged. Having assisted tens of thousands of applicants, we can assure you that everyone has problems composing these statements. If you have a friend who finishes one in two hours flat and doesn't agonize over what he or she is writing, chances are it's not a statement that will do much to enhance his or her prospects for admission. Good essays take time. Bad ones can hurt your chances for admission.
The essays required of graduate school applicants fall into two major categories. First, there is the general, comprehensive personal statement, which allows the applicant more latitude in what he or she writes. The second category encompasses essays that are responses to specific questions. Here the applicant might have less latitude in terms of your topic, but it is still possible and prudent to compose a thoughtful and compelling response that holds the reader's interest.
No matter what type of application form you are dealing with, it is extremely important that you read each question carefully and respond to it fully. Some applications are more vague or general in their instructions than others; for these, it is often possible to compose almost any sort of essay you wish. You have virtually total control, and you also have a remarkable opportunity that you can either maximize or squander—the choice is yours.
The purpose of this guide is not to teach formulas, but rather to give the necessary direction for you to create an original and effective essay. We will teach you how to choose appropriate topics and themes, how to structure your essay as a coherent and flowing piece, and how to convey your ideas through engaging and active language.
Next:Lesson One: Preparation
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Shake Hands with the Devil by Lt Gen Romeo Dallaire
There are a lot of books on Rwanda, but this one is really heartfelt, harsh and highlights the problems facted by UN workers and other peacekeepers.
This book was written by Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire of the Canadian Forces, with help from Major Brent Beardsley. It was first published in September, 2003. And it´s pretty long!
The book chronicles Dallaire's tour as Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) in 1993-1994, during which he witnessed the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.
This book won the 2003 Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing and the 2004 Governor General's Award for nonfiction.
The award-winning documentary film Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire (2004) and a 2007 dramatic feature film are inspired by the book. Dallaire was involved in the making of both films.
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
This was the first full-length work by the English author George Orwell that was published in 1933. It is a memoir in two parts, on the theme of poverty in the two cities before the First World War.
The first part is an account of living on the breadline in Paris. Orwell writes of casual labor in restaurant kitchens. The second part is a travelogue of life on the road in and around London from a tramp's perspective. It provides a good historical perspective on the sector.
Chasing the Flame: One Man´s Fight to Save the World by Samantha Power
This is such a romantic story. It covers the increasing violence towards aid workers, and crises not covered in similar books, like East Timor.
In this perfect match of author and subject, Pulitzer Prize-winner Samantha Power tackles the life of Sergio Vieira de Mello and his work for the U.N. before his 2003 death in Iraq was emblematic of moral struggle on the global stage.
Power has drawn on a staggering breadth of research (including 400 interviews) to show us a heroic figure and the conflicts he waded into. It looks at Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, the slaughter in Bosnia and the war-torn Middle East. It´s a portrait of humanity and pragmatism.
Humanitarian Intervention: Confronting the Contradictions by Michael Newman
This book looks at the problems surrounding humanitarian intervention very closely. Some view humanitarian intervention as little more than a rationale for Western neo-imperialism.
Others see these types of intervention as a major weapon in the crusade for democracy and individual rights. Michael Newman takes a different position.
Through the critique of current international policies and an examination of their impact on developing and transitional countries, Newman argues that military intervention often works against efforts to establish a sustainable peace.
Humanitarian Intervention will resonate with you if you oppose both recent Anglo-American foreign policy and agree that "something must be done" to save victims of atrocity.
This is an invaluable resource for students of international relations, contemporary history, law, politics, and peace and conflict studies, as well as those who work with NGOs.
War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times by Linda Polman
This is a harsh book, but it´s brilliantly written. From Rwanda to Afghanistan, from Sudan to Iraq, this occasionally blackly funny work shows how the humanitarian aid industry, the media and warmongers the world over are locked in a cycle of mutual support.
Drawing on her decades of first-hand experience, Linda Polman´s narrative introduces us to the key players in this twisted game: the aid-workers, and the warlords themselves.
War Games is controversial. It welcomes you onto front lines of the humanitarian aid industry by one of the most intrepid and brilliantly incisive journalists of our times.
Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis by David Rieff
Timely and controversial, A Bed for the Night reveals how humanitarian organizations are often betrayed and misused.
Drawing on firsthand reporting from war zones around the world, David Rieff shows us what aid workers do in the field and the growing gap between their noble ambitions and their actual ability to alleviate suffering.
Condemned to Repeat? The Paradox of Humanitarian Action by Fiona Terry
This is a fairly academic book on the dangers of humanitarian aid. Fiona Terry believes that humanitarian groups have failed to face up to the core paradox of their activity. Humanitarian action aims to alleviate suffering, but by inadvertently sustaining conflict it potentially prolongs suffering.
In Condemned to Repeat?, Terry examines the side effects of the intervention of aid organizations and points out the need to acknowledge the political consequences of the choice to give aid.
Fiona Terry was the head of the French section of Medecins sans frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) when it withdrew from the Rwandan refugee camps in Zaire because aid intended for refugees actually strengthened those responsible for perpetrating genocide.
This book contains documents from the former Rwandan army and government that were found in the refugee camps after they were attacked in 1996. This material illustrates how combatants manipulate humanitarian action for their own benefit.
Six Months in Sudan. A Young Doctor in a Wartorn Village by Dr. James Maskalyk
This is an easy read. It´s a field level memoir about a doctor’s struggle in a war-torn village in the heart of Sudan.
In 2007, James Maskalyk was a new recruit. He was working for Doctors Without Borders and set out for the contested border town of Abyei, Sudan.
Maskalyk spent six months treating malnourished children, coping with a measles epidemic and struggling to meet overwhelming needs with few resources.
This book began as a blog that Maskalyk wrote from his hut in Sudan. It is the story of the doctors, nurses, and countless volunteers who leave their homes behind to ease the suffering of others. Recommended.
So, ready to be inspired and enlightened through the written word? These books offer many perspectives, and many cover the experiences of brave individuals who work in international contexts. But humanitarian work doesn´t have to be carried out in a war zone, or even abroad. It can be done anywhere, because there are people in need all over the earth. Perhaps you´d love to take some time to treat those who need it most in a foreign or developing country. Whatever humanitarian work you choose, we support you. If we can help you through the services we offer, please don´t hesitate to let us know. Good luck and happy reading.