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So you want to go to grad school?
Future grad students of the world unite!
Suggestions on improving SOP 
19th-Aug-2013 11:25 pm
Hi there. This is my first post here. Please make some suggestions so that i can improve my statement of purpose.

A baby is born in the middle of the night in a small rural clinic. The midwife's work is lit by a
rusty kerosene lamp that belches fumes but gives the light she needs. The baby's first breath
takes in the fumes. But there is a better way: the electricity that we take for granted is for many
a miracle that can transform lives. Yet some 1.3 billion people do not have access to electricity
today. A stiff challenge for engineers indeed.
We cannot look forward into the future without thinking of access to energy. Energy is a means
to many ends. It makes progress possible across countless fields, schools, health clinics, water
pumps and irrigation systems among them. It is important to find ways to meet energy needs
because otherwise progress is stymied. And it is crucial to do it in ways that do not worsen our
environmental problems or rob resources from future generations. That is where my
motivation for becoming an electrical engineer comes from.
Keeping up with my inspiration, I completed my B.Sc.Engg.(Electrical and Electronic) from
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology(BUET) in April 2012, obtaining a
cumulative GPA of 3.53/4.00.
I would like to pursue my Master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the fields
of energy systems, preferably power system protection, operation and control and sustainable
energy systems.
Being a student at the top ranked engineering school of my country, I have constantly felt the
urge to make myself better. It is true that sometimes I have failed to maintain good grades,
especially at the initial stage. It has only motivated me to work even harder. I feel that my
undergraduate curriculum have given me enough exposure to various fields of research and I
have chosen the field for which I have both an aptitude as well as a liking. Having always been
mesmerized by power grids and transmission lines, I chose Power as my undergraduate major.
My thesis was titled “Cost Analysis of Solar Wind Base Hybrid System for A Remote Tourist
Spot and Design of a Sample Small-capacity wind turbine” . It included a feasibility study of
remote locations of the country which are continuously gaining popularity as tourist spots. Due
to the isolation, however, power transmission through grid at those spots is infeasible. Me
along with my group attempted to suggest a cost-effective hybrid sustainable energy based
system which would ensure power supply at those spots, at least to a certain extent. We
travelled to certain parts of the country to collect required data by ourselves.
Having worked at the factory of the biggest power engineering company in Bangladesh has
provided me with a direct insight into the functioning of a power system. A hands-on
experience on power system protection and control is something noteworthy. I have been
supervising the production of switchgear equipments which promptly find their place in power
grids nationwide.
I believe that a Master’s Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering will not only enhance
my knowledge but also prepare me to propel through the obstacles in my professional career as
an engineer. At this age of competition, everyone is trying to be one step ahead, and a Master’s
Degree from ___ is the next stepping stone that I personally am looking forward to, to keep
myself in the fray. The vision and the focus of research in energy systems of the ECE
Department has instilled a strong sense of belief in me that I can actually augment my
understanding in the aforementioned field of study, with due help from faculties and fellow
19th-Aug-2013 06:29 pm (UTC)
OK, several thoughts:

1) Ditch the anecdotal material at the beginning, unless you have real, personal experience to tie to to your aims and goals and can tie it more directly.
2) You don't need to mention your GPA, it's on your academic records. Also, I suggest not mentioning either the rank of your school or the fact that your GPA's not perfect. It comes across as a weird mix of bragging and self-deprecation.
3) You don't say a lot about what you plan to do with your degree or what your research or professional interests are directly - you imply that broadening access to electricity is a moral goal, but you don't expressly say it anywhere.
4) "The vision and the focus of research in energy systems of the ECE Department has instilled a strong sense of belief in me that I can actually augment my understanding in the aforementioned field of study, with due help from faculties and fellow students." Say what now? Once I've wound my way through this, what I come up with is "I think I can learn something here if lots of people help me." That is not going to get you into grad school.
5) What do you bring to the table?

In general: Don't get cute, and don't make people wind their way through your statement or try to divine your intent. Cut down on the five-dollar words. Be clear about what you want, and what you're offering. Answer the question clearly: Why should they admit you?
5th-Dec-2013 06:53 pm (UTC)
Tisiphone is right on point, as usual, but I just wanted to add to #2 here -- one good reason to mention your GPA would be if you need to translate it into terms your readers will understand. Like, people below this comment are saying 3.53 isn't a very good GPA -- and in the US it would be considered good but not great for the sciences -- but if the grading at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology is really tough and 3.53 is actually a huge achievement, then you should not only mention it but EXPLAIN how exceptional it is (e.g.: what percentage of students get GPAs of 3.5 or higher?).

Also, on #4: yes, use shorter, clearer sentences that the reader doesn't have to work hard to unravel (remember they have to read hundreds of these in the space of a week or two, in their "free" time); but also, remember that what you have to convince them of is not that YOU would benefit from going to their school (that's a given), but the opposite: that THEY will benefit from having you as a student.
19th-Aug-2013 06:44 pm (UTC)
Are you sure you absolutely positively have to mention your GPA? It is not stellar, you know. It is an okay gpa, but not smth that could possibly tell them "that's THE candidate", and therefore, I am not sure there is a point in mentioning it. As a best-case scenario, they will just overlook it.
19th-Aug-2013 07:52 pm (UTC)
The others have made some good comments already, but I just wanted to add one quick thing: keep phrases like "I believe" out of your statement. If you didn't believe something, then why would you put it in your statement at all?
20th-Aug-2013 04:45 am (UTC)
I definitely would not start out with that narrative; it comes across as gimmicky. You can start with the next paragraph and it would be fine.

General notes:

-Show, don't tell. You say you feel the urge to make yourself better. What have you done to do that? Give examples of things.

-Don't say "…I have failed to maintain good grades…" If you have a compelling reason for your bad grades (started out in the wrong major; major illness; death in the family; an extremely rough transition to college) then you can explain that briefly. But if your grades are just bad for no particular good reason, I wouldn't mention them and just let them stand. Or I might highlight your upward trajectory but NOT draw attention to the bad ones.

-You say things that are self-evident. Of course you feel like you have an aptitude and a liking for your field; that's why you are applying to grad school in it.

-You share one experience without putting it in context. Why is it important that you wrote a thesis or developed a system? How does that fuel your desire to go to grad school?

-Find someone to proofread this carefully, as there are some structural/grammatical errors.

Bottom line: After reading this, I don't have any idea why you want to go to graduate school. I don't really know what it is in your background that made you passionate about engineering, and I don't have any evidence that you're really passionate about the field and will bring something to my graduate program. You need to build that in.
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