Ask yourself why you want to study further. Take a piece of paper and start writing down all the reasons. Spend about half an hour on this, so that you can go beyond cliched ideas like wanting to improve your prospects or contribute to society. Write a few sentences on any reason that particularly strikes a chord with you. Make lists of instances you can use in your Sop. For example, if you've been asked to talk about an important event in your life, list down events that have made a significant impression on you. Don't worries if these are events that are not 'conventionally' important or seem insignificant; what matters is that they have had some influence over you. Similarly, make a list of people you admire or who have influenced you - this could be a friend, a family member, a teacher, etc. and need not necessarily be a famous person.
Go through your resume and reflect on what you have learned from your various experiences. How have they molded your interests and led you to this point? Pick one or two cases that you can talk about in-depth. For graduate school, it is best to take at least one professional situation and show what you did and learned.
Make a list of schools you plan to apply to. As you continue through the background check, you will add a few universities and delete several. A final shortlist of ten to fifteen schools is common. Ask yourself why you wish to study at each of the schools you have listed. For graduate study, it is important to ensure that your interests are compatible with the research interests of the department you are applying to. As you progress through the background check and understand more about your interests through subsequent revisions of the Sop, add to and improve the list.
Read the essay question carefully to find out what the university expects you to write about. While you don't have to stick to the questions asked, you must be sure to answer them all in your Sop. Refer to your lists of background research and write about two handwritten pages in response to the essay question. Go through them the next day. Remember that your essay has the following objectives: Show your interest in the subject. Rather than saying that you find electronics interesting, it is more convincing to demonstrate your interest by talking about any projects you may have done and what you learnt from them. If you have taken the initiative to do things on your own, now is the time to talk about them Show that you have thought carefully about further studies, know what you are getting into, and have the confidence to go through with it. Have the admissions committee like you! Avoid sounding opinionated, conceited, pedantic or patronizing. Read your essay carefully, and have others read it to find and correct this. Demonstrate a rounded personality. Include a short paragraph near the end on what you like to do outside of your professional life. Keep the essay focused. Each sentence you use should strengthen the admissions committee's resolve to admit you. So while you may have done several interesting things in life, avoid falling into the trap of mentioning each of them. Your essay should have depth, not breadth. The resume is where you should list achievements. Remember that you have very little space to convey who you are, so make every sentence count. Pitfalls your essay must avoid : It is a repetition of the resume or other information available from the application form, It could have been written by just about anybody; your individuality does not come through, It is not a honest account in response to the essay question (why you want to study what you do, what you have learned from an event/person in your life and so on) It has embarrassing, highly personal and emotional content that should be avoided unless it makes a unique, creative point. The admissions committee would not appreciate reading about the pain you went through after breaking up with your boyfriend. An account of how you overcame difficult family circumstances, illness, or a handicap, would be a valid point to include in your essay. However, avoid emotional language.
EDITING AND REWRITING
Language Guidelines Take another 7-8 days to write 3-4 more drafts. Go through the objectives and pitfalls often. Refer to, and edit your lists as you go along. Flow while each paragraph should make a complete statement on its own, the essay should logically progress from paragraph to paragraph. Read your essay for flow, or have someone else read it, and ask yourself if there seems to be an abrupt shift between ideas in two consecutive paragraphs. Structure this follows naturally from flow. Do all the paragraphs mesh together to form a cogent whole? Does the essay, through a logical progression of ideas, demonstrate your interest, enthusiasm, and fit in the department you have applied to?
Avoid slang and abbreviations. For acronyms, use the full form the first time and show the acronym in parentheses. Use grammatically correct English and ALWAYS read your essay carefully for spelling mistakes before you send it off your computer's spell-check may not flush out all the errors. Try to make your essay crisp, cutting out unnecessary adverbs, articles and pronouns (for instance, a careful reading may yield several "the's" that are superfluous).Tone Use a consistent tone throughout the essay - it will only confuse the admissions officers if you alternately sound like Ernest Hemingway and Shakespeare, and is hardly likely to endear you to them! While you should avoid flowery language and cliches, there is no harm in looking for the most apt phrase or sentence. Be careful while using humor - it can misfire and harm your chances.
