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Letter of intent feedback-graduate school

  1. Jun 28, 2011 #1
    I am going to be applying to Iowa State as well as a couple other universities for the upcoming spring semester. I would really appreciate it if some of you would read what I have written so far for the letter of intent. It's not quite done, but this is the bulk of it...let me know what you think as far as format, tone, grammatical errors,...

    Growing up in the state of Iowa, I have been familiar with Iowa State University for as long as I can remember. When I was young I would see people representing Iowa State colors and merchandise adorned with the highly recognizable cyclone mascot. Nevertheless it wasn’t until after my family and I moved to South Dakota that I began to grasp the rich engineering history present at Iowa State. And after pursuing my bachelors of science in mechanical engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, I began looking into potential graduate schools. Yet during my search of top aerospace programs I kept coming back to the university I remembered so fondly as a child. Not simply because of Iowa States well known program and research opportunities, but also its rich heritage, and unique campus.

    If accepted I plan to enter on the path towards a Master of Science in the field of Engineering Mechanics. I am confidant that my academic background has prepared me not only for the course work, but also for performing quality research that contributes to the university. During the final years of my undergraduate studies I began to specialize in the field of mechanics by taking electives such as Finite Element Analysis, Machine Design II, and Mechanical Vibrations. In addition, throughout my curriculum I constantly strived to not only learn the concepts being taught, but to learn how those concepts interlock to form pieces of a larger puzzle. This has allowed me to solve a wide variety of open ended problems. One example of such a problem is from senior design when I was tasked with developing and testing a mathematical model to analyze and predict the behavior of a small airflow sensor our team was in the process of designing and developing. And although many aspects of the problem extended beyond the undergraduate level, I was able to make appropriate assumptions and break the problem down until I arrived at an acceptable model. I believe that all of these experiences have prepared me for the academic challenges that lie ahead at the graduate level.

    In the immediate future, if accepted, I plan on applying my course work to research in the field of engineering mechanics working as a research assistant; ideally working on problems related to aerospace structures and structural dynamics. After attaining my Masters of Science I see my self either continuing on towards a Ph.D. or working in the aerospace industry helping to design and develop unique structural solutions for air and space vehicles.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 29, 2011 #2
    Cut this paragraph out entirely. Talking about your childhood is one of the most cliched mistakes people make on graduate school applications. No one cares about your childhood. The other thing is that you make it sound like Iowa is the only school you are applying to, when I hope it isn't.

    confident. Also I'd shorten this sentence. Show don't tell.

    Cut this. It's cliche. One thing that you have to remember when you write these things is that the reader is going over a stack of papers, so anything that you think someone else will say, you should remove.

    Too vague. What mathematical model? Did you use a computer? Who was the name of your supervisor? What was the name of the class? You say that many aspects of the problem extended beyond undergraduate level. What were those aspects? Did you read graduate level books to do the problem? Which ones?

    You've only listed coursework and one research problem. It would help if you listed some thing else that you did that you are proud of. If you cut the first paragraph and get rid of a lot of the "deadwood" you have more room to talk about another problem that you did, and to talk about the details of the problem that you worked on.

    Be more specific. You should know enough as an undergraduate to list one interesting problem.

    More specific. This is too vague. Rather that say I want to work in the aerospace industry, you need to say something like "I want to work at Boeing working on CAD design of carbon fiber composite wings."

    Also, you haven't said anything about the school that you are applying to. Other than extremely vague statements, you haven't said what interests you about the school.
  4. Jun 29, 2011 #3
    The problem is that what you've written is your standard graduate school entrance letter and that's a bad thing. You have someone in the committee going through the letters, and if your letter sounds like a letter than anyone else could have written and in fact did write, and that's a bad thing.

    What you need to think about is to write something that no one else could have written. Yes, everyone in your field may have a senior project, but your project is different from everyone else's, and so you need to talk about that.

    The other problem is that I don't know anything about Iowa State University, and in reading your letter, I can't tell how ISU is different from any other university. What research does it do?

    Now looking at their web site, I've noticed that they have an Asteroid Deflection Research Center which sounds cool, and would be a reason *I* would apply to ISU, but I'm not you. You should go to their website, look over their research and then figure out where you'd like to work if you get accepted.
  5. Jun 29, 2011 #4
    Thank you for the feedback. So basically what you are saying is to cut out filler and put in more specific examples. I get that idea though to keep it under 1 page with specifics will be tough. Also not to question your statements, but I thought you wanted an opening paragraph that is not the standard "I plan on attending ISU, etc.,etc.,etc...". Either way I will make some modifications and see how it looks. Thank you.
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