Why Did You Do the Things You Did?



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.

This is a crucial question to answer, because this is not answered anywhere else in your application. While your grades and scores talk solely about outcomes, this question gives you an opportunity to justify them. This question can be used to explain anomalies in your application (such as a very low CGPA or test score) and/or walk them through your thought process during the moments you took an important decision in your career, such as choosing to work on a niche topic under a professor.

Understanding the reasons that led to something, accepting it gracefully and striving hard to get better, are all the signs of maturity, and top programs hunt for mature people. For something as basic as failing an exam, a mature person will always realize where (s)he is at fault. More than the ‘situation’ itself, the admissions committee is interested in the experience of it, how you overcame it and what you learned from the entire experience.Overseas Education Specialist at MINDLER*

If something changed the course of your career path, or you faced a hardship that influenced your future goals, this is the place to address that. Sai and I changed our course of careers after undergraduation. We studied core engineering (mechanical and chemical respectively) but then switched to a degree in engineering management which led to a career in product management. We understand the difficulty in writing a cogent essay, hoping the admissions committee will see where you’re coming from without having met you.

The best way to do that is to be honest in addressing your transformation.

Growing up, I was very close to my grandfather. When I was about 12 years old, he suffered a brain hemorrhage, resulting in retrograde amnesia. He couldn’t remember his family members or his own name, but could perfectly identify mistakes in Ragas when my mother sang, as he had been an Indian classical musician for many years. I wanted to find out how this was possible. This was the first time I started reading about the human brain. And, from this stemmed my passion for neurobiology… After graduating as valedictorian in both my high school and pre-university, I wanted to study life sciences. Being in India, where there is little interplay between life science and technology in undergraduate science courses, I felt that the best way to experience the synergy would be to study Biotechnology Engineering. I enrolled at the Department of Biotechnology at [university], which is one of the leading Biotechnology departments in India.

—Doctorate Student in Biochemistry

What Will Your Future Contribution to Society Be?

We know you have grand dreams you wish to realize one day. Show the committee that studying at their institution is the right means to achieve them. This goes back to the point of having questions that you want answered through your graduate school experience. If you’re hoping to become a biomedical engineer who wants to help paraplegics walk again, you need to find out the questions that your graduate school experience can answer for you: Can we use technique A to improve somatosensory reflexes by x%? What are the main causes of symptom B? What research has been conducted thus far at the university on topic C? Once you lay out your thoughts on the topic, don’t be shy in speaking in detail about your goals.

Each of us wants to leave this world better than we entered it. Why am I writing this book?

To bridge the gap between those who seek out quality education and those who can offer it.

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