Steps to Success: Writing a Winning Statement of Purpose For students in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Steps to Success Personal Statement (PS) vs. Statement of Purpose (SP) Steps to Success Personal Statement (PS) One way to think about PS is that, in general, undergraduate programs are interested in you as a person and what you may offer to enrich their overall university community. Steps to Success Statement of Purpose (SP) SP describes your “brain,” the scientist you have become and will grow to be.
You are now the scientist and any personal information should be related to your scientific approach and how you will enrich the scientific world. Steps to Success Becoming a Scientist Your Research Is Your Purpose Avoid Childhood Kindergarten-High School “The big questions — how to control a cell’s function, how to interfere with a cell becoming a cancer, how to stop heart disease — are still out there to be answered. The key is bringing fresh ideas along with new tools and technologies to the same old problems. ” —Mike Teitell, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Steps to Success Who Reads Your Application?
Each department has its own review process. Science Faculty: Your future community. “When you recognize your interdependence and changing nature, you no longer see yourself as separate from another person, and this is the foundation for building stronger communities. ” —Susan Smalley, Neuropsychiatric Institute Steps to Success Who Should Proofread Your Application? • Advisors and Professors • Faculty letter writers • People from different disciplines • Each other: The stronger they are, the stronger you are. Steps to Success “Nanotechnology is in our watches, cars, hospitals and it shuffles information around.
But it’s also about therapies and new ideas — the next big thing that’s going to change the world in 20 years. ” —Jim Gimzewski, Chemistry and Biochemistry WRITING STRATEGIES Trust Yourself & Dream Celebrate your work in your SP! This the fun part. Steps to Success Imagine • • • The “Wow” Factor Did an article or book inspire you? Read the faculty’s research, then contact them. An artist’s impression of a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy. (NASA/MAXIM) Andrea Ghez, Astronomer, answered one of astronomy’s more important question by reporting that a monstrous black hole resides at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.
Steps to Success Be Free Free Write Do not expect your first SP draft to be perfect. Keep writing, put it away for a few days, and edit later. Be Forgiving Steps to Success Tooting Your Own Horn Now you decide not to tell anyone? Steps to Success Format / Content • You must think of yourself as a scientist. • Every paragraph should somehow be related to your research area, interest, experience, and future. Steps to Success Metaphors/Themes to Link Ideas • Let images that flow throughout your SP. • • • • Steps to Success… The chemical structure of water… Themes Linked Images
All should be related to your interests and research Steps to Success Personal Information • Personal information should be minimized, if not eliminated, if not relevant to research. • Do not compare the content of your SP with friends applying to social sciences, humanities, law, medicine and health related programs. Steps to Success Extenuating Circumstances “Extenuating circumstances that may have resulted in less than ideal academic credentials for graduate school. ” Dr. Liza Cariaga-Lo, Assistant Dean, Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences http://career. berkeley. edu/Article/041112b-so. stm Keep this Brief
Steps to Success Spin ~ Spin ~ Spin • Make what is negative positive. Steps to Success What to Include Weak vs. Strong Steps to Success Avoid Excuses I had to work two jobs to support my family because my father was injured. My grades suffered. NOTE: Someone always has a more painful story. Steps to Success Better but… I maintained a B+ average while working in Dr. Sprout’s botany laboratory despite having to work forty hours a week as a waitress to support my family. Steps to Success Yawn Effect I love science. I love to study it, to breath it, to be it. Science is the foundation for all that we are.
I have worked long hours pursuing my goal to become a Ph. D. NOTE: Don’t tell me you are passionate and a hard worker, show me how you are and what you did. Steps to Success Content • What is the purpose of your graduate study? • Specialized areas of interest? Who did you work with, what did you do: internships, projects, employment, research and publications? • What skills do you have: using, testing, designing or researching equipment? • Future goals? • Tailor to Dept: What makes you uniquely suited for this particular department, this specific institution? Steps to Success Include Future Faculty & Fields Including faculty with whom you want to work, this shows you have done your homework. • Contact faculty before you apply to build a relationship. • Mention a few fields/areas that you are interested in. • Write specifically for a department: you do not want an overly a general statement. Steps to Success Strategy: Summarize Poster Abstracts One paragraph per abstract • • • • Explain why your work is important – set the context and preempt the question “So what? ” Describe the objective(s) of your work. What are you adding to current knowledge? Briefly explain the methods. This should not be a major focus of your abstract.
