The Foreign Service Journal - December 2013 - page 60

in on one colorful experience that casts
your background into context. Generally, I
recommend the latter; talking about your
FS experiences in general doesn’t make
for as compelling reading as a specific
example does, especially if your writing
utilizes as many of the five senses as pos-
sible. Remember the prompt, however—
whatever story you tell must be “central to
your identity.”
■ Recount an incident or time when you
experienced failure. How did it affect you,
and what lessons did you learn?
Almost all members of the Foreign
Service community have experienced
failure, most often in communicating in
a foreign language or understanding the
culture of one’s host country. Essays based
on this prompt can run the gamut from the
comic to the serious, but should spell out
those “lessons learned” in the second half
of the essay.
■ Reflect on a time when you challenged
a belief or idea. What prompted you to act?
Would you make the same decision again?
This essay basically asks for a dem-
onstration of critical thinking, which is
a hot topic with universities these days.
Why? Recently many college professors
have noticed a decline in writing and
reasoning skills among their first-year
students. Again, living or having lived
overseas lends itself beautifully to the
topic of challenging a belief, simply
because Foreign Service kids are exposed
to other ideologies throughout their
■ Describe a place or environment
where you are perfectly content. What do
you do or experience there, and why is it
meaningful to you?
Again, a perfect “Foreign Service”
question. Describing a place where most
Americans have never been will instantly
set you apart from other applicants. Try
to be as specific as possible in choosing
this place, however. If it’s a library, for
example, make sure to play up what’s
different about it in comparison with an
American facility.
If you love going to a special beach on
The new Common App is also full of
glitches—some merely inconvenient,
others more serious.
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