Statement of Purpose - School Specific Info

  • Thread starter PhDorBust
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  • #1
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This is a common subject I'm sure, but for reasons unknown this information is difficult to find.

I have written my statement of purpose, all that remains is to customize it to each institution that I am applying to. How did you handle this?

Did you talk about faculty you think would be great to work with? Famous discoveries made there? What about mediocre schools that have no famous things known about them?
 

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  • #2
Vanadium 50
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Why are you applying to these "mediocre schools"? Put that in the statement.
 
  • #3
Pengwuino
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Why are you applying to these "mediocre schools"? Put that in the statement.
I think a caveat might be "unless the reason is that you need a safety school in case you don't get into any place else"! Of course, this is a horrible reason to apply to a school anyways.
 
  • #4
Vanadium 50
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Yes, but even when selecting a safety school, why this particular safety school?
 
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Unless the schools you are applying to all have the same program in the field you're interested in, it is probably best if you write your letter to that school as opposed to writing a general letter and then tailoring it to teach school. That is, instead of having one paragraph saying why you want to apply to the given school and several others with general statements about yourself, mix those themes together throughout the letter. Above all else, it should definitely be evident that you've written the letter knowing how you'd fit in, in their department. They'll notice if you write a canned letter and change only one part of the letter to fit the particular school.
 
  • #6
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Did you talk about faculty you think would be great to work with? Famous discoveries made there? What about mediocre schools that have no famous things known about them?
Use the web. Every physics department has a web page with current research. Also the AIP physics directory has a list of departments and their research.

There is no such thing as a "safety school" when it comes to physics graduate schools. There is a huge supply of qualified foreign graduate students, and if you go belong a certain level, they are going to choose one of them over you.

You need to change your mindset before drafting the letter. Your goal is to make someone feel good about you, and you can't make someone feel good about you unless you feel good about them.

Something that is really important to remember is that if you are one of 1000 undergraduates, you are not going to single-handedly make much of a difference in the quality of the university. By contrast, if you go to a small school with a half-dozen graduate students, you are going to have a big impact on the quality of the department.
 
  • #7
Choppy
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If at all possible I would recommend visiting the departments you're seriously considering applying to. Talk with potential supervisors. Talk with current graduate students. Learn about the facilities each school has.

I think it looks a lot better in these letters to say something along the lines of:
"When I visited your school earlier this year I was really impressed with the work being done by the _____ group. I met with Professors ____, ____, and _____, and discussed potential projects in ____."

Rather than something that implies:
"I just want to get in somewhere and you have a program according to your web-page."

If visiting directly is not possible, correspondence is another option. I never visited the graduate school I attended before being accepted, but I had corresponed with several of the faculty members.
 

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