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Personal vs Professional SOP

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I'm sorry if this has already been covered, but I was hoping for some clarification in the difference between a personal and professional SOP.  When a program specifies a "professional, not personal, SOP", what exactly are they asking for and what common mistakes should I avoid?

Thanks in advance.

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To my understanding you should avoid personalizing your SOP such as talking about your experiences and focus purely on your academics, particularly focus on explaining what kind of research you have done, and what kind of research ideas you have in your mind. 

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Professional:  this is why I want a MS/Ph.D.;  this why I am applying to this program; this is why I want this lab/PI/mentor/etc.  

Personal:  "Ever since the age of five..."

Look at it like this; if you were to apply to a position on Wall St., would you begin your cover letter with "Ever since the age of five I have always wanted to work on Wall St."?  No, you would not.  You would state, "For the last ten years I have held the position as Lead Financial Advisor for the largest company in my State.  During my tenure, I was responsible for a budget of $500M annually.  Between 2010 and 2014 I helped Large Company grow from a valuation of $40B to $60B by...."

My ex GF attended the best private school in that particular State from K to 12.  By the time she graduated, she had eight years of foreign language under her belt, did calculus in 6th/7th grade, and so on and so forth.  Essentially, she was being groomed for the Ivy League; her mom nearly disowned her when chose a local not-the-flagship state university.  During undergrad she continued to excel, held prestigious internships, graduated in the top 1% of the entire school (year, not historically), was a member of various societies, for examples.  I had a chance to read her grad school SOP and to my surprise she fell into every trapping and cliche you can think of.  The piece read like a "this is my life's sob story, therefore I deserve this opportunity."  

Point being, even the well educated/read fall into this "personal story" as I believe it is simply human nature to do so; that we inherently believe that we deserve future outcomes based on past events.   That's cool and all for charity, and graduate school is definitely not charity.  Hence why it is imperative that you take the professional approach even if not asked for.  I all but guaranty that even with such direction the majority of applicants are going to go personal with their SOPs.  Yeah, my ex was still accepted into her programs of choice but she was also an exceptional student with exceptional experiences and LORs, by the way.   


addendum:  I initially wrote this on the fly, no time to edit....

Edited by Crucial BBQ
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