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Statement of Purpose?


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My absolutely least favorite part of applications (I contemn {yes GRE vocab word...} them as much as cover letters for job apps...)! Any advice from those in the know or veterans of the task? I always feel so contrived when writing them.

Some questions that come to mind...if a college doesn't give a minimum or maximum length...how long should they be? What should you talk about? What order should things go in? What's the most important thing to include? I know that you're supposed to talk about the professors you want to study with and why you like the school but I have a feeling that the school already knows why I'm interested in studying there. For example, I'm considering Williams College and I have a sneaky suspicion that they already know they're probably one of the most renown art history institutions with an awesome graduate studies symposium and interesting study abroad opportunity. So wouldn't it be redundant if I talk about all of that? Unless they're really into hearing about how awesome they are?

For those that are curious I have my BA in Art History/Arts Management and my field of interest is Feminist Studies in the Baroque period (haven't decided on Northern or Southern...that's what an MA is for though I suppose!) specifically images of Biblical heroines/villains as well as self-portraiture.

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Instead of telling them what you like about school, tell them why you are a good fit. Why are their professors good for you? What to do you bring to the classroom/program and how good are you at it?

I have not yet begun to think about my SOP for grad school, though I've written several for internships, but I mostly just ramble on and edit like crazy. I write everything I want to talk about and see if there is a cohesive pattern. If there is, then I fine tune it, remove the things that aren't necessary, and show it to others. :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

would anyone be interested in peer editing SOPs?

I'd be interested -- I can look at others and would love to have mine reviewed! DM me with your email address and I'll send mine/you can send yours.

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I'm in the never-ending process of editing and re-editing my SOP. I think the best way to approach it is to start writing without the intention of producing something perfect. Don't worry about making everything sound just right in your first draft, basically try not to be too self-conscious. Be honest! Here are a couple prompts to get you thinking about things to include:

My favorite part about studying my subject is....

I am very interested in... [certain subthemes you've found interesting as an undergrad and may want to continue learning about]

Okay I'm running out of ideas for this format! But basically you want to convince these people that they want you to study in their program. Like you said, they know their program is great. Don't bother talking about how great it is, or how well-renowned the individual professors are. Talk about what makes you want to work with those professors apart from their reputation - have you read any specific works by them that you found interesting, for example? Is there a certain theme they work with that you are also interested in? Try to convey your enthusiasm for the department without sucking up. These are people who have been in school/academia their whole lives, and they know how to spot a suck-up! So be genuine. I suggest writing down all of your ideas in one rambling, horrible essay, and then carefully removing and reorganizing those ideas to form a coherent statement. Just be prepared to gut it quite a few times.

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