Jump to content
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt

How personal to make the SOP?


Recommended Posts

Aargh.

I'm ironing out my SOP right now, and it's just aggravating. There is so much conflicting advice all over the internet about this, and it's driving me crazy.

The fact that every program and every university has different expectations makes this so much more complicated, and the conflation of terms is also bothersome. A statement of purpose is not the same thing as a personal statement, which is not the same thing as a research proposal. Except when it is.

I like Notre Dame's approach of having two separate requirements: a personal statement and a statement of purpose. Twice the work, but at least I know that the personal statement should be, um, personal, and the statement of purpose can be more academic and focused on my research interests and professional goals. And I know that if I apply to a Canadian or British university, my research proposal is just that: a research proposal.

As it is now, I don't like the change of tone between the more academic research side of the SOP, and the more personal paragraph where I actually try to not bore my audience to death. Hell, I'm still not even clear if there should by any personal aspect to the SOP, or if it should just be focused on my research interests.

This is more of a rant than anything, but if anyone has any advice about balancing the academic and personal sides of an SOP, I'd be happy to take suggestions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good luck. I hated writing my SOP. The first several drafts I wrote were awful. One person I showed one too looked really puzzled and asked me why I'd written that stuff. All I can say is keep working at it -- eventually things fell in place and I ended up with something presentable. I'm sure you will too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I feel for you. I'm applying to public policy programs. A lot of schools explicitly state that personal statements/statements of purpose should explain the candidate's commitment to public service and what has lead him/her to pursue such a career. For most people - or for me, at least - that stems from personal experience. But I also doubt I'm the only person who went backpacking after college or has realized that, OMG, there is economic equality in this country. When I emailed my first decent draft, which focused almost exclusively on the policy issues that interest me, to educated people I trust, almost everyone responded by saying it was a little dry, that I should incorporate more personal experiences, etc., etc. But that's pretty much the polar opposite of the advice that all the brilliant Gradcafe forumites have posted. It's hard to find the balance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that a statement of purpose is NOT a personal statement. Unless you know otherwise, I'd take it out. You know what's personal to me? My research and career goals. And I write to show people my qualities. So many people list them off. That's what your writers of your letters of rec should do. Because they have reputation. Why would they believe your self assessment of yourself when you haven't demonstrated anything? It's a waste of words. Redundant and ineffective. I guess that was a rant too. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@rid of me

I got a similar reaction to my SOP. (I'm applying to Ph.D. programs in Political Science.) A fellow applicant told me that he thought it was "excruciatingly boring," but then my favorite professor told me it was very interesting and that he liked it. Another friend said it read like I was trying really hard to be professional...which...of course I was.

I've been modifying mine now and I found something that helps is amplifying language. Like, it sounds sort of boring to read "I became interested in pursuing a Ph.D. when I read TEXT as an undergraduate." and I would prefer to read: "TEXT sparked my curiosity and led me to question the philosophical underpinnings of social science." Similarly, I was using words like "interest" and "pursue" about a billion times, so I tried to cut out the repetition by half. One of the things that makes you sound boring, even if you are not, is repeating the same words over and over.

So maybe fixes such as the above are not making it more personal by talking explicitly about personal experiences, but they can add a feeling of personality to a discussion of your research interests. Ugh, we'll see, I'm exhausted just thinking about my SOP. Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

dworkable, I feel you with the "interest" and "pursue"... After I sent my first draft to a friend, she was like "Seriously, Allie, if I read the word 'endeavour' one more time in this document I am going to scream".

I endeavoured to use the word endeavour much less in my subsequent drafts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.