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I understand the standard margin spacing on personal statements is 1 inch, but I've read that 0.75 inches may be okay.

Most of the statements specify 1-2 page limits and nothing else. I'm wondering if 0.75 inch margins are okay, given that I have 3 significant research experiences to describe in my statements.

Any opinions on costs VS. benefits in my case: to lose content (it would have to be from my research experiences, as I already have the bare minimum writing that addresses other aspects of the statement, such as why I want to attend the school or long-term career objectives) or to possibly annoy one of the readers that I have 0.75 margins as opposed to 1 inch margins.

Thanks!

  • Also, I know most readers of this question will tell me to condense my work. That's understandable, but with 3 significant experiences, it's a bit harder. I built my short paragraphs that describe each experience in a way that the application readers will enjoy reading (hopefully)...e.g. posing the question, hypotheses, results and/or conclusions, and posters and/or presentations that came from my work (no authorships yet). I could remove the hypotheses we had for the studies, and so on, but who knows if that will detract from my writing. – Jackson Mace Oct 7 at 0:17
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    A more common (and irritating issue) is the difference between A4 and US Letter page sizes. If you make a .pdf file sized for A4 pages and then try to print it out on US Letter sized paper you'll have problems. – Brian Borchers Oct 7 at 1:02
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Whenever in doubt in such situations, it is always best to err on the side of fewer words. You do risk annoying the reader (who will see that your margins are smaller than the margins on the others they are reading), and you are assuming that the reader will actually finish reading your longer statement. Page limits are there to guard readers' time, and if they only have x minutes to devote to each statement, your longer statement will not be as thoroughly read and digested. Yes, they should probably have word limits to get around this margin problem (my Uni works with word limits, not page limits, for this reason), but you do risk diluting the time they spend thinking about you.

While I know you think your three experiences are so significant that they each deserve extensive treatment, being concise about important things is part of academia. For example, I recently had less than a page to display how my research background is world-leading enough to warrant being awarded €1.5million. You are given 2 pages only to describe why you want to go to graduate school. Having to express important things in little space isn't going to go away as you progress with your academic career; as time passes, more info goes in less space.

  • Page limits are also there to force the candidate to focus on what is most important and to express it effectively. See: quoteinvestigator.com/2012/04/28/shorter-letter – Buffy Oct 7 at 11:19
  • Good points - I'll definitely stick to at least 1-inch margins. I appreciate the feedback! – Jackson Mace Oct 7 at 16:01
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Don't do it, for two reasons:

1) One of the most important things about application materials is that they are legible. The page looks and reads better with wider margins. I have used 1.25in and 12pt fonts even when the requirements where 1in and 10pt.

2) Abusing space (small font, tight interline space, small margins) screams "I can't summarize!". I understand your concerns, but as GrotesqueSI points out, your situation is just the tip of the iceberg. It's surprising how much you can squeeze in a given space. Google "writing concisely" to find free resources by university writing centers. Follow all rules 90% of the time, and you'll probably be able to add extra words the 10% of the time when you really need them.

Just as an example, your question repeats three times that you are seeking advice on 0.75 vs 1 in margins. You also mention twice that you are thinking to shorten the part about your research experiences. In both cases, one time is enough.

(As an aside, I think you mean "long-term" research rather than "far-fetched." Far-fetched means unlikely to happen, which is not want to want in this context.)

  • Thank you, I see what you mean. I'll stick to 1-inch margins. – Jackson Mace Oct 7 at 16:02

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