Applying for Awards, Grad School, really anything
When you are filling out an application that asks for a personal statement, please, please, please do not do the following:
(see also SOP Fun, Continued) by FemaleScienceProfessor
1. Start your essay with a quote
2. Start your essay with a personal anecdote involving your childhood
3. Start by talking about how much you want to go to graduate school and how it will enrich your life.
Regarding the quotes, most of them are pretty cheesy, and honestly this is about your statement not someone else's so I would rather here your own words than those of Einstein, Feynman, Shakespeare, whatever.
Regarding the personal anecdote, I think almost everyone here can attest that that first chemistry kit, or radio kit, or model bridge, or robot, really got them interested in science, or in the case of biomedical engineering, the dying relative that has inspired you to pursue a cure for XX. If you are going to use an anecdote, it should really set you apart, and I have yet to read one that is truly compelling.
Regarding the I really want to go to graduate school because it will enrich my life and make me a better person...well I should hope so, that is what we strive to do.
What I really want to find out from a personal statement is:
- Do you have a goal? (e.g., academic position, career in industry) (otherwise known as why do you want a PhD?)
- Do you understand what is required to obtain a PhD. in X?
- Have you thoroughly considered the area of research that you would like to pursue?
- Do you have any qualifications in this area, or if not, can you demonstrate that you are willing, eager, and capable to learn a new field?
- Are you mature enough to complete the program? (PhD's are riddled with periods of failure, do you have the mettle to make it through)
- What will you, personally, bring the our program in X?
Obviously, some of this text is a little canned (please don't say making new important discoveries) but the general idea is for you to replace with something specific to your field of interest.
I spent most of this week reading personal statements and it amazes me how little students seem to understand them.