In the application form of the school I'm applying, there is a short definition of SOP:

Your statement of purpose should explain why you want to study your proposed course and how it will help your life and career.

The message is direct: why I want to study here and how it will help my life. It doesn't ask for my past research, it doesn't ask for my community service, it doesn't ask what I'm working on. My research proposal is asked in another field.

This contradicts to what I know on SOP. My prepared one is strictly followed to this question: Choosing research ideas to include in a statement of purpose.

My questions are:

  1. Does this mean that the school actually doesn't care about my past research, and talking about it just waste my space?
  2. Unfortunately I just noticed the difference after I submitted my application. If the answer for the question above is yes, then how bad my SOP is?

2 Answers 2


I assume this is for a PhD or research-oriented Master's program. Almost certainly the admissions committee will care about your past research. Here are some possible reasons why they don't explicitly mention it in their description of the SOP:

  1. They don't assume that you've already done research.
  2. Someone wrote it without much thought or experience.
  3. Presumably any past research would play a role in your desire for a further degree, so it is implicitly covered.
  4. They were just expecting this information as part of your research statement.

Also, regarding your comment "This contradicts to what I know on SOP": different departments (and different committee members on the same committee) look for different things, so this place may not look at community service at all. Answers on this site are not infallible universal laws.


I have no idea what you would say to "why you want to study your proposed course" if not for previous research experience!

Say you want to research (throwing something out there) algebraic topology. Well...why? What made you interested in this topic? What experiences led you to be interested in this? I'm assuming you were exposed to algebraic topology SOMEHOW. Was it through a class? Through an REU? Through a senior thesis? Through other research experience?

If you had relevant research experience, and it didn't make you interested in researching that topic, that's a larger problem than any statement of purpose.

I have absolutely no idea how to answer if not by talking about research/classes etc.

  • well, because I actually didn't really like my past research much
    – Ooker
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 15:23

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