Remember that for graduate school, your essay need not be great writing. What the school is looking for is a competently written statement of goals and interests that demonstrates how you think, whether you have thought through this decision to apply, and whether your interests and strengths fit in with the program you are applying to. To this end, they expect to see the following in an essay - What areas are you interested in and why, How well defined your interests are, Are these interests based on experience (academic or on the job) that the school may find useful, Where do you see these interests taking you, How do you think graduate school will help you, What experience have you had that will help. Does your essay cover these points? Does it do so in an honest and interesting manner? Many of the students applying will have backgrounds similar to yours, so avoid cliched ideas. Are you repeating information that is available from the resume? Do so very sparingly, and only if you are making a point about your learning’s or achievements during that experience. Weed out all other information that sounds like repetition (it will only irritate the reader), or can be included in your resume, or does not actively contribute towards making a point in your essay. Does your essay have an interesting beginning? This need not be witty, but should persuade the reader to stay with you. Have you talked about specific incidents that illustrate your interest or familiarity with the subject, or show something about you? These incidents might include, for example: A college or work project that was instrumental in confirming your interest in the field (be sure to include a recommendation from your guide!), Extra-curricular activities that brought out useful aspects in you (leadership skills or team activities are particularly helpful for business school applications!), A book or person who had a strong influence on you. Does the essay bring out your personality? Or could it have been written by just about anybody? Have you mentioned why you are applying to that particular school? Does this section of the essay demonstrate that you have researched the school and the program? DON’T stop at the standard formula phrase, I am applying to XYZ because of its great reputation in _______.? Does your essay flow smoothly? If it is choppy and abruptly jumps from paragraph to paragraph, your readers will have a tough time keeping up. Make it easy on them - smoothen the transition between paragraphs. Is the tone too formal or not formal enough? Be professional yet informal - the tone you would take with your Principal or Head of Department, for instance. Does the essay end well? Does it leave the reader with a sense of completion? Avoid usage of cliches like; I hope the admissions committee finds my application up to their expectations? This self-checks will yield a few ideas for improvement. Use it at least 3-4 times during this last stage of polishing up your Sop. Showing your stuff around it is essential to show your Sop to a few people whose opinion you respect -an English teacher from school, a professor, an older friend, a parent or a relative. Include among these, 2-3 people who know you well. Ask your readers to pay particular attention to the following points:
The Final Printout Once you have the final draft ready (you have to stop sometime!), do the following before you take a final printout: Run a spelling and grammar check. Read the essay carefully two-three times for spelling or grammar errors the program did not detect. Look for and correct any anomalies in spacing, font and margins. Choose a readable font and size, nothing fancy. Avoid special effects like underlining, boldface and italics (except in the title, if you have one). Don’t use colors. Don’t use special stationery or your letterhead. Make sure that the school and program mentioned in the essay are correct. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Include a header in the top right-hand corner with your name and the name of the program you are applying to. Use a smaller font size
For this. Take a rough print and show it to someone else who can read it over carefully for errors and anomalies. As far as possible, print out your Sop on a separate sheet of paper. Make sure that the printer cartridge is good enough to print clear, crisp copies. Put in a good-quality sheet of white paper. Keep the printed copy carefully in a folder till you are ready to transfer it to the application envelope. You must print or write your essay on the application form itself, take a photocopy of the form. Print or write the essay on the copy first, to ensure that it fits easily in the space provided. If it doesn’t, and you don’t have the option of attaching more pages, cut portions of the essay to reduce its length. This is painful, but a much better idea than reducing font size to unreadable levels or using tiny, cramped handwriting - the essay should never cause strain while reading. While writing by hand, use a good pen, write slowly and carefully and if necessary, draw light pencil lines on the form to ensure that your letters are uniform and in a straight line.
