Stanford Summer Session: Getting into Environmental and Water Studies Program

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Indonesia Mengglobal Essay Clinic is our effort to provide tangible help for Indonesian applicants who want to study abroad. This essay clinic is not meant to showcase ‘the perfect essay’, but by analyzing other people’s essays (what works, what does not work, what’s good, what’s bad), we hope you can learn how to write an effective application essay and how to continuously improve your own essay. We also accept essay submissions. Click here to learn on how to participate!!

Note on the Essay

The essay will be submitted for an application to Stanford Environmental and Water Studies Summer Program 2014 under the question:
How will participating in Stanford Summer Session advance my future career, academic, or personal goals? (500 words)

The Essay

I had visited Stanford two years ago, when I was helping my brother on his admission to a university in the United States, but my interest in participating in Stanford Summer Session had only started when I came across the Stanford Environmental and Water Summer Studies (SEWSS) web page last year. It was last summer and at that time I was already a senior, a week before my undergraduate thesis defense in the field of hydrology, analyzing rainfall variability of one of the most problematic river basin in Jakarta, Indonesia. After seeing the water and environment-intensive program structure and the courses offered in SEWSS, I was immediately enthusiastic and wished that I knew about the program sooner during my time in university.

People have always been my passion. I have been trying to find ways on how I can combine my background in environmental engineering and my passion to help the betterment of my community. Born, raised and living in Jakarta, I had seen yearly occurrences of flood as impacts of overpopulation, improper spatial planning, and urban development. Last year, I volunteered to help flood victims in Jati Asih, an area in Jakarta which almost always impacted by flood every rainy season. That particular experience urged me to pursue a career as a water specialist, and I wanted to learn more.

I finally graduated in October 2013, and planned to work within the scope of my educational background, environmental engineering, preferably related to water; such as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector and integrated urban water management. To that interest, I am currently interning at an engineering firm within its environment division, exposing myself to diverse cases and projects of environment and water in Indonesia in the purpose of learning more about the field and applying the knowledge acquired in university.

Towards my goal as a water expert, I knew I have to challenge myself to expand my knowledge and skills in the field of water. Participating in SEWSS program through compelling courses such as water resources management and environmental entrepreneurship & innovation will enable me to do that. The interaction that I will have with the environmental engineering faculty and students will be an invaluable network to share perspectives and ideas within the domain of water and environment. In addition, Stanford is also a special place where not only the academic is rigorous, but the entrepreneurship and innovation cultures are also dynamic. It is an environment that I believe will not only deepen specialized skills, but also encourages collaboration with other disciplines; broaden knowledge and insights outside of our specialization; and nurtures creativity for personal growth. I want to experience learning and develop myself in that kind of place.

Feedback from Syawalianto Rahmaputro:

First paragraph:

The writer surely has an advantage by having visited Stanford. However, it is unnecessary to tell that there was a one-year-gap between the writer’s first encounter with the school until the real spark happens. The writer can put the story of his/her visit to Stanford as a supporting fact at a later part of the essay but not as an opening. Starting the essay directly from the point where the writer opened the program’s website is more recommended.

A phrase like “wished that I knew about the program sooner during my time in university” has more negative meanings than positive. An alternative way to put this in a better context would be to write something like: “I was immediately enthusiastic to enroll as it offers a curriculum that will greatly develop my capability in the field that I am passionate about.”

Second Paragraph:

The sentence “People have always been my passion.” creates a lack of focus in the essay. Everybody, in general, cares about people. A stronger point can be made if the writer expresses that the passion is indeed on environmental engineering. Helping others is a natural consequence when environmental engineers work at their best.

A reminder: Volunteering experience shows enough that the writer has a big interest in helping the community. More words can be spent for the environmental engineering side of the story.

Third Paragraph:

The career plan of the writer is not clear enough. It is understood that the writer tends to express things ambiguously or anonymously as this is a part of the Indonesian culture, yet this will be counter-productive given that American culture likes the other way around. A more detailed explanation of the projects can result in a better perception. Plus, the writer should advertise the importance or value of his/her current job. Don’t be shy to show more ambition and eagerness to reach bigger goals.

Fourth paragraph:

The author’s future plans in this last paragraph are considered very general and cliché. If only the plans were more detailed and specific, the writer then could take one or two aspects of the program which bears strong relevance to them. It is advisable to mention one specific field which gives the biggest interest to the writer, be it desalination, micro filtration, reverse osmosis, or sanitation. Do not forget to specify an organization or company that the writer wants to work with/for in the future. It will be even better if the writer puts the exact position or role that the writer aims. This paragraph is also where the personal experience of visiting Stanford can come into play.

General Assessment

Among four paragraphs in total only the last one directly answers the essay prompt, hence the writer failed to answer the essay prompt effectively. Contrary to what is expected, most points in the essay recall past history of the writer. Detail elaboration of the writer’s career plan in the future can be more beneficial. Total word count is 450, so there is still some space left to put more points especially about the study program in Stanford.

Photo: Stanford University from Wikimedia