## Personal Statement Format

coreycwgriffin
Posts: 249
Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 1:28 am

### Personal Statement Format

We all know the sorts of things that we should include in a personal statement. Mine is nearly finished, I just want to do one more revision and have it checked by a professor or two, but that is not my question.

What should the format be like?

Should it look like a letter you would send in the mail (addressed to someone with a salutation) or should it just be a block of text? I know that a lot of applications want your name and some identification number (SSN, birthdate, something) on every page, but aside from that, I'm not sure what it should look like.

secander2!
Posts: 264
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2008 12:25 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

From what I've seen, most personal statements tend to be formatted like a regular essay with indentation at the beginning of each paragraph. Be careful though, because some of the text boxes which you can paste into don't accept "tabs" and this can really screw up your formatting. In that case, I usually just use spaces to make the indentations, or block paragraphs separated by line breaks.

coreycwgriffin
Posts: 249
Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 1:28 am

### Re: Personal Statement Format

secander2! wrote:From what I've seen, most personal statements tend to be formatted like a regular essay with indentation at the beginning of each paragraph. Be careful though, because some of the text boxes which you can paste into don't accept "tabs" and this can really screw up your formatting. In that case, I usually just use spaces to make the indentations, or block paragraphs separated by line breaks.

Yeah, a couple of my applications are like that, while others want a physical letter mailed to them, others want Word or PDF documents uploaded and attached to the application. I'm going to be doing mine in LaTeX, so mine will be a PDF. I just don't know if I should make it look pretty like a real letter.

secander2!
Posts: 264
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2008 12:25 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

hmmm, I've never had one where they wanted a physical letter... usually for the web applications, they just have a bare-bones type of upload system, so I think they just want simplicity with these. perhaps the physical ones are different, I don't know, if you find out, let me know

coreycwgriffin
Posts: 249
Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 1:28 am

### Re: Personal Statement Format

secander2! wrote:hmmm, I've never had one where they wanted a physical letter... usually for the web applications, they just have a bare-bones type of upload system, so I think they just want simplicity with these. perhaps the physical ones are different, I don't know, if you find out, let me know

I plan on asking my professor tomorrow when she checks over my final draft. I'll post the results, if I remember.

metric
Posts: 64
Joined: Thu Apr 17, 2008 5:17 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

I also wrote mine in LaTeX using the {paper} class, with "Statement of Purpose" as title and my name as author. It doesn't look too bad if you want to give it a try, and I got it screened by somebody I know in an admission committee and he gave me the thumb up.

twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

Now that there are fully integrated LaTeX WYSIWYG programs doing your SOP in pure LaTeX is likely to be more time consuming than helpful. The power of LaTeX lies in its capability to format complex mathematical statements. Using it to do a text only statement of purpose is pompous and will come across as such.

PoincareSection
Posts: 110
Joined: Mon Oct 13, 2008 2:00 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

twistor wrote:Now that there are fully integrated LaTeX WYSIWYG programs doing your SOP in pure LaTeX is likely to be more time consuming than helpful. The power of LaTeX lies in its capability to format complex mathematical statements. Using it to do a text only statement of purpose is pompous and will come across as such.

I did my CV in latex and it looks way better than it did in Word. I think a lot of people use it for everything because text looks better with latex.

zxcv
Posts: 402
Joined: Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:08 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

TeX has objectively better typesetting than Word. That's reason enough to use it or another professional type setting program.

Once you know how to use it, writing an a plain text essay in LaTeX is just as easy as with a WYSIWYG editor, except it looks better and you can include comments. I find it exceedingly useful to be able to comment out sentences especially when you're trying to the pick the perfect words to fit within a page limit.

For something like the NSF graduate fellowship with strict page limits, I recommend it because with the exact same font size and margins in TeX you can fit the equivalent of an extra few lines of text per page over Word. This is because TeX doesn't add in unnecessary extra white space between letters (look up "kerning").

twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

TeX has objectively better typesetting than Word.

Are you writing a book or a 1 page document? Yeah, thought so.

