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How The **** Do You Write an SOP?


Beek2023
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People say the SOP is one of THE most important parts of my application, and I already have recommenders asking me to send mine. I feel like there is some key to writing them that I'm just not getting... Right now I'm following these guidelines:

Please upload a statement of 500-1,000 words explaining why you are applying to [school] for graduate study. Describe your research interests and preparation for your intended field(s) of study, including prior research and other relevant experiences. Explain how the faculty, research, and resources at [school] would contribute to your future goals.

How do I not make this sound like a boring ass cover letter? I'm so nervous about writing it "wrong" or writing a boring SOP that makes the committee's eyes glaze over. Any help at all, or any current PhD students willing to privately share their SOP with me, would be SO appreciated. Thanks in advance!!!

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Hey, Beek! I was just as stumped about this topic as you are when I was applying, but I watched this super helpful video from an admissions advisor and it helped a ton [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yr1OXIS8cjY]. I formed my first draft based entirely on her advice and then refined it over the next two weeks, taking multi-day breaks to be able to re-read with fresh eyes.

There are also multiple threads in the SoP section of the Application forum here [https://forum.thegradcafe.com/forum/73-statement-of-purpose-personal-history-diversity/] and they can help give you some ideas.

Finally, another thing that really helped me was reading other people's statements - it was shocking to me that some people would just post them publicly when they seem so secretive, but you can find them with a quick google search. They, uh, can really boost your self-esteem 🤣 Good luck!

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Writing a statement of purpose can be daunting but their purpose (as it were) is pretty simple. The admissions committee wants to know who you are as a scholar, and they want make sure of two things: 1) that you're prepared to do top-level grad work and 2) that you're a good fit for the program. That means you need to communicate that you have an excellent understanding of the field, a well articulated research program that will make a contribution to said field (which should be specific but not too specific; you probably shouldn't propose a specific dissertation topic but you need to demonstrate that you'll be ready to propose one in 2 years), and an understanding of the stakes of your research program (the "so what"); it also means that you need to explain why the professors and/or resources at the school you're applying to make that program the ideal one for you. What are the questions and issues that will drive your research? Why are they important? How do they relate to conversations and debates happening in your proposed field and the discipline more broadly? Why are you especially qualified to pursue those questions? These things are pretty formulaic in their form (and if you end up going to grad school you will be writing many of them in the form of fellowship proposals and cover letters), but this document *should* be exciting for you as well as your committee. This is your chance to show your passion, your intelligence, and your knowledge. Why do you want to spend the next 8 years or so of your life in grad school? Good statements of purpose have a certain spark, but there's really no secret; really, you just need to know what you're talking about and write clearly, concisely and eloquently! That doesn't mean it will be easy. Statements of purpose are straightforward but they're hard to get right. You'll probably have to do a lot of soul searching and write many drafts before you're "there." Don't worry about getting in wrong the first time. You probably will. Keep revising and, if you are indeed ready for grad school, you will end up with a great statement. I also suggest you talk to your professors about your statement and ask them if they'll read a draft. 

Edited by Bronte1985
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There's also the question of how personal to make your statement. If you have a compelling story/background that is relevant to your research program, then by all means bring it in, but keep the focus on your scholarly matters. This is not (primarily) about your personal journey, though in certain case elements of that story may be germane. 

 

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13 hours ago, Beek2023 said:

People say the SOP is one of THE most important parts of my application, and I already have recommenders asking me to send mine. I feel like there is some key to writing them that I'm just not getting... Right now I'm following these guidelines:

Please upload a statement of 500-1,000 words explaining why you are applying to [school] for graduate study. Describe your research interests and preparation for your intended field(s) of study, including prior research and other relevant experiences. Explain how the faculty, research, and resources at [school] would contribute to your future goals.

How do I not make this sound like a boring ass cover letter? I'm so nervous about writing it "wrong" or writing a boring SOP that makes the committee's eyes glaze over. Any help at all, or any current PhD students willing to privately share their SOP with me, would be SO appreciated. Thanks in advance!!!

Contrary to popular belief, your SOP shouldn`t be "exciting" or be built as a "sales pitch" about your skills or "intelligence". You certainly don`t need to reinvent the wheel either. An excellent statement of purpose should be about research (the research you did in the past and the research you want to do) and it also should adopt the conventions of scholarly writing. It should be as objective as possible (and possibly boring). Every SOP is different and it is rather pointless to ask other students to share theirs with you. It will very likely confuse you. Every one will have a different opinion and, between you and me, most grad students don`t have a clue why they were accepted or not into a program. The admissions process follows specific rules and many factors influence decisions...It is all a question of fit. I suggest making sure that you will be applying to RIGHT programs and that you have the outstanding LORs. You can send the best SOP possible, but if you send it to the wrong program and have lukewarm LORs you might not get accepted. Hope this helps!

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