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Statement of purpose is it good?

  1. Oct 12, 2013 #1
    Hi all!
    I am applying to physics PhD programs across the U.S. and I'm not sure if my statement of purpose will cut it.. I am not the most creative writer and was wondering if anyone minded reading it to see what you think?? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    I am writing to express my interest in graduate studies in your department. Long have I aspired to enroll as a graduate student in your Physics PhD program at your esteemed university. I have spent the last four years of my life immersed in the fantastic worlds of physics and mathematics. Obtaining a double major in both pre-professional physics and applied mathematics with a minor in astronomy in 8 semesters was no easy feat, and I believe it will provide a strong foundation for graduate studies in physics at your school.
    Ever since I was little, I gazed up at the stars in wonder, stunned by the complex, yet elegant and beautiful nature of our seemingly endless universe. Entranced, I attended many space camps and programs as a child until I made it to high school where I could finally take classes in physics and astronomy. Gaining real insight on how the world around us works, I continued on, taking both AP physics and AP Calculus as a senior in high school. It was at that point that I knew that physics would be the field in which I would saturate the rest of my life in. I believe that the ultimate purpose of life is to learn and discover as much of reality as we possibly can – and there is no better way to do this than by eventually obtaining my PhD in physics – the trunk of the tree composed of all sciences, as stated by Rene Descartes.
    Once being granted admission to the University of Utah, I immediately began the hard work. I shortly found that the best way to truly understand physics down to its core was to have a sturdy foundation in mathematics. Hence, I decided to begin a double major between applied mathematics and pre-professional (theoretical) physics. I also decided to continue my passion in astronomy by minoring in astronomy. Many 21-credit hour semesters later, I am preparing for a May 2014 graduation. My overall GPA is currently 3.780, my physics GPA is 3.896, and my last 60 credit hours GPA is 3.860. I have obtained Dean’s list status every semester I attended, and plan on continuing for my last two semesters. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all this without help from the fantastic staff at the University of Utah, an amazing physics teacher at West Lake high school who fired my passion for physics and astronomy, and the donors of the many academic scholarships I received.
    Over the past four years, I believe I have acquired just the right skills in order to achieve success in your graduate program. I have a sturdy and complimentary foundation of math and physics obtained through my double major, I have taken both physical and mathematical programming classes from both departments, and I have obtained a minor in astronomy which strongly supplements my knowledge of physics. I have also taken many advanced undergraduate lab and scientific writing classes which have taught me the foundations of research and writing. Throughout my college career I have also supported the University of Utah’s astronomy outreach program. I started out volunteering at star parties every Wednesday night and eventually because a full outreach TA. This has been a great learning experience where I have taught many people – K-12 students, university students, and the general public the wonders of astronomy.
    To conclude, I strongly wish to continue my education, as I believe it is a never-ending, continuous process. I wish to refine my skills and knowledge of physics – and I believe the most logical path is to pursue my PhD in physics at your prestigious institution. This is the most rational expansion of my scientific pursuits, and a major step in the direction of my goal as a research professional. I believe this is the best way to further humanities cause, and reach out into the cosmos. I would be very thankful for the chance the further my education in your organization, and I thank you for your time.

    Thanks in advance for the help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 12, 2013 #2


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    Have you thought about talking more about the school you're applying to, and what about their grad program and research focus made you want to apply there? Also call the schools and speak with people there, if it all goes well you could stick that in the sop too. Might help out, but I'm sure other people will have better advice.
  4. Oct 12, 2013 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    This doesn't say anything that isn't elsewhere in your admissions packet, and doesn't give a better reason to go to graduate school than "next possible step".

    I would start over, from a clean sheet of paper.
  5. Oct 12, 2013 #4


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    I hope this doesn't appear to harsh, but here are my thoughts.

    Before I get into the details, after the first pass I really don't have any idea what specifically you're interested in doing in "my" program. Nor do I see any evidence that you've investigated my program to any great detail. There are some relevant details to your background that could be important if I have to rank you within the pool of applicants, but a lot of irrelevant stuff that I have to dig through to get to them.

    Remember, everyone applying to a graduate program in physics will (a) have completed an undergraduate degree in physics or equivalent, and (b) have a great passion for physics. So it's not too important to convince your reader that either of these are true.

    Let's dive right into this.

    This paragraph to me sounds like you're trying to convince me that completing an undergraduate degree in four years is something beyond the standard accomplishment of the other applicants. I know it's a major accomplishment. I know it's not something most people can do. But I already know this about you, because you wouldn't be applying if this wasn't true.

    Okay you liked physics when you were a kid. I'm two paragraphs in and I'm reading about stuff you did in high school. I have no idea what AP physics is. My guess is that AP stands for "advanced placement" and it's one of those programs where universities will extend credit for a university course taken in high school.

    Is that grammatically correct?

    Okay, but there's a good chance just about all of the other applicants also believe that their purpose in life is to learn about reality (which is extremely vague).

    I know what you mean, I think, but there is a little voice in my head that responds to this with, "Wouldn't studying physics be the best way to truly understand physics?"

    Remember that the people reviewing your application have all of this information in front of them. They likely just have to scroll up or down to see official copies of your transcripts.

    I can understand how you might feel some sense of duty to recognize those outstanding individuals in your life who've helped you. But what stands out for me here is that you're talking about high school again, where there is so much other critical information that I'm interested in.

    What specifically might these skills be? What skills do you believe one needs to succeed in "my" program?

    Again, I likely have your transcripts in front of me.

    Here is the first real unique information about you compared to other applicants in the pool. Check the grammar on the second sentence. But what did you really do? Were you reading a script or did you do any program development? "Wonders of astronomy" is pretty soft language. What skills did this give you that will be relevant to your time in my program?

    Again a lot of soft language here. Your goal is a professional researcher is vague. Humanity's cause is vague.

    In a re-write I would suggest you cut all the soft language and instead include the following...
    1. What specific sub-field (or fields) are you interested in?
    2. Why do you feel "my" institution has strength in these fields?
    3. Who have you talked to or corresponded with so far about graduate opportunities?
    4. What do you have in mind as far as a graduate project?
    5. What particular courses did you really enjoy in your undergraduate program?
    6. Why do you feel you will be successful in the pursuit of a PhD?
    7. What's unique about you compared to your peers?

    Good luck with it.
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