Jump to content

Choosing a good, well thought out SOP topic?


Recommended Posts

I don't want to make the rookie mistake of choosing a poor topic for my SOP. The schools I am choosing to apply to primarily ask about future goals and plans (why you are choosing that school/faculty directly). I was thinking about elaborating on my undergrad experience in moving from a clinical focus to a more research-oriented academic path. I changed my major from biology (pre-med) to psychology. In pre-med I did lots of internships and volunteer work, from that I gleaned that the clinical aspects of psychology and medicine are not what I am passionate about. Do you think this topic is compelling enough for a strong SOP or should I go back to the drawing board?

 

What kinds of experiences did you consider when first drafting your SOP(s)? 

Edited by gnomechomsky22
Link to post
Share on other sites

I think focusing on your fit and future with a program may be a better tack than underlining the fact that pre-med didn't work out for you.

 

You can briefly discuss pre-med and how it led to your current focus, but I think that overall it's best to talk about all the great things you've learned and done in your current field, the research you've participated in and are interested in pursuing in the future, particular professors and specifics of the program that show you've done your homework, etc.

 

I think that it's most important for an SOP to be cogent and well written, but it doesn't have to include an elaborate back story so much as it has to highlight your talents and assets.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for your input. I just wanted to make sure I had a cohesive topic that doesn't sound like I'm making excuses. 

 

Maybe I could approach it from the aspect of my current graduate work. I am currently enrolled in a post-bacc certificate program. Maybe I should approach it from the stance that my interest in several different majors actually stems from an interest in interdisciplinary fields (I'm working on a Cog Sci certificate)? In this way I can describe how I am fit for graduate study at this particular school due to their interdisciplinary focus? 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the thinking that an SOP is like an "academic cover letter" for grad programs, so you want to present yourself in a positive light and promote positive images of yourself, not negative ones.  So it's better to say that you discovered what you are passionate about rather than you arrived at your area by process of elimination.

 

I considered a lot of experiences when drafting my SOP.  I kept trying to find ways to shoehorn in my study abroad experience because it Changed My Life and I was really excited about it (I had just come home when I was drafting my SOP), but it wasn't as relevant as other things so I ended up cutting it out.  I think I realized that things that may have been epiphanies for you aren't necessarily going to translate on paper because you may not have words to convey how life-changing they were, or they may have been more internally life-changing.  I focused on my research experiences primarily - I had had several up to that point, so I talked about my progression from my first research experience (in which I discovered the wonder of research, even though my research was completely unrelated to what I wanted to do in the future) on through until I narrowed down what I really wanted to do.

 

So…no, it's not really compelling to hear "Well, I don't like clinical work so I decided to do this instead."  Presumably you considered many paths aside from research before you settled on that.  Edit that part out and start at where you discovered you really liked research and decided that's what you want to do.  Reinforce that by explaining your experiences and how they solidified that desire, and then talk about how X University can help you strengthen your research skills and get to your goal of a productive research career.

 

Also, it kind of sounds like (from your most recent comment) you are trying to explain away something you perceive as a shortcoming.  Don't do it; plenty of people realize that medicine is not for them and switch.  I think you should spend the bulk of your limited space describing your passion for psychology and your interest in the *particular* interdisciplinary fields that your program is in.  You want to sound passionate about interdisciplinarity without sounding disorganized or indecisive.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the thinking that an SOP is like an "academic cover letter" for grad programs, so you want to present yourself in a positive light and promote positive images of yourself, not negative ones.  So it's better to say that you discovered what you are passionate about rather than you arrived at your area by process of elimination.

 

I considered a lot of experiences when drafting my SOP.  I kept trying to find ways to shoehorn in my study abroad experience because it Changed My Life and I was really excited about it (I had just come home when I was drafting my SOP), but it wasn't as relevant as other things so I ended up cutting it out.  I think I realized that things that may have been epiphanies for you aren't necessarily going to translate on paper because you may not have words to convey how life-changing they were, or they may have been more internally life-changing.  I focused on my research experiences primarily - I had had several up to that point, so I talked about my progression from my first research experience (in which I discovered the wonder of research, even though my research was completely unrelated to what I wanted to do in the future) on through until I narrowed down what I really wanted to do.

 

So…no, it's not really compelling to hear "Well, I don't like clinical work so I decided to do this instead."  Presumably you considered many paths aside from research before you settled on that.  Edit that part out and start at where you discovered you really liked research and decided that's what you want to do.  Reinforce that by explaining your experiences and how they solidified that desire, and then talk about how X University can help you strengthen your research skills and get to your goal of a productive research career.

 

Also, it kind of sounds like (from your most recent comment) you are trying to explain away something you perceive as a shortcoming.  Don't do it; plenty of people realize that medicine is not for them and switch.  I think you should spend the bulk of your limited space describing your passion for psychology and your interest in the *particular* interdisciplinary fields that your program is in.  You want to sound passionate about interdisciplinarity without sounding disorganized or indecisive.

 

I won't say I disagree, but for one program I applied to last year, I made my SOP by explaining how through my experience and coursework, my desire to do research came to be and solidified, ultimately I didn't speak as much as I should have about why University X was the right program and how they would help me grow with their program or what future I would build if I did my graduate studies there. I got no answer at all so I take it that my SOP was plain disastrous.

 

I think an SOP should really and only be about what you focus on, what makes you a right fit to the program you are applying to and what you are going to do with the path you choose. Your passion should be reflected through your commitment to the field you are choosing for graduate study. That's how I perceive it, after having read the enriching comments from intextrovert, fuzzylogician and others in the "SOP mistakes: what to avoid" thread. Of course, there can be variants depending on what recommendations a University gives about the SOP, but overall, the logic of elaborating on your focus, how you fit and what future you build remains the key thing.

 

That's my 0.02€/£/$/whatever.

Edited by MikKar
Link to post
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
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

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