Looking for a resource to have a graduate admissions statement of intent read and critiqued please.
October 24, 2007 10:11 AM   Subscribe

I am applying to grad school. The deadline is approaching. Where can I go to get my letter of intent (personal statement) read and critiqued?

I am seeking some feedback on what I've written. Is there a resource out there for this? Preferably at minimal cost, with a very quick turnaround, and knowledge about the system and what the admissions professionals are looking for.

Other info: I'm applying to SF State for the Masters Program in Linguistics. Any specific info or resources about this program and/or graduate studies is also very helpful to me!
posted by iamkimiam to Education (16 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Livejournal's applyingtograd community. But I don't think there is a substitute for a professor in your field. I'm also not entirely sure about the rules, but it seems to me you might also be able to post it here on the green.
posted by limon at 10:20 AM on October 24, 2007

I would ask a professor in your department to have a look at it, if you're in university currently.
posted by number9dream at 10:29 AM on October 24, 2007

You can go to Test Magic and give a try.

But don't just paste your SOP in a thread on the forum. Find someone who's willing to read it and PM or e-mail it to him.
posted by WizKid at 10:31 AM on October 24, 2007

Best answer: You should definitely ask a professor you know to take a look at it if you're in school - and at the end of the visit, you can ask him/her to write you letters of recommendation!

Ask your friends, family, too, but take their critique with a grain of salt - people will come up with random things to point out if they can't think of anything else or don't have much experience with the subject matter.

I wouldn't post it on the net if I were you - bits of your SoP will be reused by hundreds of potential grad school applicants to come. I'd even be wary of critiquing services online - you never know if they'll release your SoP as a sample with minimal changes to identifying info.
posted by pravit at 10:59 AM on October 24, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far.

My regret is that I spread myself a little thin during my undergraduate studies, and did not make connections with any professors or fellow students (this was two years ago as well).

Unfortunately, my family members are not a source of help or encouragement. I will ask my friends, but I am looking for additional critique, preferably unbiased (god love my friends, but they think I'm great!) and/or with academically focused experience.

I won't be publishing my SoP on a public forum (or the green), for reasons above and then some. I was curious about the online services, but pravit makes a good point about confidentiality. Turnaround time is also a very important factor for me as well.

Thanks again for the ideas...keep 'em coming!
posted by iamkimiam at 11:21 AM on October 24, 2007

I'd definitely recommend asking your references for feedback. You're probably going to have to give it to them anyway, and they are the best people. They know your field and they know what schools look for, as they see tons of these things.
posted by SoftRain at 11:39 AM on October 24, 2007

Kaplan has admissions consulting that does this. 3 hours is just a few hundred bucks.
posted by k8t at 11:55 AM on October 24, 2007

I don't know how things run at SF State, but at UBC (where I went to grad school), the graduate admissions committee has as many graduate students as faculty on it. Getting feedback from your professorial references is good, but it might also be beneficial to run it past some current graduate students (if you know any that would be willing to help you out).

UBC has a lot of student involvement in departmental affairs though; SF State's admissions might be entirely faculty, so take this with a grain of salt.
posted by Nelsormensch at 12:26 PM on October 24, 2007

Best answer: I think it is extremely rare in a US university to have grad students on an admissions committee.

You say your profs are not a source of reassurance etc, but do you mean "I don't know them very well so I feel awkward asking them for favors" or do you mean "they have actively discouraged me"? If it's the former, you should definitely ask them for help with this. It won't take them long to read, and they will have a good sense of what committees look for. If it's the latter, I'm sorry to hear that. Maybe you could get in touch with a prof in another department with whom you had some interaction, and ask them to just take a quick look?

The number 1 rule for statements of purpose is:
It's not an autobiography; it's not about whether you are personally "passionate" enough. It's not about how well-rounded you are. It's about your preparation and your plans for research in this one specific area. So, it's NOT like an undergraduate "personal essay".

It should be comparatively dry and to the point, no big emotional revelations. It should explain why you think you're a good fit for the department you're applying to (eg they have faculty who work on the thing you're interested in). It should give the sense that you know enough to talk intelligently about projects you would be interested in -- though it doesn't need to convince anyone that you already know everything about such projects.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:22 PM on October 24, 2007 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: My professors don't know me at all. Is it appropriate to email them and ask them to read my letter?
posted by iamkimiam at 3:12 PM on October 24, 2007

Best answer: Is there a college or university near you that has a writing center? Writing centers generally provide free tutoring for current students at a school but where I work we often have alums come in for help. We have also had a few people walk in off the street and even though it may not be official policy to help them we are usually willing to do so if there is a tutor available.

At my center we receive specific training in how to tutor personal statements for grad school but this may not be standard for all writing centers.
posted by horses, of courses at 3:19 PM on October 24, 2007

Best answer: My professors don't know me at all.

Even so, you can absolutely ask them to look over your letter. In most cases, I would expect they would be pleased to hear that someone from their program is going on to grad school.

Example of what you can say in your email:
"Dear Prof. X,
Hello. I was a student in your YYY class in Fall 2003. I realize that you may not remember me, but I enjoyed your class and I'm writing to you now because I am applying to grad school in linguistics.

I'm in the final phase of composing my application, and I'm not sure where else to turn for advice. I would be very grateful if you would take a look at my statement of purpose, and let me know if it looks appropriate to you.

I realize your time is valuable, and I'm sorry for the short notice; any advice you can give me will be very helpful, as I have no one else knowledgable to talk to about this. The deadline for the application is ZZZ. I can be reached by email at this address, or by phone at bbb-bbb-bbbb.

I am attaching a copy of the final paper I wrote for your class (just as a reminder of who I am!), and my personal statement. I'm also copying the text of my personal statement in plain text into this email, below my signature.

Thank you very much for any help you can give!
All best wishes, iamkimiam."

Incidentally, who is writing your reference letters?
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:31 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just to emphasize: Helping current and former students put together grad school applications, and decide where to apply, is part of what professors do. So asking them to quickly look over your statement is absolutely reasonable. They might be too busy or whatever, but they won't think you're out of line.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:35 PM on October 24, 2007

If your professors don't know you, how can they advise or write for you? Help them know you.

As a prof, I read a lot of my students' and ex-students' grad statments, and insist on seeing the statement if I am writing. It's the single most important part of a grad school application and you must get it read by someone who knows the genre.

As for grad students on admissions committees, yikes!
posted by spitbull at 3:37 PM on October 24, 2007

Oh - what I said above is based on the assumption that you're writing to your linguistics profs, or profs in other departments who have something to do with linguistics. They should be totally pleased to help you. Writing to other profs may work too, but they will feel less strongly inclined to help (and will know less about what admissions committees in linguistics are looking for).
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:37 PM on October 24, 2007

I think you should visit the school you are applying to and talk to current students and faculty in that department before you submit the application. Professors can give you some perspective on the place and the information you gather talking to a few of them plus some current students will help you tailor your written statement. Most professors would welcome the opportunity to chat informally with a prospective graduate student, provided you aren't catching them at a bad time. Just be genuine in your statement. Don't try writing what they want to hear. At the graduate level the files are usually reviewed by the faculty in the department, not the admissions office (you will send it to the admissions office but that office will foward it to the department for review).
posted by 45moore45 at 7:36 PM on October 26, 2007

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