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Hi, guys! I'd really appreciate some feedback on my SoP. This is for a History MA and I'm applying to two SUNY schools, one Connecticut state school, and a private university. I already had a former professor take a look at it and she said that it was "good" and "witty", but I feel like I could improve my SoP quite a bit. So, without further ado.

Some people will claim that they were born with a passion for history. I was not exactly one of them. When I was six years old, I noticed a rather giant chunk of cement on my parent’s bookshelf. Everyday I would walk past it and wonder why they would choose to display something so aesthetically unappealing. When I later asked my parents about it, they told me that it was part of a giant wall that was built during the Cold War. They then proceeded to take away my crayons and beg me to no longer decorate our small piece of the Berlin Wall.

Perhaps due in part to penance for my defacement of a historical artifact, I learned to appreciate history more during my tertiary and undergraduate education. Little did I know that I would gain a deep passion and enthusiasm for history. Initially, I jumped head first into college without any concrete idea of what I wanted to do and much of my first two years of undergraduate work included studying a vast variety of subjects. However, I tended to gravitate toward the social sciences and humanities. Then I took an undergraduate class on modern Russian history, and I found it to be the perfect specialization. This course, and the other modern European courses that followed, really cemented by my interest in history and desire to extend my education beyond a bachelors’ degree. Most aspects of modern Russian and European history greatly interest me but my main focus lies in the post-Stalin Soviet Union and Modern European Diplomacy. Two particular aspects of this interest have been the Cold War and Khrushchev’s Thaw and the subsequent repression of this cultural movement under Leonid Brezhnev’s leadership.

I am also particularly interested in local history. During my internship as an interpretive/research intern at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Site, I had the opportunity to research and create a textual history of the surrounding town and county. Conducting historical search on a small geographical location was quite interesting, and I hope for the opportunity to conduct this particular brand of research again in conjunction with my primary specialization.

I am also hoping to expand my opportunities to conduct independent research. My senior seminar was an independent study designed with the approval and guidance of my academic advisor on the dissolution of the U.S.S.R., culminating with a thesis paper on the demographic decline in Russia from 1975 to present. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to self-direct my studies and to intensely research particular historical niches instead of studying a generalized history of an area or time period.

Obtaining a Masters of Arts in History will certainly expand my employment opportunities in both the private and governmental sectors, as well as prepare me for further academic study. I could envisage continuing my education with a doctoral degree and eventually entering the private sector. The [university] appears to have a strong European History department. Among the professors who I would enjoy working with are Professor X, Professor Y, and Professor Z. I specifically look forward to working with Dr. X if accepted into the program, as his interests in 20th century international relations and the Cold War align very closely with my areas of inquiry.

I am currently in the middle of a gap year, which was the perfect opportunity to experience post-graduate employment and to take the time to learn basic to intermediate Russian; and, yes, to pay down student loan debt and save money. My decision to defer graduate admissions by a year also stems from the death of my mother which occurred in my senior year, which also briefly affected my grades.

My passion for history is not limited to the classroom, and my involvement in my undergraduate college community was a very rewarding aspect. I was a co-editor of the Oswego Historical Review, a member of the history club, and a member of Phi Alpha Theta. In addition, I also served as a peer advisor during my senior year, assisting first year students with both academic and personal concerns. During my time at Community College, I focused on strengthening my leadership skills, becoming the president of Outdoor Adventure Club as well as serving as a senator in the Student Government Association. Outside of a collegiate setting, my interests in current affairs and literature are a helpful balance to my academic work.

I look forward to continuing my interest in Modern European history in a graduate level capacity. The challenges and opportunities that continuing my education entail is an exciting prospect and I believe the experience will provide me with the skills and background to pursue a career in history.

Some notes about it:

+ I'm very worried about the first line. How can I alter this so it doesn't scream "I hate history" when, in fact, history is my passion?

+ I included the death of my mother to explain why my the grade I received for a senior year winter course [FRE 101] was so low. It happened just before the course started, so I had a good deal of difficulty concentrating on the course. Should I take this section out?

+ Any other feedback would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

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Briefly:

P1: Cut the whole first paragraph. Stories about your childhood are completely irrelevant to your application to become a researcher and academic, and don't tell the adcom anything they need to know about whether or not you'll be a good match for their program.

P2: Cut most of the second paragraph, until the part about your research interests. Vague generalities ("I gravitated towards X, I find it to be the perfect concentration, etc") are useless. The first sentence that gave me relevant information about you as an applicant was "Most aspects ...". You could rework the fact that your interest was sparked by a class into the text, but do it briefly.

P3: Good, but too general. Say more: what did you research? what did you find?

P4: Starts out as too wordy. No need to say your advisor approved the work, it's assumed. "I greatly enjoyed..." is again vague and general. Instead of these vague descriptions of enjoyment, describe the details of the work: what did you study? what methods did you use? what were your resources? (anything else that is relevant to historical research, I am not an expert); what were the findings?

P5: "The university appears to have a strong history dept" -- cut. Don't tell them they're good, and certainly don't tell them you're not sure they're good. You shouldn't apply to places you don't think are good for you. Reading this far into your statement, I don't think you've done a good enough job showing that prof X's interests align closely with yours, as you say. Telling is not enough.

P6: Consider cutting out the part about paying off debt (though there are opinions both ways about this). I appreciate that you feel the need to explain the grades in your senior year and taking time off, but there are too many parallel explanations, and that one is not needed, in my opinion.

P7: This paragraph was more detailed and focused than any previous one. If you can polish the rest of the essay up to this level, I would recommend cutting this. As it stands, I like this paragraph more than others so my current opinion is to keep it.

P8: The challenges ... is : reword, fix subject-verb agreement. The MA might help you pursue a PhD in history or relevant work in the private sector, but it's a bit ambitious to think that it, by itself, can prepare you to have a career in history. this paragraph sounds a bit naive.

Edited by fuzzylogician
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