Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Statement of Purpose ( This applies to MBA folks also)

Catatonic: A state of coma. Almost Dead

"Fools Quote Others. The intelligentsia win bread by making up quotes" - G.B.Shaw

In the SOP

Applicant 1 writes: "I always wanted to be a ComputerScience/Mechanical/Signal Processing engineer".

Applicant 2 writes: "I noticed that I had good talent in Math/Phy/Chemistry. I stood 147th among 1 billion zillion trillion people who appeared for engineering exams in my 14 villages put together and I got selected on merit to a top-60 private engineering college in Ramnathapuram District. My quantitative and analytical skills led me to chose Electronics & Communication Engineering as my Major."

Admissions Officer 1 :: Rolling on the floor laughing her/his ass off.

Admissions Officer 2: In catatonic state because of extreme boredom caused by reading applications.


Rules of The Statement of Purpose

1) Don't start the Statement of Purpose with a definition from the dictionary. Like this blog has at the beginning. It is boring.

2) Don't start the statement of purpose with a fake made-up quote (seriously! I made-up the quote above myself. Shaw didn't say any of that. Its easy to make-up your own quotes and credit it to big names. Its probably as good as any other quote Shaw has out there). Like this blog has at the beginning. Seriously it makes you look like a fool. If you have anything to say - just say it. The Mark Twains and G.B Shaws have said a lot of interesting things. The admission folks know them already. They'll look at P.B.Shelly's work when he applies for Digital Signal Processing to University of William Mary Community College, Bloomington, Indiana. Right now - focus on what you have to say.

3) Never use the phrase "I Have always wanted to....". Nobody ever always wanted to do anything. Its not even a logical analysis of your professional goals. If at all this sentence says anything. It says that you have always wanted to Bull Shit. I have seen SOPs which said " Ever since my childhood, I have always wanted to work in Image Processing working on binomial filters....bla bla bla"

4) Okay the reason why you chose engineering. I know you chose it because everybody around you said its a cool thing. Your parents said its a cool thing. You chose it because it was reputed to be the best you could ever do. I understand you cant say this openly.But at least don't go and say the same boring stuff as to why your Math Phy Chem scores made you suddenly feel analytical/horny/logical and so among the 1 million options you had in front of you ran off and applied for Engineering. That too Electronics and Communication Engineering.

If you have started working on your SOPs and if you are still reading this blog at this point you might've realized that every Indian before you has thought of the same things you wanted to say in your SOP. You might've also realized that you could potentially send many admissions officers to an ICU like your predecessors. You would understand how patterned we are -- when it comes to presenting ourselves. Look at all the sample SOPs your friends/contacts/seniors send you. You will find one or all of the above BS in that SOP. But one thing is true. They (the seniors) still made it to M.S. So will you -- even if you write the drivel that I mentioned above. While you may make it to Morlockin Community State College located at the intersection of highway 133 and interstate 135 you maye not make it to the top 20 engineering schools.

As you talk to people who made it into the top schools ( dont ask me for definition of the top schools, I don't know. Just see the gzillion rankings out there and find out) you will find that the SOP dominates the admission decision and not the GRE. I have always felt :-) :-) that it is not worth going to a school which gives you an admission just based on your GRE score. While it may confuse some Indians who may think "score is everything". I think the right thing for a school to do (which the really good schools do) is to have a minimum threshold for GRE to determine whether the student will withstand the academic rigor and then focus on what the students has done/aspires to do.

In an SOP, start with a good opening paragraph that immediately makes the reader want to know more about you. Don't spend too much time reverse-justifying why you did an engineering. You are almost done with the B.E. Don't talk about things 4 years ago. Unless you have won some national math olympiad etc there is no point in trying to convince the admissions committee that you were "simply brilliant and totally fantastic" from childhood. The point is to try and be practical and realistic while at the same time hit the buttons (like PhD) an admissions committee is looking for. Except for coursework the only other interesting thing you have done in BE is your project. So it really helps if you have done(or going to do) your final year project in something related to what you want to do.

