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What exactly do I talk about in my personal statement?

  1. Nov 6, 2012 #1
    Hi guys,

    I'm working on my personal statement. I'm a math and cs major, and I'm gonna apply to grad schools apply in theoretical computer science. I'm trying to figure out how I should format my statement, what I should talk about, etc. I don't want to make it sound like everyone else's (so that means I really really shouldn't format it like I would a resume, right?)

    I guess I want to use my personal to explain what in TCS I'd be interested in, and why I am interested in those areas. To be honest, I don't have much concrete experience in TCS, since my school is a bit more computer-engineering oriented. But I have TONS of experience in mathematical logic, because this school happens to be very strong in mathematical logic. I don't really want to go into pure math though. I want to do something applied, so after looking at some papers/books, I really think I would be interested in learning about applications of logic to computer science. I can't claim having much experience in TCS, though.

    I also have research experience in pure math (not logic), and in cs (nothing related to logic), but I didn't find those experiences very relevant. Should I leave those out of my statement then? I wanted to focus on logic being the reason why I might be interested in TCS. Any suggestions?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 7, 2012 #2
    Well, I'm not sure if formatting it like a résumé would make it "sound like everyone else's," but it would certainly make it boring to read :smile:

    It seems to me like your mathematics experience would still be applicable in theoretical computer science. While I don't think you should dwell on the fact that you don't have direct experience with theoretical compsci, I do think you should emphasize that you love mathematics, theory, algorithms, and understanding the pure interworkings behind computer science... and I think you have the experience and background to talk competently about this. A lot of software engineering folks (myself included) aren't really able to stomach very much theoretical computer science, because it seems so... well... theoretical. Discussing your love of theory in general would help set you apart a bit.

    You should also try to work on an angle where you discuss not only your love of the subject, but also how you feel you could contribute, and which specific professors' research interests you. People don't get into grad schools (well, PhD programs, anyway) because the grad schools say "this guy seems really interested; he would love it here!" People get into these programs because the grad schools look at their application and say "this guy would be amazing in our program... we could really use his enthusiasm and skills. And this professor has been looking for some more help with his research... let's get this guy!"
  4. Nov 7, 2012 #3
    I agree with Natty... do your research (so to speak) on the schools and departments to which you are applying. Find out what the professors are working on in their labs and then spend a few hours on the internet researching those topics. Talk about how you'd love to be able to work with such and such equipment or software or tools (or whatever it is you computer guys work with...) and try to let your personality come through in your writing. I'd try not to make it sound overly technical. It should be easy and welcoming to read. Be confident. You know why you're interested in the subject. There's no wrong way or reason to be interested in a subject. You don't have to make excuses for your lack of experience (I wouldn't mention it at all). Sound like you know what you're talking about even if you don't. Fake it till you make it. Good luck.
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