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klader

"Essay on intellectual history and academic interests" vs. a personal statement?

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Hi everyone, 

A program I'm applying to requires an essay on intellectual history and academic interests instead of a personal statement. The website clearly states this is not a personal statement, listing questions like:

What questions and concerns motivate your study of composition and rhetoric?

- How have your academic background, work experience, or other life experiences generated these questions and concerns and prepared you to study composition and rhetoric?

- What inquiries do you hope to pursue specifically in the [program] and why? 

So, is this genre more like a cover letter where I'm laying out my interests, my qualifications, and why this program is a great fit for what I want to do? Is the "why" here, the "how have your academic background, work experience, or other life experiences generated these questions and concerns" the most important part? Or is it more important that I explain how this program in particular can best help me pursue my inquiries? I feel like I have more answers to the latter here. 

This is my top choice program, so I'd appreciate any thoughts and advice on how I should approach it.

Thanks! 

Edited by klader

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Actually, this sounds exactly like a SOP description to me...just in different words. When you really parse what they're asking for, it's the same as what pretty much every program is asking for: why are you interested in what you're interested in, what you plan to do in the future etc. I don't want to be too cavalier about it, since it's your top choice program, but my gut tells me that you'll be fine using your standard SOP format with a few minor tweaks as necessary.

I suspect they make a distinction between what they're calling it and a "personal statement," because the latter can sometimes tend toward biographical life story etc. (such as in some programs that ask for both a "personal statement" and a "statement of purpose."). So they want an SOP, not a personal statement (ignoring for the moment the many programs that consider the two documents one and the same... :rolleyes:)

Edited by Old Bill

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Whew, that's encouraging to hear, @Old Bill! I was thinking that, but the "this replaces the personal statement" bit made me worry. 

I think I'm getting extra anxious simply because it is my top choice program. 

Edited by klader

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Also, I'm sure that if you have any specific questions not answered on the website about the quasi-SOP, then the graduate director could assist you. Sometimes they simply answer your question and send you on your way, and other times they remember you in the application process because you emailed them.

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Looks like they're sick of receiving personal statements that mostly talk about how their grandmother inspired them to go to grad school and how hard it was to get Bs while partying every night, so they're trying to hand-hold you through what an SOP is supposed to be.

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