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SOP ... Is it appropriate?


Halanow

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Trying to form ideas for my SOP. And I have some questions. 

 

1- Is it appropriate to write personal stories? I want to write what motivated me to study Immunology in the first place which is my mother health condition. 

2- When tailoring statements to each school, how much should I write about that school? And what? I'm afraid if I mention some of the labs that I'm interested in, that would limit my chances, not all labs are taking graduate student. 

3- When writing about school/ program, is it appropriate to write about a personal experience you had at this institute? For example, my first choice program, I was interviewed by a professor their for a job, he showed me the facility and explained how advanced it is compared to others. I didn't get the job because he wanted longer commitment. Another experience is friends, two other programs i have very close friends, one is graduate student, the other is postdoc, they consistently tell me about their programs, cities ..etc. 

 

Edited by Halanow
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I would recommend looking over the school's specific requirements for the SOP. Usually they ask what to talk about, and if not you can email the graduate coordinator if there are any specific things to talk about. Most of the time they want you to discuss why you have an interest in the field, and a short personal story to explain your rising interest would be appropriate. If written correctly, it can show your motivation and drive for the area of interest. 

For your second point, I would again look at their requirements. Ask the program coordinator if it is appropriate to write about a specific lab/professor. For my programs, it is absolutely essential and if you don't your SOP will likely be thrown in the trash. It shows that you've looked into why this program is right for you and where you would fit best. 

For the last point I don't think I have much guidance due to my unfamiliarity with your field of study. 

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Generally speaking any type of personal  story along the lines of "when I was little I had a toy microscope......" or "person X had disease Y and I want to cure it......"  "in 7th grade we did a dissection...." etc etc will not make you stand out from the crowd of other applicants, because the other applicants will have similar stories. Everyone applying is clearly motivated to be a scientist, and talking to PIs at my program these types of SOPs are a dime a dozen, they just waste space. You are applying, they know you are interested in the subject and want to be a grad student

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Unless you had a unique experience (ie I worked in Botswana at a medical clinic for HIV/AIDS or the like) or you spend only a couple sentences on your mom's condition, it's not worth it.  It might work for a hook, however, if you can make it strong.  "I listened to the doctor explain XXX syndrome to my mother; there were words I recognized from biology and many I didn't.  As she processed her diagnosis, I interjected, asking more about XXX"

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