Statement of Purpose

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grae313
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Statement of Purpose

Postby grae313 » Thu Dec 06, 2007 1:37 am

This thing is turning out to be more difficult than I had originally thought.

Originally, for my career goals, I was writing that I was undecided between academia and industry, but someone suggested I just pick one in my statement to seem more strongly directed. Now I'm having trouble because I prefer industry, but it's hard to explain to a bunch of people who have chosen academia as a profession why I don't want to do what they are doing.

But I'm really not totally against academia, I could see myself doing it. Maybe I should just say I want to do that instead?

What do you guys think, does anyone applying to a top 10 physics program actually say in their SOP that they want to do industry and not academia? Do you think that looks bad? If you wanted to go into industry, how would you reasonably justify this in your SOP with out insulting the admissions committee?

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butsurigakusha
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Postby butsurigakusha » Thu Dec 06, 2007 2:06 am

Just say you want to go into academia. Since you are undecided, it's just as legitimate as saying you want to go into industry. I think it is silly to expect people to know what they want to do this early.

If you have good reasons for wanting to go into industry, then say that, and I don't think they will hold it against you.

Then again, what do I know? I was under the impression that SOPs don't really matter at all.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Thu Dec 06, 2007 2:19 am

For you, they won't :wink:

I got a 750, so if my application does make it onto the table, they'll be paying attention to my SOP.


So do you think that top 10 grad schools look more favorably on students who want to go into academia? If I had to guess I would think so... And besides, subconsciously it's gotta help to read about how great someone thinks your career would be.

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butsurigakusha
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Postby butsurigakusha » Thu Dec 06, 2007 3:54 am

Actually, my feelings on the subject are that honesty is the best policy. I know that's cliche, but I think it might work here. The people who read the statements will probably realize that most of the applicants aren't entirely certain what they want to do after grad school, and that those who write as if they are certain are only writing like that because they are afraid that showing uncertainty in their career objectives makes them look bad.

To me, I think it is important to show that you are dedicated to making a positive contribution to science, whether that be in academia or industry. Sure, I can say that I think I want to work in academia, but that is far from certain. When I finish my degree, if I find that there are better opportunities to study the things that I enjoy in industry, then I will probably take a job in industry. You can say that right now, you think you would prefer a job in industry for whatever reason, but you are open to the possibility that during your time as a grad student, you will come to really like the academic environment, and so will decide for an academic career instead.

I guess I can't speak for anyone on the admissions committees, but I don't think that they would hold it against you if you expressed uncertainty.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Thu Dec 06, 2007 4:53 am

you make far too much sense :)

thanks for the advice

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Thu Dec 06, 2007 12:52 pm

I think you should unequivocally lie. Tell them exactly what they want to hear. You will gain nothing by telling the truth and being rejected because of it. Sure, it would be nice if you could simply waltz in and start working on the career of your dreams, but the people on the admissions committee don't care about that. They want to know that your goals and their goals are essentially the same, because in the end graduate students amount to cheap labor for working scientists.

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butsurigakusha
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Postby butsurigakusha » Thu Dec 06, 2007 1:02 pm

I agree that it is a good idea to tell the admissions committee what they want to hear. I don't think anyone will hold you to anything you say in your SOP (just don't lie about things in the past). But I am not so sure that admissions committees necessarily want to hear that you are planning a career in academia. The fact is, especially in fields like condensed matter, a large portion of those earning PhDs will end up working in industry. So, I can't imagine them looking down on an applicant who says he thinks he wants to work in industry.

I will ask my professors what they think, whether admissions committees look down on those who are undecided, or who think they want to go into industry.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Thu Dec 06, 2007 2:07 pm

You could just avoid the subject entirely by saying "a career in condensed matter physics."

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will
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Postby will » Thu Dec 06, 2007 9:35 pm

Graduate students who have no motivation become cheap labor because they *gasp* have no motivation. An advisor isn't going to earn your Ph.D. for you, and if you never get your own wings, of course you'll be working on their projects. The cheap labor thing is part joke and part sour grapes by the people who let themselves be mistreated.

What I'm saying is that committees don't actually care what you say you're interested in, and they won't hold you to it years down the road. They will however be able to tell if you're just drifting into grad school while you sort out what to 'really' do with your life.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Thu Dec 06, 2007 10:46 pm

I'll have to disagree with you, will. My own experience with graduate students is that professors generally need them to do the dirty work and publish some papers they can attach their names to. After all, that professorship isn't going to earn itself...

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Fri Dec 07, 2007 2:11 am

There was no drifting, in my original draft I stated in plain words how absolutely determined I was to get a Ph.D. because I know, without a doubt, what kind of research I want to do and why. I am just not 100% sure on the setting, because I know the process of graduate school will help me figure out whether academia or industry is the best fit.

Anyways, I'm going to go with academia in my SOP.

schandre
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Postby schandre » Tue Dec 11, 2007 11:15 pm

I left the SOPs as the last things to do before submitting my applications and I am also having a difficult time writing them, specially for MSU because I am supposed to write a Personal Statement AND an Academic Statement. Are there any other Universities out there that ask for two separate statements?

For the Academic Statement I have to provide a concise academic statement of my plans for graduate study, my career goals, and how MSU's graduate program will help me meet my career and educational objectives. This seems rather easy since I am sure of what I want to study and research in graduate school.

However, the Personal Statement should include information about how my background and life experiences, including social, economic, cultural, familial, educational, or other opportunities or challenges motivated my decision to pursue a graduate degree. I have NO idea how to write about those things - social, economic, cultural and familial - except that my long term academic goals led me to the inevitability of graduate school.

Any thoughts on that?

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Tue Dec 11, 2007 11:29 pm

Does anyone have any thoughts on applying to multiple departments within the same school? Does it look bad? It would also require me to submit different statements of purpose, with conflicting goals....

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will
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Postby will » Tue Dec 11, 2007 11:35 pm

If the goals you need to write about are really so conflicting, you should pick which set actually represents your goals and pursue that.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Wed Dec 12, 2007 12:00 am

Most schools state very explicitely in their application instructions that you can apply to one department at a time.

Schandre: many of the UC's ask for the two statements as well. I'm as stumped as you.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Wed Dec 12, 2007 12:02 am

Most schools state very explicitely in their application instructions that you can apply to one department at a time.


No, on the one's I'm fiilling out it clearly says you can apply to up to three departments on a single appliction.

If the goals you need to write about are really so conflicting, you should pick which set actually represents your goals and pursue that.


I'm afraid that would compromise my back-up plan...




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