Below is a copy of my graduate school personal statement. I have never been a great writer, therefore I would greatly appreciate it if you could briefly read through it and give me some tips/comments or corrections. I know it's a bit long, but perhaps some of you will find it interesting.
Over the next 50 years, we will have to produce as much food as we have in the previous 10,000 years combined. This is a statement I stumbled upon roughly one year ago on Bayer Agriculture’s website. Sitting before my computer screen reading this statement, my mind simply could not comprehend such a daunting task. I have always understood the importance of agriculture to civilization, but from that moment forward I realized just how much more important agriculture would be in the future. It also became apparent to me how important it will be to advance agricultural knowledge and technology so that we can produce enough food and fiber for the world’s growing population. I would like to be part of the advancement of agriculture, which is why I would like to further my knowledge of plant science by applying to a master’s program with research in agronomy at the University of Delaware.
My knowledge and understanding of plant production agriculture stems from my childhood. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a rural part of Maryland, where family farms range in size from just a few acres to more than 10,000; raising everything from cows to alpacas, and corn to blueberries. It is strange though, I did not grow up on a farm, nor has anyone in my immediate family; so how I ended up with such a deep passion for agriculture is something I cannot completely explain. As a child I always enjoyed being outside and playing in the dirt. When I got to high school, I still enjoyed being outside and playing in the dirt; therefore I thought it would be a good idea to take some agriculture classes. “Ag class” quickly became my favorite class in school, and I believe that my high school ag classes laid the foundation for my appreciation and knowledge of agriculture. As I was exposed to everything from basic animal and plant biology, to greenhouse production, to welding and mechanics, I quickly began to realize how complex, interesting, and encompassing the field of agriculture is. In conjunction with ag classes in high school, I became involved in the National FFA Organization. The FFA took my interest for agriculture to the next level as it allowed me to network with individuals in the local agricultural community.
As my high school years dwindled, it was obvious to me that I wanted to pursue an agricultural degree in college. However, I seriously considered other career paths, such as architecture or engineering—something office-oriented for the simple fact that it would be less physically demanding. The field of agriculture is not the most “handicapped friendly” field of work for someone like myself who has a physical disability. I can remember having this conversation with my father, and he was stunned when I informed him that I was leaning towards a degree outside of agriculture. He was surprised because he knew that I was truly passionate about agriculture, and he urged me to pursue it in my education and as a career. My father taught me to never allow my disability get in the way of my dreams and goals. Thanks to my father’s encouragement, and my family’s support, I decided to follow my passion and applied to the University of Delaware’s plant science program. To my relief and delight, I was accepted to UD, and I am glad that I decided to pursue a degree in agriculture. I would be lying if I were to say that it has been all easy, my disability has been an obstacle at times, but never a barrier. Given some time, along with a little improvisation, I find a way to work in the greenhouse, scout fields, and operate farm equipment, just as well as anyone else would.
Throughout my undergraduate career at UD I have worked very hard to achieve good grades and become more involved in the College and agricultural community. My membership in UD Collegiate FFA and the Alpha Gamma Rho agricultural fraternity has allowed me to volunteer and participate in many activities, causes, functions, and events in both the College and the surrounding agriculture community. Examples include: UD Ag Day, Agribility, Ag Issues Forum, and the Delaware Secretary Scholars Program hosted by Ed Kee, Delaware Secretary of Agriculture. The Secretary Scholars Program was particularly interesting, as it consisted of multiple trips to various locations throughout Delaware to highlight Delaware’s diversity in the agriculture industry. Mr. Kee organized the trip so that agriculture students could get hands-on experience and exposure to Delaware agriculture, rather than just reading about it in a textbook. As we toured Delaware, we stopped at places such as vegetable farms, chicken farms, dairy farms, grain farms, state forests, and even fish farms. At each stop, we got the opportunity to chat with the farmers, and as we talked, we all seemed to share and communicate the same ideas and concerns about production agriculture. This was particularly gratifying for me because it was further reassurance that I was in the correct field of work.
During my time at Delaware I have also been involved in many undergraduate research projects which will prove to be valuable experiences for graduate school. My first experience conducting undergraduate research was in Dr. Wisser’s lab. I first started as a seed technician for a maize breeding program. During my time on this project I helped sort, clean, shell, label, and organize maize seed, as well as assist in planting and plot layout of field trials. I also had the opportunity to work in Dr. Wisser’s molecular biology laboratory where I conducted research on lima bean DNA in an attempt to identify and develop molecular markers which could then be used to select and breed desirable traits into lima bean varieties. This was my first exposure to academic laboratory research and served as a valuable learning experience. I learned proper laboratory techniques and protocols, data collection and interpretation, as well as critical thinking skills. I have also been able to further hone my research skills by conducting multiple small-scale research projects under Dr. Taylor. While working with Dr. Taylor, I helped determine the practicality of new plant growth-promoting products available to growers. Such products included a soil innoculant, composted chicken litter, and an irrigation water conditioner system. As you can see, I have been heavily involved with research for much of my undergraduate career, which would prove to be useful experiences for research in a master’s program.
When I entered UD as an undergraduate student, I did not consider graduate school as a possibility; I thought that four years of studying plants would be enough, and that there couldn’t possibly be more information to learn and discover. But as I sit here as a graduating senior, I realize just how naive I was at the time. All of my undergraduate experiences have pushed me toward, and prepared me for graduate school. As a master’s student, I would like to conduct research related to some aspect of agronomy. Advancements in agronomy and cultural practices have made huge contributions to increasing yield, reducing negative environmental impacts from agriculture, and increased profit margins for producers. With advancements in seed technology, chemical technology, biotechnology, and climate change, research into new agronomic practices and techniques is needed in order to maximize production and mitigate the environmental impact of production agriculture. I believe that there is still much that we can learn from agronomic research, especially here in Delaware and on the Delmarva peninsula, where farmers are caught in a constant battle between maximizing production and minimizing their environmental impact. As a graduate student, I would like to explore some area of agronomic crop production so that it may be applied to the field and make production more profitable for the farmer and/or safer for the environment.
In addition to furthering my education and fulfilling my curiosity for advanced knowledge in agronomy, having a master’s degree will make me a distinguished individual on the job market. With the economy still scraping rock-bottom, employers are reluctant to hire new employees, and if they are willing to hire, they want people that have either experience or advanced degrees. With a master’s degree, I will stand out because I will not only have years of related academic and research experience, but also an advanced degree. Acquiring a master’s degree will put me one step closer to my career goal, which is to become an extension agronomist for a university or an agronomist for an agricultural seed, chemical, fertilizer, or co-op company.
With the impending population explosion within the next few decades, we will be forced to produce far more food, fiber, feed, and fuel from plants than we are even capable of producing in 2012. To add to the challenge, we are losing much of the world’s arable land, and in developed countries such as ours, we are losing farmers. So how will we produce enough food, fiber, and fuel to sustain the world’s population? The answer will be through sharing and advancing agricultural technology. Producing “…as much food as we have in the previous 10,000 years combined” seems like an impossible task, but I believe we can do it; we have no other option because the alternative is not acceptable. I am excited to see what the future holds for the field of agriculture, and I want to be part of its future. I want to be part of the advancement of agricultural knowledge and technology so that the history books 100 years from now do not mention a worldwide famine in the year 2060, instead highlight the incredible advancements which allowed us to sustain the world’s population, while at the same time mitigating the environmental impact of production agriculture. My innate passion for agriculture, educational background, and related work and research experiences have positioned me for success in graduate school. Therefore, I hope that you seriously consider my application for a master’s degree in plant science.