Furthermore, if you have time to typeset non-technical documents in LaTeX then you're not busy enough.

tmc
Posts: 112
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 1:40 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

Writing a page in latex takes like 20 seconds more than in Word, I really don't see what the big deal is.

trani
Posts: 108
Joined: Sun Sep 07, 2008 1:04 am

### Re: Personal Statement Format

Totally agree with tmc!

twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

Yes I totally agree that doing all kinds of {document} \formatting_{merely} $\adds$ an {additional} 20 seconds... ERROR UNCLOSED } CANNOT COMPILE MESSAGE

happymonkey
Posts: 52
Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 12:47 am

### Re: Personal Statement Format

In principle use the tools you are comfortable using. I don't think it is necessary to learn LaTeX two weeks or a month before the personal statement is due, but LaTeX is for me the best typesetting system available bar none and it is what I am using to typeset my statement of purpose.

twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

The real reason you are using LaTeX is because you think it will impress the admissions committee, a group of people who for the most part could give two squirts of piss what formatting system you used to write it.

If you insist on using LaTeX, fine, but don't feed us some bullshit about the superiority of its text formatting.

I'll have you know I did my SOP using ed, and then transcribed it by hand to parchment, and finally printed it using a Gutenberg press, which as everyone knows has superior formatting when compared to LaTeX (this process is worth the extra 20 seconds). The admissions committee was so impressed they gave me a gift certificate to TGI Friday's. Now that's fuckin' hardcore.

physicsdude
Posts: 73
Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2007 3:16 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

<.>
Last edited by physicsdude on Mon Dec 15, 2008 11:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

And don't try to be a bigger ass than me because you can't win.

sterculus
Posts: 116
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2008 2:16 am

### Re: Personal Statement Format

OK guys, this is about as ridiculous as vi/emacs fights. It really doesn't matter - use whatever makes you happy.

twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

Here's what I hear when someone says they did their SOP in LaTeX:

"I have too much time on my hands."

I get the same impression when I see a PowerPoint presentation that's "too nice."

twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

It is ridiculous, because real programmers use hex editors to program directly in binary.

physicsdude
Posts: 73
Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2007 3:16 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

<.>
Last edited by physicsdude on Mon Dec 15, 2008 11:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

They will also know it if you list it as an additional skill on your resume.

To prove my greatness to you I am writing this in LaTeX. I know you are impressed, but wait, there's more. I'm writing it in a LaTeX editor that I wrote in 80x86 assembler using the latest documented mnemonic set. The program was assembled and linked on a flavor of Linux of my design (I rewrote the kernel from scratch in between classes one day). Whenever I boot it up it pays homage to my greatness by singing hymns of praise using a text-to-speech processor that I programmed while waiting for a bus one day.

I know there are hundreds of other candidates for my spot in graduate school, but the formatting of this document says it all. In the future I recommend you rank all potential candidates based on the quality of text in their SOP.

Frankly I'll be impressed if the acceptance letter I receive in the mail is half as nice as the text in this statement of purpose. That's alright, though, because once I join your program I'll offer free lessons on formatting text so you can all slowly work up to my level of textual virtuosity.

Oh, yeah, and I also spend some time doing physics."

trani
Posts: 108
Joined: Sun Sep 07, 2008 1:04 am

### Re: Personal Statement Format

@twistor

This whole discussion is a waste of time.

twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

physicsdude wrote:
twistor wrote:Here's what I hear when someone says they did their SOP in LaTeX:

"I have too much time on my hands."

I get the same impression when I see a PowerPoint presentation that's "too nice."

That is funny, coming from you. Congratulations (in advance) on 1000 posts on this forum. Go work on your PowerPoint presentation instead (oh wait, you would have to have something to present).

And yes, you win, you are a bigger ass.

I have to admit that wasn't a bad riposte. I post in my free time and sometimes when I should be working on other things. It's a bad habit and I should stop posting (hence the avatar) but it's somewhat addicting. Perhaps I will stop at 1000.

twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

trani wrote:@twistor

This whole discussion is a waste of time.

