In your SOP you should discus all your strengths and defend your weaknesses if any for example if your marks in a certain semester are bad, you can clarify it in your SOP. It’s better to start with your schooling and then gradually coming up to the point when you decided to apply for graduate program. You should explain your motivation to pursue a PhD and why did you choose to pursue a PhD in the chosen specialisation and why you think that the particular school you have applied to is a good choice. Your SOP should be convincing. While writing your SOP, make sure that the grammatical and spelling errors are negligible and you clearly state what you want them to know. The SOP should be cogent and there must be a link from a sentence to the next sentence and a paragraph to the next one. Your decision of making any choice about papers and any other career choice should not look random but it should look a conscious decision.
A SOP can be both; a very general one or mentioning your particular area of interest. Normally it suffices to write a SOP mentioning your area of specialisation however; one can choose to write a SOP which clearly shows your interest towards a particular topic within the specialisation. This is recommended only when you have very good idea about what you really want to do and if it is at all feasible. It also requires you to make carful study about the faculty members of the department if any of them are working in the same or related topic.
In many of the universities the two decisions regarding admission and the assistantship are made separately. Anyways while writing your SOP it’s a good idea to support your case of both admission and the assistantship. The university is not going to give you an assistantship unless you prove yourself worthy of it. While your GPA and test scores support your case of admission. Your research and/or teaching experience support your case assistantship. Your academic excellence may help you in both i.e. in securing admission as well as securing an assistantship opportunity. Hence you should make sure that you discuss your academic achievements in an appropriate manner such that it does not look boastful but you should never hesitate in mentioning it. In case you need some good SOP you can follow these links and find out how to write a good SOP. We’ll also discuss about writing a good SOP in detail later once all the steps in the admission process pointed down in the ‘Introduction’ post is discussed in brief.
Writing a resume is also an important part of the application. It enlists your academic achievements, projects you have been associated with and the jobs you have done. If you are an international student and you have worked in an institute outside USA or the country where you are applying for PhD it’s likely that the admission committee doesn’t know about the organisation you have worked for. In such cases it’s your responsibility to make them aware of the importance and the excellence of the institution and it should be supported by the adequate evidences. Usually this has to be done in SOP because there you can provide the details and don’t forget the mention your contribution towards the organisation as well as how working at the organisation has contributed to your knowledge and furthered your way towards making you better suited to PhD or made you a better candidate for research and /or teaching assistantship. For example, if you were working as a teaching assistant at a reputed university or institution for some papers related to economics it means you have some experience as teaching assistant and hence, you have an edge over other applicants without any such experience. Prior research is valued heavily in the admission process however if you are directly coming to graduate school after the completion of your under-graduation you might not need having any publication but any thesis on the under grad level may be helpful.
In all your resume and SOP must reveal your academic ability and your motivation towards PhD. Remember merely stating anything does not help you but you need to substantiate it. Sometimes it’s a better idea to get your statements substantiated in the recommendation letters. For example, if you claim that you have been great in researching in a particular field and have helped some professor as a research student in the topic you must get it written in your recommendation letter from that very professor. You should not hesitate to take the help of your friends and teachers in writing your SOP and resume. That makes sure that the errors are least and the SOP is convincing. Some suggestions over how to write a good SOP can be found here.
In the next post we’ll discuss about recommendation letter. What constitutes a good recommendation letter and who should be your recommenders etc. Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions to make the information on this blog more useful.