This is a part of our series ‘In Interview with Bhumija Rishi’ where she speaks to enthusiastic and passionate young people excelling in academic as well as non-academic spaces.
Divya Godbole is an incoming Masters student at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) for the session 2020-2021. A student with outstanding academic record throughout her academic career, she obtained the third rank in Maharashtra when she cleared her ISC Class Twelfth board examinations in 2017. She was also a rank holder throughout her graduation in Sociology (Honours) at the prestigious Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi University. Here she recounts her glorious academic (and extracurricular) journey.
Hi Divya! Congratulations on your admission to the London School of Economics and Political Science. I wanted to know deeper about the academic choices you have made – what made you choose Sociology at Lady Shri Ram and then developmental studies at LSE?
Sociology was one of my core papers in the twelfth grade so it was a natural choice to opt for sociology although I did want to pursue history at St Stephens but that didn’t work out. My Sociology professor in school was extremely motivating and helped us glean through the syllabus despite its many shortcomings. Having taken Humanities after grade ten and then studying a supposedly obscure subject such as Sociology in an already marginalised stream made me more eager to take it up in the future as well.
I have chosen to study Development Studies because it’s an interdisciplinary field. It has a strong sociological base but also focuses on history and political science. Since I didn’t want to pursue pure sociology, I thought this was the next best option for me. I am interested in issues of land alienation, impact of climate change on agrarian economies, and tribal welfare. Development Studies encompasses all of these subfields and is bound to give me specialised training.
What was the exact process of applying to LSE , especially the Statement of Purpose (SOP)?
As you will find on the LSE website, you require your transcript, recommendation letters, CV, and statement of purpose to apply. The application is a culmination of several years of effort in a specific direction. Having read through several applications, universities look at uniqueness that rings true and sincere. The best way to portray that is by sticking to your interests and not embellishing your achievements too much. Having a good rapport with your professors would also enable them to better write a recommendation letter for you.
The statement of purpose should be about you, your goals, and your genuine desire to study the course you’ve applied for. It is best to not lie and ‘bare’ yourself in a way to the admissions committee so that they are fully equiped to make an evaluation. I ensured that my language was succinct and clear. Using an overly complicated vocabulary can work against you and present a confusing picture. I was mindful of the word limit as well.
I should also caution that different courses have different requirements and procedures hence something that is valued for one discipline may not be for another.
Did you ever plan a career in civil services because most people with an enviable academic record such as yours usually tend to do?
I had come to LSR with these plans but along the way I realised that I needed to learn more in order to do something as crucial as join the administrative service. But I was also disenchanted with the way the Indian government works and that killed my motivation.
Being in LSR means that one cannot give anything less than a hundred percent to all the activities in college. The environment is competitive and challenging so one is socialised into giving their best. This meant that it was too daunting to keep up with college and also attend classes outside of it. This is, of course, a personal preference and I know of several batchmates who were successfully able to juggle coursework and excruciatingly long hours of UPSC classes. I appreciate their efforts and wish them luck but this way of working/studying is not my cup of tea.
Any particular tips you suggest to students who plan to apply to admissions abroad?
It’s best to have the utmost clarity before beginning the process. One can’t decide suddenly to undertake higher education abroad and hope to be successful without planning ahead. Like I mentioned earlier, the application is a representation of consistent performance. It is not a serendipitous product. It must reflect the seriousness of your pursuit of a discipline and any other interests. Colleges appreciate having students who are well-versed in a plethora of skills. Academic prowess is not all that matters but in the case of applying to LSE, having a minimum GPA of 7.5 is mandatory. Your application is unlikely to pass the first screening if you do not meet this condition. So do not listen to anyone who tells you that marks do not matter. Indeed they matter the most irrespective of whether you are sitting for college placements or applying for a master’s program.
You have applied to a program that deals with social welfare, so how much did your personal experiences of social service and volunteering influence your application?
I am not sure if it was the content of the social service that was important or if it was my experience with fieldwork that proved to have a bigger impact on my application. Showing that you’re willing to leave your comfort zone and gain practical experience means more than the specifics of your volunteering. Sociology in LSR comes with a mandatory two-week fieldwork trip to a town in India. The ability to glean information directly from the field rather than through textual sources was an important element of my application. I had also finished an internship in rural Rajasthan over the summer and had worked on the implementation of development policy during its duration. The experience I gained along the way helped me write my SoP. (Statement of Purpose). Apart from marks, it is the SoP which makes or breaks your application. It should be fluid, written in a narrative style with a touch of experiences that can boil down only to an individual level.
Tell me about the internships you did during college, how was the experience like?
I did a number of internships but I had the most memorable experience when I worked with Feminism in India, an online feminist media portal. I was able to engage several amazing women, think outside the box, write long-form, and also learn how to use WordPress. I also interned with Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan. This organization spearheaded the RTI movement in India and I learnt immensely from the rural citizens I met and interacted with.
What do you plan to do exactly once you finish your master’s course in development studies?
I don’t have anything concrete in mind so far but I’m quite sure that I will continue working closely within this field. I might continue with research and take an academic route but I still have a bit of time before I need to make a decision!
- Views expressed are personal and neither the interview nor The Manmarziyaan magazine endorses them in any manner
Manmarziyaan is looking to amplify the works of young people enthusiastic about their fields and interests. Connect with us on editors.manmarziyaan.com to be a part of this series as an interviewee.
Featured image designed by Haya Wakil