This whole forum is a waste of time, but that isn't stopping anyone else.

secander2!
Posts: 264
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2008 12:25 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

true... if it wasn't for this forum, my SOP would be done, even if I had had to master LaTeX to do it!

happymonkey
Posts: 52
Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 12:47 am

### Re: Personal Statement Format

twistor what is up with the *TeX hate? I know how to use it. It works for me and so I use it. I typeset my thesis using it, I've typeset a myriad of other nicely presented documents with it. Its use is limited it is only excellent in the area of typsetting. It won't do linear algebra for me, or make me breakfast but I don't use it for that. I use it to typeset, and that it can do. I didn't learn *TeX to put on my resume, I learned it to use it, and find that it was worth learning.

twistor wrote:

They will also know it if you list it as an additional skill on your resume.

To prove my greatness to you I am writing this in LaTeX. I know you are impressed, but wait, there's more. I'm writing it in a LaTeX editor that I wrote in 80x86 assembler using the latest documented mnemonic set. The program was assembled and linked on a flavor of Linux of my design (I rewrote the kernel from scratch in between classes one day). Whenever I boot it up it pays homage to my greatness by singing hymns of praise using a text-to-speech processor that I programmed while waiting for a bus one day.

I know there are hundreds of other candidates for my spot in graduate school, but the formatting of this document says it all. In the future I recommend you rank all potential candidates based on the quality of text in their SOP.

Frankly I'll be impressed if the acceptance letter I receive in the mail is half as nice as the text in this statement of purpose. That's alright, though, because once I join your program I'll offer free lessons on formatting text so you can all slowly work up to my level of textual virtuosity.

Oh, yeah, and I also spend some time doing physics."

twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

It IS worth knowing. Using it for non-technical documents is pointless.

I know how to use a nail gun, but I don't use it when the situation requires a hammer.

matonski
Posts: 121
Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 5:03 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

Open LaTeX editor (I use TeXShop on macs and TeXnicCenter on windows). Then type:

\documentclass{article}
\begin{document}

This is my personal statement. I must have so much time on my hands because this obviously took so long to write.

\end{document}

now click "typeset" or "build."

Instead of my text above, you can just type your entire personal statement.

twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

What is the point then?

Obviously to try to impress the readers of the SOP and nothing else, since there is no gain by doing it that way.

For a bunch of supposedly smart people you're awfully delusional about who you're fooling.

tmc
Posts: 112
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 1:40 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

Some people find it more convenient to use tex instead of word, as it takes care of the formatting for you and looks generally nicer.

matonski
Posts: 121
Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 5:03 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

It's easy and I like the way it looks better. Shame on us for trying to impress the readers of our SOP. What a horrible horrible idea.

matonski
Posts: 121
Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 5:03 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

Now LaTeXing homework assignments... I've tried that as well and that takes much longer than 30 seconds more than the traditional hand-written way for me. I still do it though on occassion, always thinking that the ability to copy and paste will make it faster, but it still always takes too long. For me at least.

twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

Some people find it more convenient to use tex instead of word, as it takes care of the formatting for you and looks generally nicer.

Just like some people find it easier to transcribe books by hand rather than use a copy machine.

twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

matonski wrote:It's easy and I like the way it looks better. Shame on us for trying to impress the readers of our SOP. What a horrible horrible idea.

The point is that any professor will see through this ruse. Frankly, if I sat on a committee and someone had the balls to submit a LaTeX'ed document thinking it would be impress me I would be much more likely to have a negative view of the submitting candidate.

Any half-ass qualified candidate either already knows TeX or can pick it up in graduate school and professors, of course, know this. So focus on more important aspects of your application.

tmc
Posts: 112
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 1:40 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

twistor wrote:
Some people find it more convenient to use tex instead of word, as it takes care of the formatting for you and looks generally nicer.

Just like some people find it easier to transcribe books by hand rather than use a copy machine.

You're speaking as if using TeX was any harder or longer than using Word

You must be using some messed up TeX-writing software or something. For me, it's literally faster to make a nice document in LaTeX than in it in Word. Period. It's faster, it's better, and uses free software. There is literally no reason for me to use anything else.

Helio
Posts: 809
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2007 7:11 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

matonski wrote:Open LaTeX editor (I use TeXShop on macs and TeXnicCenter on windows). Then type:

\documentclass{article}
\begin{document}

This is my personal statement. I must have so much time on my hands because this obviously took so long to write.

