Any advice on how/if I should address some issues on my personal statement?

In summary: For example, if you haven't taken a course in General Relativity, you might not really know what it's like. I was always sure I wanted to do GR, and I ended up doing astrophysics. (And if you don't like GR, you might not like HEP Theory either, since GR is the easiest theory in HEP.)In summary, the individual has a strong GPA and CV, good letters of recommendation, and research experience. They are preparing for the GRE and have concerns about their research experience being in a different field than their intended graduate studies, as well as coming from a lesser-known university. They are seeking advice on how to address these concerns in their personal statement.
  • #1
So I've got a very strong GPA/CV, I've had quite a few professors tell me they'll write me good letters of recommendation, and I've got a solid 2 years of research experience with one (maybe two) publications. I'm doing my best to prepare for the GRE, all I have left to do is write my personal statement.

There are two issues with my background that I don't if or how I should address them in my personal statement. The first is that my research experience is in experimental optics, and I want to research theoretical high energy physics in graduate school. I have an abundance of electives in math and physics to support this choice on my transcript, but I feel like saying that I want to go to X University for Y high energy theory research group will be seen as a red flag. I've always known I wanted to do high energy theory, and while I did enjoy my research experience it only made me more sure I want to do theory in graduate school. I'm not sure how to convey that I really do know what I want to do without sounding childish, and without highlighting that I did not get into a theory REU program?

The second issue is that I am coming from a no-name (in terms of physics) California State University. For this one I'm not sure there's anything I can say on my statement. I did win a fellowship and a scholarship while at the university, but they were from sources inside the university. I suppose I'll have to score well on the GRE to overcome this.

Anyways, any help would be greatly appreciated, thank you.
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
Welcome to PF!

There's a very simple solution to issue #1. Simply don't tell them you want to do high-energy theory. Applying to grad school and saying you really want to do high-energy theory is a terrible thing to do to yourself. They get hundreds of applicants saying this, and they probably produce one PhD per year in high-energy theory. You've got experience in experimental optics. Write about that in your application. Connect it to their program. If they've got a good theoretical optics program, connect it to that. If they've got a good experimental nuclear physics program, connect it to that. Once you're there, you can be the star student in field theory, and that's how they'll get the message that you're cut out to be a high-energy theorist. There is nothing dishonest about this. Nobody is saying that a first-year grad student has to go into whatever field s/he listed on his/her application. In fact, you may find that, once you get there, you're no longer a big fish in a small pool, you suck compared to the other theory grad students, and you want to do experimental optics. Or you may simply try theory and find that you don't like it as much as you expected. That's not a crime, and it's not dishonest.

Re issue #2, it is reasonable to briefly mention any reasons, other than low high school grades or low SAT's, why you went to Cal State Monterey Bay rather than UC Berkeley. Paint a picture. If you earned a paycheck during the academic year or over the summer, briefly mention this; this helps them to imagine that UC may have been too much of a financial stretch. If you're the first person in your family to go to college, briefly mention this; this helps them to imagine your family that runs a hardware store in Salinas and needs you to close on Thursday nights because that's when Uncle Fred plays bingo. Also, they probably know zero about CSUMB's physics program, so you get a chance to convince them that it's actually of very high quality. You did an upper-division lab with cosmic-ray muons -- mention that, and it puts you a leg up on a grad student from Beijing who has never touched an oscilloscope.
 
Last edited:
  • #3
I agree with Ben on #2 but only partly agree with him on #1.

If you are 100% sure that you want to do HEP Theory, you should say so. If the university has no slots for HEP Theory students, and they admit you anyway, thinking you want to do something else, you will be royally screwed in two years time when your classes are over and you're ready to join a research group.

That said, I think you are doing yourself a disservice by deciding you are 100% sure you want to do HEP Theory without looking around at alternatives. Why make up your mind now, before you've been exposed to both a closer look at HEP Theory and a closer look at the alternatives?
 

1. Can I address personal issues in my personal statement?

Yes, you can address personal issues in your personal statement as long as they are relevant to your academic or professional goals. However, it is important to be selective and only include information that adds value to your application.

2. Should I address personal issues in my personal statement?

It depends on the specific personal issue and how it impacts your academic or professional aspirations. If it is a significant factor in your journey and has shaped your goals, it may be worth mentioning. However, if it does not directly relate to your application, it may be better to focus on other aspects.

3. How much detail should I go into when addressing personal issues?

It is important to strike a balance between providing enough detail to give context and explain the impact of the personal issue, but also not to dwell on it too much. Be concise and focus on how the issue has influenced your goals and strengths.

4. Will addressing personal issues make my personal statement too personal?

No, addressing personal issues does not necessarily make your personal statement too personal. It is important to maintain a professional tone and focus on the impact of the personal issue on your academic or professional journey.

5. Should I seek feedback from others before including personal issues in my personal statement?

Yes, it can be helpful to seek feedback from trusted individuals, such as teachers, mentors, or advisors, before including personal issues in your personal statement. They can provide valuable insight and help you determine if the information is relevant and adds value to your application.

Suggested for: Any advice on how/if I should address some issues on my personal statement?

Replies
27
Views
2K
Replies
3
Views
218
Replies
1
Views
901
Replies
6
Views
677
Replies
3
Views
1K
Replies
4
Views
1K
Replies
4
Views
701
Replies
11
Views
384
Back
Top