STARTING THE ESSAY
Preliminary Research Write out your resume.
It is best to get this out of the way so that your Sop is not a repetition of the information in the resume. It should instead, use the resume as a reference and highlight the learning’s you have received during some key points in your career. Search the universities you are considering applying to. Find out the strengths and weaknesses of each. Good sources for this exercise are - university and department web sites and brochures, home pages of students, your seniors or friends who are studying at that university or in the same field elsewhere, your college professors, friends in the same field. If it is possible for you to access the university's web site, find out which professors work in areas that interest you and write to them about your plans. Some professors respond, some don't - but you have nothing to lose at this stage. In fact, you could gain a better idea about the areas of research emphasized upon by that particular department. After finding out some details about your potential universities, decide whether you still wish to apply there. While you should start work on this as early as possible, recognize that it is a long process and will continue through the various stages of writing your Sop. At the same time, you will have to draw the line at background research sometime as you are working on a timetable.
So are the admission officers looking for specific personality sorts? Well, yes Creativity, curiosity, pride in your work, an enthusiasm for learning, a capacity for teamwork, the ability to think independently and so on are all good attributes, and most of us share these in varying proportions. But what schools look for is a mix of individuals that together, form a well-balanced class. This would include several personality types. It is good to go through the school's brochure or web site, speak to people about it, visit if that is possible; get a feel of the student mix that they look for and decide if this is the school for you. However, trying to tailor your Sop to reflect what you think the school is looking for is dangerous business. The people who read your application have been doing so for years and are skilled at spotting fakes. They are likely to know soon if a particular author is saying something for effect or if an essay does not ring true. And that means almost certain rejection. What is this, you might ask. Of course we want to have an effect on the admissions officers. The important thing is to do so without appearing dishonest. If, for instance, you talk about your deep desire to make society a better place, your application should reflect it. Have you done anything about this desire? Can you talk about your actions and experiences? A small example of something you did, not necessarily spectacular, can do more towards boosting your chances than the noblest platitude can. Don’t try to be something you are not. Don’t try to tell the Admissions committee what you think they want to hear. Be honest, look inside yourself and do your best. Which brings us to the next point self-knowledge the people who read your essay want to be convinced that you have thought long and hard about whom you are, what the things you appreciate are, what inspires you. What you want out of life, and where you are going from here. It is not necessary to have all the answers. After all, several admirable people have no idea where they are going even at age 40 or 50. It is necessary to show that you have thought about this. And that these life experiences have taught you something. Finally, you have to show a desire to learn. From your books and teachers, from your classmates, from music or art, from life itself. Too vague for you? Turn to the section on starting your Sop and find out how these attributes translate into concrete steps.
Before you start, check out the tips below on "Getting Started"
I. Determine your purpose in writing the statement usually the purpose is to persuade the admissions committee that you are an applicant they should choose. You may want to show that you have the ability and motivation to succeed in your field, or you may want to show the committee that, on the basis of your experience, you are the kind of candidate who will do well in the field. Whatever the purpose, it must be explicit to give coherence to the whole statement.
1). Pay attention to the purpose throughout the statement so that extraneous material is left out.
2). Pay attention to the audience (committee) throughout the statement. Remember, your audience is made up of faculty members who are experts in their field. They want to know that you can think as much as what you think.
II. Determine the content of your statement be sure to answer any direct questions fully. Analyze the questions or guidance statements for the essay completely and answer all parts. For example: "What are the strengths and weaknesses in setting and achieving goals and working through people?" In this question there are actually six parts to be answered
2) Strengths in achieving goals,
3) Strengths in working through people,
4) Weaknesses in setting goals,
5) Weaknesses in achieving goals and
6) Weaknesses in working through people. Pay attention to small words.
Notice: This example question says through people not with people, if it says with people, answer that way. Usually graduate and professional schools are interested in the following:
1. Your purpose in graduate study. This means you must have thought this through
before you try to answer the question.
