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TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.

Elliott

7Sept2012

Todaywelllookathowtocraftacompellingstatementofpurposeforgraduate schoolapplications. Dontunderestimatetheimportanceofaneffectivestatementofpurposeitis oftenthetiebreakerindecisionsonwhethertoofferordenyadmissionto graduatestudy. Imagesusedinthistalkwerepurchasedfromistockphoto.com,unlessotherwise identified.

Copyright2012 TheBoardofTrusteesoftheUniversityofIllinois

TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

READtheinstructionsandfollowthemwitlessly.Payparticularattentiontofont sizes,margins,andlengthlimits. Addresseverypointmentioned,intheorderthattheyrepresentedinthe instructions.Makeiteasyforareadertoseethatyouhaveincludedeverything thatwasaskedfor.(Usethesamestructureandthesamewordsasgiveninthe instructions.) Adheretopageandwordlimits,ifstated.Ifapagelimitisnotstated,restrictyour SOPtonomorethantwosinglespacedpagesinareadable(11pt.min.)font. Bewareofthepitfallsofwordprocessing.Itsreallyeasytocopywhatyouve writtenforCornellintoanewdocumentforOhioStateandforgetthestrayIreally wanttocometoCornellUniversityinthefourthparagraph.ButtheBuckeyeswill notbeamused.

Copyright2012 TheBoardofTrusteesoftheUniversityofIllinois

TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

Thefirststepinwritinganything istothinkaboutwhoisgoingtoreadit.Put yourselfintheadmissioncommitteesmembersshoes.Whatwouldyourreader findinterestingaboutyourgoalsandexperience?Whatwouldsheliketoknow moreabout? Experiencedacademicphysicistsaregoingtobereadingyourstatementof purpose.DONOTwriteanything thatyoudonotthoroughlyunderstand!

Copyright2012 TheBoardofTrusteesoftheUniversityofIllinois

TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

Firstorderquestions: WhathaveIlearnedinthelastfouryears?aboutphysics?aboutmyself? WhatdoIenjoydoing?WhatdoIdowell? WhatdoIknowaboutresearchandwhyisthatagoodcareerchoiceforme? Whataremycareerexpectations?mydreams? Secondorderquestions: HowcanIshowthatIfinishwhatIstart? HowcanIshowthatImcreative? HowcanIshowthatIcanovercomeadversity? HowcanIshowthatIhaveanaptitudeforphysics(ormaterialsscience,or electricalengineering,orcomputerscience)?forresearch? HowcanIshowthatIhavewhatittakestobesuccessful?

Copyright2012 TheBoardofTrusteesoftheUniversityofIllinois

TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

Howcanyoudifferentiateyourselffromtheother400peoplewhoareapplyingforadmissionto thisgraduateprogram?Theyall wanttobecomephysiciststounravelthemysteriesofnature. Returntothesubjectofyourleadinthefinalparagraphofyourstatementtowrapuptheidea andendwithabang.

Copyright2012 TheBoardofTrusteesoftheUniversityofIllinois

TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

Overthecourseofyourgraduatestudies,thedepartmentthatacceptsyouwill likelyspend>$200konyour PhD.Maketheadmissionscommitteeconfident thatyouwillbesuccessfulinyourresearchandyourteaching. Addressthefollowingpoints: 1. Youunderstandthatgraduateschoolisaboutsuccessfullydoingindependent researchnotaboutgettinggoodgradesinclasses. 2. Youhavethedisciplineandmaturitytomanageyourtimeandmeetyour responsibilitiesasanemployee. 3. Youhavetheskillsandintereststobeagoodteacheraswellasaresearcher.

BEHONEST.Dontexaggerateorgiveinappropriateemphasis.Besincere. Writeityourselfinyourownwords. Iwillgiveyousuggestionsandhelpwithproofreading,butIwillNOTdothekindof heavydutyeditingthatyouvecometoexpect(andfear).

Copyright2012 TheBoardofTrusteesoftheUniversityofIllinois

TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

Examplesofshorttermgoals(whatyouwanttodointhenexttwoyears): Exploreoneortwosubfieldsofphysics. Learnnewtheoreticalapproachesorexperimentaltechniques. Polishyourcommunicationsandteachingskills. Contributetoaresearchgroup. Examplesoflongtermgoals(whereyouwanttobein10years): Pursueacareerinresearchinindustryoranationallaboratory. Becomeaprofessor. Becomeanentrepreneurinahightechenterprise. Becomeanquantitativeanalystinthefinancialindustry. Contributetothenationsenergyindependence. Designnewbiocompatiblematerialsforprosthetics.

Copyright2012 TheBoardofTrusteesoftheUniversityofIllinois

TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

Whyareyouaparticularlystrongprospectforthisdepartment? Haveyouhadtoovercomeanyunusualobstaclesinyourlifethathavecontributed toyourmaturityorintellectualgrowth? Communicationsskillsasineverythingelseyouwrite,consideryouraudience. Theymaynotbeexpertsinyournarrowfield;dontusejargon;defineyourterms. Dontuseslang.Conveythatyouareaseriousprofessional.Youdonthavetobe stuffy,butyouhavetobeprofessional.

