Wednesday, March 24, 2004

What to say and what not to say

As a public service to the 3 people who read this blog and might ever think of graduate school, do NOT say:

"This degree will help me to continue my life long love of learning..."
"I want to teach at the college level. In order to that, I need a terminal degree."

or tell us all about how you struggled to overcome obstacles and adversity to be the first person to attend college (noble but that is not creative or original)

or send in crayons that say "color your world", photo albums, or statements of purpose that look like interviews in alumni newsletters.

And these are all real examples from statements I've read in the last year. They were attemping to be creative and original... and none of those people got in. If you are thinking about applying for graduate study and someone says the committees don't read the statements of purpose, that person is lying to you. It is one of the most seriously considered parts of the application.

What should you say:
- show that you've done your homework and researched the school, its program, and faculty. Demonstrate how your interests and goals are compatible with the school.
"From my experience with the Tennessee General Assembly, I want to continue to focus on education policy and work with Dr. McLendon on state level higher education policy." Dr. McLendon focuses on state/federal education policy and has several articles published on some of the recent trends in state-level higher education policy. Of course, your statement will be written more cleanly than mine. I just came up with that off the top of my head.
- have people proof read it for grammar errors, flow, and style.
- show that you have a goal, even if it changes while in graduate school. "I want to go to graduate school." is not enough. Neither is stating that you want to wait out the job market highs and lows, even if that is the truth. While I'm not telling you to lie, you need to think about why you are going to spend the next 2 years of your life in near poverty for a Masters or 6+ if pursuing a PHD.
- don't tell us you need funding. Everyone does. We know that. There should be check box or seperate application for financial aid. Don't put it in your personal statement.

There may be more tips in the future but that's a start.