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Was it Jane Goodall’s In the Shadow of Man that changed my mind? How about the rush of excitement surrounding Earth Day in junior high? Was it my high school science teacher who revealed the truth about endangered species, habitat loss, acid rain, and ozone layer depletion?
When I look back and try to pinpoint the moment when I started to see things differently, too many events come to mind. I know that it did not happen in one day. From the time I saw David Suzuki talk on deforestation and our ecological footprint, to the time I euthanized my first litter of kittens because of pet overpopulation, my life has been a process of continual learning and discovery. Not all the lessons have been pleasant. Sometime while studying the harmful effects of large-scale farming during college, I realized that I needed to do more than merely recycle cola bottles, avoid aerosol cans, and make sure that my animals were neutered. I needed to do more.
This process of discovery began in rural Canada, where I spent the first six years of my life as an only child. My pets were my constant companions. I played make-believe not with dolls or with other little girls, but with the barn cats who were nice enough to tolerate the dresses and baby carriages. My sheep dog, Charlie, treated me as one of his flock, herding me from place to place as he saw fit. When my sister and cousins were born, they became part of my circle of friends, but Charlie and the other animals were never excluded from our games. I simply assumed everyone loved animals as much as I did.
My realization that this was not true came in the fourth grade when I witnessed a harrowing act of animal cruelty. Two older children with a sadistic streak tied one of my classmates to a tree and tortured his kitten in front of him. I still remember the description of the torture from the newspaper–the kitten’s eyes were gouged out, and he had sticks shoved through his body. I cried for weeks. I do not know what happened to the two boys, but I suspect that the incident was treated as yet another case of “boys will be boys.”
I have since encountered numerous other cases of atrocities committed against animals, especially through my work at an SPCA. In disbelief, I have witnessed the results of dogs being dragged behind snowmobiles, cats left out to freeze, horses starved to death, and innumerable puppies and kittens being thrown away like so much garbage. Determined to help stop the abuse, I became involved with activism and policy, assisting in fundraising and letter writing campaigns to protest the unfair treatment of animals.
While earning my B.Sc. in Agriculture, I learned that the family farm is an antiquated and outmoded ideal. Farming has become big business. The result of large-scale industrial farming is the overcrowding of animals in inhumane conditions, excessive antibiotic and pesticide use, and devastating clearcutting of the rainforest. Knowing that I had to contribute to environmental protection on a personal level, I made the decision to eat only free range meat. Limiting my meat consumption proved no easy task, particularly since free range meat is often hard to obtain in small quantities and is prohibitively expensive for most college students. Finally, convinced by the literature on animal welfare and the environmental movement, I decided to give vegetarianism a try. Giving up meat was perhaps the most difficult thing I have ever done, yet I knew that proper policy-making had to start with personal sacrifices. It took me two full years to master my cravings and become a lacto-ovo vegetarian.
Vegetarianism complemented my ever-increasing interest in animal rights and environmentalism. From the time I was a little girl, I have always known that I wanted to be a veterinarian. Nonetheless, my newfound concern for policy suddenly opened up several previously unconsidered career paths. At first, I found the abundance of possibilities daunting. Not wanting to take a year off school, I decided to enroll in a few graduate courses to see where they led me. After taking additional classes and time off to work and regroup, I finally came across a poster for a master’s degree program in Animals and Public Policy. I thought it was too good to be true; the program seemed to match my background, interests, and aspirations perfectly. I had no idea that such a program actually existed.
Although I have not renounced my ultimate ambition of becoming a veterinarian, I know that XXX’s program will allow me to develop expertise in an area that is personally important to me. My interest in animal welfare is not restricted to helping individual animals–I believe that I can complement my veterinary practice by opening people’s eyes and by helping them remember the wonder they felt as children when they saw their first giraffe. We have become dangerously blasé about the ecological diversity surrounding us, and I believe that, in order to preserve what is left, cases of animal abuse must be treated as serious crimes. By understanding and shaping animal welfare policy, I believe that I will be able to leverage my knowledge of veterinary medicine to make a powerful case in defense of animal rights. I believe that one person can make a difference, and I have no doubt that XXX’s program is the most efficient way for me to attain my objective.
