Jump to content

Recommended Posts

I am applying for my MA in Museum studies, at the open house they made it very clear that the SOP is going to make or break you. I am not quite sure how to start it. Do you introduce yourself? Do you just jump right in? I know what the body of it should say and i have it almost finished, but I am just not sure what the "standard" is in the first paragraph..

Link to post
Share on other sites

Although it could change in the future, my first paragraph generally outlines my broad research interests (the next two get more specific while tying into the faculty of the prospective school).

 

So I guess to answer your question, I just jump right in.

Edited by HopefulComparativist
Link to post
Share on other sites

One of mine just started with:

 

"I am attracted to XYZ program for its (then I listed three characteristics). After XYZ program, I intend to receive training in (related) field, and then work for international affairs in this area one day."

 

I got accepted to this program. :) 

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Passionate hook and motivation
  • Background
  • Research interests
  • Why applying to a particular programme
  • Why applying to a particular university
  • How the programme shapes your future plan

Read it somewhere, and though I followed the pattern, I couldn't make  my SoP as intriguing and engaging as it should have been! :(

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Gnome Chomsky

I had a little story thing that led into my SOP and tied in perfectly. Initially I didn't and I just didn't like going right into "this is me, I graduated with this" etc...

I've heard this can be a kiss of death. And it takes up too much space, which is a major problem if you have a short word limit. You have to really think about it. It's an MA in Museum Studies. How many cliche intros do you think there are that start like: "Ever since my grandfather took me to bla bla bla to see the famous bla bla painting, I have always been inspired to bla bla bla." If you're gonna start with some cute story or cute analogy, it better be damn original. 

Edited by Gnome Chomsky
Link to post
Share on other sites

I've heard this can be a kiss of death. And it takes up too much space, which is a major problem if you have a short word limit. You have to really think about it. It's an MA in Museum Studies. How many cliche intros do you think there are that start like: "Ever since my grandfather took me to bla bla bla to see the famous bla bla painting, I have always been inspired to bla bla bla." If you're gonna start with some cute story or cute analogy, it better be damn original.

Well I did it and I got into all my programs so... I do know that my programs had 3-5 page requirements though

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've heard this can be a kiss of death. And it takes up too much space, which is a major problem if you have a short word limit. You have to really think about it. It's an MA in Museum Studies. How many cliche intros do you think there are that start like: "Ever since my grandfather took me to bla bla bla to see the famous bla bla painting, I have always been inspired to bla bla bla." If you're gonna start with some cute story or cute analogy, it better be damn original. 

 

Confirming. Everyone and their mother in the museum/art history field does not want to hear "Ever since I was a child I loved Monet Paintings...blahblahblah".  In fact one perspective POI I had emailed wrote me this:

 

"Application-wise, I'd suggest that you work on your statement--what you want to study and why; I'd avoid the narrative of ever since childhood, I've wanted to learn about/work in a museum...we get a lot of that. [...] We want smart, curious and motivated students with a good record of academic achievement. (It should really address your scholarly potential."

 

I did have a short "narrative" sentence which explained directly my scholarly experience with what I want to research but it had nothing to do with my childhood. Save that for icebreakers with fellow classmates. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I was told when starting an SOP, to just write and never look back. Don't worry about the page limits or if you're spelling things right, just write. Then you can edit and cut down. It's easier to reduce your word count than to buff it up without making it sound too wordy (though I've never heard of a minimum...).

 

For me, I do what I've done with my papers: write a detailed outline, add transitions and get rid of the bullet points. It's been really effective for me in order to write academic papers, so that's what I did for my SOP. I can not say the results of this technique--I apply next fall.

 

And yes, leave out your childhood, please. It's over-done and there are more convincing ways to show your passion.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Confirming. Everyone and their mother in the museum/art history field does not want to hear "Ever since I was a child I loved Monet Paintings...blahblahblah".  In fact one perspective POI I had emailed wrote me this:

 

"Application-wise, I'd suggest that you work on your statement--what you want to study and why; I'd avoid the narrative of ever since childhood, I've wanted to learn about/work in a museum...we get a lot of that. [...] We want smart, curious and motivated students with a good record of academic achievement. (It should really address your scholarly potential."

 

I did have a short "narrative" sentence which explained directly my scholarly experience with what I want to research but it had nothing to do with my childhood. Save that for icebreakers with fellow classmates. 

I definitely mentioned my childhood and if didn't negatively affect my app. Maybe because my program was different and my anecdote was not about childhood but it definitely worked for me. That's just me though

Link to post
Share on other sites

I definitely mentioned my childhood and if didn't negatively affect my app. Maybe because my program was different and my anecdote was not about childhood but it definitely worked for me. That's just me though

 

It's usually best to go with the standard advice "don't bring up your childhood unless it's exceedingly relevant". Your success despite breaking this rule doesn't mean it's not a rule for a very good reason - it's a tired, boring cliche, that everyone has seen a million times and rarely, if ever, helps out your SOP. People want to know about you NOW as a scholar, not what your aspirations were when you were four. 

 

I also don't suggest "Hello my name is _____." This isn't quite a cover letter either and that feels stilted to me.

