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SOP Crunch Time ASAP :(

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Hello forum! I have solicited advise from a few acadmics...and then mostly friends (editors, med students, PhD students in other fields). I think at the moment, my SOP is ok, but it definitely doesn't have the WOW factor that I'm looking for and need.

Just some background...I'm applying for a very competitive Clinical Psych program with a specialization in forensic psychology. I will have very strong recommendation letters (one from an old co-director of the program), and the current director is aware that my app is coming down the pipeline. BUT, my undergrad GPA was 3.4 and my GRE was only average (although I was involved in a lot of things on campus as an undergrad). I attempted to make up for these deficits by pursuing a masters degree in the field, and working in the field as both a researcher and a clinician over the past few years. There are no word limits for the applications, so I tried to keep it to 2 pages single spaced. I don't want to bore people....The first part of the essay is below. Please let me know if you would be interested in reading the whole essay. In either case, your comments are very much appreciated!


I am a passionate learner motivated by a desire to understand, and driven by the challenge of a new opportunity. I want to be challenged in a rigorous program so that I can be prepared for the “real world” where I’ll need to be confident in my abilities when faced with clients.

I am interested in understanding the etiology and progression of antisocial behavior and identifying the clinical interventions that can be utilized to effect pro-social changes. What biological, psychological, and sociological factors contribute to the decision to commit or not commit an antisocial act? What treatment options are available? In order to answer these questions, I need a deeper understanding of the nature of mental illness and the profound impact this has on human behavior. By pursuing a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in forensic psychology at University X, I will not only develop the skills necessary to be a researcher and academic but will also learn how to apply these skills in practice as a licensed clinician. There are many different paths to becoming a clinician, but the best path for me is the Clinical Psychology program offered at University X.

My desire to pursue graduate study at X is two-fold. Firstly, X University is home to some of the foremost researchers involved in identifying risk and amenability to treatment in particularly difficult populations including youths and sex offenders. Specifically, I am particular interested in the work of Prof. X and Prof. Y because (of stuff). . This exclusive access to leadings minds in the field is essential and I believe that my background, as described below, would make me an asset to the Department of Psychology and specifically to the professors of the forensic specialization track.

My enthusiasm to understand the bio-psycho-social antecedents to behavior began as an undergraduate in the speech pathology lab of Dr. P. New to the field of linguistics, I was eager to be involved with a major project from the beginning and to learn from a professor that had a reputation for being meticulous in her research methodology while fostering a strong mentoring relationship with her assistants. Like medical students convinced they are afflicted with every disease they study, linguistics researchers are apt to overanalyze their accents and speech patterns. This was particularly relatable for me because, as a child, my British mother implored my siblings and I to speak with “proper” accents. However, the competing influences of her British vowel pronunciation and the Long Island twang (“Lawn-Guyland”) led me to develop an accent that doesn’t quite sound right to Americans, Canadians, Australians or the English. On the surface, this might seem trivial, but it led me to wonder how this could apply in situations where the difference wasn’t as insignificant as saying “zee” or “zed” for the final letter of the Latin alphabet. Could other seemingly trivial factors play such a dramatic role in a person’s behavior?

My experience at the Such and Such Prison in Australia provided me with solid grounding in delivering intervention procedures in accordance with protocols and enabled me to become comfortable working one-on-one with offenders. This preview of what it may be like to work as a licensed clinician highlighted how difficult it was for some of our oldest offenders to change their cognitive and behavioral patterns. Having access to the life histories of these patients through prison rap sheets, interactions with their families, and access to detailed social histories harkened back to my discoveries in the linguistics lab; small and large differences in their upbringings resulted in dramatically different behavioral outcomes. This work taught me how instrumental psychologists are in a forensic setting and further galvanized my desire to study and work in the field of Clinical Psychology. I welcome the opportunity to work with Professor Y, whose passion is to help youths before they become ensconced in the system and become more difficult to help. Moreover, working with Professor X would allow me to address the second part of my research goals: identifying and utilizing evidence-based treatment for people with personality disorders that contribute to their offending behaviors (e.g., stalkers and sexual offenders). Being involved in research directly with experts in the field like Professors Y and X will serve to enrich my education in a way that would not be achievable at another institution.

My secondary motivation for attending X University stems from my desire to be immersed in an atmosphere that supports student development, encourages faculty mentorship, and values international collaborative efforts. In conversations with students and staff alike, X’s ethos is clear: to appreciate the unique talents that each member of the class and faculty bring to the learning atmosphere. I can make a strong contribution to the community by sharing the knowledge that I have gained while working and studying in the United States, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. For example, in pursuing the Masters degree in Forensic Psychology at the University of M, I was exposed to a system of involuntary forensic psychiatric treatment (i.e., TBS clinics), that is significantly different than that employed in the United States. My exposure to different legal systems, psychiatric hospitals and treatment facilities around the world will allow me to make a unique contribution to the Clinical Psychology program at X University.


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