Personal Statements: how long should it take?


I attach this photo to every single personal statement I submit.
*Photo taken by Melissa Gruver


Draft 1

Esteemed colleagues thank you for visiting my weblog. Perchance would you give me but a fraction of your time to discuss a matter of utmost importance. Your personal statement.

Draft 2

Yo HoMiEs! WhAt’S uP? I wAs ToTeS LoLiNg aT mY fRiEnD’s Fb StAtUs AbOuT hIs TrAgIc PeRsOnAl StAtEmEnT!

Blogosphere… what’s good? As you can see I’ve been working on several drafts of this blog. I just want you (my audience) to understand who I am and why blog is worth reading.

Last year I wrote an awesome blog about the do’s and don’ts of letters of recommendation. You should check it out if you haven’t done so already.  It’s pretty helpful and well written (if I do say so myself). But this year I’m going to bless you with an awesome FTOD (that stands for Free Tip of the Day if you are new to the blog). I know this time of year many of you are working on personal statements, and you may be wondering what should the process look like. Well you are in luck, because the personal statement doctor is in with THREE, that’s right THREE FTOD’s.

First you should give yourself at least six weeks to complete your personal statement. Why six weeks? Because you want to give yourself plenty of time for re-writes. When I wrote my personal statement I gave it to several people to read and edit. Second, make sure your personal statement talks about you. It should not be a re-hashing of your resume. This is the only space for you to talk about your goals, dreams and desires. Finally, be authentic. Don’t try to anticipate the student the program wants and write a personal statement that aligns with that ideal. It’s not worth the time and effort. Instead think about yourself and what makes you unique and special. Write about that and I guarantee you will blow them away.


Rankings… what are they good for?

*Photo taken from Google

What’s good my faithful bloggers. I’m back with your FTOD. Today’s tip is about college rankings. But first a little lesson on college ranking systems.

College ranking systems became popular about 30 years ago, as higher education was becoming more of a mature industry. Prospective college students took on a more consumer in the marketplace orientation. In response US News and World Report saw an opportunity to provide a meaningful service at a modesty fee. Today millions of prospective college and graduate students consult it as the holy grail of college rankings.

However YOU grasshopper must remember one thing… and that is rankings are subjective. No matter how prestigious or objective the ranking system may appear it is subjective. It is subjective. Even the much venerated US News [which I think does a fair job of ranking graduate programs] has a flaw in the methodology.

What is the flaw? I’m glad you asked, ¼ of an institutions ranking is based on peer review. Essentially what they do is ask college presidents, provosts and deans to rank the top 100 programs and schools. What this means is that rankings are at base a beauty contest. So this brings me to my FTOD. And the tip is trust your intuition. Visit a school, talk to professors that teach there, grab coffee with current students and alumni of the program if possible. You will get a feeling about which program is right for you. Trust your instincts. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.

PS – Here’s some interesting information about your gut and intuition. Happy hunting!

BGSA Photoshoot [exclusive]

Check out these photos from the Black Graduate Student Association new executive board photoshoot. Enjoy! *All of the photos were taken by BGSA


PSA: Study Hard

Welcome back friends! It is a new year and I’m back blogging as an emissary again. To my returning subscribers you know the rules to the game, but just in case you are new to my blog let me give you all a quick rundown:

The first rule of my emissary blog post: Do not talk about Emissary Fight Club. The second rule of Emissary blog. Do not talk about Emissary Fight Club. The first (and only) rule of my emissary blog come by and see me twice a month for fun and educational insights on life as a graduate student at IU. As a bonus each post I provide sage wisdom in the form of my FREE TIP OF THE DAY. 

So to get the school year started off right here is your FREE TIP OF THE DAY in video form. And remember to study hard… cause closed books don’t get read on the boulevard [not funny? watch the video and you’ll get it].

Big ups to Workshop Houston* for empowering local youth to make positive music.

*Both the song and video were both produced and recorded by students enrolled in Workshop Houston.

Summer Time Fun

Picture taken by me at the Muhammad Ali Museum

Hey cyberspace friends. It’s me J.T. and today I want to tell you all a little bit about my summer. Last year I spent it working with the Upward Bound program and doing an internship at Texas Christian University (go Frogs!). This summer was a lot more laid back. I took one summer class and traveled around the Midwest. For the first time I visited Louisville. I took in the sights, by far my favorite place was the Muhammad Ali museum. I was unaware that the greatest boxer that ever lived was from Louisville. The museum is by far the best museum I’ve ever been to. The Muhammad Ali paradoxically both mythologizes and humanizes one of the most fascinating public. SO my FTOD (Free Tip of the Day) is obvious. If you are ever in Louisville visit the Ali museum. Much love! Peace.


Below are more photos of my Louisville vacay. Enjoy!


