在去年（2017 年）准备 PhD 项目申请的时候，Personal Statement (PS) / Statement of Purpose 是我最头疼的部分，这一部分的材料非常需要自我审视和总结，也需要将一些人生偶然粉饰成自主选择，相当难过。加上大部分中国学生的语言壁垒，写好一个能看的 PS 非常难。我的师弟彼时在加州理工 Caltech 做暑期研究，他去参加了加州理工研究生院举办的申请文书写作指导并且分享了当时发放的材料和 PPT 给我，我将它们整理成了文字版，希望能给你带来帮助：
Statement of purpose
It is a document submitted as part of a graduate application that describes your abilities, attributes and accomplishments as evidence of your aspirations for pursuing a graduate education and, beyond that, a career in research.
- What do you want to study
- Why do you want to study that topic
- What experience to do you have
- What to do you intend on doing when you have earned your Ph.D.
Make yours unique
Stand out from the beginning
Keep it concise and focused.
Address ”Fit” with the particular program or lab.
Emphasize interest in solving relevant problems and addressing research questions.
You should be as specific as possible in discussing what interest you. Use examples of particular phenomena, tools, or situations that you find exciting.
Evidence of experience in order of relevance.
The yawn effect
I love science. I love to study it, research it and I want to devote my life to it. Science is the foundation for all that we are.
Don’t tell me you LOVE it or are passionate about it. SHOW me how you are and what you have done.
What to include
Research, research, research
Focus on future
Support future goals with your experience
“Light bulb” moments
What have you done to prepare for this step?
What are your research interests?
How do those research interests mesh with the program to which you are applying?
What will you contribute to the program?
Why this particular group/program/advisor/institution?
Where will this program lead you?
What not to include
Generic information that does not tell them anything about you.
A brochure for the school — they know what they are, but how does that impact you.
Free write — do not expect your first SOP draft to be perfect
Make a brag sheet — toot your own horn
Take time — write, put it away, edit
Research programs — read faculty’s research and take notes
2nd, 3rd, 4th … drafts
Be clear and concise
Have an angle — you may not even know what it is until your define it
Include information about the program/faculty
Think of yourself as a scientist
Every sentence should have value
Every paragraph should be related to research — post, present or future.
Minimize personal information — research focus!
It is special to you, but not to the review committee
Make a negative a positive — Spin it
Focus on your strengths
Do not make excuses
Your application will be reviewed by faculty so show it to faculty beforehand.
People from different disciplines
To include faculty or not?
Include 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 now want an overly general statement.
Pretend you are writing about a friend.
Just keep writing…anything.
Have a friend read it.
Discuss it with an advisor or friend.
Focus on a different part. Can’t write an opening paragraph? Start with the middle.
“My parents both have PhDs and have encouraged me to pursue graduate educations.”
“At this point, I am considering a career in academia or industry.”
Vague, unclear , internal dialog
Not written for that program
Too much personal information
Not able to demonstrate experience in field
- Clearly state goal.
- Motivation for applying to graduate school.
- Relevant experiences and academic coursework that have prepared you for graduate study in the field.
- Characteristics and strengths that make you particularly well-suited to graduate study.
- Future career objectives.
- Decision to apply to that program.
- Extenuating circumstance that may have resulted in less than ideal academic credentials for graduate school.
Print, edit, revise, recycle, repeat
Print it out.
Edit with pen in hand.
Read it through start to finish and back to start again. Make sure theme is consistent.
Revise throughly for each program… not just the last sentence. Do not rely on find/replace feature.