Name one current issue (economic/social/political) that Asia is facing and identify a couple of strategies that you think may address the issue. (300 words)
This is a tricky one, but a fantastic opportunity. Let’s consider this carefully. There are a lot of smart people out there. In fact, consider the last twenty years. Consider how many folks have assessed the problems of the day, and attempted to solve them. Do you really think that you’re either (1) the first person to have noticed whatever problem you’re noticing, or (2) that you’re smarter than everyone else who came before you?
As you’re identifying problems that intrigue you and compel you to want to get involved, it can be useful to imagine that you’re not the first to notice, nor the smartest person ever to have attempted to make a change. Why? Because it forces you to grapple with the COMPLEXITY of the issue, not to oversimplify, and to try to imagine where others (with the same passion to solve the problem, and similar or higher brainpower devoted to solving it)… have gotten stuck. This is key. It shows (1) humility, (2) resourcefulness, and (3) a problem-solving state of mind, AS OPPOSED TO a more lazy, arm-chair critic approach to solving big problems with easy-sounding solutions. Anyone can do that, right? Don’t be that guy. Be the guy that is humble enough to anticipate stronger headwinds, and is more interested in figuring out ways around those headwinds, than lovely-SOUNDING solutions that are ultimately meaningless.
With that in mind, we recommend the following as a smart approach to a FIRST draft:
Part 1 – Establish a problem that stirs you profoundly. Don’t just pick a problem that’s meaningful to others, make sure it’s meaningful to YOU in some way. It’ll only help your argument. What really bothers you? What is some kind of status quo you’d like to see changed? Perhaps some kind of social inequity? Or some kind of injustice? Whatever it is, it has to be something that you find yourself passionate about when you talk about it. State the problem, state what you believe the desired outcome is of those trying to SOLVE this problem, and state what is happening INSTEAD of that successful outcome.
Part 2 – Now, take some time to surmise what you believe is preventing those who are trying to solve this, from succeeding. In the case of “no one is trying to solve this” … explain why you believe that to be the case as well. Is there friction for those who may believe what you believe that’s preventing them from getting involved? Remember, it can’t be that “you’re the first to have noticed,” it’s just too unlikely. So, there must be a reason (generally) that significant progress isn’t being made. Explain it here, and be as thoughtful and measured as you possibly can. Give the benefit of the doubt that some are trying, but try to explain what headwinds are in their way. In other words, establish the real “hurdles” here.
Part 3 – Now, finally, take a crack at suggesting two or three possible ideas that might make the difference between progress and lack of progress toward some kind of success, and why that would be the case. Is it that no one has thought of these ideas? Or that your solution for executing them would require a different way of thinking about things? Whatever it is, it will behoove you not to come across as the only person to have thought of this; where you have a shot is being the first person to have thought through the solution as THOROUGHLY.
This means, extrapolating outcomes, suggesting practical backup plans, and building detailed action plans for specific goals. Show us that you haven’t just closed your eyes and thought of a simple solution that’s easy to imagine but hard to execute, you’ve actually thought about what EXECUTING it would require. Your plan will sound smarter if you don’t claim to be able to solve the whole thing in one shot, but perhaps you’ve established smaller goals as preliminary, necessary first steps toward a larger objective. Pragmatism will always prevail here. Being sensible. This usually comes down to how DETAILED your plan is. The reader should say at the end “wow, this person has clearly thought this through from every angle.”
You can also read through our team’s analysis of the rest of NUS’s application essays.
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