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tomatotomahto

SoP/Personal Statement Specificity

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Does anyone have any insight into how specific your SoP needs to be for each program? I've spent a lot of time agonizing over the rhetorical 'flow' of my personal statement. I don't want to re-write it for each application, although I (of course) will if I need to. Is it necessary to mention the school you're applying to by name? What about the mentor you're applying to? 

I reached out via email to most of my prospective mentors, and was met with either 1) a surprisingly enthusiastic and nice response or 2) no response at all (which is understood; I expect they get hundreds of identical emails). However, armed with this knowledge, should I mention the mentors who responded to me by name, given that it seems like they're already interested in me? 

Edit: This is regarding Clinical Psych PhD programs. 

Edited by tomatotomahto

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Your SOP should do a few things:

1. Outline your specific research interests 

2. Explain what skills you have to make you successful in graduate school 

3. What experiences you have that make you a good fit for this program

4. What about this program specifically stands out as being a good fit for your interests. 

1 and 2 are pretty standard, 3 requires some tweaking per essay, and 4 should be unique to each essay. You can essentially create an SOP where certain paragraphs are the same and others need some adjustments or need to be swapped out entirely. 

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Agreed with the above.

Your SOP can have similar elements across applications but should absolutely be tailored to each program. Something else to keep in mind is that each program might specify something different that they want in a SOP (some have strict word lengths, some have a detailed outline, some are very general). You want to make sure your SOP for each program fits what they are expecting.  

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16 minutes ago, McMurphy said:

Agreed with the above.

Your SOP can have similar elements across applications but should absolutely be tailored to each program. Something else to keep in mind is that each program might specify something different that they want in a SOP (some have strict word lengths, some have a detailed outline, some are very general). You want to make sure your SOP for each program fits what they are expecting.  

 

1 hour ago, PsyDGrad90 said:

Your SOP should do a few things:

1. Outline your specific research interests 

2. Explain what skills you have to make you successful in graduate school 

3. What experiences you have that make you a good fit for this program

4. What about this program specifically stands out as being a good fit for your interests. 

1 and 2 are pretty standard, 3 requires some tweaking per essay, and 4 should be unique to each essay. You can essentially create an SOP where certain paragraphs are the same and others need some adjustments or need to be swapped out entirely. 

Thanks both. 

Is it the convention to mention 1 specific faculty member by name? 

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On 9/8/2019 at 5:17 PM, tomatotomahto said:

 

Thanks both. 

Is it the convention to mention 1 specific faculty member by name? 

Yes. As others stated, some may require you to list up to 3 AND explain why they would be a good mentor for you/how their research interests align. I created an excel that outlined the specific requirements of each SOP. They ranged from 500 word limits to 1500 word limits so it’s nice to have it all in one place. Also, if you don’t mention the school by name and make it clear why THAT program over the others, you’re looking at an application in the trash. For example, my current PhD program has a diversity minor and a quantitative methods minor so I mentioned the diversity minor in mine and why that’s appealing to me, etc. It should be clear you did your research on the program. It’s tedious but necessary. 

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My recommendation (having applied to 10 schools now 3 years ago lol): make a template SOP with the things you won’t change between application (e.g., details about you and your training) in black, normal text. Then, write out placeholders for program names, PIs, details about how you relate to them in bold red text. This really helped me not mix up a lot of programs that, on the face, felt pretty similar even when writing something specific about them. 

 

 

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34 minutes ago, Clinapp2017 said:

My recommendation (having applied to 10 schools now 3 years ago lol): make a template SOP with the things you won’t change between application (e.g., details about you and your training) in black, normal text. Then, write out placeholders for program names, PIs, details about how you relate to them in bold red text. This really helped me not mix up a lot of programs that, on the face, felt pretty similar even when writing something specific about them. 

 

 

This is pretty much exactly what I did as well.

Also, to answer the other question. Yes, you want to, ideally, list multiple faculty you have interest in working with and why. Schools like when you can fit with at least 2 faculty. Things happen. Funding may dry up, personalities may clash, etc. Having more than 1 person you can work with increases the chances that you don't become stuck if something doesn't work out with your 1st choice and you potentially bail (drop outs can look poorly on the program if they happen often, and each PhD student costs the university money and and time investment, so they want some extra insurance that their investment in you is worth the expense). 

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I applied to 8 fully funded PhD clinical psych programs and ended up with 6 interviews. I attended my first interview in January, got accepted, went to one other interview, and canceled the remaining four. 

Several folks in this thread suggest describing your fit with more than one faculty member per program, and I did not do that for any of my applications. It actually would have been quite impossible without sacrificing what I'm actually interested in. Program faculty are generally assembled in such a way that research interests between individual faculty are disparate, so to be able to have a good research fit with more than one faculty is to have broad research interests (which is sort of antithesis to a PhD program). Programs may request that you describe fit with more than one faculty, of course, but if they do not, I would highly advise against doing so unless you can genuinely defend your reasons for choosing the second or third faculty member.

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In my last round of applications, I talked a few students who were given interviews by their 2nd choice but not their 1st. If there is genuinely a good research fit between you and several faculty members, I would suggest listing all of them rather than one specifically in order to increase your chances. Sometimes you might find that your 2nd or 3rd choice is actually a better fit than your 1st choice!

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Really appreciate all the advice here! 

Currently, I have about 1.5 pages (double spaced) about my experiences and how they have led me to develop research interests. 

I am planning to add a long paragraph (or 2 short ones) about specific faculty members and programs at the end of my statement. 

Is this advisable? Would you suggest leading with faculty fit? 

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12 minutes ago, tomatotomahto said:

Really appreciate all the advice here! 

Currently, I have about 1.5 pages (double spaced) about my experiences and how they have led me to develop research interests. 

I am planning to add a long paragraph (or 2 short ones) about specific faculty members and programs at the end of my statement. 

Is this advisable? Would you suggest leading with faculty fit? 

I recommend that you give this document a read: http://mitch.web.unc.edu/files/2017/02/MitchGradSchoolAdvice.pdf  He talks about SOP and answers several of your questions posted here!

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