Essays: Stanford’s Master Program in Energy Resources Engineering – Petroleum


Indonesia Mengglobal Essay Clinic is our effort to provide tangible help for Indonesian applicants who want to study abroad. This essay clinic is not meant to showcase ‘the perfect essay’, but by analyzing other people’s essays (what works, what does not work, what’s good, what’s bad), we hope you can learn how to write an effective application essay and how to continuously improve your own essay. We also accept essay submissions. Click here to learn on how to participate!!

Note on the Essay

The essay will be submitted for an application to Stanford’s Master of Energy Resources Engineering Program 2015 under the question:
Describe in your statement of purpose:
– Your reasons for applying to the proposed program at Stanford and your preparation for this field of study
– Your research and study interests
– Future career plans and other aspects of your background and interests which may aid the admission committee in evaluating your aptitude and motivation for graduate study

You may upload one file; it should not exceed two pages in length, single-spaced.

The Essay

In a rapidly growing energy industry, notably oil and gas, where new inventions foster greater efficiency and unlock more opportunities lying ahead, research becomes more and more important. Encouraged by the fact, I have always been dreaming of being a part of that. Furthermore, I am excited to take graduate studies in Energy Resources Engineering at the Stanford University as it is supported by my academic Petroleum Engineering background, is relevant with my experience, and matches my ultimate goals.

I topped the first semester in mining and petroleum engineering faculty and consistently received Dean List’s Award (grade point above 3.5 out of 4) every semester in one of the most competitive major in my university. Striving for appropriate balance between academic and social / organizational life was one of my aims. I also joined some organizations, did voluntary activities in some particular events, and in 2011, I was elected as vice president of [Organization Name].

Past Research
My deep interest on research began when I was stepping third year as an undergraduate student at [University1]. Under supervision of Dr. [Name1] and [Name2], I researched on water coning intervention in bottom-water driven oil reservoir. The work was fundamentally a production optimization using proposed [Method] in [system] well. The rationale is that both water coning and reverse coning take sometimes before breakthrough, which in turns, could potentially be optimized by adjusting the rate. I developed a an equation which agrees well a broad range of reservoir properties utilizing numerical reservoir simulator. I frequently had on-line discussion with Prof. [Name] from [University2] and [Name], his doctorate student who had been working on pretty much similar topic. In March 2012, I presented my work at [Organization] Student Paper Contest and won the first prize. In the same year, I secured first runner up on [Organization] Student Paper Contest in Perth, Australia. The paper was also presented and has been published in Doctoral Forum held by [University3] attended by fellow student representatives across the world.

Working Experience
My first work-experience was a reservoir engineer intern at [Company1] in the third year where I worked on oil wells modeling, vertical lift performance evaluation, and a bit touching reservoir simulation for history-matching. Upon graduation, I joined [Company2] in a challenger programme as a petroleum engineer in a “Big Gas” Offshore [Field Name] asset. [Company2]’s well-developed training system exposed me to many latest technology advancements in the industry, complementing the fundamentals I learned in college. As a quick example, it introduced me to [Technology] which covers real-time integrated surveillance system and model based operational support which identify ways of enhancing performance and aid decision making. The experience has helped me to deepen my knowledge in well management, system optimization, and well modeling.

As a part of development, I served a one-year secondment in 2014 at [Company3] ([Company1] and [Company2] joint venture), which has a mature asset of on-shore oil and gas field in a complex deltaic depositional environment and had a responsibility in maintaining gas and oil rate from rapid decline (around 60% in 2013). I handled 47 oil and gas wells, mainly did potential zones identification, which requires understanding in well logs, downhole fluid sampling analysis (capacitance and amplitude) as well as geological-related matter (including structural correlation) by having a discussion with geologists. Then, I composed production strategy, of course, by taking well completion schematics and remaining potential zones into consideration and finally created step by step (in general) wellwork statement of requirements. In a very rapid and quickly-changing wellwork activities environment, it allows me to compare particular details in a program I proposed with the effect it resulted which enriches my technical sense. I was delighted when my first perforation program I created in the first month yielded [Result] of gas, relatively above average. Other tasks include candidate selection for optimization (gas lift, wellhead compressor installation, deliquification, etc) and short term production forecast. Also, being several months on the field under wellwork and intervention team taught me a valuable engineering sense and gave me a real taste of how the operation looks like. I do not see my exposure in the industry as a discomfort of doing research or preference on carrying out routine procedures; I see that as enriching and broadening effort in understanding the vastness of reservoir and petroleum engineering knowledge as well as recognizing the current limit at the same time.

