So you want to go to grad school?
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23rd-Nov-2012 12:30 pm
Hi all!
I'm planning to apply to the master of my dreams this december, and I'm currently writing my statement of purpose. Unfortunately, I didn't do spectacular in college, so I don't have many qualifications to write about.

Here is my second draft, I would greatly appreciate your help. I want this letter to be the best it can be.

Latest draft in last comment!
Comments 
23rd-Nov-2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
I don't have time to do something very thorough, but one quick note--I'd take out "My most genuine thanks for considering my application, and I look forward to your acceptance." and the "Sincerely yours" followed by your name. An SOP is an essay, not a letter.
23rd-Nov-2012 07:00 pm (UTC)
Heheh, I wrote Statement of Purpose because I saw that's the common term around here, but it's actually called Letter of Intent. I'm not sure if there's any difference...

But I do understand what you mean. I'll follow your recommendation :)

Thanks!
23rd-Nov-2012 06:54 pm (UTC)
First of all, is the 'country of master's' the United States or Canada? If not, this is the wrong community for you.

Cut the first and the last paragraph; if you are applying to a master's in the United States, the statement will come as part of the application which will tell them your name and citizenship already, while saying 'I look forward to your acceptance' is a little gauche. The third-last paragraph should go as well: don't waste word count saying that you thoroughly fulfill the admissions criteria, as they can see than for themselves, and no one guarantees anything in grad school.

I don't think you should tell them how you found their webpage, either; that doesn't matter.

A statement of purpose should tell them what you want to do, and how their program is the best fit for you. Out of several hundred words, only two sentences say what you want to do: "Being committed to the environment, both personally and professionally, I strive to act consciously in an ecological sense. My aspiration is to contribute to the sustainable development of my society by working within the current standards for the environmental and geological aspects of road construction and other types of infrastructure, and I’m certain that by being a part of this program I will gain sufficient knowledge to do so."

And these sentences are so full of buzzwords that they mean just about nothing. You want to build roads, in an environmentally-friendly way, whatever that means. Well, so do lots of other people. You have to be very much more specific. You have studied soil mechanics and work in the ministry of natural resources. Explain specifically how that will help build roads that help the environment and society. You say that the dream master's has a curriculum that matches your goals perfectly --- what exactly in the curriculum, and what exactly are your dreams? You go on a lot about enthusiasm, but enthusiasm will get you nowhere unless you have a clear plan.

Good luck with your next draft.
23rd-Nov-2012 07:04 pm (UTC)
Enormous thanks for being thorough and taking the time to read my letter. I didn't know this was a community for USA and Canada only, I was referred here by a member of another forum.

When I read your review I got dissapointed in my letter, but it's alright, that's what it takes to make it better.

I will do the appropriate corrections today and post the 2nd draft tomorrow.
23rd-Nov-2012 07:17 pm (UTC)
Also... Are there any paragraphs or phrases you think I SHOULD keep?
23rd-Nov-2012 08:34 pm (UTC)
It seems a little thesaurus-driven. I would suggest cutting down on some of the five-dollar words and just use plain language. The admissions committee is going to be reading a lot of these kinds of statements; you'll want yours to be straightforward and to the point. You want your statement to be memorable for its substance, not for its flowery language. As it is, it's a little hard to follow. You don't want your readers trying to make sense of your writing--you want them to understand your ideas right away.

I would also suggest including specific examples of the kind of work you have done. You say a lot about your personal characteristics, but little about your experience. You emphasize that you are a hard worker and that you are enthusiastic, but how does this distinguish you from other applicants?

A statement like "I possess good computer skills" could actually weaken your application. Admissions committees are going to assume that graduate students will be entering with computer skills. Since you are working in the field you plan to study, do you use specialized programs or equipment that will be an asset? Again, specific examples are stronger than just blanket statements of competence.

I would probably leave out the part about your undergraduate school's reputation. That doesn't add much to your Statement of Purpose, and the admissions committee is interested in your experience and plans.

I think if you cleaned it up, said clearly and plainly why you are interested in this program, and gave specific examples of your experience in this field, you would have a much stronger statement.

Good luck.
23rd-Nov-2012 10:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your comment, it was very kind and helpful. See, my greatest disadvantage is that I don't have much going on for myself, except for the enthusiasm.

The truth is I hated (and still hate) civil engineering, except for the environmental, road, and geological areas. I loved these and they were the only reason I finished my career. Because of this, my grades were usually average to low, except for said courses, where I always had the highest grades.

As for my thesis, I do not feel it is something worthy to mention. My college required "seminars" instead of a proper thesis. With this system, the group was formed by 8 people and the seminar had to be done in 3 months. I was sick for the first week and didn't go to class. After a long story, they voted on a subject that I didn't like and I couldn't change groups anymore. The theme of the seminar has nothing to do with my actual interests.

My first job was in my dads company, and to be honest I didn't get the knowledge I mentioned in the letter of intent. Then I lasted a year searching for another job, got one in the ministry of environment, but my department doesn't have any environmental component. All I do is budgets :(

I feel this master is THE chance to finally develop in the areas I love, but I don't have any facts to support it. This is why I went on and on about motivation. I have a lot of work to do :/

Any suggestions?
24th-Nov-2012 01:57 pm (UTC)
No offense, but your concerns about your past performance makes me beg the question (and I'm sure of the admissions committee): why do you think this program is a good fit for you? Fit isn't just about being excited about the program, fit also means that your interests match well with theirs and that you are well-prepared to enter the program.

I simply don't know enough about the program you're applying to, your background, or your field to advise whether to apply to the program, nor how to explain your past performance. But I strongly suggest that you carefully consider these questions:


  1. What exactly do you want to study in this program? As indicolite notes, you need to be very specific about your interests. Once you hone them down, then see if the program can support it. You can find this out by looking at the research interests of the professors and contacting the program directly.

  2. How are you prepared to begin studies in this program? Answering this can be trickier because - at least from my experience - requirements for a program can be very murky. (Although, from what I understand, they tend to be more straightforward in engineering and the sciences). You can start by seeing what the requirements are for the program, which I'm sure are listed somewhere on their website. You can also contact the graduate advisor in the program, and you might also contact some of the graduate students to get a sense of their backgrounds.



If it turns out that you do fulfill the requirements of the program, there are ways to show how your past experience positively prepared you. For instance, discussing your strong interest in the environmental, road, and geological courses you took is a great start. (Perhaps there were more specific discussions in these classes that you want to explore more in graduate school?)

If you don't fulfill the requirements yet, then you can always take more classes and/or find other opportunities to show your interest, such as attending academic events. I don't know how the Ministry of Environment works in your country, but there might be a way to get more involved with the environmental component. Maybe you can talk to your boss to see if you can be put into a different position, or just be more involved in activities that involve this component, e.g. planning meetings. I suspect that there might be a way to "milk" your Ministry of Environment job more, especially as it's probably a great way to show your interest in the master's program.
(Deleted comment)
17th-Dec-2012 02:35 pm (UTC)
This is my lates draft. Do you guys think it's better?
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