The essay should flow cogently from your learnings during engineering (these learning must be directly related to your goals). What you learned during engineering through paper presentations, reading stuff on the net, reading other IEEE papers ( again this should directly relate to your goals). You are writing a 2 page statement. So it is really wise to spend a lot of time on "what did I do in BE" in the first few paras than wasting on your fake "why engineering" story. So what you did -> leads to what you know about your field of interest -> leads to what you want to do in the 2 year M.S future. Here it helps if you have done your research of the university and know what the professors are doing. Don't list the things the university does and say - the university does research on signal processing, VLSI, high performance computing, automotive engineering by great professors such as mark, ben, axl rose, van halen, ross and phoebe and "I can do any of those if they provide me funding". You pick one field and stay with that field. Don't name professors if you aren't familiar with their work. If you have contacted profs and they have responded mention that as a re-affirmation of your credibility. Its all goals goals goals and your knowledge about the goals.

It helps to have a powerful ending. Try and mention that you are open to doing a PhD. Don't commit to a PhD if you aren't really interested. PhD is a big commitment. If you are doing it for the money think carefully. You may be offered a direct PhD admit -- if they decide to buy your lie. Then you could end up with a silly smile on your face or worse you could actually take up the Ph.D and go around lying "I always wanted to do a PhD". The SOP ending should have a vision of a thesis or paper that you will work on in your M.S. The kind of contributions that you hope to make at the research labs. The whole SOP depends on how well you know about the topic *you say* you want to specialize on. You can even hint that you maybe open to a PhD without actually committing to one.

Don't write sentences like " I aspire to enter the hallowed portals of the university and genvambobulate the manvostulerity of the vivaciousness moving forward". If ever there is a good time to forget your word list -- Its during the SOP. Don't make the admissions officer think that you wrote a normal SOP and you replaced every normal word in your sop with a super complex synonym. If you write "peter" English by nature then do it otherwise don't try and be someone you aren't. Be yourself (but be grammatically correct unlike this blog). Good essays were simple and straightforward. It cut off the bullshit and told the "matter" in a blunt fashion. That is business writing. Your SOP should be to the point, brief, and sentences should transition smoothly and professionally. If you know something about business writing - it helps. Also, if you can demonstrate your verbal ability (paper presentations - seminars) then show it. Always quantify - don't wonder. Don't Say "I am good in doing xyz". That's a conclusion. Admissions Officers want to make their own conclusions. They don't want you doing their job. Say that there was a competition on xyz and you participated in it and did abcdef and won an award. That speaks the conclusion for itself.

It is also a good idea to mail to professors and tell them about your interests. The mails should be 1 para long and should have your resume as an attachment. Your 1 para mail should contain a brief outline of your interests and your knowledge about that professor. Mostly the professor will shift-delete the mail before opening it when he sees in the subject field, " Hi! New prospective Student" or "Funding Opportunities". So have a subject line that actually relates to the research topic. I think what you would have found out by now is that your knowledge on the subject, which you say " is your passion" determines a lot of things. I am not saying that everybody who goes into M.S has everything sorted out and are "super dooper" folks. Ofcourse people who say one thing in the SOP do something else in reality. But the key is whatever you say in SOP, say it well. With the best knowledge you have about the subject and yourself at the moment. You may go into the university and find that something else interests you. That is normal. But Don't embarrass yourself by coming across as half-baked and superficial.

54 comments:

Filtered Sambhar said...

good one hawky, keep it rockin!

Anonymous said...

/* "Fools Quote Others. The intelligentsia win bread by making up quotes" - G.B.Shaw */

LOL, How daring. Its ok, you had to quote it, to drive the point. Just the way a cop exceeds the posted speed limit during a high speed chase.

Good one.

/* 3) Never use the phrase "I Have always wanted to....". */

"I have always liked reading your blogs" :P

-(the other) Barath

Teju said...

Bharath,

I have been a regular visitor to this blog, and have found your blogs interesting, humourous, replete with knowledge. Great work!!!

Just one query.
As I read this blog, the main question that was left unanswered for me was, how do I convince the proffessors at the Business Schools about what I am intending to do there would be something that I love, though my background is Engineering.

Thanks,

Keep up the good work,

Thejas

Anonymous said...

Bharath,
This blog was really hilarious - mocking of the quote - a good one.
And please an MBA applicantion blog please...
Also, the MS application process has been detailed thoroughly!

anu kris

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Hawkeye, this one really hit the Bull's Eye!! I was about to sit down and write my SOP in a few days, and I seriously think that this one rocks!! Thanks a lot... please keep them coming!