Interest in ERE Stanford
Energy Resources Engineering Department at Stanford University provides an ideal research environment to further deepen and develop my interest. I am particularly impressed by some research being carried out by specific groups, notably smart field consortium. Having dealt with hundreds production wells in a busy oil and gas field, I feel that the impact of smart field application can be very significant. Being aware of the importance, I wish to explore and pursue greater depth of knowledge in these areas of uncertainty quantification and optimization strategies. I am also interested in unconventionals and geothermal studies. It is especially important for Indonesia, the country where I live in, that is struggling against its rising energy demand and waning oil production. The fact that it has great geothermal potential but lower than 5% are developed has come to my attention.

Future Plans
After graduation, I plan on enriching my skill as a professional in energy industry, especially in oil and gas or geothermal. I might also consider pursuing further involvement in research and keep PhD option open. In five years, I envisage that I will be an expert in such field, be contributing in important projects and I would like to assume more management responsibilities. Ten years from now, I would like to see myself in a management position. Ultimately, my long term plan involves developing my country in energy sector in either government institution or private start-up company.

I look forward to contributing on research as a graduate student at ERE Stanford. Given my background and experience, I am sure I am capable to make crucial contribution in such pursuits. I would be very grateful for any scholarship opportunities I could be taking. I cannot begin to tell you the many ways your scholarship will assist me as I pursue my educational and career goals.


Feedback from Josephine Elia:


Some of the best essays for college or graduate applications stand out because of their unique narratives. By narrative, I mean an overarching theme or story that ties the whole essay together, linking information about your accomplishments in a single, coherent line of thought. This narrative is what makes the essay distinctly you.

From this essay draft, I can see that the applicant has some distinct qualifications and achievements in the energy field. I can sense that the applicant is proud of his/her accomplishments at a young age. However, I am left wondering why is he/she interested in the field? What drives his/her desire to be an expert in this field? It is not enough to say that “research is important” or that “I feel that the impact of smart field application can be very significant.” What is it that makes you think research is important? What type of research is important? And why is smart field application significant at all? Spell these out, because an application to a graduate program will require more focus and specificity in interest than an undergraduate application.

A personal statement or statement of purpose should not only tell the reviewer what you’ve done, but also (and more importantly) who you are. Yes, the applicant has answered the essay prompts matter-of-factly, but this is not what the reviewer is looking for. Let me translate the prompts into points that you need to think about and answer in your essay:

  • Your reasons for applying to the proposed program at Stanford and your preparation for this field of study.
    The reviewer is looking for your narrative, your life story, the epiphany-like experience that makes you realize your “academic life-calling”, and how the Stanford program fits within that narrative. What brought you to this point in your life? What events/experiences shaped your academic interest?
  • Your research and study interests.
    It is not enough to answer this question by saying “I’m interested in XYZ.” This reviewer wants to know, what kinds of questions pique your mind? What keeps you up at night? What problems do you want to solve, and what is it that motivates you to get up and work each day? The question is not concerned so much about what you’ve done, but rather, from your previous experiences, what important problems have you identified? What problems inspire your search for solutions?
  • Future career plans and other aspects of your background and interests which may aid the admission committee in evaluating your aptitude and motivation for graduate study.
    This question is not necessarily asking what career ladder you want to climb in the future, unless those things are indeed who you are and your passion in life. Why do you want to be an expert and why do you want to be in management? Deeper reasons are required. The reviewer wants to know if you have long-term dreams, a big picture for your career, and if there are other aspects that your career may touch. For example, you may want to advance your career in engineering but you also may have a passion in inspiring younger generations to pursue engineering skills to solve real and important problems. Or, what does your career mean to your country, family, etc.? Remember that these elements need to be present throughout the essay narrative, not introduced as a surprise at the end of the essay.


The way to answer these questions genuinely and authentically is to do personal reflections on your life and your experiences. Take time to think about this, not just for the essay, but for yourself. Then, answering these questions will become easier. The more authentic the essay is, the more impactful it will be for the reviewer.

There are a few points that the applicant should take a deeper look at:

  • The research accomplishment and competitions that the applicant won as an undergraduate student – how did these impact him/her as a person and shape his/her academic interest?

  • From the applicant’s work experiences, are there real-world problems that he/she identified that, if solved, can have a major impact economically/environmentally to the company or to the world? What questions arose from working hands-on in the field?

  • Look deeper into the specific research questions that the department does and link them with point 2.

Cutting back

The essay prompt states that a maximum of 2 pages, single-spaced, is the limit of the essay. The applicant should abide by this limit and shorten the essay.

More importantly, the applicant should only highlight the experiences that matter the most in his/her personal development. There’s no need to explain every single experience, since the resume/CV should serve this purpose already. Remove tangential facts, like the participation in a student organization. The interest in geothermal also seemed tangential to the main thread of the essay.

This current essay draft looks like a repository of accomplishments for the applicant. What the applicant should do next is to set this aside and start fresh with a personal narrative. Then, only pull out the key events from the repository that advances the narrative and bring him/her to the point of applying to Stanford.

Photo: A Gulf Oil Rig from Wikimedia

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