Edited by m-ttl
Link to post
Share on other sites

It's usually best to go with the standard advice "don't bring up your childhood unless it's exceedingly relevant". Your success despite breaking this rule doesn't mean it's not a rule for a very good reason - it's a tired, boring cliche, that everyone has seen a million times and rarely, if ever, helps out your SOP. People want to know about you NOW as a scholar, not what your aspirations were when you were four. 

 

I also don't suggest "Hello my name is _____." This isn't quite a cover letter either and that feels stilted to me.

I guess I understand. I mean I applied to a totally different type of program and my childhood was super super relevant but I can understand why it wouldn't work in Art History

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well I did it and I got into all my programs so... I do know that my programs had 3-5 page requirements though

 

Just because the logic that, "It worked for me, so it must be good," kind of bugs me in a pet peeve kind of way, I'll reply to this.

 

Just because you put something in and didn't get denied does not mean that it did not have a negative impact on your application. One of my letters of recommendation was sent in a few days late. I really can't say if this negatively affected my application or if it didn't make an impact. I was accepted to most of the programs I applied to, but that doesn't tell you whether or not it affected it. There are many small parts that make up your application. One small thing won't usually push them over the edge, but it still doesn't count as a positive thing in your application.

 

(But perhaps you did make it work. I can't really say. In general it's best to avoid that though.)

 

It's hard to tell just from an acceptance or denial whether one thing in your application made a difference. :S

Link to post
Share on other sites

Confirming. Everyone and their mother in the museum/art history field does not want to hear "Ever since I was a child I loved Monet Paintings...blahblahblah".  In fact one perspective POI I had emailed wrote me this:

 

"Application-wise, I'd suggest that you work on your statement--what you want to study and why; I'd avoid the narrative of ever since childhood, I've wanted to learn about/work in a museum...we get a lot of that. [...] We want smart, curious and motivated students with a good record of academic achievement. (It should really address your scholarly potential."

 

I did have a short "narrative" sentence which explained directly my scholarly experience with what I want to research but it had nothing to do with my childhood. Save that for icebreakers with fellow classmates. 

 

I did the same. I started with a short anecdote and it worked-- but it was one about a lecture in the field that I attended as an adult. I shared something the lecturer said about the field that stuck with me, and then explained how I got to an intellectual place that that interested me (because I switched fields and discovered this interest at my job). Intro paragraph ended with a couple of sentences stating my specific career goal, and my goal for attending that school.

 

I would recommend that anyone working on this now just write. Then find at least one trusted editor. Make sure whoever you choose is being harsh enough and is willing to make far-reaching comments and highlight every little thing that confuses or turns them off. I was lucky that my coworker and I edit each other for work all the time, and she was applying to med school while I did this so we edited each other's statements as well. She made me reorganize more than one of these essays completely. Looking back at them now, not only was she right, but I should have done even more to follow her advice. Even without someone like that, write a lot early so you can let your essay sit for a while and have the distance needed to cut it down.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I began my SOP with a narrative. It wasn't about my childhood, but an experience I had while working in the national park service. I chose to write an introductory narrative because it was a more creative way of 1) highlighting my experience working in the field, 2) explaining what I am interested in, and 3) explaining how my experiences have shaped my interests. It was tricky to write, but I felt like the end result clearly acknowledged everything in the instructions provided by my school while still being interesting to read. 

 

Before I started writing my SOP, I wrote out every single experience I could think of that has been important in developing my interests and goals. I also wrote detailed descriptions of all of my academic research, work, and volunteer experiences. I carefully read my program's SOP guidelines, and experimented with different angles, mixing and matching narratives to descriptions of my qualifications. It was a long process, but I found that getting everything down helped in developing something interesting and cohesive.

 

I agree that a story can be a kiss of death. Just don't write about your childhood, and make sure your story naturally ties into the rest of your SOP (don't plug in a story just to have a story. Weave the concepts into the body of your statement). Good luck!!

 

FYI: I was accepted into my top (and only) choice school, though who knows if my SOP helped. But it didn't get me rejected.

Edited by jenzy
Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a little story thing that led into my SOP and tied in perfectly. Initially I didn't and I just didn't like going right into "this is me, I graduated with this" etc...

 

 

I applied to a Public History program and did this too, although it was only one line about how I became interest in museums/history. I was accepted, but looking back I kind of regret including it because of how cliche it is. Not sure if it actually helped/hurt my application, but I would probably recommend against it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

My first two sentences (50 words) answered a bunch of questions I thought relevant to the adcomm's interests. My transcript reads like a community college's course offerings. I'm a single course shy of 200 undergrad credits, basically. I, personally, had to address why I couldn't seem to make a decision and stick with it. I had to address why I suddenly knew what to do, particularly since my MA was in a totally different emphasis. Why should a literature and comp/rhet program spend a lick of time on someone with an MA in writing poetry? Why should they think I'd be successful in my pursuit of a PhD when my transcript and my collected degrees and publications clearly show that I flit from field to field and emphasis to emphasis? Seriously. The last honors society I was inducted into was the math one. Sheesh. I couldn't come out and say, yeah, I'm all ADHD when it comes to coursework. And you'll probably have to have people from three disciplines on my diss committee, but we can have fun!

