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SOP- mention something personal but relevant?

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So, I'm debating whether or not I should add in a personal experience that is relevant to my interests. I'm applying for entry into an MS in Epidemiology program (with the goal of pursuing the PhD as well), while I was first officially interested in global health affairs and epidemiology because of a class I took my first quarter in grad school (I have an MA in International Studies), the reason I took the class was because my mother had ovarian cancer (she had been diagnosed a few years earlier while I was an undergrad). This experience has greatly influenced my work and interests. And especially my desire to help alleviate the cancer burden in some way. My main interest is cancer epi, however, due to my international studies background, I'm interested in cancer epi in the developing world. I just don't know if my SOP is the place to mention my mom and her cancer. I don't want to come off seeming like someone immature talking about her mother or like someone wanting pity. And I honestly don't want pity. It is specifically relevant to my interests (and it's also something my former advisors and supervisors are aware of).

Any advice? I obviously wouldn't spend the entire time talking about my mom, just mention it in regards to why I'm interested in epi.


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I think it should be fine if you use the story to explain your interest and motivation in the area, but I wouldn't suggest you spend too much time on it.

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I think it could be fine as a 1-2 line opener to your SOP but obviously the rest of your essay should be professional and focused on research, not your personal life. The only way you'll know for sure if it works will be to write one opening paragraph starting with your mother's story and one opening paragraph that is more impersonal, read them both -- maybe let some friends and professors look them over too -- and decide which you think is better. If you word it right, it could be one more way for you to show your passion and dedication to your chosen field.

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