For the sample from materials sciences, directed at an internal fellowship, the one-page essay has an especially difficult task: The writer must persuade those who already know him (and thus know both his strengths and limitations) that he is worthy of internal funds to help him continue his graduate education. He attempts this by first citing the specific goal of his research group, followed by a brief summary of the literature related to this topic, then ending with a summary of his own research and lab experience.
This sample essay immerses us in detail about medieval literature throughout, eventually citing several Irish medieval manuscripts. With these examples and others, we are convinced that this student truly does see medieval literature as a “passion,” as she claims in her first sentence. Later, the writer repeatedly cites two professors and “mentors” whom she has already met, noting how they have shaped her highly specific academic goals, and tying her almost headlong approach directly to the National University of Ireland at Maynooth, where she will have flexibility in designing her own program.
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The Beinecke Scholarship essay is written by a junior faced with stiff competition from a program that awards $34,000 towards senior year and graduate school. This student takes an interesting theme-based approach and projects forward toward graduate school with confidence. This writer’s sense of self-definition is particularly strong, and her personal story compelling. Having witnessed repeated instances of injustice in her own life, the writer describes in her final paragraphs how these experiences have led to her proposed senior thesis research and her goal of becoming a policy analyst for the government’s Department of Education.
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It is, of course, quite true that bits and pieces of the mediaeval traditionstill linger, or have been revived, in the ordinary school syllabus oftoday. Some knowledge of grammar is still required when learning a foreignlanguage--perhaps I should say, "is again required," for duringmy own lifetime, we passed through a phase when the teaching of declensionsand conjugations was considered rather reprehensible, and it was consideredbetter to pick these things up as we went along. School debating societiesflourish; essays are written; the necessity for "self- expression"is stressed, and perhaps even over-stressed. But these activities are cultivatedmore or less in detachment, as belonging to the special subjects in whichthey are pigeon-holed rather than as forming one coherent scheme of mentaltraining to which all "subjects"stand in a subordinate relation."Grammar" belongs especially to the "subject" of foreignlanguages, and essay-writing to the "subject" called "English";while Dialectic has become almost entirely divorced from the rest of thecurriculum, and is frequently practiced unsystematically and out of schoolhours as a separate exercise, only very loosely related to the main businessof learning. Taken by and large, the great difference of emphasis betweenthe two conceptions holds good: modern education concentrates on "teachingsubjects," leaving the method of thinking, arguing, and expressingone's conclusions to be picked up by the scholar as he goes along' mediaevaleducation concentrated on first forging and learning to handle the toolsof learning, using whatever subject came handy as a piece of material onwhich to doodle until the use of the tool became second nature.