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This is basically the longest cover letter...

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Hey all! I'm applying to three schools for a Master's in Urban Planning (UWashington, FSU, & UF), but my top choice is FSU since they participate in the Peace Corps' Master's International Program. Also, tuition is super cheap; planning is generally a terminal Master's, so funding is weird. There are a lot of other reasons I chose FSU too, but that's not what this post is about!


My concern with my SOP is that it's too verbose. I'm accustomed to things being brief and to the point, so writing an SOP feels like writing a cover letter that's way too long. FSU's character limit is 4k (~600 words), and I'm at 3,760 with spaces. But it still looks... off. Please critique and offer constructive suggestions!


Also, a question for those of us who are grossly underrepresented in our fields: did you mention this in your SOP, or did you wait until the interview?


Anyway, without further ado:




I didn't realize the weight of the phrase "everything comes full circle" until about a year into my post-undergraduate career. That is, I had no idea that my enthusiasm for cities and housing had anything to do with my studies in Political Science. It was only after interpreting what had to be my hundredth GIS map that I was able to come to the conclusion that pursuing a Master's degree is the right decision to make at this point in my career. I aim to analyze global trends – particularly informal settlements and environmental revitalization – and apply that to private development.


After earning my Bachelor’s in Political Science from the University of -----, I began working in real estate – first in law, then in development – and eventually realized that I preferred the active planning and development of communities as opposed to the policy and law associated with those communities. In my current capacity as a Research Assistant with a private firm, I am privy to a variety of plans ranging from high-rises to shopping centers. As such, I have the opportunity to interact and connect with municipal, county, and state governments across the United States. However, I know that I won’t always be content with merely conducting the research necessary for development: I want to be the point of contact when a rising city in Juba needs advice on how to provide housing for a growing populace, or when a metropolitan area in Gujarat is looking to be more environmentally efficient.


My undergraduate coursework focused primarily on international politics, as did my longest-running internship with Orlando’s -------. While working with -----, my research focus was on ideological refugees, specifically those seeking asylum from the repressive juche regime in North Korea. More specifically, I asked what communities would be best poised to take in these refugees and how said communities could plan for such an influx. Once I had completed that research project, I then moved on to study non-governmental organizations and Arabic up to the intermediate level, among other things. Having completed my studies, I decided to enter the workforce in order to refocus and decide what path was best for me in terms of practicality and fulfillment.


These two years in the industry have given me time to solidify my research interests and prepare for a higher level of study. In addition to that, I’ve had time to volunteer with ----- as an employment assistant, helping the unemployed build their resumes and teaching individuals to maximize usage of job board sites such as Indeed. I’ve also had the chance to hone my Arabic skills while taking up some basic French to supplement the Arabic I know. In short, I’ve been able to improve myself and define what kind of impact I want to have in the field of planning.


Florida State University’s MSP-MIP appealed to me mainly because of the program’s ongoing research of resiliency in squatter settlements. I’m particularly interested in learning how to plan projects in developing areas and actually applying that knowledge; I do enjoy research, but I prefer putting research into action. The Peace Corps practicum drew me in even further since it allows the individual to put theory to work; my belief is that research is useless if one cannot use it. It’s clear that the University believes in hands-on training as well, as evidenced by the extensive non-academic professional work by Professor------ and Planner-in-Residence ------ in particular. I know that I will thrive in a program where I get the chance to actively apply planning theory, and I look forward to getting the opportunity to do so with Florida State University’s MSP.

Edited by awash_
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