Harvard School of Education admissionHi guys! Here's the Statement of Purpose I wrote for Harvard School of Education. I plan to use the same essay in order to apply for other similar master programs, despite Harvard being my number 1 choice. I didn't have much time to plan and ask for revision, so I hope it's sufficient. But If it's not, I would really appreciate your help for future applications:
"That was brilliant!" - the teacher said, after I timidly raised my hand to indicate how what he was saying about virtual machines was related to human biology, while the whole class turned to look at me. There I was, a business graduate with no programming skills whatsoever, getting into an adventure to learn it from scratch. I was awarded a scholarship to one of the best coding schools in Latin America, through a fintech that invests in talented young females. Even though they decided I was eligible for the course despite not having any practical experience, I was still nervous. I couldn't help but to apologize in disbelief: "I... I am sorry, I didn't mean to change the subject". He gently smiled at me and said: "It's almost a sin to not give curiosity freedom to grow". His words had hit me like a punch in the face. While a part of me wanted to happily nod in agreement, another part, much more reluctant, kept me from picturing what seemed to be improbable. I've always been a curious, self-taught individual, unmotivated by school's restricted guidelines - why had I never realized that was an issue?
Although educational policy in Brazil has improved since I left school, its higher education system structure is still defined by a compulsory competitive entrance examination (known as vestibular) for a specific course of study. It is the sole entrance indicator used by universities to select admitted students, since the application process is not holistic. As a consequence, most Brazilians are taught at a very young age by their teachers, peers, family, as well as the media, that their ultimate goal to succeed in life is getting a good standardized test result, instead of learning through extracurriculars, with a window of opportunity, to develop into anything they love.
Back in my days, of course, I did not have such critical thinking. I was a quiet girl with a vivid imagination. Both my parents, but especially my mother who is a fifth grade teacher, were concerned that I had wider interests such as in arts, foreign cultures or community service that were not quite cherished at school. In order to reach their expectations, I was a worthy student with good marks. However, I also invested in spending my afternoons working on my paintings, sculptures and drawings, as well as devouring for hours my mother's book collection, and then writing stories about my favorite characters. Steadily my mind continued to evolve whereas my childish enthusiasm has always remained.
Right after graduating from college, my whole life was turned upside down, and I was convinced I couldn't bear it. On December 27nd, 2015, my father had a severe brain stroke. Doctors didn't give us much hope, as he was just lucky enough to be alive, with almost 70% of neurons on the right side of his brain completely vanished. The worst part was to witness his disability affect his identity. Hence I made the hard decision to take a step back in my career in order to fully dedicate myself to my family, they needed me. For two years, I was my dad's caregiver. The adversities I faced ultimately inspired the definition of my own values. In those difficult years, the most fundamental part of my development was built on resilience, in its purest form. As I learned to keep asking new questions, curiosity became an avenue through which I have connected with people, causes and even intellectual pursuits.
In 2016, while taking care of my dad, I became a volunteer for one international NGO called "Liter of Light'', which I unpretentiously found on the internet and became really interested in. It aims to bring light to communities that have no access to electrical energy with a simple technology, made with plastic bottles, solar panels, batteries and LED lamps. It's really cheap to build, yet the impact is astounding. It gave me a first-hand look at how a relatively simple idea and technology can change the lives of thousands of people. There are more than one million Brazilians living in the dark, so I devoted myself to pursue donations and sponsorships for our project. I can hardly describe my excitement when the most popular TV channel in Brazil exhibited what we were doing to enlighten communities in the Amazon.
It was as a volunteer that I began to discover the evident potential of passion-led learning. I remember the first community where we went to install our first light pole, right in front of one particular family's house. This 12 year old skinny boy came out and asked me if we could donate him some leftover material, since he learned how to build little robots by himself with cheap motors and random pieces his father used to find in the streets for him. Of course I was stunned, and for a long time, his words were in my head. He opened my eyes. I used to be the same skinny girl, trying to nourish her odd interests, but luckily born in a family with better financial conditions. I had no choice but filling out his application for an ISMART scholarship, which is an NGO that invests in talented young students from low-income families. He not only passed, but was allocated to a private school that holds field trips to robotics labs. I can't put into words how I felt the day he got accepted. Curiosity is a superpower any individual can possess, and that boy was his own superhero.
As I received my DevOps course certification in a virtual ceremony this year, I was reflecting on how much it changed me. Looking back, I can clearly see the difference between the 18-year-old girl trembling nervously while taking her vestibular test, glad she finally wouldn't have to memorize any more equations, and the same girl 10 years later, enjoying herself and feeling at home while learning new things. Similarly to what active learning can do in a machine, where the algorithm chooses which data to learn from and queries a teacher for guidance, I believe humans can build their knowledge base and improve themselves exactly the same way. Only two weeks later I participated in a Nasa hackathon challenge, where I learned how to code a game from scratch in less than 12 hours. And three months later I was starting a free mentoring program for other women interested in technology, where my goal was to employ my passion and curiosity into tools to improve the lives of other women like me.
Well, with all that in mind, I could not help wondering how much potential the Brazilian school system had been wasting along the way, not empowering students to take an active role in their learning experience, nor listening to their creative voices. In the book "Now You See It", educator Cathy Davidson says that 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don't yet exist. How can we anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements if we are not giving the space where students can have the freedom to tell what and how they want to learn? How can we create better learning environments that goes along with their naturally curious minds? Furthermore, would the impact of teachers be greater if they knew better who their students are?
Seeking to understand more profound answers to these questions, the Education Leadership, Organizations, and Entrepreneurship Master's Program at Harvard Graduate School of Education is appealing to me. I am excited about having an exceptional academic experience, getting more contact with cutting-edge research, and expanding my professional network. I want to learn, contribute, and share new ideas with outstanding experts like Elisabeth City and Timothy McCarthy, as well as with the diverse, engaged, and world-class HGSE student body, that are as passionate as I am to change the world. In addition, I look forward to customize my own learning pathway that best fits my interests and objectives - another aspect that sets the Ed.M. ELOE Program at HGSE apart.
Furthermore, I wish to pursue a graduate program that helps me become a high-impact and innovative leader in Brazil, as I identify in greater detail how extracurriculars, such as arts or social work, can create real value in and outside the classroom. I aspire to contribute to shape a future in which more Brazilians can learn and thrive according to their individual genuine interests. I believe that the HGSE can guide me through it all, as I determine whether I can best pursue these objectives as an entrepreneur, or whether I have greater impact in the classroom. More than anything, I want my professional achievements to be measured by the impact I make in other peoples' lives, in order to unleash their full potential. I'm confident that the Ed.M. ELOE program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education will help me unleash my own.