2. The area of study in which you wish to specialize. This requires that you know
the field well enough to make such decision.
3. Your future use of your graduate study. This will include your career goals
and plans for your future.
4. Your special preparation and fitness for study in the field. This is the opportunity to relate your academic background with your extracurricular experience to show how they unite to make you a special candidate.
5. Any problems or inconsistencies in your records or scores such as a bad semester. Be sure to explain in a positive manner and justify the explanation. Since this is a rebuttal argument, it should be followed by a positive statement of your abilities.
6. Any special conditions that are not revealed elsewhere in the application such as a large (35 hour a week) work load outside of school. This too should be followed with a positive statement about yourself and your future.
7. You may be asked, "Why do you wish to attend this school?" This requires that you have done your research about the school and know what its special appeal is to you.
8. Above all this, the statement is to contain information about you as a person. They know nothing about you that you don't tell them. You are the subject of the statement.
III.Determine your approach and the style of the statement there is no such thing as "the perfect way to write a statement." There is only the one that is best for you and fits your circumstances.
1. There are some things the statements should not be:
A). Avoid the "what I did with my life" approach. This was fine for grade school essays on "what I did last summer." It is not good for a personal statement.
B).Equally elementary is the approach "I've always wanted to be a __________." This is only appropriate if it also reflects your current career goals.
C).Also avoids a statement that indicates your interest in psychology is because of your own personal psychotherapy or a family member's psychological disturbance. While this may have motivated many of us to go on to graduate study in psychology, this is not What your audience is necessarily looking for in your statement.
2. These are some things the statements should do:
A). It should be objective yet self-revelatory. Write directly and in a straightforward manner that tells about your experience and what it means to you. Do not use "academics" or jargon.
B). It should form conclusions that explain the value and meaning of your experiences such as:
(1) What you learned about yourself;
(2) About your field;
(3) About your future goals; and
(4) About your career concerns.
C). It should be specific. Document your conclusions with specific instances or draw your conclusions as the result of individual experience. See the list of general Words to Avoid Using without Explanation listed below.
D). It should be an example of careful persuasive writing.
CONSIDERTIONS ABOUT FORM:
1. Keep to the Page Limit Number!!! Reviewers have to read hundreds of these applications; don't overburden them with extra pages.
2. Do not leave in typographical errors. You don't want to be taken less seriously due to a typo, rite?
WORDS TO AVOID USING WITHOUT EXPLANATION
Appealing to me
I like it
I can contribute
People meant a lot to me
I like to help
GETTING STARTED EXERCISES:
A. Recalling and analyzing experience - write short paragraphs on the following:
1. Pick a memorable accomplishment in your life. What did you do? How did you accomplish it?
2. What sort of important activities have you engaged in? With whom? What role did you play?
3. What work experiences have you had? What was your job? Responsibility? How did you carry it out?
Now look over your paragraphs. What skills and qualities do you see that you possess? For example, consider working with others. Were you a leader? Important "team" player?
Looking at what you have found, you can now look for skills and qualities that will help you in graduate school. What factors stand out?
NOTE: You will undoubtedly have more material than you can use. This is good, but you need to make strategic choices.
B. Your career goals - write two short paragraphs:
1. What career have you chosen? What factors formed this decision?
2. What evidence shows that this is a correct choice? That is, how can you show that this
choice is realistic? (Personal experience in the field is a good place to begin.)
Keep it short and simple... There should be a flow in the sop... the first Para talking about why should u apply in this field and like what has motivated u.... then move on to why should they take u.....in three to four paras describe urself and the kinda work that u have done then conclude why you are applying to this university of all the places...
Never be too specific in the sop don't target a prof only keep it varied enough to touch three or four profs in the dept... And u can change your sop for each university.
SOP is one of the most important things that the Profs have a look so take lot of time to prepare it and do make it original. In your sop don't be specific to any field. Mention hajjar fields. Mention CAD/CAM, manufacturing and controls surely. It would be very helpful if you can learn about Rapid Prototyping and MEMS. For MEMS I refer you to www.mdl.sandia.gov these are some of the hot stuffs. Get to know what is meant by virtual manufacturing and web-based manufacturing. You don't know when you will need them but when you do it will be very urgently required.It has definite advantages. Prepare a decent resume with a
Don't commit for Ph.D. straightaway in the first email. It is too big a commitment and Prof Letter is not going to stop with 1 email. There is a nice word that US has introduced. That is graduate program. No one can say if it is M.S or Ph.D. so use this word as far as possible.
APRIL 15TH FUNDA:
You would have read this funda n time but still-- almost all the universities are members of the council of graduate school (CGS). CGS says that the universities cannot force the student to accept an offer before April 15th. In some universities it may be 13th or 14th. So you don't need to hurry up on your decisions. If the deadline is mentioned and u don't commit before that then the admission offer stands cancelled. BTW u can accept before 15th and bump it again before 15th. No problem (legally) but ethically yes. But if u accepts before 15th and don't bump before 15th and u want to go to another universities then u has to get the written permission of the first universities. Here the 1st universities can peacefully Relative Grading u by denying the permission.
STAGES IN APPING:
PREAPP: (July--august--September) this is just a request to the dept of a universities to send you the app forms. It is slowly losing significance, as app forms are available for download free. For eg. Berk which charges $13 for paper app form has free app form in the net that can be downloaded and printed. At CC there is a program (ask our app sec to mail it to you) When you guys get back after summer holidays you can use it (it is very easy--you only need to fill in your name and simple things. Rest is already there). But you will soon be stuffed with app forms from useless arbit universities. I personally didn't do this. I preapped to only 15 universities and looked at the mail ids from net and sent individual mails. Not all universities that accept your pre app would actually send the form to you. Some universities have their own preapp forms on the web. For mail ids go to www.gradschools.com or www.gradschool.com (one of these).
GRE: there is no specific time for this. But keep in mind two things. If you by chance cup, you need time to write again. Also universities specify a deadline before which you have got to finish gre. That may be in November I think. Have an idea of the universities you are definitely going to app to from seniors and put those names at the end of gre. Don't trust the free score too much. If the university doesn’t get your score they will email you and then be ready to put the money and make a request with ets again.
TOEFL: I don't know much about comp toefl. Check out in the universities website for cut off. Universities are really strict about toefl cut off. For e.g. in ‘UIUC’ if u get less than 610/677 they'll say if u want admit u better write it again.
DECIDE ON THE UNIVERSITIES: normally junta apply for 7-8 universities. Have at least 2 universities that u might think are unreachable. In the last few years no person who is an 8 percentage got into berk. But look at our batch. 2 guys got into berk. We just apped high. I myself apped to MIT when junta were laughing at me. I got aid late alright but I did get it. GET THE RECOS: decide the 3 Profs. If u are apping for 6 univs give 7 recos to profs. Open the 7th useless recommendation to know what print out --extra funda about you--they have attached. Prepare a resume and highlight the important achievements and give to the prof. Some Profs would like to have proof of your class rank. For that get a rank certificate from dean student’s office.
SEND THE APP FORMS: the time when u has to send your app varies with each universities. So get to know when to send app forms for each university.
PROFLET AND WAIT: write to Profs and try to impress them.
DECIDE ON THE UNIVERSITY: decide calmly before 15th. But if u has got a higher university early then please promptly bump the rest (the lower ones).
Make a creative SOP and have it corrected by a senior. Never copy/paste from the senior's SOP. U do not deserve being in USA if u cannot write one page about urself and the twenty odd years of life u have lived (rather languished).I guess that’s pretty strong enough to discourage plagiarism. People who did joint term papers/projects should avoid mentioning contradictory things to Profs and in SOPs.
Essentials and MUST do’s
Pre apply to all universities. Do not be too sure of your needs.
Unpredictable univs-- UTA, Wisc-Mad, NWU, CMU.