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Discussing the research group you have in mind.

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Hi all,


I'm probably not going to apply to grad school until 2 or 3 years down the track but I already have a few research labs in mind. Would it be wise, provided I did my homework, to discuss why I want to join a particular lab in my SOP or would the admissions committee write this off as being too narrowly focused?

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  • 4 weeks later...

I think it depends on how you approach it.  I think it's a fine (actually, a very good) idea to talk about how your interests line up with the professors to whom you are applying.  This could include discussion of the "labs," but it doesn't have to (depending on your field).  The biggest risk of this approach is coming across as uninterested in those you don't mention, but if you've done your research, that shouldn't be a problem.  Don't spend a lot of time in your SoP talking about their work; keep your statement focused on your own work and interests.  But you pointing out that you understand the work that they are doing and how it relates to your own interests can work very well.

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You want to show that you're a good fit for the department, but not narrow your interests too much.  For me personally, in my SOP, I stated the general field I was interested in, and the general questions I was interested in working on.  I then listed like ~3 professors who were doing work in the area, and said I was interested in their work and how it related to my background.  I then said I was open to other projects in the area.  It ended up working - I got into 4/6 programs - but it's not the only way to approach it.  Some people have said they didn't name any professors in their SOP because they didn't want to be too specific, and they also got in.  If you've done your homework, I'm sure that'll come across in your SOP no matter what approach you take.  

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