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Boston University SOP Review (M.S. in SLP)?

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I would love some constructive criticism in regards to my BU personal statement for the M.S. in SLP. BU is my top school. I've already edited this SOP a little bit, but I'm still stuck on my opening sentence. I can't come up with a really catchy opening line to captivate the audience's attention (at least that's how I feel). Nothing I try seems to work well enough for me. I'd love some suggestions and, of course, that criticism. Thank you!

Prompt: "State your career goal(s) and briefly summarize your major educational and vocational interests and achievements. Indicate the areas in which you expect graduate education at Boston University to have the greatest value for your future plans and goals. Include academic and/or practical reasons that you wish to attend our University. There is a 5,500 character limit on this essay."


Grandma is definitely the storyteller in my family. Growing up, she told me countless stories about her life: she told me about the house she was born and raised in – the house I live in now; her life as a young girl, being raised on a dairy farm in a small town in Massachusetts; her time as a nurse in the Red Cross during World War II and the Korean War, and how she met my grandfather in Seoul, South Korea while he was on a tour with the Army; and, most importantly, about her family – our family – and our great history. I thought that Grandma would always be able to effortlessly tell me stories – that is, until she had a mini-stroke in 1999.

Transient Ischemic Attack, or TIA. That’s what Grandma had, according to the doctors. I was only nine years old at the time, so I didn’t understand the significance of this episode. It wasn’t until years later, as Grandma increasingly had difficulty with word finding and expressing her thoughts, that I began to comprehend what the doctors had been saying about her all along: Grandma has expressive aphasia.

Grandma often keeps to herself these days. At parties and family functions, she prefers to sit in the corner of the room and carry on a conversation with one or two people, while politely smiling at others as they walk past. Although speech therapy has always been available to my grandmother, she adamantly refuses it as only a supremely stubborn 91-year-old woman could. Still, we have made our own adaptations: I have become particularly adept at deciphering what Grandma is trying to say, and I can usually finish her sentences for her. Grandma still tells me stories – but at her own pace, on her own time.

Stories close to my heart – stories like my Grandma’s – inspire me to pursue a career in speech-language pathology. I came from a difficult medical background myself, as I was diagnosed with a mild form of spastic diplegic cerebral palsy and a mitral valve defect in my heart; I also suffered a concussion in August 2011 that forced me to withdraw from Temple University for the Fall semester and return to UMass Dartmouth in January 2012. Although there have been a few bumps in the road and my college career has not gone as smoothly as planned, I feel that my experiences thus far in life have enabled me to empathize with others that have endured some kind of medical hardship. My concussion, in particular, has given me perspective about some of the difficulties faced by individuals with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) on a daily basis. This is where my major educational and vocational interests lie.

I first became interested in TBIs during my recreational therapy internship at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in 2011. Up until that point, my primary experience had been with individuals that had Spinal Cord Injuries (SCIs), so I was nervous to take on this new role. Nevertheless, I began to immerse myself in information about TBIs and their potential side effects – especially aphasia. The most rewarding aspect of my internship occurred during my co-treatment sessions with speech therapy, as I observed patients progress from speaking as little as one word to communicating in full sentences; I saw smiles of recognition flash across my patients’ faces as they slowly recalled once-forgotten words. I can honestly say that I enjoyed my internship more than I ever thought possible, and it is an experience I will not soon forget. I am confident that graduate education at Boston University will be tremendously valuable as I seek to accomplish my goal of working with TBI patients in my future career as a speech-language pathologist.

From a practical standpoint, Boston University is the perfect place for me to further my education. I will be less than an hour away from my family -- my main support system -- and I will be located minutes away from my world-class doctors and surgeons. BU’s prime location will also ensure that I will have no shortage of options when considering clinical placement sites. Academically, the BU Aphasia Resource Center will be an excellent resource for me as I seek to expand my knowledge of TBIs and aphasia in particular. As I watch my grandmother cope with expressive aphasia and I recall the many patients at Magee with some form of aphasia, I am struck at how devastating this condition can be. BU’s “Life Participation Approach,” which helps individuals with aphasia reconnect with the community, strikes a particularly poignant note with me. I do not want individuals with aphasia to end up like my grandmother, who essentially isolates herself because she is too embarrassed about the way she has to carry on a conversation. I want individuals – my future patients – to have a resource at their disposal that not only offers therapy, but social support, education, and advocacy. I want to be a part of the institution that others look to when seeking effective intervention techniques on behalf of individuals with aphasia. With this application to Boston University’s Speech-Language Pathology program, I am taking the first step towards realizing my potential as a future clinician for individuals with traumatic brain injuries.

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