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If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.
--Derek Bok

LESSONS FOR STUDENTS



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Successful Admission Essays

When you first learned to drive, it was one thing to sit in driver’s education class to learn the theory of driving, but it was another thing entirely to sit behind the wheel and actually drive. Like learning to drive, essay writing is best learned by experience. From reading these essays, you’ll see that there is no absolute “right” or “wrong” way to write an essay. In fact, there are an unlimited number of topics to write about and ways to approach the essay. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a professional writer to write a great essay.

What we hope you’ll learn from these essays is that to write the strongest essay possible, you just need to be you. Present where you are and what you’d like to achieve by furthering your education. This is what these students did, and they are all well on their way to their goals. Important note: Please remember that these essays are only examples of ways that some students have successfully written their admission essays. Your essays will naturally be your own.

Nancy H.

Mount Holyoke College

Nancy H. had a brief college stint after high school but left and pursued a successful career in publishing. She became the director of sales and marketing at a publishing company, but she was denied a well-deserved promotion because she didn’t have a college degree. It was then that Nancy decided to earn her degree no matter what. At first she attended community college courses via the Internet to accommodate her work schedule.

She later applied to Mount Holyoke College to a program for older re-entry students. She says, “That made a huge difference. I felt that there was going to be a certain accommodation for my past but that I would still be held to the same high standards as their other, traditionally-aged students.”

When she applied to Mount Holyoke College, she tried to convey to the admission office her academic passion and what she wanted to achieve. She says, “The college would rather have someone who has a plan and changes her mind later than someone who is ambivalent and unfocused.”

Nancy is currently studying for a master’s of theological studies at Harvard Divinity School. Why study religion? “Religion is one of many lenses available for viewing the human experience and how people create meaning in their lives,” she says, adding, “I think that religion is unique because it is nearly universal, has historical evidence that is among the oldest remnants available and provides one of the few windows on women’s contributions.”

After Harvard, Nancy plans to pursue a Ph.D. and teach at the college level one day. But she doesn’t want to limit herself to teaching. “I want to use the lessons that I’ve learned to act and be an activist in community efforts fostering harmony, peace and coalition building,” she says.

Nancy’s Essay

I have a successful and rewarding career working for a publishing company whose books help people learn. For me, that has been about as close to “right livelihood” as I have ever enjoyed. My children are grown with families of their own a few hours away. I live in the country with deer and wild turkeys as neighbors. The ocean is a short drive away. What more could I want?

When I went back to college last year, it was for the purpose of freshening my business skills. My plan was to get an undergraduate degree in business then proceed to an MBA. Along the way, something unexpected happened. While studying Western Civilization-Ancient World (History 4A), I was struck by the role of women throughout ancient history. What happened that made women’s roles so subservient? I was sufficiently intrigued to follow that up with Western Civilization-to the 1800’s (History 4B) AND Philosophy-Comparative Western Religion (PHIL 25). I discovered that some scholars claim that during the Inquisitions and European Witch Hunts, 9 million women were killed. While the number is in dispute, it is agreed that this was the largest non-war-related murder of a people BY THEIR OWN in recorded history. Wow! And that was just ONE compelling insight that got me stirred up. (You did ask me to be brief!)

I couldn’t put the topic down. And the topic wouldn’t let me put it down. It seemed that around every corner I was finding books or articles that continued to stimulate more questions. So many questions and so little time! I work between 40 and 50 hours a week with extensive travel. I was sufficiently challenged taking two college classes over the Internet. I just couldn’t seem to find extra time to explore these issues as fully as I wanted to. It was becoming evident that it mattered more to me to ask the questions and look for the answers than maintain my employment. One day while clicking through screens on a completely unrelated topic (as if there are “accidents”), there was a small banner ad about girl’s education. To this day, I have no idea why I felt compelled to click on that small, obscure ad. I don’t even remember the specifics of the ad, something about supporting educational options for girls. My eye caught the fine print at the bottom, “Sponsored by the National Ad Council” (or whomever) and “Mount Holyoke College.” I clicked on the MHC link and my life changed.

That night I read virtually every page on the website. I read the course descriptions, read about the dormitories, read what they were having for breakfast next week. I read about the professors, about the facilities and of course, about the Frances Perkins Program. And then, just to make sure, I opened the site map and checked that I hadn’t missed anything. Here was a community of smart women engaged in exploring the world in a way that I keenly wanted to be part of. And there was a special program for older re-entry students. Not just a program but a real community of older students. I looked at their pictures and read their stories. They were like I was! It sounded too good to be true! When I read the descriptions for major studies for women’s studies (i.e., “provokes questions, discussions, disagreements and illuminating insights”) and critical social thought, I knew in my heart that this was where I was supposed to be. Here I could explore the questions that have made me restless and hopefully find some answers that would be relevant. And do it in a community-based context that would be a valuable part of the process (I appreciated that 98 percent of the students lived on-campus.)

I’ve got to tell you that just because I got the wake-up call, I didn’t immediately respond with, “Okay, let’s go!” I struggled with fear and self-doubt and denial. But the call didn’t go away. Rather, I found myself at work, while on hold, clicking back to the MHC website for just another peek. Even though only a week had passed since the first click on the MHC website, it was now or never. The deadline for application was only weeks away. I sent for the application for admission.

Now I have gratefully accepted the gift of the call. It’s what I have to do. It’s what I choose to do. What a treat to have something in my life that makes me feel so engaged, so passionate, so alive! It is so important that I will give up my security; I will give up my possessions (yet another prospective tag-sale about to be in progress!); I will give up my current way of being to plunge into this Sea of Uncertainty. Is the water cold? I don’t know. Where will I end up? I don’t know. For now, I’m secure in the belief that it’s the journey, not the destination. I’ve always known what I need to know, when I need to know it. And so here I am. I am knocking on your door and asking you to invite me to join you.