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I am polishing my CV for PhD applications (Statistical Physics related). I was wondering about whether it is appropriate to list some personal interests and non-academic skills. This is my list (last line is the more uncertain, since during the lessons sessions I am not able to read much):

Additional Skills & Interests

  • Time planning skills --- Ability to take on new responsibilities --- Teamwork
  • Curious nature --- Problem solving skills --- Critical thinking
  • Keen hiker, runner and soccer player (informal level).
  • Passionate reader of classics and manga.
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    1,2,4 seem completely irrelevant or obvious. 3 probably also. "Manga" sounds to a lot of people like "only for children". – user115896 Nov 27 '19 at 22:35
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    Personally, it feels cringey to see points like 1 and 2 in CVs. I don't think they will help your cause in any way. For 3 and 4, I think it is okay to share your interests. You are a human and they might help the other party to emphatize with you. Many academics mention their other interests in their webpages (see Ken Ono's for example). On the other hand it may backfire and they may think you are a pretencious snob. It is pretty much your call, but I advise you to keep them concise and reserve them to the very end. – Boaty Mcboatface Nov 27 '19 at 22:56
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    My feeling about 1 and 2 for a Ph.D. application is that you may as well be saying you can breathe and you have a heartbeat. – Dave L Renfro Nov 28 '19 at 10:01
  • My feeling is that while an academical might want to put hobbies and the likes in an official web page, that is most a "social" ,use. Unless common at the place you enquire, I wouldn't list any of the points you wrote here. – Alchimista Nov 29 '19 at 11:18
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Focus on your academic skills. Stress the suitability of your background and your likelihood of success in any program. That is how you will be judged. For undergraduate admissions it can be a bit different (in the US, anyway), but not for doctoral study. Stick to business.

The other things may save you when you are in the process, but that is a personal thing you can draw on. Your SoP should be strongly oriented toward your expectations for the future and your willingness to work hard to get there.

But in some fields teamwork may be very essential. But don't just say you are a valuable team member. List team projects you were on that were successful.

Many of the other things are assumed. If you weren't curious, for example, you wouldn't be applying in the first place.

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I do not like it when people write unqualified statements.

You say you have good time planning skills and good teamwork. How can you prove it? Did you successfully complete a complex project? Did you manage a team before? Did you collaborate with many people?

You say you have a curious nature and good problem solving skills. How can you prove it? Did you write a research paper? Did you win some physics/math competition?

Anyone can write anything on their CV. Without anything to back it up these statements are at best meaningless, and at worst seen as thinly veiled attempts to bolster a weak CV.

Personally I wouldn't write reading as a hobby. Hiking is fine, but I find that most people don't read these bits.

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I'd only add interests if they're a bit different and demonstrate skills that are looked for in an ideal PhD candidate - determination, perseverance, creativity, intelligence, self-reliance etc. (e.g. triathlon runner, multi-lingual, high grade piano player etc.).

...And stick to only presenting one. You don't want to appear so involved with personal activities that you won't have time for your research project.

Hobbies and interests that are common place - enjoys reading, running, going to the cinema etc. are best to leave out.

Also avoid anything that might look like a huge time drain that could take you out of the lab regularly/for prolonged periods of time (i.e. a second job or travel blogger etc). These are not good to mention. As a general rule, supervisors want people in their lab who aren't hugely distracted by non-research activities.

Good luck with your application!

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