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Mentioning professors' names in SOPs


hairu

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Writing my resume, and explaining how I got interested in the particular subfield I am trying to pursue in a phd program, I mentioned a few papers written by professors here and there. Since those were mentioned just as motivating factors, I thought it wouldn't matter. However, waiting for the decisions, I started to freak out that those professors in the program that I really want to go might not consider me as their first choice because it is not them who I mentioned in the SOP.

Oh, god! Did I make a foolish mistake? Well, I believe my research interests match theirs (well, I believe so). Would they reject me because they would think I would go to those professors I mentioned? Well, I didn't mean that though...

I only mentioned how my interest was triggered but it's not like I want to go to those professors. Silly me!

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Hey, I'm applying for a PhD in English and my professor that helped me throughout this process suggested that I name professors in my SOP for each school I applied to. She said it makes the applicant appear focused, and as though they really thought about why they want to apply to THAT particular program. I would not worry, I'm sure it will all be fine!

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Hey, I'm applying for a PhD in English and my professor that helped me throughout this process suggested that I name professors in my SOP for each school I applied to. She said it makes the applicant appear focused, and as though they really thought about why they want to apply to THAT particular program. I would not worry, I'm sure it will all be fine!

In the humanities, you are generally supposed to do the following in your SOP (among other things):

1. State a general direction of research

2. Show you know what is going on in current scholarship about that general direction of research

3. Say why you want to attend that particular program

If I'm reading your post correctly, what you're talking about is the second one--you mentioned particular scholars/researchers whose work particularly inspires you and has guided your research, right? If so--not a problem; in fact, advisable. Although it's probably better if you did the third as well.

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I concur with the previous poster. Mentioning scholars whose work has been influential for you is fine, and certainly won't hurt you (unless of course their work is somehow opposed or irrelevant to the approaches/concerns of the particular department that is reading your app, but I doubt that's the case if you're focused in the schools you've chosen to apply to).

What can HELP you is to have that specificity in singling out each program individually, which has already been mentioned here. So if you didn't do that, it's something to add for next time, assuming there is a next time. But just mentioning other scholars in different programs is not likely to hurt you.

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Thank you all you guys....

I have applied for several schools, about half of them match my interests and half of them don't (they were selected because of their locations)

I got two rejections from the not-matched half, and waiting for other schools to give out their decisions.

Your advice helped me a lot. I hope I am admitted this season so I wouldn't need to apply again.

But if it ever happens, your advice will really help a lot. Thank you.

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I wouldn't freak out. Take my advice with a grain of salt (since I have no bearing on admissions processes/etc), but I think that it generally helps your application. I think the only way it could really hurt you is if you applied to a school and made it quite clear you were interested in only working with a single professor (which is a risk if they're not taking on students, but is also a risk considering you may not get along personally). Something to this effect was mentioned in a post about applications and interviews a few weeks (months?) back.

Personally, it never hurt me. All the schools I applied to required me to list my research interests, and--in addition to listing them--I'd list faculty that represented those interests as well. For example, something along the lines of, "My research interests are X, Y, and Z. Ideally, I'd be able to pursue these interests at the University of Blank due to the concentration of faculty in these areas. Dr. A's work, for example, takes a unique approach to X...etc"

It didn't hurt me at all, and several professors during my interviews mentioned that--though I'd mentioned them in my statement of purpose--they thought I might also want to look into other professors that I might have overlooked.

In a nutshell, relax: they're not going to reject you because you dared to mention work by professors who weren't them :)

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