So, my first two sentences were a personal story. Well, I read these two books, had an epiphany, and it was a literary-theory connection that got me all excited, like a labrador puppy with a tennis ball. The story explained how my two disciplines complemented each other in my scholarship. It explained how my two disciplines were actually interdisciplinary. It explained why I went up the literature road, rather than the sociology road. It explained why I got an MA in creative writing, but changed to literature. It explained why my writing sample was written in a way the average literature professor would consider backward. It explained why I preferred American Lit, even though my writing sample was about Brit lit. It showed that had clear understanding of theory, the context of the literature and the theorist, and how these things work together, both in the expected way (interpreting literature) and the unexpected way (where creative writing comes into it).

I wouldn't recommend that anyone else have these two sentences that do all of that unless they're me. I would recommend that anyone starting an SOP forget the idea that there's a standard way of starting the thing. It has an introduction, but what the content of that introduction should be is as varied as the content of any essay's introduction.

I would recommend that people start the SOP in a way that answers questions the adcomm might have, like, why you and not some other applicant. The more work a sentence can accomplish, the better.

Edited by danieleWrites
Link to post
Share on other sites

Mine started with a story about the first college class that got me excited about my major and how it eventually pointed me in the direction of my grad program. It was a nice, concise way of talking about my major, passions, and explaining why I'm pursuing grad school. My SOPs were all very short (1.5 pages, double spaced) but I think they covered all of the necessary information.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am applying for my MA in Museum studies, at the open house they made it very clear that the SOP is going to make or break you. I am not quite sure how to start it. Do you introduce yourself? Do you just jump right in? I know what the body of it should say and i have it almost finished, but I am just not sure what the "standard" is in the first paragraph..

I began with a mind map.  Put the program/school in the center than branched out from there.  I covered everything I could think of.  When that was done I had something solid to work from to create an outline. From the outline I wrote the paper.  Even though I began with a first word to a first paragraph, it wasn't my opining paragraph.  I answered the questions asked in the essay prompts, filled in the necessary details, and then wrote the first paragraph last as it was really a summery of what was to come in the rest of the essay that followed.  

 

I really didn't use a hook.  

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

When I wrote my first SOP, I was really concerned about Admissions Committees running through a stack of SOPs, with half of them starting in the same way, or just blandly stating something obvious. So I went for the hook. Maybe it doomed me - I have great offers but wasn't accepted everywhere - or saved me - it boosted my application where I was accepted or helped with funding. Who knows?

 

I brainstormed the most obvious introductions - "Ever since I was a child, I always wanted to study petroleum engineering" or "I have a passion for learning". When I applied for a Masters in Education, I considered most applicants were teachers, so I started with: "I never wanted to be a teacher." It opened up a short personal history, where I had good teachers and bad teachers, and tended to use the latter as examples of what not to be, and ended up teaching as an accident and loving it. In retrospect, I think it was kind of corny, and kind of an obvious choice in itself.

 

For my PhD SOP (International Education), I wanted to relate something from my international experience. I thought about a local proverb, that those who seek the mushrooms will find it - that seeking and asking is important to find the rare elements, and that it could be used as a metaphor for scholastics. I decided against it, and opened with a short scene where some local kids found me chopping wood and wanted me to mercy kill a baby goat. In the end of the SOP, I concluded that I couldn't do it, and the child killed the goat himself, at the time also making an indelible cut on me, a memory I could never forget. I wanted to explore this cut - this experience - at the University.

 

Maybe I went overboard. There was certainly a lot of specific and technical information in the SOP, and I had a very clear research topic chosen. Perhaps the goat story played the best with programs with more of an anthropological focus.

Link to post
Share on other sites

When I applied for a Masters in Education, I considered most applicants were teachers, so I started with: "I never wanted to be a teacher."

I took the same approach, because I wanted a hook, and also because it was true ("I haven't always like math"). Dunno if it worked or not but I felt it suited my writing style more than a bland opening, even if it is a bit corny. It also explained a bit about why my background was different (in a good way) from other applicants.

Link to post
Share on other sites

When I wrote my first SOP, I was really concerned about Admissions Committees running through a stack of SOPs, with half of them starting in the same way, or just blandly stating something obvious. So I went for the hook. 

 

I have the same thought process, but went a completely different route. I just launched into my research interests (broad first paragraph, specific second), then went into departmental fit.

 

My thought process is this: after reading 200 or so SOPs I would think people would get sick of either hooks or a run-down/narrative of the applicant's experience. 

 

I decided to switch it around, deliver the goods (research interests and research questions I want to investigate) first, acting as a hook a prof would actually enjoy, then describing how I got there.

 

Is it going to work? Who knows, but I know that corny hooks are often played out and annoying to readers.

Edited by HopefulComparativist
Link to post
Share on other sites

Because at the end of the day, what do you think is a more appealing introduction to a professor?

 

A random anecdote hook, or clearly defined and interesting research questions? I would say the latter.

Edited by HopefulComparativist
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.