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Am I the only one?

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I've been wanting to apply to grad school for almost three years now but keep putting it off. At first it was mostly due to being fresh out of undergraduate and landing an amazing job that I didn't want to leave but now I'm realizing it is more than I'm just intimidated by the application process. I've been staring down the Statement of Purpose for each of the schools for nearly a year now. In all honesty, each time I sit down to write one I just can't seem to start. This must be the longest bout of writer's block ever. Has anyone else run into this? All the prompts seem to require a lot of information but in only a few pages. One of the colleges has eight questions that need to be addressed in only four pages with each question asking an additional two sub-questions. Am I the only one at a complete loss as to where to even begin with the SOPs?

 

I'm also struggling with selecting proper references. As of right now I have the following:

-Former supervisor at my current position. He thinks the world of me and constantly wrote recommendations for me internally.

-Higher up supervisor (division-level of the non-profit I work for) who has recommended me for promotions and can speak to a great deal of the case management and resiliency programs I supervisor.

-Professor from the college I attended. This is the one I feel unsure of. She is a highly regarded professor from the department I was in for undergrad but I never had her as my professor. We worked on a good amount of projects together though and I also assisted her with a study for a grant proposal on reintegration services for veterans. She has read all of my undergrad papers from our department so she can speak to my writing as well as my hands on involvement with advocacy issues.

 

Do I need to reconsider by LOR sources?

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I'm sure you've already heard all the cliche's about "just start writing" when it comes to writers block, but that's what you do. Just focus on one question/section of your SOP at a time. If you don't have ideas for the first section, move on to the next section and try to start that part until you're inspired to go back to the previous part. You can pull it all together into a cohesive statement during editing. 

I'd say your LOR people are great. If you haven't been in contact with the professor from your old college, just shoot them an email about where you're thinking of appllying and what you've been up to recently. I've noticed many professors and advisors love hearing from former students.

The application process certainly is intimidating and stressful, but don't let that deter you from reaching for your goals!

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It's so tough to write about yourself, isn't it? 

Like Nochal said, you really just need to get started. Make a commitment to spend 15 minutes per day just writing parts of the SOP. After a few days, hopefully you start to see common themes and the block lifts a bit. Once you have some depth to your SOP, then you need to get some eyes on it. Do you have access to career services through your university? A friend that is in copy editing? A family member or professional mentor you trust to give strong feedback? It stings to have people critique personal works of writing, but it is so important. They may be able to tell that you're selling yourself short or forgetting to include a major academic/professional accomplishment. Take all the feedback you're comfortable with, rewrite, ask your proof readers to read it again, and repeat until you feel really great about it.

You can do this! Good luck!

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You're definitely not the only one.  The application process was a huge reason why I waited so long to go back for my MSW.  I had to really break it down into small pieces with deadlines to force myself to get through it all.  "Write XXX and XXXX asking for LOR by XXX" and then "Have a first draft of SOP done by XXX".  Getting started on the SOP is really the hardest part of the application process, I think.  If you have a university close by that has a program you're interested in I would see if they have any talks or public events you can attend.  I went to a lecture at a local university when I was working on my app (even though it wasn't one I was interested in) and it was a good reminder of why I want to go back to school in the first place.  It helped motivate me to keep chugging along. 

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