The Four-Step Framework

6 minutes


Updated June 8, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Admitted by Soundarya Balasubramani. Written by an Ivy League graduate from India, this is the proven guide for students worldwide looking to pursue undergraduate or graduate study abroad in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Purchase for instant access to the guide and other exclusive resources—including sample SOPs, sample resumes, scholarship lists, and a private community with other readers.

We’ll walk through a four-step framework to help you construct your essay, and at the same time, write a sample one ourselves.

First, begin the story with your first encounter with the underrepresented community. Try to be as specific as you can with the details.

I was not expecting to walk out with a heavy heart when I stepped inside the Mahatma Gandhi Orphan Home in Trichy, India on July 22, 2018. I had gone there to assist my friend in conducting a class on chemistry for 20 ninth-graders. During a break, I was having a conversation with a teacher there when I heard the bad news. She told me that the students had thus far attended private schools thanks to numerous generous donations. However, the money had run out and they had no means to fund their high school and pursue education further. They were now reliant on a few part-time faculty and students from nearby universities to take one-off classes in lieu of proper education.

It’s very important to set the stage for a story. Be specific on the when, why, and how. Now that your reader knows the problem statement, you can move forward and talk about what you did about that.

I don’t know why that deeply disturbed me. I had always taken education for granted and never had to worry about not having enough teachers. Ironically, a lot of my schoolmates tried to skip valuable classes. And here I was, witnessing the opposite. It didn’t seem right. So I met my friend after a few days and asked if he would be willing to work with me to recruit more teachers. He eagerly agreed.

Within the next two weeks, we had found six others who were interested and passionate about this problem. The eight of us formed a voluntary teaching group named GnanDhaan (meaning to impart knowledge in Sanskrit). After a couple of meetings, we had enrolled all the students in the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) curriculum, which enabled them to directly write school-graduating exams without attending regular school.

For the next two years, we took turns to visit the students every Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.. Ten hours a week of our teaching was all they required to grasp the concepts and solve problems on their own during the course of the week. Aside from learning from us, they learned from, and helped, each other. We witnessed this when two copies of the mathematics textbook by R. D. Sharma was enough for twenty students. As weeks and months went by, the orphanage became our second-home.

The above (fictional) story is a powerful one. Finding a problem to solve is only the beginning. What you do about it matters so much more. So pick an instance from your past where you prioritized execution along with ideation. Don’t be modest in going into detail on the effort you expended to solve the problem.

Now comes the most important part: the impact you created.

Along with GnanDhaan, I was also part of the marketing team for our university’s annual festival. I used my marketing skills at GnanDhaan by reaching out to potential sponsors for my students. This involved coming up with innovative campaigns on social media, cold-calling potential leads, and even hosting a few fundraisers.

Now, it’s been more than 24 months since my first visit. I’m thrilled to say that all twenty of our students passed their tenth grade examination and have enough sponsorship to get them through to graduation. We just had a celebratory event a few weeks ago where the students thanked us by putting up a series of sessions where they taught us a new topic. It was a memorable day.

Finally, end the essay by connecting your experience to what the university can expect from you in the future.

I can tell you one thing with certainty after my experience leading GnanDhaan: I will never take education for granted. And, I will continue to help underserved communities get the same quality of education that I do, to the best of my ability.

I noticed that one of the clubs at Purdue is catered towards helping international students acclimate to the new environment by teaching them English. While I’m an international student myself, I have a pretty good command over English and would love to eventually be part of that organization. I’m positive that my experience with GnanDhaan will bring a new perspective to the table to help incoming students.

Writing an essay on diversity is all about expressing your personality and ideas.

Pick an experience that brings out those qualities.

We hope the framework laid out helps you take yours to completion.

Student Testimonials

I always knew I wanted to make the video. Many applicants ignore it since it’s optional in most applications. However, to me it was an opportunity to lend a face and voice to my statement of purpose and display confidence.

Content is not just the king; it’s the whole kingdom. What differentiates your video from a hundred others is NOT the visual effects; it’s what you say. Please do NOT say in plain words that you are a hard-worker. Narrate a story that convinces the viewer that you are a hard-worker. I also made use of props—Roti (flatbread) and Rubik’s Cube—because I was sure very few would do it. Do things that other people don’t usually think of doing. There is a moment mid-way in my video, where I turn to look at my degree hung on the wall and the camera moves with me. The point is: the camera is your friend. Instead of making the camera sit there passively, try innovative things and showcase your creativity.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth?”

A video is worth an admit.

—Aniruddh Menon, Dartmouth College

I had written several SOPs for the various universities that I had applied for in the U.S. and in Europe. None required a more unconventional and out-of-the-box thinking approach than the Diversity Essay and the Personal Statement Essay that I wrote for Purdue University and Michigan Ann Arbor, respectively. Initially, I thought that these essays would require little effort in comparison to the SOP that I had drafted so many times earlier. However, in order to stand out from the plethora of other applicants, I quickly realized that I need to put in a lot more effort.

Armed with the powerful tool of introspection, I carefully handpicked the encounters that I had with less privileged people in my college days and blended them with my own set of childhood experiences with people from different cultures. After writing and re-writing it a few times, I got help from a few of my seniors who proof-read it to ensure the message was coming across well. Was it a perfect recipe for success? Not quite, but it instilled in me a work ethic powerful enough to provide an impetus for my career over the next few years.

—Ravi Ramesh, TU Delft

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