As many of you may know, I applied for the MLS (Master of Liberal Studies) at Rollins College for the Spring 2014 term.
In addition to submitting writing samples, transcripts, and multiple letters of recommendation, I also had to prepare a “Statement of Quality,” their version of the traditional Statement of Purpose required for most graduate schools.
I’m not sure why, but this was the most daunting task of the entire admissions process. The instructions were nebulous, asking me to discuss what I would “bring to the program were I to be accepted.”
What’s the correct answer here? Bragging about yourself never feels right… but, then again, not mentioning your achievements and strengths would defeat the purpose of the letter.
“I’d bring cupcakes to my classmates!”
That’s likely not what the committee wants to hear.
(Although, my cupcakes are pretty fantastic and I could potentially be accepted on their merit alone.)
Why are the simplest questions the hardest to answer?
It took me HOURS (not kidding, the first paragraph was over an hour on its own) to prepare a letter and I went through at least seven versions before I landed on something that I felt comfortable with sharing. I sent the letter to a previous instructor for critique and, other than a few word choices and awkward sentences, she said it was well-written.
So, nervous but with nothing to lose, I did some light revisions and then sent it in to complete my enrollment file. Now, it’s a waiting game…
In case anyone else is applying to grad schools and wants to see an example of a statement of purpose letter, I’ve included mine below for reference.
My only advice when writing your own statement of purpose?
Keep it honest.
I was very transparent with my letter and I feel it encompasses who I am rather well. Don’t use a template online or try to copy and piece together a letter from multiple others. People will see through it. While I looked over several templates online, I opted to approach mine in a unique, organic way. While I don’t know for sure, I’m betting that will be better received by the committee than an obvious duplication of previous techniques. I guess I won’t know the answer to that for a little while, though …
My Statement of Quality:
“I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.”
Ray Smith, protagonist of Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums (1958), was on a quest to see the world and, through his esoteric wanderings with friends, he found himself. I discovered Kerouac’s works, among other pioneers of the Beat Generation, while pursuing my undergraduate degree in creative writing. My exposure to this lifestyle, a free-spirited, innocuously hedonistic, quasi-religious existence, opened my eyes to my own potential for new experiences. Freedom, to me, is no longer defined as a release from physical confines; it is the breakdown of mental boundaries set by you. After nearly three decades of denying myself impulse and spontaneity, I found myself “mad to live” – a mindset I plan to nurture and sustain moving forward.
While less chimerical in comparison to Kerouac’s protagonist, I want to continue my education at Rollins College to fulfill my personal need for understanding, enrichment, and exploration of the world around me. Through completing my graduate degree, I aspire to transition out of corporate management and into the classroom, where I can share my love of magical realism, existentialism, and the literary culture of “Old Florida” with a new generation of writers. The MLS program at Rollins, with its focus on the advancements of Western civilization and intellectually challenging immersion in cultural awareness, will serve as the perfect platform for my adaptation into an educational role while satiating my own desire for academic discussion, artistic immersion, and didactic examination of our society.
During my undergraduate studies, I developed a philosophy regarding pedagogy and the value it has in my life. Education, for all intents and purposes, should change you. It should challenge your social, religious, and cultural beliefs through exposure to new ways of thought, perspicacity, and faith. In an effort to understand the perspective of another, you have to adjust your view of the world and alter your perspective of social norms around you. In going through this evolution day after day, a metamorphosis of intellect and spirit should occur, the result of which is a better version of yourself.
There were many instances in my bachelor’s degree where I was forced outside of my comfort zone, either through classroom discussion or outside instructor influence, all of which perpetuated my evolution into the woman I am today. Through the encouragement of several teachers, I was motivated to admit to an eating disorder through the creation of a short documentary, which I shared on my personal blog. Inspired by the modest positive feedback, I went on to prepare an article detailing my weight struggles and body image issues, which was published by The Huffington Post in October 2013. As a result of the publication, I gained greater confidence in my worth, not only as a writer but also as a person with the potential for greater societal contribution. I feel that my undergraduate education has brought me to the halfway point in my development; the Rollins College MLS program will finish my personal transformation.
I will bring to Rollins a tenacious spirit, a thirst for art and culture, and a sagacious awareness of how much I truly do not know. Within the MLS program, I plan to flourish personally while enriching the educational experience for those around me. As a student, I will engage classmates in exhaustive discussion, encourage professors to challenge my academic boundaries while elevating their own cognition of the subject matter, and I will serve as a proponent for the expansion of the arts in the community around me.
The beautiful campus and Old Florida charm aside, the Rollins College MLS program has seduced me with its ideal interdisciplinary climate and esteemed faculty. I was thrilled to learn that Dr. Robert Smither, author of The Psychology of Work and Human Performance, is a professor in the MLS program, as I’m eager to glean a better understanding of the correlations between employee motivational tools and their resulting productivity. Studying under Dr. Smither would make my Rollins experience deeply applicable to not only my current employment but also my desire to transition into an educational role in the future.
“I have all the time in the world from life to life to do what is to do, to do what is done, to do the timeless doing.”
Unlike Ray Smith, my time is limited, so I apply to Rollins College with an enthusiastic heart and committed mind. I look forward to bringing my passion, tenacity, and intellectual curiosity to the MLS program. I appreciate your consideration.
Thank you for reading!
~ Victoria Elizabeth
- Statement of Purpose (sop) (graduateinusa.wordpress.com)
- kerouac in florida (3quarksdaily.com)
- Grad School Statement of Purpose (creativephilo.wordpress.com)
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