Friday, November 22, 2013

Writing an Effective Admissions Essay

It's hard to overstate the importance of essays as part of your application to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.  This is a valuable opportunity to let the Admissions Committee get to know you as more than test scores, transcripts, and a resume.

Applicants to all of our programs (certificate, MAIS, and the Five-Semester Option) are required to submit a personal statement.  The prompt for this essay is as follows:

Please explain the development of your interest in China. Discuss professional, academic and personal experiences that have contributed to your decision to pursue further study of China. How do you expect your time at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center to assist you in achieving your long-term career objectives? (600 - 1000 words)

A few tips when writing this essay:

1) Spell check!
2) Be specific.  Applicants with the best essays give concrete examples about how they became interested in China and what motivated them to continue studying China and Chinese. Vague generalizations will not help you stand apart from other applicants.

3) Be memorable.  Tell us about your experiences in a creative way, rather than just rewriting your resume in paragraph form.  For example, one past applicant wrote about lessons he learned by playing ping-pong with a Chinese classmate.  Another explained her interest in public health through her interactions with Chinese citizens at a rural clinic.  Not everything is learned in the classroom! 
4) And finally, avoid cliches.  For example, one of the most common cliches we encounter every single year involves applicants writing that they hope to attend the HNC so they can become a "bridge" between China and the US. It may be true and it's a noble cause but so many bridges apply each year that the phrase has lost all meaning.

In addition to this personal statement, MAIS applicants are required to write a concentration essay. For this essay, we ask that you choose one of the five concentrations offered in Nanjing: International Economics, International Politics, Comparative and International Law, Chinese Studies, or Energy, Resources, and Environment.  You then will be prompted to write about your thesis idea(s).  Don't worry though! You will not be locked into this topic so it is completely fine if you arrive in Nanjing and decide on a new one. This is more an opportunity for the Admissions Committee to see that you have a particular area of interest related to China and that you have put thought into potential research topics.

Last but not least, Five-Semester Option applicants should submit three essays total: the HNC Personal Statement (see the section above), the DC Statement of Purpose, and the DC Analytical Essay.  We often receive questions about the amount of overlap between the HNC Personal Statement and the DC Statement of Purpose. You should assume that the admissions committees of each campus have access to all three essays but still include any relevant information in each, even if it does mean a bit of overlap.

We look forward to reading your essays!