I have a doubt regarding the Statement of Purpose for grad school.

Toward the end of the essay, should I specify the list of professors who I am interested to work with? For example:

"...Since research in this field is very active in Dr. A's, Dr. B’s, Dr. C’s groups at XXX University, I would like to apply to your program..."

My concern is: though doing so may indicate that I have read about the professors and their works (which is a plus I suppose), it is risky at the same time. What if Dr.[A-C] are not able to accept more people to their labs? Will the admission committee automatically disqualify my application in this case?

Hence, I would love to hear more advices from you of how to play it safe: whether such specifications are needed, and how to phrase them properly.


2 Answers 2


Disclaimer: I am still a graduate student and my experience is limited to my own application process and as a student member of my department's graduate admissions committee.

I have seen that specific reasons are almost always better than general reasons. When I was going through the application process, my SOP always mentioned current specific projects that my POI's were doing and how I could be an optimal choice for those projects in the near future with my background and current research. This approach seems to have worked well enough for me.

During multiple interviews in the application process, my SOP was often alluded to, especially in context with these specific projects and my fit with them.


If you have specific and substantial reasons for wanting to work with a particular professor, definitely mention them by name and say why. But do not lie, do not bluff, and do not just drop names and paper titles. Admissions committees already know you can use Google; anyone can read the department web page. But actually incorporating appropriate technical details from someone's papers into your own research plans will generally draw their attention and impress them.

What if Dr.[A-C] are not able to accept more people to their labs? Will the admission committee automatically disqualify my application in this case?

It should. If you want to be a student in department X specifically to work with Prof. A, but Prof. A is not taking students, then joining department X anyway would be stupid. In that case, you should hope that Department X rejects your application.

  • I don't understand your last sentence
    – Ooker
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 10:01
  • If the only advisor you want to work with is not accepting students, then it's better for you to be rejected by their department.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 11:27
  • I mean, is it because you will have a courage to apply to another department?
    – Ooker
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 11:51
  • 1
    No, I mean because you really don't want to go to a department that doesn't have a suitable advisor. I already assume that you're applying to multiple departments; applying to ony one department is reckless under the best of circumstances.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 11:54
  • 1
    Perhaps I should have written "assume" instead of "know".
    – JeffE
    Commented May 2, 2021 at 17:57

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