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.
When I received an email from one of the Page Program managers expressing interest in my application, I was ecstatic. I sort of felt like there was a very small light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. I graduated Hofstra University in 2009 and the economy was TERRIBLE for recent grads looking for jobs. I was lucky enough to be one of two students in my degree/graduating year who left college with a job already lined up. I was a producer at News12 Interactive, and although it was nice to have some hands-on experience, it wasn’t the company I really wanted to work for, so it was hard to “drink the kool-aid” and get excited to work there.
The first hurdle in the run for the Page Program, at the time, was to complete a timed written email test. I was told to be available on a certain day for one hour, where I’d be emailed a list of essay questions and I’d have to answer them in under an hour and send my answers before time was up. I know they don’t do this test anymore, (I think they just do phone interviews now), but the questions were along the lines of “If you found yourself in an elevator with Jeff Zucker, what would you say to him?” My answer was simple: “I’d smile and say hello. As a representative of NBC, I wouldn’t want to strike up a trivial conversation with the president of the company, considering he’s probably much busier than I am.”
The First Interview
Although I don’t quite remember how long I waited for a response, I did hear back! I received another email, inviting me to come in for a one-on-one interview with one of the managers. I researched my brains out about NBC (I still have my notes) and found myself in the interview “playing the game.” I’d be asked a question like, “which cable properties does NBCUniversal own?” and I’d excitedly know the answer immediately, but played it cool and pretended to think for a moment. “Hm, well, I believe NBC owns SyFy, Chiller, Sleuth, USA, Bravo, Oxygen…” I kept naming all of them and the manager had to cut me off.
The interview went so well, that it was one of those rare instances where I walked away confidently knowing that I had already made it to the final round. I even so boldly went ahead and prematurly called my parents to tell them that I “nailed it” and knew I was going to be put forward to the next interview.
The Panel Interview
After the interview, it was a few weeks before I was asked to be on the infamous panel. I received an email with specific instructions on how the panel was to be broken down. It was basically a 4-5 hour mind game.
I was to meet my fellow panelists (the other applicants I was competing against) at the NBC visitor’s center. Once we were all there, someone was to meet us there and bring us upstairs to the Page office conference room.
The first part of the interview was set up so that a few hiring managers sat on one side of the conference room table, and the interviewees sat on the other side. There were 14 of us. The managers asked rapid fire behavioral questions down the row, and we had to answer them to the best of our ability. “Name a time when you had to prove your ability to someone who asked you to do something.” I talked about how I convinced a manager at News12 to hire me as a producer before I even earned my college degree.
For the second part, we were all sent into the hallway and were asked back inside the conference room one at a time to answer questions about NBC. “What is NBC’s #1 cable network and why?” “In what year was the National Broadcasting Company built?” “Who are the top network executives that answer to Jeff Zucker?” I knew all the answers.
The final round was the true test. We were all brought back into the conference room, and had to give a 2 minute (and not a second over) presentation about why we should be hired to work for NBC. Each presentation was entertaining and unique, and really shed light onto who were creative story tellers and thinkers, who were desperate and a little crazy, and who didn’t prepare at all. We were not allowed to use any electronics – no DVDs, computers, audio. We had to invent a new way to convince these managers to hire us, and those who did (and didn’t) do a good job, sealed their fate.
I left the interview and went home. I was also sick as a dog, mind you, so my judgement was cloudy and the managers were hard to read. I really didn’t know if I was accepted into the program, but I knew that I did well enough to make myself proud.
I came home and told my dad about the whole experience. He seemed to be just as anxious as I was about not knowing what to think of the whole thing. As I changed out of my suit and into jeans, my dad left for a little bit to buy some cold cuts to make himself a sandwich (we’re sandwich enthusiasts) and of course when he wasn’t home, I received a phone call from the managers asking if I could start on Monday.
Let me repeat that. I received a phone call from the managers asking if I could start on Monday. My interview was on Friday.
I said yes. Did a little dance, and waited impatiently until my dad came home so I could tell him. It went like this:
My dad with groceries in hand walked through the door.
Me: “Dad, I got in!”
Me: “I got into the Page Program!”
Me: “Yes. They just called me while you were out. I start Monday!”
Dad: (Even louder) “Noooo! (Drops groceries on floor). Really?!”
Me: “Yes, really!”
We laugh and punch things and dance and high five in the kitchen.
The Interview Experience
I walked away from the whole experience with some lessons learned.
- Always do your research about the company. Never ever go into an interview without knowing everything you might be asked about.
- Always do your research about yourself. Never go into an interview and not be able to answer a simple behavioral question, or the popular, “so tell me about yourself.”
- Always rehearse. Even if you know the answers to what they’ll ask you, ask yourself the questions, and rehearse how you will answer them. Do it over and over, in front of the mirror, away from the mirror, while you’re showering, commuting, eating lunch. Practice makes perfect.
- Don’t worry about competition. Always do your best to position yourself in a way where your competition should be worrying about you. You do you. Just try to do your best to learn as much as you can, ask the right questions, and get the most out of your experience.
- In a panel interview, be cordial to your competition. If there are multiple slots open, they may hire a few candidates from the interview. Don’t even show your competitiveness or unease. Be nice, smile, and worry about yourself. You may end up bonding over the experience later on, and make a friend.
I can honestly say, I look back on my Page days quite fondly. It was a tremendous experience, and never in my life (before and after) have I interacted with such smart, talented, clever and funny people. Everything I experienced was awesome. There were some good times and some not-so-good times. Competitive times, easy times, fun and hard times. And it was all beautiful and exciting and an experience very few people are lucky enough to have.
I am a very lucky person.
Have a question about the NBC Page Program? Leave it in the comments below!