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Michigan's SoP and Personal Statement--Anyone else having trouble?


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Just wondering if anyone is applying to Michigan, and if so, are you having issues with writing the SoP and Personal Statement? I think I'm having a hard time because I keep repeating myself. I mean, part of the reason why I'm doing the research I am doing/want to do is fairly personal. I dunno.

On top of this, I'm trying to get the apps in by next Tuesday (personal deadline). :wacko:

I was just curious about how other people applying to Michigan are doing with this app requirement...

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I applied to Michigan last year (and didn't get in, so take my advice with a grain of salt...) and asked one of the advisors how I should approach the personal statement; she told me to be, well, personal and talk about myself, my family, childhood, etc. rather than about my academic endeavors and potential fields of study. This is probably stuff you already knew, but I thought I'd put it out there.

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I have something similar for U of C Riverside. They want a Statement of Purpose and a Personal History. When I inquired about what the Personal History should contain, I simply got "it should be your personal history." So, yeah....I'm not sure what to do with that.

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I applied to Michigan last year (and didn't get in, so take my advice with a grain of salt...) and asked one of the advisors how I should approach the personal statement; she told me to be, well, personal and talk about myself, my family, childhood, etc. rather than about my academic endeavors and potential fields of study. This is probably stuff you already knew, but I thought I'd put it out there.

That's so tricky though. How personal should one get? My interests in my research are fairly personal, but I don't know how much errr--mush? I guess?--that they might want. And, lame excuse, but I'm so burned out from all the other SoPs and the writing sample I've been having trouble avoiding phrases like "as a child" and "I've always loved." Urrrrrrgggg.

I have something similar for U of C Riverside. They want a Statement of Purpose and a Personal History. When I inquired about what the Personal History should contain, I simply got "it should be your personal history." So, yeah....I'm not sure what to do with that.

I really wish it was just all one document. My SoP is pretty much good at this point--I just tweaked some of what I have already. It's just this flippin' Personal Statement!

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I'm also finding it ridiculously hard to do the Personal Statement! I hate the feeling like I have to make something up, because I can't just write "honestly, I want to study medieval monks because I think they're cool, not because I'm particularly religious, or a man...or medieval?" I don't have a fascinating life history, nor have I overcome any truly terrible hardships (unless I can somehow spin coming from a hick town?) What do you want from me Michigan?? At least it is only 500 words, otherwise I would really die.

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Thoughts: do you think it has to be terribly serious? Not like "I'm not taking your application seriously" but like "I am a naturally cheerful and self-amusing person." If I don't have a sad or serious story to tell, can I at least use a happy/upbeat/maybe slightly amusing narrative instead? I am weirdly concerned that happy might be risky (I've got that applications-fueled need to analyze everything now).

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Well here's the prompt: How have your background and life experiences, including cultural, geographical, financial, educational or other opportunities or challenges, motivated your decision to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Michigan?For example, if you grew up in a community where educational, cultural, or other opportunities were either especially plentiful or especially lacking, you might discuss the impact this had on your development and interests. This should be a discussion of the journey that has led to your decision to seek a graduate degree.Please do not repeat your Academic Statement of Purpose.

I mostly just wrote about how I landed in my tiny and otherwise completely-unrelated-to-me-personally field...amusingly. Which might be completely wrong/risky.

Timshel- a thought- since we're in different programs, I would propose a trade-and-read if you want. Or not, that's okay too.

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I think it's hard to talk about your "life experiences, including cultural, geographical, financial, educational or other opportunities or challenges" when it feels like they're looking more for some sort of hardship narrative. I eventually ended up talking about being of mixed ethnicity, and moving in and out of the country (mostly out of it) the majority of my life, and how that impacted my desire to do comparative literature. SIGH. I dunno. Bleh.

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  • 1 month later...

This is late, but anyways: the SOP should be focused on your research and fit at the university you're applying to, and the personal statement should be more along the lines of who you are and what motivates you.

Edited by sonicsustain
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  • 1 year later...

Bumping this topic up because I need advice! What are ya'll doing for the U of M application--or what did you do in the past that was successful? Help!

 

I'm having some trouble as well, but I think I'm going to somehow focus on my love of traveling. Not really fitting the hardship part but it's what I got.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Having applied to 16 schools last season, I had to come up with a variety of approaches to fit the different requirements. In cases where I was asked to do both a "Personal Statement" and "Statement of Purpose" (They are worded differently by school, of course), I included things in my personal statement that connected to or in some way inspired my research interests. Or to put it another way, there was nothing in my personal statement that didn't in some way connect to my pedagogical, scholarly or research interests.

