Complicated case - explaining might take up a lot of SOP

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InquilineKea
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Complicated case - explaining might take up a lot of SOP

Postby InquilineKea » Thu Apr 01, 2010 12:40 am

Okay, so my situation is extremely complicated and requires a lot of explaining. The main issue, of course, is that this explaining will take up space on my SOP that I could otherwise use to talk about my passion and interest in science - and people without complicated situations can devote more space to talking about their passions and interests, rather than having to explain their own situations.

So first, I have inattentive ADD. Since my grades significantly improved after I got diagnosed and started taking medication, I pretty much must mention it. That, in itself, isn't much of a problem.

But also, I went to college two years early, and had massive immaturity issues on top of that (I have Asperger's Syndrome, but it probably won't do any good to mention it). Psychologically, I pretty much started to become a teenager by the time I was in college (aka I had girl issues for several years, started to distrust/dislike authority for several years, gave in to peer pressure [to do things like take grad level courses I wasn't ready for, and then I failed them], and had some periods of apathy). I also developed social anxiety, started becoming scared of people, and started to avoid pretty much everyone I had contact with (this pretty much made me leave astronomy for 3 years before coming back). I feel like I'm more mature now though.

But on the other hand, the adcoms will probably see that I went to college early, and so they'll infer that I was probably immature. The only issue is that I was extremely immature for 4 years (I'm staying for 6). This corresponds to a regular student's sophomore year, though, and there do seem to be a lot of strong students who blow everything off until their last 2 years of college. So I don't know if I really should explain that.

So even with my complicated situation, would I still have to fit everything within the character count limits of the SOP?

geshi
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Re: Complicated case - explaining might take up a lot of SOP

Postby geshi » Thu Apr 01, 2010 12:59 am

As far as the SOP goes, I wouldn't worry too much. It's probably worth mentioning your ADD thing, but most admissions committees don't take the thing too seriously.

(I'm sure some people are getting sick of me linking this article, but I think it's a good reference)
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmi ... te-school/
Even my personal essay?
Well, okay. I wouldn’t sweat the personal essay; in my experience it doesn’t have too much impact. Let’s put it this way: an incredibly good essay could help you, but a bad essay won’t do too much harm (unless it’s really bad). To a good approximation, all these essays sound alike after a while; it’s quite difficult to be original and inspiring in that format.

I have a couple other articles with similar messages regarding the SOP.

The improvement in grades should reflect your growth and maturity. Most people are immature in their first year. Their grades and maturity improve over time. You might slip in the fact that you went to college at 16 or whatever. My grades were somewhat dismal my first year, and I ended up having a 4.0 in my last semester. However I think the SOP is really where you're supposed to "gush" about how much you loooooooove physics, and how much you loooooove their department/research.

TL;DR (or "I have ADD, can you wrap this up in 3 sentences so I can move on and go watch flashing lights") version: SOP isn't that important. You probably want to slip in your ADD issue, and you having gone to college 2 years early into your SOP. Probably avoid making it the focus of your SOP, and avoid explaining the WHOLE scenario.

Also, you sort of already posted this: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3059&p=27608#p27608 (in case your ADD made you forget :wink: )

P.S. Sorry about the ADD jokes. I just feel ... "jokey" tonight.

Edit reason: I swear 2 paragraphs just "appeared" after I posted that clarified your post.

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InquilineKea
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Re: Complicated case - explaining might take up a lot of SOP

Postby InquilineKea » Thu Apr 01, 2010 1:03 am

Okay thanks for the reply. Yeah, I know I posted a somewhat similar thread, but it had a different focus (the focus there was on getting in, not about what I should write in my SOP).

Well, my real question for my SOP wasn't necessarily about my ADD (that can be explained in a very small amount of space), but more about my entire situation that needs explaining. Actually I might have to explain another thing too: my transcript looks extremely unfocused since I took classes from all sorts of different departments, and I'm pretty much graduating with the bare minimum of courses needed for my degree). However, I do lots of self-study, and I'll get a lot of skills from those different fields that will be useful for any field of science. In other words, I'm quite generalist. And I might have to explain some of my huge gaps (e.g. I quit astronomy/physics for 3 years and then I came back). So then this means more explaining to do. =/ I do have a passion for science in general, and maybe they'll accept that as inclusive of a passion of astrophysics (which is sort of less believable due to my gap).

Then the fact that I became a math major (even though I often find it frustrating without physical application). I recognize the intrinsic significance of math, but since I'm a better intuitive thinker than an analytical thinker, I'd much rather learn the physics first and the math second, rather than the other way around.

Good points about the relative importance of the SOP though. Although I need every advantage I can get, and this means that I have to be exceptional on everything that isn't GPA.

Let’s put it this way: an incredibly good essay could help you, but a bad essay won’t do too much harm (unless it’s really bad). To a good approximation, all these essays sound alike after a while; it’s quite difficult to be original and inspiring in that format


Hmm interesting. The thing with me is that there aren't a lot of undergrads with ADD who entered 2 years early and who have huge numbers of high-level/grad-lvl courses in all sorts of scientific fields. My essay, for sure, won't sound like anyone else's, although maybe not necessarily in the positive way. Maybe with some creativity I could write something convincing.

pqortic
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Re: Complicated case - explaining might take up a lot of SOP

Postby pqortic » Thu Apr 01, 2010 5:13 pm

I think you are overthinking your problem/disease. a quick reference to that would be enough for the whole story. you should focus mainly on your strength points in SOP to persuade them to hire you.

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grae313
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Re: Complicated case - explaining might take up a lot of SOP

Postby grae313 » Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:38 pm

You can fit a lot into your SOP without directly talking about it if you are clever about it. Your main goal in your SOP is to talk in detail about your strengths and your research experience, not to dwell on reasons you may have not performed as well as you were capable. When talking about your successes, mention the challenges you overcame to achieve those successes, and how your challenges helped you grow and mature as a person, but mention them in a light that only shows the positive outcomes. Spend as little time as possible on these things and always pair every statement of a challenge you've faced or a poor decision you've made with a positive outcome of that challenge/poor decision. Your experiences have shaped you, made you a better person, and helped to prepare you for graduate school. Convince your readers of this.




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