FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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If you have a question you'd like answered, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to apply for grad school with gene-splicing in South African toads as my major. Would you have a sample SoP written by someone with similar interests?
Well, let me think. Uhh….. No ! The whole point of our sample essays is to illustrate the points we've made in the rest of the site. These essays represent both what prospective applicants should and shouldn't do. The essays aren't meant to provide with ideas regarding your major. They're supposed to help you communicate
* your * beliefs, aspirations and accomplishments more effectively.
But then you've put up essays for grad studies in marketing research, electrical engineering and management. Surely, you have dozens of other essays stashed away for students from different fields, possibly even one to do with toad gene-splicing. Why don't you publish them too?
That's because we're part of this inter-galactic conspiracy to capture and delete successful SoP's. Actually, very few applicants are prepared to allow us to publish essays. We've searched far and wide for the few essays that we've published. Which isn't to say that we don't have a few essays to use. But those add little value in terms of illustrating issues that we'd like deal with.
If you can help us get hold of essays to publish here, please email us at email@example.com. As the essays we've published readily show, we ensure that the identity or private details of the author aren't revealed.
I think the essays you've published sound a tad too dull. Why is that?
We're sorry you feel that way. You have to understand that we're not saying these essays are ideal. Even our reviews state the need for the essays to be spiced up. We've even pointed out opportunities where the author's could've livened up things.
On the other hand, all these essays were meant for graduate and post-graduate studies. I can't remember the last scientific or management paper that was humorous. And you have to accept that such papers are routinely read and appreciated. Which isn't to say that you should write 10,000 word SoP's.
Also, there's a fine line between humor and farce. Only if you're extremely confident about your writing skills should you attempt to sound funny.
Interesting is a totally different matter. The site has numerous suggestions about why and how you should attempt to make your writing sound interesting.
And finally, the authors of these essays were admitted to the schools of their choice. We believe that's testament enough to the efficacy of their essays.
My essay is in a mess and the application deadline is around the corner. Should I send my application anyway?
Fie on you for getting yourself in such a situation in the first place! It's always a good idea to apply on time. If you're out of time already, the first thing you should do is try and find out how seriously the university in question takes it's deadlines. We've known of plenty of applicants whose applications didn't get to the university by the deadline, and many of them got admitted. If you miss the deadline by a few days, it shouldn't really matter. We believe that if your school permits you to send the application in parts, you should absolutely make sure your application fee is paid by the deadline. Sure they care about the rest of your application too, but you have to show them the money to reserve your place in the applicant list.
The best idea is to consult the school brochure or web site and confer with students you know at the school to get a grip on their policies.
As for the essay, absolutely make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors in the copy you submit. There are few bigger turn-offs than obvious mistakes. You'll be shooting yourself in the foot by sending in an error-ridden essay.
After that, make sure all the essentials are covered. And finally look up the structure and flow.
The essay you send in may not be a masterpiece, or even very good, but you don't want to send in a stinker that'll only kill your application.
How important is the SoP vis-à-vis the other elements of the application package I'm sending in?
I haven't heard of a university putting a number against an element of the application package, but they generally profess to giving equal weightage to each element ie. Recommendation letters, ETS test scores (GRE/GMAT/SAT/TOEFL etc), academic scores, resume etc.
But also remember that your application package doesn't only determine whether you are granted admission. The professor deciding upon your request for a teaching assistantship could decide to look at your essay or recommendation letters too. Your transcripts could be taken into consideration when you ask that you be allowed to waive a pre-requisite course. So the importance of each will vary at different stages.
Also, schools try and look at the bigger picture. A fantastic SoP doesn't always help mitigate the effects of poor academic and test scores.
However, as we've stated elsewhere in the site, your SoP is the one element of your application that let's you speak for yourself, as opposed to getting represented through scores and recommendations. In this context, the SoP is a great opportunity to get yourself heard.
I'm a really poor writer. So I've got my Aunt, an English Litt. Professor, to write for me. Is this a good idea?
Go to jail. Do not collect $200.
You're doing yourself a disservice by getting someone else to write for you. The consequences could be quite horrible. But it's your call.
At the very least - if you haven't written your essay yourself - make sure you are as good an author as your ghostwriter by the time you join school. If you can't spell, and your essay deserves to be printed in New Yorker Magazine, you're setting yourself up for a lot of trouble. Even if your major doesn't call for a lot of writing, the mere whiff of dishonesty could affect your career.
My essay is way above the stipulated word-limit. Is that okay?
The reason you've been given a limit is because universities are trying to legislate common sense. You aren't helping your cause by writing long and winding essays. Your job is to make your point while keeping things eminently readable. Remember that treatises aren't always readable.
On the other hand, if your essay has a valid reason for being on the long side, make sure that the reader isn't likely to get bored or distracted before your essay peaks. Bringing the most important parts to the front could help in these circumstances.
My thesaurus has become my new best friend. I'm sure to write a better essay, right?
We encourage long term relationships with thesauruses, not one-night stands. A thesaurus is a valuable tool to build one's vocabulary over a period of time. As a quick fix for a plain essay, it's like committing suicide. Far too many essays are riddled with words and phrases that the author obviously doesn't have a clue about.
If you aren't sure about the meaning or context of a word you intend to use in the essay, dump it. The word may have connotations that you aren't vaguely aware of. And even if it isn't part of a double-entrende, it may only serve to highlight your immaturity. Often an essay is a lovely read, even if it's plainly phrased.
The emphasis should be on the accurate, not the apparently erudite.
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