Hey friends… I’m back on the scene like Mean Joe Green. Trying to make the green with flows unseen… I hope you enjoyed my rhymes. When I get excited my friends and I like to do spontaneous cyphers (think Eminem in 8 Mile, but far less talented). I know you’re all thinking thinking “don’t give up the day job,” and you are probably right so I won’t.  But I wanted to have a little fun during this last week of classes. I’m very excited because summer is approaching and that means in a few months I will see some of your faces on campus and I cannot wait. The end of the semester can be a stressful time, but this year I hasn’t been too stressful. I think I may have hit my stride as a grad student. So in this short post I just wanted to hit you with my wonderful FREE TIP OF THE DAY. Today’s tip is simply don’t forget to have fun. This week will be full of opportunities to kick back and relax. Graduate and Professional Student Organization (GPSO) is having some great events this week like karaoke at the Bluebird and an all out bash at The Farm. I will update this post later on this week with pictures from the event. Until then friends be good to yourselves and each other. PEACE!

UPDATE 4/29/12

I didn’t take pictures at the Grad Bash or Karaoke, but I did record my friend Seth playing the Saxophone at the 40th Annual Soul Revue Concert. The footage isn’t the best but the solo rocks. He’s playing This is a man’s world by James Brown

We are Trayvon Martin

Today I had the opportunity to participate in a march to raise awareness and rally support for Trayvon Martin. It was amazing to see so many people out in support of this young man that was tragically gunned down a few weeks ago. People from all over the Bloomington community came out to stand in solidarity with Trayvon’s family and to stand against hate crimes in America. Sadly this case reminds me of the case of  Emmett Till. It’s a shame to think that 60 years later a black man can be murdered in cold blood on the streets at the hands of a white man with little reprocussions. We must do better. It is time for us to stand in solidarity against these injustices. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us that the perpetuation of injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We must stop the violence. Check out the stirring video below.

Life in Bloomington

Hey friends… I hope things are well in your world. My life is CRAZY right now, but I’m very excited. Why? The answer… spring is in the air. Yesterday the temperature was in the 60s and I absolutely loved it. (Side note: I’m a Texan so sub 50 temperatures are very cold in my book.)  Anyway with spring comes to important things. The first is the trees and flowers begin to bloom, and the earth becomes green and lush again. This city is absolutely beautiful. The second and more important event is my birthday! This year is special as I will eclipse the big three “o”.  So this year I have created a list of 30 things to do before 30. The first was to see a live music show in Bloomington. This of course brings me to my FREE TIP OF THE DAY. Today’s tip is should you decide to come to Bloomington take advantage of the live music scene. The city fosters a great live music scene with several great venues (see The Bluebird, Buskirk Chumley, and Jake’s). This past weekend I went and saw my friend’s band three story hill. They were awesome!!! Check out the clip below.

PS – Stay tune bloggers I’m contemplating sharing my list to see what you all think.

Putting the “F-U-N” back in Funding

What’s up friends! My fellow bloggers have provided several great resources on finding funding. My always magnanimous FREE TIP OF THE DAY will not rehash what’s already been said by my wonderful emissary pals, but rather it will be a single piece of common sense advice. So without any more un-necessary build up here is the FREE TIP OF THE DAY

The tip of the day is ask around, a close mouth doesn’t get feed. Talk with as many people as you can about opportunities for funding. That is actually how I got my assistantship at the Center for Urban and Multicultural Education (CUME). I let faculty in my department know my interest centered around issues in urban education and they connected me with the CUME.  I think Claire’s advice is right on. Do not get discourage keep your head up and stay on the academic grind. Eventually things will work out in your favor.

Finding a Faculty Mentor

What’s up team? My semester has kicked into high gear; but in the midst of chaos, I wanted to take a few moments to discuss a topic that is very important. The topic is finding a faculty mentor. Now let me say first that the procedure may vary slightly depending on your discipline, but there are some common themes that transcend your discipline. So I will share my story and then of course leave you with your fabulous FREE TIP OF THE DAY.

Let me begin by saying that you should already have a couple of mentors in your life, without them it will be very difficult to navigate the grad school process. For me I knew that I wanted to pursue a PhD in Higher Education and Student Affairs. The first thing I did was ask my mentor what are the good programs and what do I need to do to apply. He gave me a list of schools to research and somethings to look for in any program that I was considering. The process was several months longs; we went back and forth discussing the merits of each program.

Finally I ended up at IU… Currently I’m in the process of picking a mentor, and this leads me to my FREE TIP OF THE DAY. Pick a mentor as soon as possible. The easiest thing to do is talk with a faculty member who either shares your research interest or is doing work that you may be interested in doing as well. Remember that they are human and they enjoy and appreciate students that have a genuine interest in their work. HAPPY HUNTING!