I'm of the opinion that one's writing sample, statement of purpose, CV, and personal/diversity statement should all connect and should be driving home a singular underlying narrative. That singular underlying narrative should end with them coming to the conclusion that you are primed to be in their program and do graduate level literary studies.

Just my two cents.

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Having applied to 16 schools last season, I had to come up with a variety of approaches to fit the different requirements. In cases where I was asked to do both a "Personal Statement" and "Statement of Purpose" (They are worded differently by school, of course), I included things in my personal statement that connected to or in some way inspired my research interests. Or to put it another way, there was nothing in my personal statement that didn't in some way connect to my pedagogical, scholarly or research interests.

 

Maybe it's because it's 1am where I am and I can't think anymore, but can you be a little more specific? What did you put in your personal statement--was it about classes that you took that shaped your research interests? If so, then what did you then put in the academic statement? My struggle is in separating the two... Or, did you talk about family/cultural influences that shaped your interests and in that way it's more personal; then the academic statement talked about the coursework? 

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BunnyWantsaPhD, I think the personal statement is as you just said "talk about family/cultural influences that shaped your interests... then the academic statement talked about the coursework". In my personal statement I talked about my background, general info about previous education, any jobs that you did which improved your research skills or inspired you to do what you're planning on doing, if you had any unique experience (scholarships, prize...). That's how I see a personal statement. A Statement of purpose would surely focus on specific courses that you took and inspired you, MA thesis (if any), and your research objectives.Hope this helps :)

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Maybe it's because it's 1am where I am and I can't think anymore, but can you be a little more specific? What did you put in your personal statement--was it about classes that you took that shaped your research interests? If so, then what did you then put in the academic statement? My struggle is in separating the two... Or, did you talk about family/cultural influences that shaped your interests and in that way it's more personal; then the academic statement talked about the coursework?

Personal statement: I wrote about the convergence between an internship I did, some work experience I had, and my teaching experience. I also wrote about how my approaches to these things were in fact informed by my upbringing.

Statement of Purpose: how the things above inform my current research interests, theoretical leanings, and literary interests. Then how all of these things are leading me to graduate work at that institution.

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Personal statement: I wrote about the convergence between an internship I did, some work experience I had, and my teaching experience. I also wrote about how my approaches to these things were in fact informed by my upbringing.

Statement of Purpose: how the things above inform my current research interests, theoretical leanings, and literary interests. Then how all of these things are leading me to graduate work at that institution.

 

Can you give a little more info about what you said about your upbringing? My concern is whether or not I should talk about my parents. I'm studying feminist theory, which was due in a major part to my mother being a feminist. It just seems so silly to talk about my parents though...

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Can you give a little more info about what you said about your upbringing? My concern is whether or not I should talk about my parents. I'm studying feminist theory, which was due in a major part to my mother being a feminist. It just seems so silly to talk about my parents though...

 

I did TERRIBLY with personal statements when I applied, so I'm not going to give any advice on the nitty-gritty. I had not the faintest idea what I was doing and was pretty tempted to send this: "MY BIO =  :(  ->  :unsure:  ->  :o  ->  :D." (Pro tip: don't do that.)

 

But after some time in my program (fairly typical of me to only be able to figure out what to do after it is required, which bodes well, I'm sure, for the future), and coming from a feminist theory perspective myself, I think you actually have solid ground on which to talk about your parents in a personal statement (not a statement of purpose, obviously), provided that you do it in an interesting and academically-relevant way. Destruction of the so-called division between the personal and the professional is well traversed ground in feminist theory, including very canonical feminist theory (the personal is the political and all that, and all the theorists who have quoted and built upon that slogan). So while I have no advice for the practicalities, I think it may help you to think of feminist theorists who have drawn on their personal lives (including their parents, whether by affirmation or by negation) as precedent for your document.

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I'm applying to Linguistics and not Literature, but I'm having a similar problem with the UMich statements. I'm trying write about the struggles of being a woman in a science discipline/moving from a humanities to a social science (whatever that means) without sounding like I have a chip on my shoulder. I do feel like it gives helpful perspective to my degree trajectory (Literature -> English Language -> Linguistics) but I'm struggling to walk the legitimate point/whinypants divide. 

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