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Re-apply sop / dismissal record

  1. Dec 6, 2012 #1
    Hi everyone,

    I'd like to have some advice on my sop for applying physics graduate school. I used to attend a physics PhD program, but I was dismissed b/c of low GPA. It happened at the end of 2010. I worked out my problems and am ready to go back to school and finish my degree. I'm planning to apply for fall 2013. I have trouble composing my sop, and would like to have your advice.

    I contacted an advisor in career center of my old school. He told me it's better to tell people what was going on and convince them the problems are gone. Hiding things would be a red flag. I want more of his advice but he just never replied me anymore. (I can only reach him by email.) But I really don't know how to explain things skillfully.

    The situation was I was actually suffering from major depression and then PTSD. I stayed at school but kept suffering and struggling. I spend almost all my time and energy on recovery. I worked so hard to get well, but didn't work on things about school (wasn't able to). Anyway I got dismissed from school.

    It's so personal. I'm afraid of disclosing mental illness would bring discrimination. I'm also worried that they would think I'm still incapable of finishing grad school. I've been working on my issues and just started working again in Nov. I'm sure I can handle grad school now. But how should I persuade people about this? How to disclose more enough but not too much to harm my chance ?

    Any suggestion? Thank you so much. I really appreciate all your help.

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 6, 2012 #2


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    So sorry to hear about your situation. Is the situation that you're in the US, and you're a veteran? Many university campuses in the US have specific services for vets. E.g., on my campus there is a club/support center and also a staff member who works on veterans' issues. If there is anything similar on your campus, I would seek their advice.

    Another possibility (regardless of whether you're a vet) would be to go and talk to people at your school's office that provides services to disabled students -- they will have tons of experience with how to approach possible discrimination issues.

    If you're a vet, then I'd imagine the best approach would be to spin your statement of purpose to emphasize your military service. Say that you underestimated the difficulties you were going to face after coming home, tried to tough it out, and ended up realizing that toughing it out wasn't working. I think an admissions committee will be able to relate to that in a positive way. If you're a vet, there's a danger that they'll be visualizing various negative stereotypes, e.g., images of you being violent or drinking a lot. (Of course the fact that you're female fights the stereotype automatically.) You can substitute other images for those. E.g., if you have kids, just briefly mention making their lunches and sending them off to school. A statement of purpose isn't a personal essay, it's a statement of why you want to go to grad school -- but you can work stuff like this in somehow, even if very briefly. Concrete imagery is very powerful.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  4. Dec 6, 2012 #3
    Thank you Ben. I'm not in the states. I went back home, which is not in the states, after being dismissed. I'm not a vet either.

    I had major depression for a long time and I was raped. PTSD, eating disorder, etc, all followed, and it was tough. I don't want to reveal my personal stories. But my concern is that I think the committee would doubt if I have the potential to complete a PhD, which would take years, since I once being dismissed.

    They would want to know if my problems causing the dismissal is solved, if I can handle graduate school, etc. So I think I need to explain something about it. The career counselor thinks the same thing too. I don't know how to explain without revealing too much personal things, without writing things that may harm my chances, and convince them that what caused the dismissal was all over and I can handle school and complete my degree now.

    I appreciate all your help.
  5. Dec 6, 2012 #4
    I'm very sorry to hear about what you had to go through. It must not have been easy.

    I'm not an expert on grad school admissions, so take my information with a huge grain of salt.

    What I would do in your case is not to focus too much on your mental problems. You should say that you had problems of course. But you should focus more on that you tried to make things better. You should show that you fought your problems and that it made you a stronger person. Do not use mental illness as an excuse (although it is a damn good excuse!), but rather use it as an opportunity to show that you are ready for grad school and that you are very motivated.
  6. Dec 7, 2012 #5
    Thank you micromass. Your opinion enlightens me, and it gives me a direction to think about my sop. I'll try to write something and see how it goes. Thank you.
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