Skip to main content
88 votes
Accepted

Pronouns of professors in Statement of Purpose

What I have learned from conversations with people who use less common pronouns (typically they/them) is that there is no expectation for perfection or magical divination of pronouns. There's no ...
Bryan Krause's user avatar
  • 118k
75 votes
Accepted

Humor in a personal statement

It's less an issue that a personal statement can't be humorous and more that humor in a written context is very hard to get right. Timing and tone of voice are easily lost in written media, and self-...
Bryan Krause's user avatar
  • 118k
65 votes
Accepted

How can we identify and filter AI-generated statements of purpose (SoP) and recommendation letters?

There is no need to filter out AI-generated statements of purpose. Even without AI, it is not reasonable to assume that applicants have generally written their SoPs all by themselves. They have ...
Arno's user avatar
  • 44.3k
58 votes
Accepted

Should I mention in my statement of purpose that I did not attend lectures in my last two years of undergrad?

I'd shorten and tone it down if I were you. Being a researcher involves a lot of sitting in other people's talks, so we all know that lectures are boring. But we still do it, because those are an ...
mlk's user avatar
  • 7,959
54 votes

Humor in a personal statement

Here's a general rule: If you have to think about whether something is appropriate, it's probably wise to just not do it. I believe this rule applies to contexts far beyond just application documents.
Wolfgang Bangerth's user avatar
48 votes

Should I write about my experience with academic bullying on PhD application personal statements?

No, you should focus on why you're going to be a great person to take on as a PhD student. If you characterize a past advisor as bullying you in the story you describe where it seems like their mental ...
Bryan Krause's user avatar
  • 118k
45 votes

How should I explain why I am leaving my current PhD and looking for a new PhD?

Yes, but keep it very short and neutral. Something like: My advisor left my university soon after I joined the Ph.D. program. I did not join him. We tried to make this work by him supervising me ...
Maarten Buis's user avatar
  • 44.3k
41 votes
Accepted

Unintentionally disrespectful in the Statement of Purpose/Academic essay

The culture regarding the academic titles is quite country-specific. In some countries (e.g. Germany) academics are more often referred to by title and surname, Prof. Famous, even in a classroom. In ...
Dmitry Savostyanov's user avatar
30 votes
Accepted

Is it risky or inappropriate to mention a history of substance abuse in a PhD application personal statement?

I think it would be risky, though I can't judge inappropriate. The problem is that you will be judged by individuals, some of whom might fear a relapse in the middle of your studies. If that would ...
Buffy's user avatar
  • 367k
26 votes
Accepted

Is it okay to mention a mathematical fact that intrigues me in SOP when I don't understand its technical details?

Yes. A major role of the statement of purpose is to allow whoever is reading your application to determine if there are faculty whose interests match yours and could serve as a suitable advisor. I ...
Vivek Shende's user avatar
26 votes

Humor in a personal statement

I would advise caution. The particular example phrasing you suggest sounds off to me. A humorous way to connect your carpentry to your studies (other than that the one finances the other) might work....
Ethan Bolker's user avatar
  • 36.5k
25 votes
Accepted

Childhood "story" on my master's SoP?

In physics culture, most people do not care what inspired you. Telling stories (in the sense of a narrative with a sequence of events) is not a popular activity among physicists. I would not include ...
Anonymous Physicist's user avatar
25 votes

Should I use bold text in my personal statement?

I suggest that you don't do that. This is a professional communication. If people read it at all, they don't need the emphasis, which is a bit like shouting. Make it as professional as possible.
Buffy's user avatar
  • 367k
25 votes

Should I write about my experience with academic bullying on PhD application personal statements?

You should avoid going into these details. If you tell the story as you did above, the reviewer will immediately see (at least) two possibilities: You were an awesome student who did everything you ...
cag51's user avatar
  • 69.6k
24 votes

Should I mention in my statement of purpose that I did not attend lectures in my last two years of undergrad?