Succinctly state results, conclusions, and recommendations. This is what most people want to know. Do not say “We present the results of our study and recommendations for action” – tell them what you found and recommend! • http://www. ncsu. edu/project/posters/NewSite/EffectiveAbstract. html Steps to Success Follow the Rules • Fill out forms completely before giving them to your professors, provide them with stamped envelope. • Do not exceed the word limit. • Single space is fine. • 2 pages should be your target length. Steps to Success What happens when… Rushed Tired Trying to Impress Please Don’t Hurt Your Thesaurus
Steps to Success What you can do to a cloud… The (potentially dreaded) Prepositional Phrase: PASSIVE VOICE • Around the cloud • About the cloud • Of the cloud • Of • Of • Of Steps to Success The “I” Factor Do not over use “I”: we already know it is your SoP. Steps to Success Yadda, Yadda, Yadda • Platitudes & Cliches I want to cure cancer. Knowledge is power. • Quotes & Passages Social sciences and humanities applicants overuse this strategy (i. e. , passages from Shakespeare and the Bible). • Contractions Avoid in informal writing: don’t, can’t, won’t • Colloquialisms & Email Speak The kids in my family.
Like, you know…. LOL. Steps to Success Do Not Assume Knowledge of (all things) Acronyms Always spell out the first reference University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) NYU, NB, CSU, FBI, NASA, DOD, NSF, NIH, ASAP Steps to Success Help Each Other Each One, Reach One, Teach One! UCLA School of Education Steps to Success UNLOCK: Writer’s Block • Pretend you are writing about a friend. • Email your SP to a friend. • Ask a friend to give you an artificial time limit. Steps to Success Auditory Assistance READ OUT LOUD Start with your last sentence then proceed to the beginning of your SP. You will often hear your errors.
Try not to stop while you are reading, jot down notes, and make corrections later. Be patient: This is difficult, but useful tool. Steps to Success Print, Edit, Recycle, Repeat • Always print out your essay. • Double space. • Edit your SP with pen in hand. Steps to Success BE NICE TO YOUR FACULTY • Please, please, do not present faculty with messy and incomplete drafts. • Present a package that reflects you: The Professional. Professors of excellence – Arnold Scheibel, Susan McClary, Ivan Szelenyi, Kris Gutierrez and Utpal Banerjee. Steps to Success The First & Final Words Each university, department, program and person is different.
Ultimately, you have to decide. Steps to Success Research Websites Great UC Search Engines • UC Irvine’s Summer Research (go to “off-campus”) http://urop. uci. edu • UC Experts by Campus http://www. universityofcalifornia. edu/news/spanishexperts/subjects/agr iculture. html • UCLA Faculty Research http://www. research. ucla. edu/faculty/ • UCLA Research Centers http://www. research. ucla. edu/labs/index. htm Steps to Success • • • • • • • • • Continuing the Journey http://www. ucop. edu/journey UCLA Career Center http://career. ucla. edu UC Berkeley Career Center http://career. berkeley. du UC Davis Career Center http://icc. ucdavis. edu/ General Grad School Information (lists areas of study) www. gradschools. com Interactive Grad School Information http://www. phds. org CSU San Marcos (detailed article) http://www. csusm. edu/CATSS/gradschool_info. htm Project 1000 (assists w/ application & GRE waivers) http://mati. eas. asu. edu:8421/p1000/ UCSC Online Personality Assessments http://www2. ucsc. edu/careers/student/careerplan. html Helpful Websites Steps to Success Generous thanks to… National Science Foundation’s Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) Pictures from http://www. agazine. ucla. edu UCLA Marching Band. Photo by Clint Karlsen. http://www. oct-net. ne. jp/~postpet/dog/Barbell. html http://www. ee. ucla. edu/~roh/photos. html http://www. mvnu. edu/academics/natsocsci/chemistry/Boyer. html http://arjournals. annualreviews. org/doi/abs/10. 1146/annurev. biochem. 6 6. 1. 717 http://www. infed. org/images/illustrations/artists_models. jpg http://archives. colum. edu/portfolio/albums/jordanastevian/aah. jpg www. google. com Steps to Success Thanks You Are Our Future Scholars, Researchers, Scientists Created by Dr. Barbara K. Ige, July 2007 Steps to Success