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Does a strong SOP have to be uniquely tailored to each school?


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The last thing I will mention is also very important, particularly for PhDs. Make sure that you know who you are applying to study under, and what your project is. Demonstrate that you would fit into the department like a glove and that you read Dr. Octopus' latest article on the newest theory, etc. etc. etc. Also, have a concise project in mind. Remember, you're not married to this idea, but you need to show the committee that you can ask the right kind of questions concerning your proposed research and that the project is something that the faculty could help you on based off of their interests and previous work. Do not make this project a carbon-copy of something they have previously accomplished, but a project that complements the research they have already performed. It is also highly advisable, since your job as a PhD student is essentially to perform lots of independent research, to demonstrate that you are capable of performing independent research. Although you want to show that you are a good fit for the program, you do not want to appear as though your adviser will have to hold your hand for the next five years.

from ( ) certainly implies that each SOP should actually be super-unique. Since each SOP should be more about the future than about the past, does this sort of mean that 60% of the content on my SOP should be uniquely tailored to each and every school? I do generally do a massive amount of research into everything I do, so this is not a problem to me - but I'm wondering if it's necessary for a strong SOP.

Also, there's

It's not a disaster to submit a stock template with just the names changed (many people do this), but it will be a much stronger SoP if you can tailor a paragraph or two to speak specifically to your fit with that institution, as the previous poster mentioned.

The strongest SoPs not only detail your research interests and illustrate your scholarly identity, but also demonstrate

I'm not going to sugarcoat it, it's a pain in the ass to customize each SoP (especially when you have 10 of them, like I did last season). But it gives you the best chance of admission.

over at as well. I'm willing to take in the pain, as I do feel that the SoP is the area where I could really shine.

==

Also, can they tell if you're just name-listing articles that you haven't read? This is certainly not a problem for me (since I've already read+annotated numerous research papers from each of the advisers I'm interested in), but providing more detail about their papers will almost certainly take up space that I could use for something else. And if I don't provide more detail - then it could be practically equivalent to just naming the articles that one may not have even read

Edited by InquilineKea
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Also, can they tell if you're just name-listing articles that you haven't read?...providing more detail about their papers will almost certainly take up space that I could use for something else. And if I don't provide more detail - then it could be practically equivalent to just naming the articles that one may not have even read

This shouldn't be about them at all--it's about you.

The dept knows what they do and what resources they have; the SOP isn't about telling them what they already know, it's about showing them how you fit in. "In addition, I am eager for the chance to learn from Dr. Who, whose research into life forms around deep-sea geysers offers fascinating possibilities for my own work about volancoes." "The Fancypants Research Laboratory offers the equipment that my research requires, such as binoculars." &c.

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I think you would be wasting space in your SOP if you just list articles you've read. There should be no need to mention specific articles at all, just show that you have a general idea of the research the professor does.

Everybody recommends that you tailor these sorts of things, whether for jobs or grad school applications, but the degree to which you tailor it is up to you. You could write each one from scratch or have a template of sorts. I've almost always used some sort of template for all of my scholarship and grad school applications and have been fairly successful.

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I think it should be specific to the school in the sense of why you think you would be a good fit for that school. I would have to agree with Sparky, that you only specify school wise as far as you need to. Yes mention the people you would like to work with, but rather then say "because he does this of that", but more of why what you have done and what you would like to do would work well in relation to what said person is doing. As Sparky said, they already know what they do. It is a matter of showing why you would be a good addition to that program/ lab. So specify what it is about that school that interests you, why you want to be there, what you could bring to the school. And since most schools have few but important differences to why you might what to go there, make that part important.

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For most of my applications I am following the same general SOP format/main ideas, however I have made sure to include information about why I am qualified for each school as well as why I am interested in them. I've heard it said many times that you should absolutely address the school directly in your SOP as well as explain why you are applying there. By directly address, I mean use the program's name.

For example;

"There are several aspects of Northwestern’s M.A. in Counseling Psychology program that appeal to me; however the most appealing is the program’s emphasis on cultural diversity and social justice."

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Then how do you figure out what a generic statement is? Do you have to cite the names of professors for MA programs? I'm applying to an Area Studies program. Is stating that a program at Blank University will improve your foreign language skills (because you don't have any and have no other way of obtaining them in a specific language) or give you needed background courses that you cannot obtain at any university where you live generic?

Isn't jellybean's example sentence generic? I mean, technically anyone could write a sentence like that, right?

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Then how do you figure out what a generic statement is? Do you have to cite the names of professors for MA programs? I'm applying to an Area Studies program. Is stating that a program at Blank University will improve your foreign language skills (because you don't have any and have no other way of obtaining them in a specific language) or give you needed background courses that you cannot obtain at any university where you live generic?

Isn't jellybean's example sentence generic? I mean, technically anyone could write a sentence like that, right?

I think that with a MA you have less emphasis on needing to mentioning a specific professor, but it still might be a good idea, just a point of why that school interests you. And I think that it really depends on the field that you are going into as well. With sciences and what you think you would want to do with it, there are situations where getting a general studies MA is fine.

Yes, jellybean's example can be seen as generic. I would use more of an example like, with me and the field I want to go into, " I am interested in X school because of the emphasis on integrating vertebrate evolutionary biology and geology, as well as the ability to gain experience in a museum, with the opportunity to use it's vast resources."

The thing is that you can't really get all the information that you want to in a single sentence. Although I think it is slightly a different situation with looking at Ph.D. programs, and M.A. degrees. For you, and what you might want to do, it might be fine to leave it more generic.

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Then how do you figure out what a generic statement is? Do you have to cite the names of professors for MA programs? I'm applying to an Area Studies program. Is stating that a program at Blank University will improve your foreign language skills (because you don't have any and have no other way of obtaining them in a specific language) or give you needed background courses that you cannot obtain at any university where you live generic?

Isn't jellybean's example sentence generic? I mean, technically anyone could write a sentence like that, right?

The example I used was an introductory sentence of a paragraph..I suppose I should have used a better example. ^_^ I think I further explained in this paragraph that I plan to work as a counselor in an urban area after graduation, therefore multi cultural counseling skills are very important to me. As KitKat implied you should directly address how the program fits your goals and interests. I think you are on the right track mentioning your need to take specific language courses and background courses that the school offers. For a master's program you do not have to specify specific research interests or mention particular faculty, but you should definitely discuss your general career goals and interests, as well as demonstrate how said interests fit into the program to which you're applying.

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