“I cannot thank you enough for editing my essay. You took what I said, kept the same tone and modified it to make it sound great!! I will keep you posted on how I make out.”
The essay is colorful and comprehensive–I am impressed with your ability to enumerate your qualifications for a master’s degree while retaining a descriptive, engaging style. Your essay is packed with interesting details, and it was a pleasure to work on this piece.
Despite its comprehensive and engaging style, your essay did contain a few weaknesses. Your grammar and phrasing were awkward in parts, and a few of your transitions were too abrupt or were missing altogether. In addition, your conclusion was too abstract; you should always anchor your arguments in concrete detail.
In your note, you inquired about the desirability of giving a title to your essay. Titles are unnecessary in application essays, and admissions officials generally prefer that they be omitted. If you print your essay on a separate sheet of paper, I suggest that you simply include the question in italics at the top of the sheet.
Your revised essay is well within the word limit, and I have illustrated a few places in which you might want to add additional information to make your passages more concrete.
As for sentence level changes, I concentrated on refining your language, highlighting your most vivid and interesting ideas, and making the logic of your ideas stand out more clearly. I rephrased passages that contained slightly awkward English, eliminated phrases or sentences that seemed extraneous or repetitive, and varied vocabulary to render the text more lucid and interesting.
The following are specific comments on the individual paragraphs of your essay:
Your use of rhetorical questions is effective in this introduction, but I have reworked your original first paragraph to give it more style and verve.
I transformed two of your original questions into a statement, since having too many questions in a row makes the rhythm of your introduction uninteresting. By varying sentence structure, and by breaking up your first paragraph into two parts, I have provided a new introduction that is compelling and vivid without bogging the reader down in a swamp of interrogatives.
The description of your childhood connection to animals is strong, but I have shown how you can make the passage even more compelling. For instance, I suggest interjecting new details that cement your images into the reader’s mind. Here is one such suggestion: “My sheep dog, Charlie, treated me as one of his flock, herding me from place to place as he saw fit.”
You were missing a strong transition between the second and third paragraphs. See the transition I have provided.
The description of your developing social conscience is very effective. Nonetheless, I suggest slight adjustments to verbiage to make your points more powerful. Instead of saying, “I helped with fund-raising and wrote letters,” for instance, I suggest, “I became involved with activism and policy, assisting in fundraising and letter writing campaigns.”
You need to draw out the logic of why it is bad that farming has become big business. See the new sentence I have proposed which addresses the new ecological concerns raised by industrial farming.
You should add a word or two about the graduate courses you took. What did you study? I have streamlined the discussion of your indecision to avoid the impression that your interests were unfocused.
“Though I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian, my newfound concern for animal issues and the environment were pulling me in another direction.”
The logic of this transition sentence is not entirely clear. Your activism complements your vegetarianism, so I rephrased this transition to better highlight the synergy between your two activities.
Since you assert that your master’s degree will be useful in your eventual work as a veterinarian, you need to explain why. Apart from the obvious fact that through both activities you will be helping animals, it was not very clear from the original essay how you plan to combine veterinary science and policy. I have addressed this by connecting the two ideas with the following sentence:
“By understanding and shaping animal welfare policy, I believe that I will be able to leverage my knowledge of veterinary medicine to make a powerful case in defense of animal rights.”
Your original final paragraph was too abstract and dreamy. It is best to avoid waxing poetic at the end of your essay. Instead, I suggest ending your essay with the previous paragraph, ensuring that it concludes on a concrete and memorable note.
Congratulations on a great essay and on a very interesting career path. I wish you the best of luck in the admissions process.
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