Archive for December, 2008

i’m still here!

December 24, 2008

Just a quick note to let you guys know I’m still here! i have been super busy with final papers the past few weeks and just arrived in Monaco to visit my boyfriend Andrew’s family. The flat we are staying at doesn’t have internet and wifi is scarce and expensive in Monaco. Fortunately, we just found a restaurant with 24-hour open access. Yes!! So I’ll be up and blogging the next few days. Merry, happy, and carry on!


the personal statement

December 14, 2008

This entry was written by fellow Idealist grad school blogger Devi Noor. She is currently working in the non-profit arts sector in Los Angeles and is applying to MA/PhD programs in Art History. Her blog Lunardevi is filled with great information and advice, such as this post on “the personal statement.”

“The personal statement. It’s the one component of the graduate application where school admissions can get an idea of your personality. So when you’re writing your statement of purpose, every word needs to count!

I’m lucky that I have friends with eagle-eyes and editor-spirits. Blogging has made my writing style extremely colloquial- the complete opposite of what your statement should be. Some key things to remember when writing the personal statement:

1. Use the active voice; avoid passive writing.

I make this mistake all the time. If you’re writing phrases such as “I am planning”, I am seeking”, “Will have had ——ing”, cut it out! Passive=weak. Not a desirable quality to have. Graduate programs are a competitive, massive undertaking, so make sure the tone of your statement is confident.

2. Clearly state your objectives and keep them focused.

Vague is not vogue to grad school admissions. If you plan on spending at least 2-5 years for your program, what you intend to get out of your educational studies should be clearly outlined. If you know you want to teach upon completion of the program, be specific as to what you’ll teach, what audience you will instruct, and so forth.

3. Why [insert school name here]?

Be sure to explain why you are applying to the school. Listing the programs of interest, faculty, and resources is fine and dandy, but also making sure to specify how this school will help attain your personal objectives is much better.

The word limits for my personal statements range from 500-1000 words, some 2-4 pages, or 1000 characters. Yikes! My fellow blogger Lindsey also had issues with this. Be prepared to pare down your work for certain schools with short word limits. Keep these words in mind and say them to yourself when you have to crop another 100 words out of your statement: “succinct, brevity, concise, and pithy.” That’s what I do.

And since I now have to tweak my statement yet again, I leave you with some useful resources to get you started.

Good luck!


Personal statements in general: – has several articles on writing the statement of purpose

Berkeley – step-by-step procedure on how to write the statement

Art History/Humanities:

UPenn – great advice on the graduate art history application in general

Duke – tips on the statement of purpose in Humanities”

I’d also like to add, make sure you start your essay far ahead of the deadline and get a professor, TA, and/or friend to read and edit it a few times before you submit your application.


December 11, 2008

Even though tuition is usually cheaper in the UK than in the States, it is still expensive and most British universities offer limited financial  aid. Scholarships are a great way to defray the cost of tuition, as well as bolster your cv. Below, I have outlined the different kinds of scholarships you can apply for to study in the UK.

US Scholarships for UK Study

These scholarships offer full rides, but are extremely competitive to get and the applications are lengthy and time-consuming. Be realistic, only apply if you surpass the qualifications and have enough time to seriously dedicate yourself to the application.

Marshall Scholarship

“Marshall Scholarships are available to finance young US citizens of high ability to study in the UK. The scholarships are tenable for two academic years (22 months) and cover tuition fees, living allowance and some study expenses, fares to and from the US and, where applicable, a contribution toward the support of a dependent spouse. Up to 40 scholarships are awarded annually.”

-Taken from the University of Edinburgh’s Scholarship website.

Fulbright Scholarship

“The Fulbright Commission offers approximately 20 traditional scholarships to US graduate students in any subject wishing to study in the UK. The scholarships aim to promote mutual understanding between the United States and the UK. They cover tuition fees and 10 months’ maintenance sufficient to cover housing, travel, food and other living expenses.”

-Taken from the University of Edinburgh Scholarship website.

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship

“One of the largest and most competitive scholarship programs in the US, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholarship provides awards of up to $50,000 per year for up to six years of study to deserving low-income college seniors and recent college graduates (who graduated within the past five years).”

-Taken from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship website.

UK Scholarships for International Students

Chevening Scholarship

The Chevening Scholarship Scheme, funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), targets the future generation of leaders, decision-makers and opinion-formers early in their careers. Globally, approximately 1,000 new scholarships are awarded each year. The scholarships may cover all or part of the total study costs.

-Taken from University of Edinburgh Scholarship website.

UK 9/11 Scholarship

“The United Kingdom 9/11 Scholarships Fund provides awards for study in higher or further education in the United Kingdom to children or dependents of victims of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.”

-Taken from the British Council website.

Overseas Research Students Award Scheme (ORSAS)

Unfortunately, this scholarship has already been phased out in England and Wales and may be phased out in Scotland and Northern Island. Probably due to the dwindling economy. Check the website for details.

“ORSAS awards offer international postgraduate students the opportunity to carry out a broad range of research at well-established UK academic institutions of worldwide recognition. ORSAS award holders make a valuable contribution, not only to the British research base, but also to economic, scientific, educational and other aspects of life in their own country. “

-Taken from the ORSAS website.

International Student Scholarships

Most British universities offer scholarships specifically for international students, check your university’s scholarship website to see what’s offered.