First, I am sympathetic to your dislike of sitting in classrooms, at scheduled times, for artificially limited intervals, and too-often lecturers/teachers who add little to the textbook, or even to ...
paul garrett's user avatar
24 votes
Accepted

Life story on Ph.D SOP

(Context: I’m a computer science professor in Canada who’s been on the other side of admissions a handful of times.) If I were reading such a statement of purpose: yes, in this case a brief ...
Danica's user avatar
  • 543
23 votes
Accepted

Do PhD admission committees prefer prospective professors over practitioners?

Yes (but it's usually an unconscious bias, and not openly stated). Many academics consider failing to become a professor actual "failure". An academic career is supposed to be a vocation. ...
Allure's user avatar
  • 131k
22 votes

My main research advisor refuses to give me a letter (to help for apply US physics program). What should I do?

Yes, it might look a bit weird, but you don't have control over that. And he is giving you good advice that he shouldn't write you a letter. Not every advisor is willing to be so honest. But, I don't ...
Buffy's user avatar
  • 367k
21 votes

Reality check on advice for statement of purpose

All good advice. In addition, may I suggest that a statement of purpose should answer the question, what is your purpose in wanting to do this? What will you do if they admit you? It should be ...
Nicole Hamilton's user avatar
21 votes

Do PhD admission committees prefer prospective professors over practitioners?

Nearly all PhD students will never be professors. Some PhD programs might prefer to recruit PhD students who intend to become professors, but sensible PhD programs will realize that students who wish ...
Anonymous Physicist's user avatar
20 votes

What should one look for in a statement of purpose (from the admissions side) in mathematics?

Good question. I worked on graduate admissions at my math PhD program (at UGA, in the US) for several years, and after a few years off I am the new Graduate Coordinator, so I will shortly be wading ...
Pete L. Clark's user avatar
18 votes
Accepted

Is it appropriate to compare myself with other students in my statement of purpose for U.S. graduate school application?

This would be a bad idea and will likely have the opposite effect you want it to have. Especially in mathematics, people are turned off by bullshit. Let me relate an actual exchange I heard a few ...
Andy Putman's user avatar
  • 3,313
18 votes

Will it hurt my chances if I state I want to study Theoretical Computer Science instead of something like AI/ML for PhD?

This is a US-based answer. Theoretical computer science is indeed less well-funded, but it is also less popular, and the effect of this on graduate admissions is complicated. You should also consider ...
Alexander Woo's user avatar
18 votes

How would PhD Admissions committee read Statements of Purpose?

When I was on my department's graduate committee (which dealt with admissions), I read ~120 applications per year. About half of these are "obviously" not competitive for some reason or ...
Wolfgang Bangerth's user avatar
17 votes

Is it a good practise to involve a child in a statement of purpose?

No, the statement is about your motivation in doing research and about your research goals, not about your private life goals. Having a child is undoubtedly a joyful event which can definitely change ...
Massimo Ortolano's user avatar
17 votes
Accepted

Statement of Purpose, should one say "I did X ..." or "My advisor and I did X .. "?

This is an XY problem. Saying "I did X" repeatedly is wrong and offputting, and saying "My advisor and I did X" repeatedly sounds weak and annoying to read. Neither is the right option alone. You ...
knzhou's user avatar
  • 3,568
17 votes

Childhood "story" on my master's SoP?

NO!!! Telling stories about your childhood will not "grip the reader from the first line on," it will put them to sleep. Possible exception if something truly unusual happened during your ...
cag51's user avatar
  • 69.6k
17 votes

Humor in a personal statement

To me, that personal statement smacks of arrogance and rubs me the wrong way. There is no way to know how serious you are being, and I've known and interacted with many people who would say and mean ...
Meat Robot's user avatar
17 votes

Pronouns of professors in Statement of Purpose

I think few people would be offended unless you have somehow been told what they prefer. Once told, it is polite to conform to their desires. But make the statements easy to read, rather than awkward. ...
Buffy's user avatar
  • 367k

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible