Monday, December 4, 2017

Writing Your Hopkins-Nanjing Center Personal Statement

It's hard to overstate the importance of your personal statement 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 HNC Certificate/SAIS MA) are required to submit a personal statement as part of their application:

How do you expect Sino-global relations to impact your future, and how do you believe your time at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center will assist you in achieving your long-term career objectives?

Here are few tips to keep in mind as you write your personal statement.

1) Answer the prompt. It may seem obvious, but some students submit personal statements that don’t fully answer the personal statement prompt. Review your essay and make sure that your essay clearly answers all parts of the prompt. It’s okay if you don’t have a five-year career plan! The Admissions Committee is looking to see that you have thought out how you see the HNC as an essential piece of your future plans.

2) Offer clarifications. The personal statement is an opportunity to address any irregularities or other points of clarification on your application - whether it’s lower grades during your freshman year, a gap year you took after high school, if you are planning to improve your Chinese over the summer, if your major is outside of the Asian Studies/China studies field, or anything else that the Admissions Committee should be aware of when reviewing your application. Students can be hesitant to bring attention to these areas, but keep in mind that the Admissions Committee will take note of it. It’s better to address it upfront and provide the Admissions Committee with more information when reviewing your application.

3) Be specific.  Applicants with the best essays give concrete examples of what motivated them to continue studying China and Chinese and why they want to study at the HNC. The HNC is a unique program, so we are interested in learning specifically why you are applying to the HNC and how it will benefit your future career goals. Vague generalizations will not help you stand apart from other applicants. Don’t just tell us why you want to attend graduate school, but instead tailor your essay to highlight why you want to attend the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.

4) 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. Other students highlight how their work or internship experiences exposed them to a certain issue that they want to learn more about at the HNC. Not everything is learned in the classroom!

5) Avoid clichés. For example, one of the most common clichés 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 this statement doesn’t let the Admissions Committee know specifically why you want to study at the HNC. Get specific and write from your own experiences.

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. While you are free to write about more than one topic in this essay, please keep in mind that it is a short essay at only 500 words. Listing off a multitude of different research ideas can show a lack of focus to the Admissions Committee, so it’s often better to limit yourself to one or two topics max.

Last but not least, HNC Certificate/SAIS MA applicants should submit three essays total: the HNC Personal Statement, 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. While the analytical essay should be related to international relations or economics, it doesn’t need to be related to China if that’s not your intended concentration area at SAIS.

We look forward to reading your essays!