Creativity Valued? - Statement of Purpose, Personal History, Diversity - The GradCafe Forums
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Creativity Valued?


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Are SOPs supposed to be dry, extended versions of a cover letter? Basically going into technical detail of your accomplishments, your future research goals, and your fit?

Or are should you try to frame your SOP in a creative manner, like an undergraduate personal statement (i.e. story format, funny anecdote in the intro)? Is there any room at all for some creativity or whimsy here, or is this just supposed to be a professional, serious, albeit dry, statement?

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I wrote something that I thought was passionate, beautiful, and witty, sent it off to my advisor to look over, and got this:

I also think it is a bit dramatic. In fact, the whole essay tends to be a bit dramatic. You need to tone down the writing a bit. Social science writing tends to be a bit more dry, and you will come off as more desirable if you can write in ways that they are familiar with. (I know I told you to convey passion. The trick is to do that without phrases about your "head buzzing" or you having a "perpetual list" of question.)

My reaction was like <_< then I was all :unsure: and then I was all O.K.

This isn't to say that you should "dumb it down" or make it DRY. It should still be nice to read, but just cut the crap. No cute anecdotes. Don't try to make them laugh. Just give tell your story.

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I'd also say - no fluff.

Some professors might not appreciate unprofessional writing, which can sometimes seem immature, and could be put off. Your SOP should be serious, it expresses some of your strongest passions--what you hope to study for at least 5 years and hopefully still do for many years to come after that. The SOP will be easier to read, and will make a better impression, if it will be written in the language and style that is standard in your field.

Aside from that, I think it'd be a much better use of your space to spend it on content, rather than on anecdotes or flowery language. You'll find that you'll have a lot to say in very little space, so unnecessarily elaborate language should be one of the first things to go. Deconstructing your essay and leaving only the core ideas is also very helpful to the "soul-searching" process of defining and refining your interests, so I'd recommend you do it for that, if for no other reason.

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