Copyright2012 TheBoardofTrusteesoftheUniversityofIllinois

TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

Beselective.AnSOPisaprospectus,notyourmemoirs. Theexperiencesthatyouhighlightshouldberelevanttoboth yourpersonalcareergoals. theopportunitiesthatthisparticulardepartmentoffers. Toolittleisasbadastoomuch;youwantthecommitteememberstofeelthatthey knowenoughaboutyoutopredictyoursuccessconfidently. ThemotivatingwhyIwanttobeaphysicistshouldbenolongerthanaparagraph. Theadmissionscommitteeprobablydoesntreallycareaboutyourtriptothe MuseumofScienceandIndustryinfirstgradeoryourCubScoutmeritbadgein electricity. Includeexperiencesthathavedirectlyshapedyourthinkingorthathavetested yourresolve,butbeselective.Onecompellingexampleismuchmorepersuasive thanadisjointedlaundrylistofthingsyouvedone. Donttalktoomuchaboutclasses.Graduateschoolisaboutdoingindependent research,nottakingclasses.Ifyoudo talkaboutclasses,emphasizeskillsthat youveacquired,notgradesthatyougotorcoursesyousatthrough.

Copyright2012 TheBoardofTrusteesoftheUniversityofIllinois

TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

Arethereanydeficienciesinyouracademicrecordortestscoresthatyoushould explain? Talktoyouradviserandyourletterwritersaboutwhetheranexplanationwillhelp orhurtyourchances.Ifthedeficiencyissoegregiousthatitcastsdoubtonyour abilitytobesuccessfulingraduatestudy,somebody hastodiscussit.Aletter writermaybeabletoofferamoreconvincingexplanationthanyoucan;heorshe atleasthasthecloakofobjectivity. Ifyoufeelcompelledtoexplaintheproblem,focusonwhattheexperiencehas taughtyou,whatyouvedonetoovercometheproblem,andhowyouarebetter equippedtofaceadversityinthefuturebecauseofit. Ownyourmistakes,andtakeresponsibilityforyouractions. Amancanfailmanytimes,butheisntafailureuntilhebeginstoblame somebodyelse.JohnBurroughs,18371921,U.S.naturalistandessayist, influentialintheconservationmovementintheUnitedStates

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TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

Mentionspecificfacultymembersorresearchprojectsinwhichyoureinterested. Ifthedepartmenthasuniquefacilities,showthatyouknowaboutthemandexplain howlearningtousethemwillprepareyoutoachieveyouroverallgoals.

Copyright2012 TheBoardofTrusteesoftheUniversityofIllinois

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TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

Copyright2012 TheBoardofTrusteesoftheUniversityofIllinois

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TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

Dobespecificaboutyourgeneralinterestsandobjectives,butdontpaintyourself intoacorner. IfallyoutalkaboutistheworkbeingdoneinProfessorJonesgroupandhowmuch youwanttojointhatgroup,andProfessorJonesisnttakinganystudentsfortwo years,thecommitteemaydecidetoadmitsomebodyelse.

Copyright2012 TheBoardofTrusteesoftheUniversityofIllinois

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TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

Describeyourresearchconciselyandexplain whatyoucontributed. Dontgetboggeddownindetailsthecommitteedoesntcarehowlongittookto annealthesampleorwherethedialwasset.Theywanttoknowhowyou formulateahypothesis,attackaproblem,determinethevalidityofanapproach, knowwhenyouredone,decidewhattodonext.

Copyright2012 TheBoardofTrusteesoftheUniversityofIllinois

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TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

Startyourstatementofpurposewithastrongleadthatwillimmediatelygrabthe readersinterestandattention: Physicistrockstar?Rockstarphysicist?WhatdoIwanttobe?

Copyright2012 TheBoardofTrusteesoftheUniversityofIllinois

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TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

Startfromanoutlineoftheimportantpointsyouwanttomake. Makesureyouroutlineconformstothestructuregivenintheinstructionsforthat particulardepartment. Fillintheoutlinewithrealsentences. Revise. GiveyourstatementtoyouradviserorPhysicsmentortoreadandaskfor constructivecriticism. Incorporatesuggestionsandrevise.Again.

Copyright2012 TheBoardofTrusteesoftheUniversityofIllinois

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TheStatementofPurpose, CeliaM.Elliott

7Sept2012

Trainyourselftorunthespellcheckeverytimeyoumakeachangetoyour document.Ifsomethinghastobeperfect (andanSOPdoes),usetheseold proofreaderstricks: 1. Alwaysproofreadfromahardcopy.Mistakeswillleapoffthepaperthatyoull neverseeonthescreen. 2. Startatthelowerrighthandcornerofthedocumentandreadrighttoleft, bottomtotop. Suggestionsforfurtherreading: C.R.Barrera,TheGraduateSchoolApplication, http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2 006_04_14/noDOI.5474268556298302823 B.Rybarczyk,SellYourself:GuidanceforDevelopingYourPersonalStatementfor GraduateSchoolApplications, http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2 006_01_06/noDOI.15679808495969386309 B.Rybarczyk,Perspective:SellYourselfRefiningthePersonalStatement, http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2 010_01_08/caredit.a1000005

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