Departmental Scholarships

Also, check to see if you university offers departmental or subject specific scholarships

General Advice

Contact your undergraduate and prospective grad universities’ scholarship office to inquire about scholarships that fit your specific interests and profile. You’d be surprised by the types of scholarships there are.

If you want to apply to a scholarship, plan accordingly. Read the requirements carefully. Give yourself enough time to fill out the application, write essays, collect recommendations, and PROOFREAD. Also, get your university’s scholarship adviser, a professor, or a friend to help you in the process.

If you have received a scholarship or grant before, contact your sponsors to see if they might be willing to re-new your award for grad school. Remember you are most likely to receive funding from people who have funded you in the past.

Additional Resources

British Council

University of Washington Grants and Information Funding Service

why edinburgh?

December 5, 2008


Old College, University of Edinburgh

Photo by flickr user Simon Bradshaw

One of the reasons why I decided to apply to graduate school in the UK is because my field Cultural Studies started here. Another reason is that I wanted to work in Europe and figured the easiest way to do that would be to study here. If you graduate from a British university, you may work in the UK without a work permit for up to two years under the Post Study Work Programme.

After numerous conversations with professors and hours of online research, I decided to apply to four master programmes: Cultural Studies MA at the University of London — Goldsmiths, Media and Cultural Studies MA at Lancaster University, Critical and Cultural Theory MA at Cardiff University, and Cultural Studies MSc at the University of Edinburgh.

I was accepted to all four, but chose to study at the University of Edinburgh due to a number of factors:

1) I was interested in working with the Cultural Studies Programme Director Dr. Ella Chmielewska to explore graffiti, visual culture, memory, and the city (my interests have somewhat evolved since then)…

2) Edinburgh was the only university that offered me a research master’s. I applied for the taught MSc, but was offered the MSc by Research due to the focus and specificity of my research interests. The MSc by Research is more independent and research-driven than the taught MSc. I accepted my offer of admission at Edinburgh with the intent of pursuing the MSc by Research, but I ultimately decided to do the taught MSc because my research interests changed considerably after my accident.

3) Edinburgh offered the most international student scholarships, I was fortunate to receive the International Master’s Scholarship.

4) I emailed current students at all four universities. All of the students seemed happy and satisfied with their programmes, but the students at  Edinburgh gave the most honest and convincing answers.

5) While the University of Edinburgh may not be the best university to pursue Cultural Studies, it seemed like the best overall fit. The university has an excellent academic reputation and is located in one of the most beautiful, livable cities in the world. While Edinburgh may not be as bustling and cosmopolitan as London, it is still culturally rich and international. It is also significantly more affordable and seemed like a city I could live in for a long time.

6) My boyfriend Andrew was the final push. The University of Edinburgh was the only school he applied to in the UK. We wanted to stay together and live in the same city, so we both chose to study at Edinburgh.

Overall, I am happy with my choice. There are things about the university I dislike, but no school is perfect. Do as much as research as you can before you apply and commit to a school, but remember any grad programme is what you make of it.

going off to uni for less?

December 4, 2008


George Square, University of Edinburgh

Photo by flickr user yellow book ltd

The New York Times recently published an article entitled “Going Off to College for Less (Passport Required)” on the recent trend of Americans attending university abroad. This article focused on American undergraduates studying in the UK, specifically at St. Andrews and the University of Edinburgh. While I agree with some of the points brought up in this article, it oversimplifies the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a degree abroad.

According to NYT writer Tamar Lewin, tuition at a university in the UK is cheaper than a top private university in the States.This may be true, but you also have to consider the fluctuating exchange rate, visas, cost of living and travel, financial aid, scholarships, job opportunities, and many other financial factors.

If you plan to return to the States after you complete your education, keep in mind it may be much more difficult to get a job. You probably won’t have the same advantage of alumni networks. This doesn’t mean you can’t find a good internship or job after you graduate, but you may have to work harder.

The article basically said that attending a university abroad, like St. Andrews, is an attractive alternative for Americans who can’t get into ivy leagues. While this may be true for some, there are many students who choose to study in the UK over the States because of the specialized programs of studies and international experience. This article also implied that Americans are able to get into prestigious British universities because they pay international fees, which are usually twice as much as UK/EU fees. This may be a valid claim, but it doesn’t mean that the Americans who are accepted aren’t qualified to get in.

As mentioned above, one of the reasons why Americans decide to pursue their undergraduate in the UK is because of the “specialized courses of studies”, which allow students to focus on their specific fields of interest and by-pass subjects unrelated to their interests. This system works well for undergraduates who have a strong grasp of what they want to study, but may not work for those who have no idea what they’re interested in studying.

Many Americans in the article discussed the value of international experience. However, being abroad does not necessarily mean you will have a more “international” experience. I have met Americans abroad who spend most of  their time with other Americans at global coffee-shop and restaurant chains.

Personally, I think my experience at the University of Washington in Seattle was just as diverse and international as my experience has been at the University of Edinburgh. University is international as you make it out to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge proponent of travel and study abroad, having lived on three different continents in the past five years. I just think people should be more critical about why they are choosing to pursue their degree abroad.

Cost, prestige, specialization, and international experience are all valid reasons, but your decision should go beyond this, especially if you are applying to graduate school. Your focus should be on the specific school,  program, and faculty, rather than the country.

In the next entry, I will discuss why and how I chose to study at the University of Edinburgh.