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SOP mistakes: what to avoid


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114 replies to this topic

#101 zahrakhalid

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Posted 19 January 2014 - 01:13 PM

Here is a great resource on some good personal statements!

http://www.brightlin...onal-statement/


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#102 kimozabe

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 06:23 AM

Guys read this : http://honors.tamu.e...Frustration.pdf

 

MajorityMinority posted this a few months ago, but WOW! I can honestly say this will help me clear up my SOP. Read it! Digest it! Use it!

this link is broken :(

does anyone have the file or an updated link? google search has proven futile. 


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#103 jimmyjjohn

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Posted 22 January 2014 - 11:19 AM

I wish I did that. I thought my transcript would reflect it, but it didn't. In fact, my transcript didn't even list both my majors! I almost cried when I saw a scanned copy of it. (My school doesn't give them to students, they mail it out themselves). It didn't say what professors taught which classes or anything. It looked awful.


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#104 themmases

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 05:47 PM

this link is broken :(

does anyone have the file or an updated link? google search has proven futile. 

 Found it! It's here: http://hurapps.tamu....Frustration.pdf


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#105 Crucial BBQ

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Posted 04 August 2014 - 06:07 PM

I just had a professor who sits on admissions committees look over my SOP.

My introduction was talking about how I liked to go to museums as a child and was fascinated by the ancient world. He said that starting out like this is a huge mistake. Obviously if you are applying to study archaeology at the graduate level, it's pretty much assumed that you're fascinated by the ancient world and probably enjoy museums. But so do lots of people. What makes you unique. Attempt to illustrate your passion for the field without really telling some kind of silly story about your childhood. This is also an approach that many people take, and if you really want a strong SOP you'll find a better, more mature, and more creative way to say it.
 

This may be acceptable to some programs but in general starting out with an anecdote is a no-no. 


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#106 wetheplants

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Posted 04 December 2014 - 11:09 PM

The DGS at my undergraduate institution said to be extremely leary about mentioning names of faculty members because often they'll get applications and either (1) The person is dead/retired (2) The person doesn't work with grad-students so it wouldn't make sense. Of course there are some applications I've filled out that specifically ask you to mention what professors you could see yourself working with.

So I guess the rule of thumb would be do it if they ask you to, or if there is a scholar whose work you're very familiar with and see your own work as contributing to similar critical debates it can't hurt to mention them, but if that's the case they would probably realize that such was the case without you mentioning them.

Botton line, error on the side of caution!

I'm working on my application to Cambridge right now and there's an optional section on the application where you can specify profs you'd like to work with. Any thoughts if I should be doing that (and contacting people?) or skipping it? I mean, there are like 4-5 faculty whose work would go nicely with mine, I just feel weird picking one person randomly. I wouldn't want to offend someone who I didn't pick.


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Admitted: University of Chicago (MAPH), University of Virginia (MA), St. Andrews University (M.Litt), Boston College (MA ~ fully funded!!!), Dartmouth College (MALS)
Rejected: - Cambridge University, Oxford University
Waiting: Columbia University
Going...???


#107 wetheplants

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Posted 04 December 2014 - 11:10 PM

Guys, any thoughts on what I should be focusing on in a 500 word SOP?? It's so short! And it's for Cambridge in the UK. Any differences I should be keeping in mind...?


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Admitted: University of Chicago (MAPH), University of Virginia (MA), St. Andrews University (M.Litt), Boston College (MA ~ fully funded!!!), Dartmouth College (MALS)
Rejected: - Cambridge University, Oxford University
Waiting: Columbia University
Going...???


#108 JoePianist

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Posted 04 December 2014 - 11:50 PM

Guys, any thoughts on what I should be focusing on in a 500 word SOP?? It's so short! And it's for Cambridge in the UK. Any differences I should be keeping in mind...?

 

The way I approached my rough draft SOP was to ignore the word limit and type my essay using the general guidelines from sites people have suggested on this forum. I also made sure to include the most important strengths about myself. After that, I went back and cut away any extraneous materials (e.g. needlessly lengthy introductory phrases; passages that repeat main ideas I had mentioned earlier in the essay). If my essay still was over the word limit, I would go through the process again and concentrate on how I can isolate the most important main ideas in a more succinct and shorter way. 

 

Also about choosing faculty members for your grad program, you'll just have to do your research into each processor in the program whose interests match yours. It might be a bit late in the game to contact these professors, though, especially from a prestigious university like Cambridge. What kind of program are you applying for?


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#109 wetheplants

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Posted 05 December 2014 - 01:25 AM

The way I approached my rough draft SOP was to ignore the word limit and type my essay using the general guidelines from sites people have suggested on this forum. I also made sure to include the most important strengths about myself. After that, I went back and cut away any extraneous materials (e.g. needlessly lengthy introductory phrases; passages that repeat main ideas I had mentioned earlier in the essay). If my essay still was over the word limit, I would go through the process again and concentrate on how I can isolate the most important main ideas in a more succinct and shorter way. 

 

Also about choosing faculty members for your grad program, you'll just have to do your research into each processor in the program whose interests match yours. It might be a bit late in the game to contact these professors, though, especially from a prestigious university like Cambridge. What kind of program are you applying for?

Masters in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. They don't seem to be too fussy about contacting people on their web pages. Their page for admissions (includes the PhD program too) says "Please note that although prospective graduate students may wish to look at the list of faculty members' research interests before they decide to apply here, supervisors aren't appointed until after the candidate has been accepted and can't appoint themselves to supervise a project in advance."

