This Wednesday I formally accepted the Vanderbilt Law and Economics PhD/JD Program offer. This program is 6 years, so I’ll be a Vanderbilt 2017 graduate! I think it’s appropriate now to post some snippets from my personal statement (for law) and economics (statements of purpose). (You may not recall but I applied to law schools and economics PhD programs.)
First off – a crazy 250 word essay to describe my (what I like to call) “finding my calling process”:
“Visions come to people in a wide array of settings. For me, the vision came on January 26, 2010, at a law school information session. Approximately a year before, November 10, 2008, I sunk into a mid-college life crisis, a two-week period in which I visited the career center every day and tossed in bed most nights until 4 a.m., worrying about my future. Sleep-deprived and frustrated that I had no direction, I started eating irregularly, losing weight, and looking emaciated. It wasn’t until Sunday morning, sitting exhausted on a church pew, an unexplainable peace came with Habakkuk 2:3: “For the vision is yet for the appointed time… it will not delay.” A year later as I was listening to the pre-law adviser at the career center, the vision arrived with a whisper, “Law and economics.” Heart racing, invigorated by the incredible peace that permeated my soul with this revelation, my head spun, “Temporary fantasy or THE vision?” Five days later, sitting once again on a church pew, the preacher popped a powerful question, “What mountain do you want?” He ended the sermon with Habakkuk 2:3. “Destiny or insanity?” Ten months later with a 35-page economics honors thesis, law school personal statements and economics graduate school statements of purpose on my desktop, and a great enthusiasm for the realization of this vision, I choose to believe in destiny. Without vision, the people perish; I almost did. Now this vision drives me, and I will persevere until it is fulfilled.”
A short snippet from my law school personal statement about why law interests me:
“This past summer at the London School of Economics (LSE), I began to see and appreciate the tremendous impact of the law on my personal history, stemming from the passage of the Immigration Act of 1990. Listening to my public finance classmate Dion (the Chairperson of the South African Democratic Alliance Federal Finance Committee) talk about illiteracy, I vividly recalled reading my elementary school PTA newsletters to my parents, who were poor, illiterate Chinese immigrants. As Dion spoke passionately about formulating policies to confront the challenges of an uneducated population, my mind flashed back to my parents working as housekeepers, restaurant dishwashers, and house painters in order to put food on the table and press through graduate school at the University of New Orleans. It was at that moment – listening to Dion while reflecting upon my family’s past that I recognized how crucial the American had been in structuring an environment in which my parents could thrive with their new degrees; under the Immigration Act, my parents qualified for National Interest Waivers, which improved their chances for obtaining good jobs and green cards. Sixteen years later, studying abroad in the renowned halls of LSE as a recently naturalized American citizen, I understood well the doors of opportunity that the 1990 policy had opened for me. As I conversed with Dion and finance advisers from the Netherlands, economists from Spain working at the European Union, and students from Turkey and Egypt, changes in policy to address national problems became more than just theoretical constructs.”
Excerpts from my economics statement of purpose:
“I am one of the four economics honors students out of the 200 economics majors in my class. This statistic is an indicator of my initiative in searching for economics research opportunities at Vanderbilt as well as my hard work and commitment to my honors thesis development. My dream to become an intellectual thought leader started in spring 2009 when I consumed Animal Spirits by Akerlof and Shiller in six hours at Barnes and Noble. I enjoyed reading about questions which economists were investigating and started to envision myself as someone who could contribute to answering them.
I want to find effective solutions to current problems as well as formulate more questions, which if answered, may lead to powerful ideas that transform a field, change policies, and positively affect the world. As problems are multifaceted, they can be approached from a variety of angles. I have chosen to further my studies in economics because of the robust quantitative methodologies that are utilized in the concrete analysis of these problems.”
Note that my actual personal statement and statement of purpose for every school I applied to were tailored to include “Why [Insert institution]?” (this is a very important thing to do and shows your genuine interest to the school as an applicant to that graduate school since schools are always looking for candidates who’ve done their research and want to increase their yield rates).