Jump to content

For Physics Grad Students who are already accepted (SOP Question)


Recommended Posts

This is for existing Grad Students in physics who have already been accepted to their programs or are already attending:

 

What format did you choose to write your SOP in?  What I mean is, I know that a lot of people tend to write in the following way:

1 Story about their childhood/reason for becoming a scientist

2 Their research in under grad

3 Why this school

I've been wondering what format seemed to have worked for you.  I was thinking about cutting out the whole "personal story" thing and just focusing on previous research and what research I hope to do there. 

I'm not sure.  I'm curious to see what other people did.

Link to post
Share on other sites

In the first paragraph, you should mention what makes you stand out from the pool of applicants applying to that particular University, like your extraordinary skills/research experience/speciality/academic excellence, etc. I mentioned my passion evident from excellent PGRE score as well as my research experience.

The second paragraph should be all about motivation since childhood, such as undergrad life/some interesting coursework/olympiad or contest level study which motivated you to study and do academic research in physics.

In the third paragraph you should start describing your research experience in your undergrad life and how it shaped you.

Fourth may also be your research experience and publications if any. You may mention any leadership quality in research if you have any.

Fifth should be about why you think X University is a good match for you, like professor's name and your prospective independent PhD research topic.

Sixth should be about outreach or extracurricular activities.

Seventh, conclude your SOP. No need to summarize everything you said. Just write down what you feel like it. Search your soul and write down why you want to be a physicist and how X varsity will be a good match for u..

Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, Ternwild said:

This is for existing Grad Students in physics who have already been accepted to their programs or are already attending:

 

What format did you choose to write your SOP in?  What I mean is, I know that a lot of people tend to write in the following way:

1 Story about their childhood/reason for becoming a scientist

2 Their research in under grad

3 Why this school

I've been wondering what format seemed to have worked for you.  I was thinking about cutting out the whole "personal story" thing and just focusing on previous research and what research I hope to do there. 

I'm not sure.  I'm curious to see what other people did.

I have only been accepted to one physics school so far (a top 15/20, yet to hear back from another 7 or 8 more highly ranked), but I have spent a lot of time thinking/reading about this, and I think I have a handle on the principles of writing an SOP for a physics school. 

1. Don't write about a personal story unless it answers a potential question about your academic history (why did you take this year off? why are you switching subfields?), and if you do, make sure you write the minimum amount necessary to answer the question. Generally the chronology of your SOP should never begin before your first serious exposure to physics, which for virtually all applicants (>99%, I would guess) occurs after their freshman year. The crucial reason why you should not write about earlier experiences that sparked your interest in physics is that the only relevant information they convey is that you are passionate about physics research. But the committee will already assume this if you did research as a UG and are applying to grad school, so you are wasting space on the page telling them about something they have already assumed to be true. The exception, then, is if there is something in your UG career that might give them pause about your commitment. For example, I did not do research until after my undergrad, so I briefly discussed some reasons why not. But you should keep this short, and it possible, focus on why it might make you a better or more unique candidate. If you were originally a math major, for example, spend a sentence on how that helped you later in your advanced physics coursework.

2. The SOP is the only place where you get to talk about your research in your own words. What specific contributions did you make? Instead of "our lab discovered X abour Y" - something that can be gathered from an abstract - write "I built Z for W purpose, which was vital to A observation or B insight." Also talk about what you learned and, if possible, how it led you to your particular interests in your chosen subfield.

3. I think "what" is better than "why." What does the school offer? Its research labs! Find the ones you want to work in, and explain why. If you have the chance to make contact with PIs ahead of time and discuss some concrete future directions, definitely do that and feel free to write a few sentences per possible direction. Otherwise, it's probably best to briefly describe the topics that they are working on that are most interesting to you. If you have written a cohesive narrative about how your undergrad experiences shaped your interests, it ought to be clear why you want to work on these topics, but if it isn't, that's all right. Try to explain the source of your interests as best you can, but don't spend a lot of time on it. Sometimes things are interesting to you for reasons that are inscrutable, and it is very common to learn that you are interested in something else in grad school anyway. The point of this part is to signal your particular interests and show you understand what the department is working on. 

I also think it's good to write an intro that answers the SOP question very specifically - as in, what kind of research do you want to do here (CMT, biophysics, etc.) and what is it about this place in particular (interdisciplinary faculty, large theory department, good observing facilities, etc.). 

 

Anyway, bottom line, there's no need to swing for the fences. Write clearly and correctly, address your past and future research directions, and provide information that the admissions committee will find useful. Also, don't sweat it too much - it's hard to do something meaningful in this 2 page format, so focus instead on conveying information and writing well.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.