71 votes
Accepted

Should I explain to the graduate admission committee why I am older than most prospective PhD students?

Such information would be relevant. The real trick would be to keep such a paragraph short and to the point. As such the question would be a good draft of such a section. I have two comments: I would ...
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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 ...
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  • 6,423
52 votes

Can an emotional letter of motivation be harmful in a PhD application?

In brief, even after imagining that text's language cleaned up, the problem is not about "emotion" but about lack of verifiable substance. As in @aesmail's good answer, insubstantiated claims, or, ...
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  • 80.2k
44 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 ...
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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 ...
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40 votes

Can an emotional letter of motivation be harmful in a PhD application?

There is a wonderful quotation by Bertrand Russell that perfectly sums up the nature of emotions in academia: Nothing great is achieved without passion, but underneath the passion there should ...
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  • 171k
37 votes
Accepted

Good idea to name the keynote speaker of a local conference at which my paper was accepted to be presented?

If the conference is well-known enough, then it isn't necessary to name the keynote speaker, because the conference will be recognized regardless. If the conference isn't well-known in the field, name-...
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  • 171k
34 votes
Accepted

Why shouldn't I quote famous scientists in my SOP?

A statement of purpose is forward-looking. It is not meant to be, to paraphrase Wordsworth, "recollections of early childhood." I don't really care why you decided to study mathematics when you were ...
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  • 171k
34 votes

Is it a bad idea to say in my statement of purpose that I want to pursue a PhD in applied mathematics primarily to work in industry?

I have done graduate admissions for my math department. I am a "pure mathematician" but my department is just the math department: there is no formal separation between pure and applied. Others can ...
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31 votes
Accepted

Is it a good idea for a nonnative English speaker to have native speakers help make the English in statement of purpose perfect?

It's definitely a good idea (in fact anyone in your situation should do so), I have seen plenty of people around me in my graduate school who had done so. There even exist professional services ...
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30 votes

Should I explain to the graduate admission committee why I am older than most prospective PhD students?

I wish scaaahu had put that comment in an answer so that I could up-vote it. Perhaps it will help you to know that I started the Ph.D. at age 56. It wasn't in a top ten university, but neither am I ...
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  • 25.1k
30 votes

Good idea to name the keynote speaker of a local conference at which my paper was accepted to be presented?

In addition to aeismail's answer, and to stress his point a bit further, you should probably not do this. There are a number of reasons: It provides only very weak support for the story you are ...
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  • 126k
27 votes
Accepted

Is it a good idea to put the logo of the university in my motivational letter?

No, you should not put the university logo in the letter. You are not representing your university in an official capacity in a statement of purpose, and therefore using the university's logo would be ...
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  • 171k
27 votes
Accepted

(Master's Degree) What are they 'precisely' looking for in a Statement of Purpose, and does a SOP matter when one has excellent GPA?

What I'll write is based on my experience with mathematics Ph.D. admissions in the U.S. How far it generalizes beyond that may depend on the circumstances. (I'd bet much of it would still apply to a ...
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26 votes

Is it a good idea for a nonnative English speaker to have native speakers help make the English in statement of purpose perfect?

I think about English grammar and prose like personal grooming. If you are going to a big event where you need to make a good impression, it's fine to ask people to help make sure your clothing is ...
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  • 180k
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 ...
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25 votes

Should I explain to the graduate admission committee why I am older than most prospective PhD students?

I recommend that you put the information you gave us in your statement of purpose for a PhD application. At least for a US-style statement of purpose (which is usually about two pages) I would not ...
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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 ...
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  • 80.2k
24 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 ...
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24 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.
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  • 258k
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. ...
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  • 102k
22 votes

Why shouldn't I quote famous scientists in my SOP?

Because the people who worship famous scientists usually aren't the ones who've done actual science. Generally their main scientific experience comes from books marketed to a general audience. You ...
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22 votes
Accepted

Answering "Why do you want to become a research mathematician?"-type questions in a statement of purpose

I can't speak for all mathematics graduate admissions everywhere, but when I was on the admissions committee for my department (UGA) we generally did not take the statements of purpose all that ...
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22 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 ...
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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 ...
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  • 258k
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 ...
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20 votes

Can an emotional letter of motivation be harmful in a PhD application?

As others have said, the main problem of that letter is not its emotionality, but the lack of content and the presence of unnecessary details. Let me analyse a few example sentences: College XY has ...
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  • 52.4k
19 votes

How negative to go in a statement of purpose?

In my opinion you should not "go negative" at all in a statement of purpose. A vivid description of what turned you off to a previous program seems only to give those considering your admissions case ...
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19 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 ...
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  • 3,114

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