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SOP revision - MA History

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Hi all,


Yesterday I finished up a rough draft for my statement of purpose and was wondering if anyone would mind looking it over and offer tips on improvement, what should be taken out, what should be put in, yada yada yada. I'll just post it in this thread so whoever wants to look it over can do it right here. Thanks!


When I was a student at [redacted] High School in [redacted], I had a European history teacher named [redacted].  There was a general consensus among many of my fellow students that he was by far the best teacher the school had to offer.  His love and passion for his field of study was immediately recognizable, and the way he ensured that every student had accomplished something was inspiring.  During my senior year, I took AP European History with him, and from the moment we began to cover the Renaissance, I knew that the study of Europe was the profession I was to pursue.


            Since the fall of 2010, I have studied history at the [redacted].  For all of the recognition the school receives for its engineering and nursing programs, the department that goes the most overlooked is the history department.  After taking various classes with various professors, I can say with absolute certainty that there was no class which I did not enjoy, and each professor has been nothing short of welcoming and understanding, regardless of whether you are a freshman on your first day or a senior on your last.


            While I wrestled with the idea of entering the field of education after graduation, I realized that research was a much more fulfilling calling after I took my capstone seminar on fascism and totalitarianism.   The sense of accomplishment that I received upon completing my research paper (see writing sample) and earning high praise was a feeling like none other.  For this reason, I chose to pursue that passion of research in hopes that I may display the same passion to others that endeared me to history in the first place.


            The research process can be a daunting task, and I am glad that I was given the opportunity in my undergraduate career to be a tutor at the [redacted] Writing and Reading Center in order to help fellow students with this process.  My duties entailed helping with each stage of the writing process, from thesis development to that final sentence that wraps it all up.  It has been a rewarding experience and it has been very humbling to be able to extend my research strategies to fellow students.


            My research interests lie with Italian history.  When I originally enrolled at [redcated], my goal had been to study classical history, but over time, my interests shifted towards the history of the Italian Renaissance in particular.  I have become enamored – and one might even say obsessed – with the Renaissance period, from the intellectual revolutions that occurred therein to the change in social history to the art and architecture.  I have a specific interest in the prominent families of Renaissance Italy, such as the Borgias, the Sforzas, the Medicis, and others.  While my transcript does not reveal any strong foundation in Italian history, I can promise that I am a very capable student willing to meet the requirements established by [redacted].  I have been recognized on the Dean’s List during every semester of my undergraduate career, and I am due to graduate Magna Cum Laude in the spring.


            History is such an all-encompassing subject, and receiving the opportunity to study it at [redacted] would be an amazing opportunity.  Upon seeing the variety of subjects and professors available at the university, such as Dr.[redacted]’s research in Renaissance history, Dr. [redacted]’s work in early modern European history, and Dr. [redacted]’s studies in Venetian and intellectual history, I think it is safe to say that my academic interests will coincide with those of [redacted].  I am eagerly looking forward to a career in the field of history and I am certain that graduate study at [redacted] will make it all possible.



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Hi, so here are my initial reactions. Obviously this is all highly subjective, so feel totally free to ignore all of this if you prefer!

In general, I think you've got a nicely written good start, but I would suggest really focus on building out your argument for why you are a good fit for the program.  One very helpful technique which I would recommend to you is reverse outlining, are you familiar with it? I think its really useful, especially for things like admissions essays, where everything has to be super tight and focus. Basically, the idea is to go back through each paragraph, and then write down in a few words or a sentence what point you are trying to make at each section. Then you can go back into the essay and make sure all of those points are super clear and eliminate anything that is extraneous to those points.


So, approaching it from this perspective, (ie, trying to to see what points you are trying to make at each section), my initial thought is that I would bring the final two paragraphs up to beginning of the essay. These paragraphs are about your interests and what you plan to do in the program, so they seem to me to be the meat of your argument about why they should accept you. I would really work on highlighting and expanding this, because that's  really what makes you special and a good fit for the program. Frankly, almost everyone can tell a story about a teacher who inspired them in high school, but not everyone can articulate why their interests would line up with this program and what they plan to do with it in the future.  However, that is just my initial opinion. You need to focus on building the argument that's right for you.

However you choose to do it, I would recommend that you sit down and think about the argument that you are trying to make, and then edit accordingly=)


Hope this is helpful to you, its certainly been more fun than working on my own essay!

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Here's my two cents (my apologies if you find this too blunt, just trying to be helpful):


1) don't talk about high school. They don't really care about anything that happened before college. 


2) be much more specific--at one point you say something like "various classes and various teachers have inspired me" or something like that--change it to something much more specific, i.e. which classes and why. 


3) I would delete the word passion wherever you have it and replace it with something else. You want to "show" not "tell." Describe something that indicates your passion instead of saying that you are passionate. It's just over-used in SOP and people will roll their eyes. 


4)Is there a way to make your paragraph on the writing center more personal? Many people know what is done at writing centers, so that paragraph really just winds up reiterating something that will be on your CV anyway. If you can't make it more personal/significant, then it's wasting space that you could spend talking about other things (such as coursework or your research interests) that is more specific. 


5) I would rephrase/delete where you say something like "I can promise that I know Italian history even though my coursework doesn't reflect this"--instead of stating that, actually demonstrate that you know Italian history instead. 


6) you need to move beyond your love of history and really demonstrate A) that you know history and what you want to study in a very specific way and why you want to study this particular field--what are your future goals?


7) can you make your statements on why you want to work with certain professors more specific? instead of saying it's "safe to say" that you would want to work with them, list why. What things have they published that sounds interesting to you and why? what approach do they take to the subject and how does that correlate with your own approach? You definitely need more on why the particular school you're applying to is going to be helpful for your studies, as well as what you are going to bring to the table for them--why should they choose you out of all the other people also have a "love" of this field?


The major thing you want to focus on is whenever you bring up any topic make sure you are being detailed in specific. Remember, they don't know you at all. They don't know what classes you took, what you liked about certain classes or pieces of writing or time periods, they don't know what your goals are and why, and they don't know why their program would be great for you and vice versa. What you have right now is a good outline, but needs much more details to set you apart from everyone else. My suggestion would be to go back through the classes (or other experiences that you have) that you did take and write down some things that you did in each course that you found interesting, then form those into sentences/paragraphs, then cut it down to the appropriate length that they require. 


Good luck!

Edited by BunnyWantsaPhD
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I agree with both posters above - especially about bringing up the last two paragraphs to the beginning of your SOP and not talking about high school. I think you should definitely elaborate on the details in the second to last paragraph. I found your views as expressed there way more interesting than your story about the teacher. I also suggest that you elaborate more on WHY you're interested in those particular aspects of history.


As for the following section:


"The sense of accomplishment that I received upon completing my research paper (see writing sample) and earning high praise was a feeling like none other.  For this reason, I chose to pursue that passion of research in hopes that I may display the same passion to others that endeared me to history in the first place."


Many of us felt this way about a research paper or project in school and many of us also received high praise and so on, but there's really no reliable way of expressing this without coming off cocky/arrogant, which you do a little bit (sorry to be so blunt). Instead, why not focus on what you learned and realized while doing the research? Or even skills you improved during the process? And how would such knowledge/skills gained contribute to the MA program at X school?


My two cents.

Edited by excusemyfrench
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