\end{document}

now click "typeset" or "build."

Instead of my text above, you can just type your entire personal statement.

Why do you even bother typing when you just use their templates?

I just use LaTeX because I don't own Word on my machine and Open office for the Mac is just a pain in the ass sometimes.

matonski wrote:Now LaTeXing homework assignments... I've tried that as well and that takes much longer than 30 seconds more than the traditional hand-written way for me. I still do it though on occassion, always thinking that the ability to copy and paste will make it faster, but it still always takes too long. For me at least.

Depends on the homework for my stats homework where everything is half written half math I use paper and pen for the written i use LaTex

tmc wrote:
twistor wrote:
Some people find it more convenient to use tex instead of word, as it takes care of the formatting for you and looks generally nicer.

Just like some people find it easier to transcribe books by hand rather than use a copy machine.

You're speaking as if using TeX was any harder or longer than using Word

You must be using some messed up TeX-writing software or something. For me, it's literally faster to make a nice document in LaTeX than in it in Word. Period. It's faster, it's better, and uses free software. There is literally no reason for me to use anything else.

Open Office is free is basically does the same as Word. Just on Mac it is pain in the ass to use sometimes cause it somehow messes itself up.

I used LaTeX for my CV as well, why cause it looks better and somehow is easier formatable then using word, at least from my point of view.

twistor wrote:
matonski wrote:It's easy and I like the way it looks better. Shame on us for trying to impress the readers of our SOP. What a horrible horrible idea.

The point is that any professor will see through this ruse. Frankly, if I sat on a committee and someone had the balls to submit a LaTeX'ed document thinking it would be impress me I would be much more likely to have a negative view of the submitting candidate.

Any half-ass qualified candidate either already knows TeX or can pick it up in graduate school and professors, of course, know this. So focus on more important aspects of your application.

If they give you a negative review based on what program you use to write you letters they seriously should rethink them being in the board

matonski
Posts: 121
Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 5:03 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

Helio wrote:Why do you even bother typing when you just use their templates?

I don't understand what you're asking.

Helio
Posts: 809
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2007 7:11 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

matonski wrote:
Helio wrote:Why do you even bother typing when you just use their templates?

I don't understand what you're asking.

TexShop for Mac has templates for documents, so you can just use the templates instead of typing the \documentclass, etc

matonski
Posts: 121
Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 5:03 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

Interesting. I'm going to check those out.

coreycwgriffin
Posts: 249
Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 1:28 am

### Re: Personal Statement Format

Yeah...Twistor, you kind of are acting like an ass. You talk about wasting time in LaTeX, but you sure are wasting a lot of time posting in this thread. Maybe you are not busy enough.

Also, I've been using LaTeX for over 3 years. It takes me just as long to typeset something in that as it would in Word. I feel like if someone would recognize that your personal statement in LaTeX, you wouldn't come off as a "pompous ass", but rather it would be a good thing, since almost all physics journals require submissions using RevTeX, so it's a skill that most physics students need to have, but some may not.

To get back to the point of this thread, the professor I had checking my statement of purpose said not to worry about format -- that blocks of text are fine.

helena_rubenstein
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 10:07 am

### Re: Personal Statement Format

Well, you all can debate Word vs. LaTeX vs. OpenOffice vs. whatever, but it's the content and the craft that sets one apart as being superior.

Wax tablet and papyrus reed for me, mothafuckahs!

nathan12343
Posts: 249
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 9:34 am

### Re: Personal Statement Format

Nothing impresses admissions committees more than a hand-carved SOP in a block of granite. Might cost you on shipping, though.

akmkat
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Dec 15, 2009 4:46 pm

### Re: Personal Statement Format

well man I neither have word nor windows - I use Ubuntu - what sould I do ?

lets waste some time !!!

geshi
Posts: 200
Joined: Tue Dec 01, 2009 12:01 am

### Re: Personal Statement Format

I use a Mac and I enjoy their program Pages. It's a lot like MS Word. The only real difference is that pages isn't a steaming pile of dung.

By the way, this thread has mostly been dead since December of 2008. I doubt the original "debaters" will be coming back anytime soon to revive this discussion