Jan 19, 2020
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9
I'm writing personal statements and recognize varying degrees of differences between POI's research lines - especially (maybe this is ubiquitous) within the subset that I am interested in. For example's sake, let's take treatment of borderline as an interest area - within this area there are numerous lines of research. If I'm applying to 12-20 programs with POI's doing BPD research (too much narrowing of interest yields too few faculty/programs), what level of depth and specificity should a personal statement contain? As I'm starting to write statements, it seems like I will need to write 12-20 largely unique statements in order to privilege certain questions and insights I've raised from past experiences to achieve fit with the recent/current papers that POI's are focused on. I sort of enjoy the writing (though the part of writing about myself is a drag) but do wonder, is my focus too specific? If I was a faculty member reviewing applicant's statement's I'd probably prefer those that are thoroughly informed about my present work, on one hand. On the other hand, I'd appreciate an applicant's general interests and openness to my broader sector of research.

Tangentially, as a non-traditional applicant with about 12 years of diverse yet relevant research and clinical experiences, I'm struggling with how to include what I think are most of the salient experiences while still maintaining some granularity of description and relationship to my present research interests (interests change and develop over the years of course). Would you suggest going into less detail and being more complete in presenting myself or a bit more judicious narration privileging my interests as they are now?
 

Temperance

5+ Year Member
May 27, 2015
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For what it's worth, I wrote a fairly specific statement of purpose where I proposed the program of research that I wanted to undertake as a Ph.D. student. For a variety of reasons, I didn't apply to too many programs, but I did end up sending that statement to three programs where the PI's research seemed to be an excellent fit for what I was proposing and interviewing at those programs. The faculty on the boards can speak more to how they read statements, but at least for me going specific went very well, both in terms of admissions and in terms of finding a program where both I and my advisor would have a happy relationship.

I also was a non-traditional applicant, so I had several years of seemingly unrelated research experiences that I was able to tie into my current research interests. I'm happy to discuss specifics over DMs if that would be helpful for you!
 
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jdawg2017

Doctoral Student of Clinical Psychology
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Dec 18, 2016
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Anything north of 12 applications and you are probably not getting a good return on your investment since odds are you aren't a "good fit" for that many labs unless you are truly happy seeing your research direction go whatever direction within a broader field (e.g., basically any aspect of BPD). I think the typical recommended # is 8-12 schools. Just trying to save you some $ and time.

I applied to 9. For each school, I had a generic skeleton of my SOP that did not change -- basically the part about me and what I was doing for research, clinical work, and broader leadership. The other 25% or so was what I changed from school-to-school. I bolded the entirety of the unique sections if I could (e.g., submitting as PDF vs. in a text box) to help center the POIs' attention on how we are a match. I would mention specifics about how I could fit in with their research line, what I bring to the table relative to current work, etc. This anecdotally (n=1 for me, and anyone who I have mentored directly with SOPs) has been successful; I got 6 interviews out of 9 schools and people mentioned the SOP, specifically.
 
Jan 19, 2020
21
9
Thank you very much for your perspectives.
Just to sanity check: citations in the SOP in support of future directions that I'm proposing (essentially making the case that the questions/extensions of POI's research are worth funding/investment).. yay or nay? I come from a world where pretty much any proposal needs to be justified in terms of making the time/money investment.
 
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psych.meout

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Oct 5, 2015
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Thank you very much for your perspectives.
Just to sanity check: citations in the SOP in support of future directions that I'm proposing (essentially making the case that the questions/extensions of POI's research are worth funding/investment).. yay or nay? I come from a world where pretty much any proposal needs to be justified in terms of making the time/money investment.
Like, actual citations? No, that's weird to put in an SOP.
 
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CheetahGirl

Clinical Psychologist
10+ Year Member
Feb 15, 2007
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Thank you very much for your perspectives.
Just to sanity check: citations in the SOP in support of future directions that I'm proposing (essentially making the case that the questions/extensions of POI's research are worth funding/investment).. yay or nay? I come from a world where pretty much any proposal needs to be justified in terms of making the time/money investment.
I dunno....

I think brief, nonplagarized text would be best and okay if you write in your SOP, like "I'm interested in your fMRI research as it pertains the emerging adulthood population. In learning that DBT targets amygdala hyperactivity in BPD (Goodman et al., 2014), I am ultimately interested in working with young adults within the methodology and training that your DBT clinic offers."

Keep it relevant to you, the POI...and research interests regarding your flow and ease of understanding for your reader (of course, write out all abbreviations first time you use them, & can abbreviate thereafter).

I second the 'write 12 tailored,' rather than 20 copy and paste personal statements. The time you put in now will help find you the best fit, and this will be quite evident in the future.

Best of luck. :luck:
 
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