Essay Application to USAID PRESTASI Scholarship


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

This essay was already submitted to USAID PRESTASI Scholarship program in correspondence to the author’s application to University of California – Berkeley for a Master program in Forestry.

The Essay

1) Briefly tell PRESTASI about yourself and comment on your perception of your strengths and weaknesses

Strengths : I am a person who is naturally curious and open minded. I like to learn something new to enrich my knowledge. I am a hard worker, I have strong motivation and usually finish projects with a good attention to detail. I have always push myself to reach my ambition. I have the tendency of continuously thinking on how to solve problems meticulously. Weakness: I have difficulty to remember something new. Therefore in order to regain my memory, I have always taken notes in my agenda regarding previous ideas or discovering new inspiration.

2) What challenges have you overcome in pursuing your professional development? What insights, perspectives, or skills have you gained in overcoming them?

Using paper through computerization and electronic devices are still rarely applied in the bureaucracy system. There is still strong hierarchy among seniors and juniors in my office. The main problem in applying this new system is the unfamiliarity with the paperless culture among the seniors. They do not realize that it has great benefit for our environment. It is becoming a new culture in the office called green culture. When we use paperless electronic devices, then automatically we are working efficiently. As young generation, I have initiated making an electronic mailing in order to communicate with multi stakeholders. Although email is widely used in many governmental institutions, but not in my office. As a result, it is proven to help my job becoming more effective and efficiently. Soon after the benefit of these paperless has gain major attention, my boss asked me to handle the communication system in the office.

3) Please describe an example where you demonstrated leadership skills in your work life or within your community.

I have led a team when we proposed for a research project funded by DIKTI. My experience becoming a leader was not easy. The biggest challenge being a leader was finding out on how to be a wise leader. A wise leader should have a good yet straight forward communication with the team, so there would not be any secret among us. I created a transparent work environment for my team. I do not want anybody to feel discourage in my team. I asked all member of my team to express their idea actively. That was part of my principal example in being a leader. I was astonished when our team finally won the tittle as the best Student Creativity Program of Research in 2010. As a leader I was extremely proud leading my group successfully.

Review from Andrego Halim

A. Content

Across all sections, author did not seem to give sufficient details and examples. Moreover, the flow of the sentences were often times disconnected.

1. First section

The prompt asked three sequential questions:

  1. Briefly tell PRESTASI about yourself

  2. Comment on your perception of your strengths

  3. Comment on your perception of your weaknesses

These types of questions should prompt a brief story of author’s life containing 2-3 major aspects or events, followed by some deductions and examples on how each of these built up author’s strengths and weaknesses. In the essay, the author went directly to step 2 and 3 by throwing in a list of adjectives related to strengths and weaknesses without giving background details, thus completely skipping step 1. As I read these adjectives, I’d be wondering if there was a specific situation where the author demonstrated “open-mindedness”. Or maybe there was a project where the author showed “strong motivation and good attention to detail”. Without concrete examples, the readers won’t be able to fully grasp the idea.

2. Second section

The author already mentioned that the challenge was on dealing with office politics and technically-challenged senior employees. Author also mentioned that “They do not realize that it has great benefit for our environment”. So is that how the author convinced them to proceed with this change? Or was there another factor that helped he/she won the politics? Not clearly stated here..

At the very least, the author should have a confirming statement which states that he/she was able to overcome politics by doing X, Y, and Z.  And from these X, Y, Z steps, the author can close off the paragraph nicely with the current ending on how he/she improved his work performance and how he/she was trusted with more responsibility.

3. Third section

Overall, I think the ideas on this section were fairly well-thought although they’re missing examples. What was this research project about? What were the examples of the difficult situation that the author went through with the team? Was the team able to cope with the situation smoothly or did the author need to take certain action as a leader?

It’s understandable that the author went with the guiding principles of openness that he/she enforced within the team with the reasoning on why transparency mattered. But perhaps the author could’ve elaborated more on a specific event that shaped such guiding principles. For instance, maybe a conflict happened in author’s past experience where his/her team didn’t succeed due to someone not being transparent? If it did, what exactly happened and what did the author learn from it?

B. Grammar

1. Tense

A lot of sentences do not use the correct tenses.

For example:

  • In the answer to second question, the past condition should’ve been described using past tense instead of present tense.
    Soon after the benefit of these paperless has gain major attention..”.
    In this tense, “has gain” should’ve been changed to “gained” since it already happened in the past.

2. Word usage

For example:

  • In the answer to first question: “Therefore in order to regain my memory..” gave an impression that the author had an amnesia.
    A better word choice would be “to retain/preserve new information…”
  • Complex and extraneous words should be avoided.
    In the answer to second question: “Using paper through computerization and electronic devices” is too wordy. This phrase can be replaced with “Technology”.


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