Queries for statement of purpose

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  • #1
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I’m currently pursuing my master's degree in physics (in India) will be applying for the graduate course in the US for Fall 2018, and have a few queries regarding the statement of purpose.

1) Is it okay if I’m still undecided about what specific discipline I want to get into? Thing is, I have some research experience in the area of biophysics, but I don’t want to commit to it right now and cordon off other topics. (I’m assuming that it’s a common thing?)


2) I had a break in my formal education after completing my bachelor’s degree. I wonder whether it’s appropriate to include the following in the SOP (hoping it doesn’t do any damage)-


“After completing my bachelor’s degree (triple major in physics, mathematics and chemistry) I didn’t get into any of the places that I had applied to. So I took a year off and during the next 10 months or so, every single day (almost) I sat down and worked problems. I worked through most of the problems in the undergraduate textbooks Resnick-Halliday and Mary Boas (mathematical physics), and covered major portions from Griffiths (electromagnetic theory), Kleppner (mechanics) and Eisberg (quantum theory), and learnt quite a few other miscellaneous things. I had no deadlines, no syllabus or course to follow, no pressure, with only curiosity as my drive. Although I wasn’t taking any course or wasn’t part of any institution, I consider this period as the most fruitful and satisfactory time of my academic life, till now. I don’t mean to perpetuate the myth of a lone genius or project myself as one. The point I’m trying to make is that I find physics very exciting and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction. I also learnt during this time, to be persistent when things don’t go your way, and that I had the ability to work hard (I used to study for about 12 hours per day).”

Everything I’ve written above is absolutely true. I understand that it may be out of place in a SOP, but I was hoping that a tailored version of this would answer the question “Why do you want to get into the graduate program”, showing them that I have the drive to learn physics from within. Some universities require a separate “Personal Statement”, maybe I can put this there. Thoughts?



3) Being a master’s student, I’ve already had a few courses which are mandatory for the coursework in the graduate program (advanced classical mech, electromagnetism, quantum theory). Would it be prudent to point out that this gives me an advantage?

I sincerely thank those who’ve taken the effort to go through this.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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You probably shouldn't point out to the committee that you previously weren't successful in being admitted to graduate school.

Also, I'd advise against including things like "The point I’m trying to make is that I find physics very exciting and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction". That is true of every single graduate student applying for physics! In regards to that entire paragraph, I personally would advise against it, although others may disagree (I only applied to graduate school myself two years ago). The reason is that nothing in that paragraph has physical, concrete evidence for it. Yes, you may have self-studied for 12 hours per day, but unless you have a professor with whom you were working closely, there is no one to back up that statement, so it is effectively meaningless.

In regards to your first question, if you have research in the area of biophysics and think that it may be the area you want to pursue in graduate school, then apply for that. There is no pressure to stick with what you mention in your application, and the committee knows that. I totally did a 180 on research interests between undergrad and grad school, and it didn't hurt me in the slightest.
 
  • #3
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The reason is that nothing in that paragraph has physical, concrete evidence for it
That is exactly why I thought it won't do any good. Pity.
Also, I'd advise against including things like "The point I’m trying to make is that I find physics very exciting and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction". That is true of every single graduate student applying for physics!
To be honest, I wouldn't have included this line (it's still my first draft). Instead of me explicitly stating that I find physics exciting, it should be apparent from the general content, right?
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What about mentioning that I've already taken a few graduate level courses.? Any way that could work against me?
Anyways, thanks for your input!
 
  • #4
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I don't see how mentioning your graduate coursework could hurt you. Be sure to focus on research though!
 
  • #6
Vanadium 50
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I don't see how mentioning your graduate coursework could hurt you.

Except that there's already a place for this - the transcript.

Most applications make it clear what they want in an SOP: why do you want to go to grad school, and why do you want to go to grad school here? I don't know why applicants want to disregard the directions, and I really, really don't understand why applicants write SOPs that do not address what was asked. (And more than a few do)
 
  • #7
StatGuy2000
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Except that there's already a place for this - the transcript.

Most applications make it clear what they want in an SOP: why do you want to go to grad school, and why do you want to go to grad school here? I don't know why applicants want to disregard the directions, and I really, really don't understand why applicants write SOPs that do not address what was asked. (And more than a few do)

The problem is that many students want to go to graduate school because (a) they want to have a chance to go into academia, or otherwise delay entering the job market, and/or (b) graduate school is the only chance available for the student to eventually land a well-paying position. And to the question of why do they want to go to grad school here, because (a) the school is prestigious, or (b) some other reason(s).

I don't know about you, but I suspect that none of the above reasons would sound especially good in a SOP.
 
  • #8
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Except that there's already a place for this - the transcript.

Most applications make it clear what they want in an SOP: why do you want to go to grad school, and why do you want to go to grad school here? I don't know why applicants want to disregard the directions, and I really, really don't understand why applicants write SOPs that do not address what was asked. (And more than a few do)
I don't know about what applicants do, in general, but I most certainly don't intend to disregard any directions. I'm going through the information on the sites of each university I'll potentially apply to, and I see that there are some small differences in what they want in a statement ( eg. some departments ask for a separate 'Personal Statement', where maybe I could put the stuff mentioned above). I will prepare statements for applying to each department separately, suiting their profile.
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I understand that the main purpose of a SOP is, like you said, "why do you want to go to grad school, and why do you want to go to grad school here?", and I will address that. But wouldn't something along the lines of "I like physics" ( in a less explicit manner) be a legitimate reason for why someone wants to attend grad school?
 
  • #9
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But wouldn't something along the lines of "I like physics" ( in a less explicit manner) be a legitimate reason for why someone wants to attend grad school?

Sure. But it's unhelpful. Not many people apply who don't like physics.
 

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