Grad school application question help: Does this answer seem odd?
July 16, 2014 7:45 AM   Subscribe

I am currently in the process of applying to The University of the Pacific's Master of Arts in Intercultural Relations. To answer one of the application questions I used part of a previous paper I wrote a few years back which I think answers the question well. I did cut and paste it with a few revisions and have been told it appears that way. A few other questions about it inside.

Also, I have been told it comes across as not personal enough and too academic. Due to this it may seem a little different in tone from my other answers to their questions. ( I am not including the entire thing to keep things here brief, but I can post it or supply it if recommended by you guys). Lastly, is it weird that I cite another paper? (I'm not so worried about grammatical errors at this point so ignore any misplaced commas or semicolons or whatever please).

I kinda like my response. As it is from a previous essay I wrote, if I keep it, should I lead in with something indicating this fact? “The following is from an essay I wrote in 2012” or something similar?

What do you guys think?

Here is the question: The field of intercultural relations covers many areas from diversity training to foreign student advising, from intercultural conflict resolution to cross-cultural healthcare. What is your area of special interest?

I am especially interested in culture shock and intercultural team dysfunction; major problems for multinational corporations. There are estimates that expatriates return early from assignments as much as 40% of the time (Littrell et al., 2006) and cost multinational firms millions of dollars annually. Intercultural conflicts among employees can lead to delayed start-up time, lost productivity, relationship problems, damage to company image, and lost business, all possible results of workers being unprepared to work internationally. This does not take into account the additional negative interpersonal consequences that that the workers may suffer. All of this I have witnessed first hand or personally experienced. I would like to help reduce or eliminate these problems through proper training and intervention.

Also, these problems do not just exist for people transplanted from one society to another or among coworkers. Rapidly shifting demographics are creating a demand for workers trained to be effective across a variety of social contexts at home. Within national borders, cultural conflicts, whether instigated by ethnicity, socioeconomics, ideology, or even generational differences, are far too vital and expensive to be overlooked; making multiculturalism at home another area of study that I would like to pursue further.
posted by Che boludo! to Education (6 answers total)
Grad programs are trying to get a sense of you as a person as well as your academic interests with these essays. You might use this as a jumping off point, but I would also include some information about what makes this something that you are passionate about. More importantly, you want to sell how this interest matches up to the program you are applying to. Talk about the particular faculty and their research that best matches this interest. Talk about what you want to do in the future. How does this plug into the real world?
posted by goggie at 7:48 AM on July 16, 2014

Che boludo!: All of this I have witnessed first hand or personally experienced.

I think going into more detail here would help it feel more like an answer to an application question and less like an academic paper.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:52 AM on July 16, 2014

Those paragraphs sound like reasons that *someone* should focus on those areas, but not why you, personally, should be accepted into the program to study them. Admissions wants to see what you would contribute; presumably they already know the value of multiculturalism. What have you done in that area of special interest? What's an example that you have witnessed firsthand? Is that an experience you had as an expat, or working with expats? I don't think there's anything wrong with what you have there, but I'd recommend you put more of yourself in there.

I'd also recommend looking at the profs in the department and seeing if any they have any keywords from their research that you can use. Part of seeing that someone can fit into a department involves seeing if their interests will align with the department's specialties; make that easy for them. (When I applied to grad school, I realized that two of three rejections I got were from places that didn't have someone working on the subspecialty I expressed particular interest in. I didn't even end up working on that topic, so I wish I had broadened or adjusted that bit.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:12 AM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

In PhD programs these things are divided into two separate things: the personal statement and the statement of purpose. Most programs don't have a personal statement, and the statement of purpose should mostly be about research. It looks like the essay this program wants straddles both.

In particular, where you say this: 'All of this I have witnessed first hand or personally experienced.' Elaborate on that point. Tie your interests into past experience. This will enable you to talk about your experience and also elucidate your interests.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:36 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

It reads more like a research paper than the answer. The point of the question is to get a glimpse of who you are, not let them know that you know a, b, and c about this subject.
posted by Neekee at 4:15 PM on July 16, 2014

I agree with whoever gave you feedback outside of MeFi: You're approaching this from the wrong angle. Your goal isn't to present the reader with comprehensive information on your special area of interest (though you obviously have to do a little of that), but to get across:

1. What the special subject area is;
2. Why it's important;
3. You qualifications to study it;
4. What you want to do with that area once you're in the program.

You aren't going to be able to comfortably hit those four points by editing what you currently have, so I think you will have to go back to the drawing board.

If it helps, I wrote a silly little example below that hits these points and (what I think!) is the right tone.
The field of daisy research covers many areas from growing daisies to painting detailed pictures of daisies. What is your area of special interest?

My special area of interest is the historical development of daisies as the preferred flower for picking on a fine summer day. Following World War II, changing demographics and decreased immigration from Holland led to the unexpected and quick decline of the tulip industry. With the rising price of tulips, cheaper and previously-ignored daisies gained popularity as the flower to pick on a fine summer day. The impact of this change was immense and greatly buoyed the political and economic capital of major daisy-producing regions.

I became interested in this trend during a undergraduate course on Recreational Flower Picking. Delving deeper into the topic during Recreational Flower Picking II, I eventually worked under the guidance of Professor X to produce an independent senior thesis on the role of mass media in promoting daisy picking. Were I accepted to this program, I would hope to work with professors such as Y or Z to further explore the the economics behind the tulip-daisy transition, as well as investigate the role climate change could have in forcing a future move away from the daisy as the preferred flower for picking on a fine summer day.
posted by whitewall at 5:32 AM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

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