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REU applications (help?)

  1. Jan 8, 2007 #1
    I am currently applying to several physics REUs for this summer, in the hopes of being accepted into at least one of them! Since this is my first attempt at this endeavor I am a bit concerned as most applications include sections for "Honors and Awards" and etc. Currently I am a Junior with no outstanding awards, I mean I received several when I was dual enrolled between my HS and a local college, but after graduating from HS I had a series of personal problems (ranging from financial to otherwise, as I am sure you can imagine) that make me a lovely "average" student. Do I really have a chance at these programs? I hear being female and part Native American will help, but I want to be admitted on merit not some.... Affirmative Action thing.

    The main problem I feel as though I am having, "honors/awards" aside, is the "personal statement" section of the applications. I have no idea what to write, I don't feel like I have anything outstanding going for me. I know I have taken courses, done well in them, and so on and so forth. For the computer knowledge question I can enter the experience I have gained from working as a Senior Computer Tech Consultant for the past year which helps me there, but I don't know what to write (if that makes any sense). Help? Thoughts/Comments?
     
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  3. Jan 8, 2007 #2

    LeonhardEuler

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    Hi quanx, welcome to PF. I'm in chemical engineering and I did an REU this past summer. I didn't really have any awards to speak of either, and I think my biggest problem was the personal statement. I don't think it will take you out of consideration if you don't have any awards, it would just be a bonus if you did. The key is to apply to a lot of programs and not apply to too many at prestigious universities. I'm sure if you apply to say, 6, you have a good shot of getting into at least 1.

    About the personal statement: write about what you are interested in, how you're previous experience (e.g. coursework, etc.) prepares you to do research about it, and how thier program in particular presents an opportunity to do this. This is just general advice; if they ask a more specific question, be sure to answer it.
     
  4. Jan 8, 2007 #3
    How do I go about writing the personal statements? Originally I was hoping to write one essay, then tailor it a bit to each program. Then I discovered that each program had such varied requirements, including not only content but length, that it wouldn't be possible. For example on the application for one of the programs the closest thing to a personal statement is that if you check the "Diversity box" (my nickname for the "check me if you would contribute to the campus diversity) you must explain how you would do so, which to me implies "in 200 words or less describe...". Even though they do mention financial and other hardship does apply, I don't want to sound as though I am "whining" or belaboring the point. Even still, on another application they want 500-1000 words with much more detail. I guess I just feel swamped. Any thoughts on how to include reasons why I haven't done much outstanding work without sounding "whiny"? Thanks :)
     
  5. Jan 8, 2007 #4

    LeonhardEuler

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    If by "haven't done any outstanding work", you mean that you have no experience doing research, then you don't have to include any reasons since the idea of the program is to give you experience. If you mean you have a low GPA, then be careful not to make up weak excuses about it because I've heard they don't like that. If you have a legitimate excuse like a death in the family or an illness, then you should mention it, but if it's something anyone could say, then you would probably be better off not mentioning it. Try to focus on the positive. For instance if you had a low GPA in freshman year and it has improved, you could point that out. From what I heard from the professors once I was working there, it seemed like when they read the personal statement the primary question on their minds was "What project can I put this person to work on?". I recomend reading about what research projects are going on at each place and mentioning one or possibly two that appeal to you and why.

    As far as writing multiple essays: if you have the time, then doing a lot of customization is best. You can have one or several paragraphs that you repeat more or less verbatim in each essay (but make sure this doesn't cause awkward transitions), and then a part which you vary for each program. It may be the case that there will be programs where you have to start from scratch because the question or length requirement is so different, but when you think about it, it's probably worth the effort since it can determine how you spend your entire summer and that experience could be important in a later career or grad school.

    When it comes to the diversity thing, I've seen questions like those and I've always left them blank because I can't think of a legitimate reason that I would bring diversity. You may have something to say, though. If you could think of how being female and Native American will let you bring a different perspective to the program or something like that, that's probably what they're looking for. I'm just basing that on the way I've seen the question posed, though. I haven't ever talked about that to people who make those decisions.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2007
  6. Jan 8, 2007 #5
    What is an REU
     
  7. Jan 8, 2007 #6

    LeonhardEuler

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    REU=Research Experience for Undergraduates
    It's a program of the National Science Foundation where universities are given grants to hire undergraduate science and engineering students to work on research projects over the summer.
     
  8. Jan 9, 2007 #7
    I am also applying for an REU. Do any of you have any idea how competitive they are? I am just applying to alot in hopes of getting one somewhere. Also, I found that most of the essay topics were very similar. What kind of REUs are you applying for?
     
  9. Jan 9, 2007 #8

    LeonhardEuler

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    REU's at top rated schools are pretty competitive. If you get into one of those REU's you will meet the professors who work in your department and have a very good chance of getting in if you impress them. There are a lot of REU's at a lot of universities, though. Some people with fairly low GPA's manage to get them, but it seems like it mostly very good students who get them, at least in my experience. I would say its competitive, but not extremely competitive. This is chemical engineering I'm talking about, it may be different for other diciplines.
     
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