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How to write SoP with barely any research experience?

Posted: Tue Oct 27, 2015 10:23 am
by Jding
Hi everyone, I'm an international student(Asia) interested in applying for PhD in theoretical cosmology or HEP theory in general. Most universities require applicants to mention past research in their SoPs but I barely have any.

I only did a summer-long research in material science and a semester-long project on Higgs decay(probably doesn't even count as research) and is currently working on my 4th year thesis related to topological field theories. I have no publications.

What I do have is decent GPA, my position is top in my home university which has decent reputation in my country. My GRE is 95%+ and got perfect scores on all sections of TOEFL except for the writing part. I also did a 1 year exchange program in an almost unknown UK university(but I heard their best can get into Oxford or Cambridge) and ranked #1 in most of the courses I took. The professors really liked me and will write LoRs for me.

I'm aiming for universities that rank 30-60 in the US(not the world) and feel like my lack of research experience might really hurt my chances. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I should explain/cover this on my SoP? Or am I aiming too high?

Re: How to write SoP with barely any research experience?

Posted: Tue Oct 27, 2015 10:40 am
by Catria
Jding wrote:Hi everyone, I'm an international student(Asia) interested in applying for PhD in theoretical cosmology or HEP theory in general. Most universities require applicants to mention past research in their SoPs but I barely have any.

I only did a summer-long research in material science and a semester-long project on Higgs decay(probably doesn't even count as research) and is currently working on my 4th year thesis related to topological field theories. I have no publications.

What I do have is decent GPA, my position is top in my home university which has decent reputation in my country. My GRE is 95%+ and got perfect scores on all sections of TOEFL except for the writing part. I also did a 1 year exchange program in an almost unknown UK university(but I heard their best can get into Oxford or Cambridge) and ranked #1 in most of the courses I took. The professors really liked me and will write LoRs for me.

I'm aiming for universities that rank 30-60 in the US(not the world) and feel like my lack of research experience might really hurt my chances. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I should explain/cover this on my SoP? Or am I aiming too high?


No that's not too high. These three research experience items would, to be fair, look like what a typical admit at schools in the 20-40 range have (or perhaps even 10-20)...

Re: How to write SoP with barely any research experience?

Posted: Tue Oct 27, 2015 10:49 am
by Jding
Catria wrote:
Jding wrote:Hi everyone, I'm an international student(Asia) interested in applying for PhD in theoretical cosmology or HEP theory in general. Most universities require applicants to mention past research in their SoPs but I barely have any.

I only did a summer-long research in material science and a semester-long project on Higgs decay(probably doesn't even count as research) and is currently working on my 4th year thesis related to topological field theories. I have no publications.

What I do have is decent GPA, my position is top in my home university which has decent reputation in my country. My GRE is 95%+ and got perfect scores on all sections of TOEFL except for the writing part. I also did a 1 year exchange program in an almost unknown UK university(but I heard their best can get into Oxford or Cambridge) and ranked #1 in most of the courses I took. The professors really liked me and will write LoRs for me.

I'm aiming for universities that rank 30-60 in the US(not the world) and feel like my lack of research experience might really hurt my chances. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I should explain/cover this on my SoP? Or am I aiming too high?


No that's not too high. These three research experience items would, to be fair, look like what a typical admit at schools in the 20-40 range have (or perhaps even 10-20)...


For real? There might have been some ambiguity in my second paragraph. What I meant was I'm working on my senior thesis on topological field theories. I might have mislead people to think that I have worked years on them. But if that's not the case then I'll try my luck with 20ish schools. Thanks!

Re: How to write SoP with barely any research experience?

Posted: Tue Oct 27, 2015 2:11 pm
by TakeruK
I agree with Catria, your research experience is standard for applicants applying to the top schools. Sure, there are people with a lot more research experience, but the amount is very small. The majority of graduate student applicants do not have more than 1 "term" of research experience (whether it is one single summer or their senior thesis work).