 


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Admitted: University of Chicago (MAPH), University of Virginia (MA), St. Andrews University (M.Litt), Boston College (MA ~ fully funded!!!), Dartmouth College (MALS)
Rejected: - Cambridge University, Oxford University
Waiting: Columbia University
Going...???


#110 artsy16

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Posted 21 May 2015 - 03:10 AM

Reviving this thread instead of posting a new one...

 

I'm conflicted on whether to include a short addendum about my first year grades. I know this is something often talked about, but in the fall of my freshman year I suffered a concussion from sports that severely impacted my grades. This was also on top of me choosing the "wrong" major, and being miserable/ill-suited also negatively impacted my grades. Sophomore year I switched and performed much better, although today, as a rising senior, I still experience effects of the concussion (mild, really annoying temporary memory loss episodes). I was thinking of spinning the concussion as a learning experience - that because the injury occurred a couple weeks into school, I should've withdrawn and waited until I was better. Although I was able to get through the year, it really wasn't a wise/mature decision to keep going, which undoubtedly slowed healing. 

 

How does that sound? I'm worried about adcoms thinking that my concussion might negatively impact my graduate school performance (but i got mainly As and B+s after the 1st year of undergrad). Maybe it's a silly worry.


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Tentative List: UTxH, UNTx, WUSTL, SLU

#111 artsy16

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Posted 27 May 2015 - 04:01 PM

Bump :)
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#112 scarvesandcardigans

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Posted 27 May 2015 - 04:24 PM

Reviving this thread instead of posting a new one...

 

I'm conflicted on whether to include a short addendum about my first year grades. I know this is something often talked about, but in the fall of my freshman year I suffered a concussion from sports that severely impacted my grades. This was also on top of me choosing the "wrong" major, and being miserable/ill-suited also negatively impacted my grades. Sophomore year I switched and performed much better, although today, as a rising senior, I still experience effects of the concussion (mild, really annoying temporary memory loss episodes). I was thinking of spinning the concussion as a learning experience - that because the injury occurred a couple weeks into school, I should've withdrawn and waited until I was better. Although I was able to get through the year, it really wasn't a wise/mature decision to keep going, which undoubtedly slowed healing. 

 

How does that sound? I'm worried about adcoms thinking that my concussion might negatively impact my graduate school performance (but i got mainly As and B+s after the 1st year of undergrad). Maybe it's a silly worry.

 

I learned that any chance to talk about why there are some not-so-satisfying grades on your transcript should be discussed. You could talk about the positive change you felt after you finally found a field you enjoyed and had the chance to take the start of an academic year from a, let's say "healthier" perspective. I would note that the concussion/difficulty allowed you to see your potential and gave you an opportunity to grow/learn about yourself as an academic during stressful situations. 


Edited by scarvesandcardigans, 27 May 2015 - 04:25 PM.

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Attending: North Carolina State University. Go Pack!

 

 


#113 knp

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Posted 27 May 2015 - 04:26 PM

1) Do any of your professors know about it/might mention it? If we're talking Fs with the occasional D, you might want them to get it in their letters. If we're talking Cs—well, who doesn't have a few rough grades at the start of college?

2) What's your major GPA? If it's good, that is an extra reason not to apologize for your grades outside your major, in a field you realized was not right for you.

3) It doesn't sound like you want to disclose the continuing side effects—is that right? In that case, I don't think I would mention the concussion in particular. It doesn't sound like something admissions people needs to know.

 

Regardless, I might still have a half a sentence somewhere in the middle like, "After a rough start to my undergraduate career...". I definitely wouldn't have an "addendum" at the end, leaving that as the final "note" the admissions people are thinking about you with. Finish strong!


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"Okay, you could take a class on the Civil War."

"Why would I take a class on something that's already happened?


#114 knp

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Posted 27 May 2015 - 04:28 PM

Ah, I see we've cross-posted. I don't think you have to disclose. I probably wouldn't, because I'm pretty a private person. Scarves has a good point about why you might want to, and I think that the way they've presented it makes sense, if you feel like it's an important part of your story. But I still think that if you include it, do so in the middle; don't end on that note.


Edited by knp, 27 May 2015 - 04:29 PM.

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"Okay, you could take a class on the Civil War."

"Why would I take a class on something that's already happened?


#115 artsy16

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Posted 27 May 2015 - 06:56 PM

Thanks to you both!

I'm applying to public health programs and they have specific requirements for what should go in the SOP and what should be an addendum. Explaining things like poor grades should not be in the SOP, or else I would mention it tactfully in there. I can think of a few ways to insert just a sentence or two in the SOP while staying on topic, though. I'll consider that more when I get to work on SOPs.

When my GPA is calculated for applications using SOPHAS it'll come out to a 3.5-3.6. My school doesn't include study abroad credit in your GPA and I have a handful of As from summer study, so my transcript GPA is lower than what schools will be considering. They also focus on last 60 hours or so which would be soph/jr years for me and that's when my GPA really shot up. I know that people generally have rough times during their freshman year, but I feel especially frustrated because it wasn't something I could control and not due to usual tough life adjustment (I was fine in that area).

I'm mainly nervous because I took science & quant classes that year that are pre-reqs or "strongly preferred" for my graduate program.

Continuing side effects are minimal and don't affect my academics-I would say they affect me socially more than anything (like forgetting a professor/advisor/close friend's name temporarily in the middle of a conversation). None of my professors know about it except the ones in the department I was in at the time the injury occurred and I won't be using them as references.

Edited by artsy16, 27 May 2015 - 06:58 PM.

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