Anonymous said...

Ridiculously condescending and juvenile. Not only this post but the entire blog. But clearly there are some people who seem to enjoy this - only shows that, to use a quote, 'a sinking ship will always find its own tide'! hehe..

Medhaaaviiiiii said...

anonymous

What made your comment very funny to me was that they said that about Seinfeld too. No Kidding. When the first season was aired "condescending and juvenile" was the feedback the network got.

I more or less agree with Hawkeye nowadays. If you try and write something politically correct it will be boring. But if you write something as energetic and lively as this then a few boring people like you who will be offended. So better you than us. What say?

-- Came here throough the Seinfeld post and loved it so much that I am sticking here.

tilotamma said...

anonymous - you can always "switch channels" if you don't like it here, right?

Harish said...

gulp!

Hawkeye said...

filtered sambar,

thanksman

Hawkeye said...

hey barath,

how are you man? thanks dude!

well! long time ago I used to make up my own quotes and post them saying twain said it or shaw said it. people wud just look at it with awe and respect even though the quotes were pretty average. i guess if u throw in a big name nobody will verify and u can get by :-)

Hawkeye said...

Teju,

good question. i faced the sameproblem.I guess the english related tips and the tip regarding dictionary/quote was intended for MBA not the format and actual strategy.

hopefully in the blogs i write about MBA i'll write what I did so that you could get your own ideas from it.

Hawkeye said...

thanks anu kris working on them.already have "hazaar" homeworks on my head now :-(

Hawkeye said...

sudipta,

dude! thanks man! i saw your blog and sort of guessed that you will be sitting down to do it in the near future.

Hawkeye said...

anonymous,

welcome and thanks for posting the comment.

/* Ridiculously condescending and juvenile. */

I disagree. If a person says something forcefully and strongly so that interested people will get the bottomline, it is often thought of as several adjectives. some of which youmentioned.

i wish some one told me this bluntly when i was applying. instead what I got was "this is okay...thats also okay.. it is individual specific..depends on what you want to do... its subjective...bla bla"

it actually did not give me any information at all. this is the problem with trying to be politically correct. u dont say anything at all.

I think that you did something (or strongly believed in something) and I made fun of it or ridiculed. so you posted this comment.

Hawkeye said...

medhaviii and tilo,

thanks! for your comments

medhavii...dude r u makin fun of me with the seinfeld comment :-)

Harish,

??????

Anu said...

The anonymous found "Not only this post but the entire blog" condescending and juvenile...so, it took this long for anonymous to actually come to that conclusion? I wonder why one would take the time and effort to read all of Bharath's posts if he/she found it condescending and juvenile in the first pass. Hmmm...interesting.
~Anu

Anonymous said...

Hawkeye, (shldn't it be 'Hawkeyeview,'? 'coz thats ur blogspot handle :P)

I am fine. Hope u r doing good.
LOL so you make up quotes? Reminds me of the S.Ve.Sekhar's Periyathambi ("vurulakzhangu engada karunakaraNNa, eruma melay erina ezhumalaiNgra Kadhaya, en pera pulla varadha en kittaye solludhayaley")

so tell us, did G.B.Shaw really give that quote about 'quotes and fools'?

-Barath

Filtered Sambhar said...

hey dude drop into my blog @
sam2syd.blogspot.com-Sambar 2 Sydney..

Anonymous said...

my bad, ur handle is indeed "Hawkeye". Confused it with the blog url.

Avasarathula kai volariduchu :P

- Barath

Anonymous said...

Bharath,
I've been thinking about asking this to you for a while now and that is... Where in the world do you find the time to blog man?...not just blog..but also respond to other bloggers comments.I know a lot'ta ppl in TOP 20 MBA Programs and they tell me that they dont even have the time to breathe. Though I can understand that (with a pinch of salt:-)) you are slightly smarter than them...but still...

Hawkeye said...

~Anu,

like i said. he/she mustve done somethin which i "ridiculed". the disclaimer wud also say that I "ridicule" what I did/do also.

Hawkeye said...

barath,

its hawkeye. didnt get the hawkeye.blogspot url. someone took it b4 me. dont get me started on sv.sekhar. man he makes me nostaligic.

Hawkeye said...

filetered sambar,

yup! i visit and read almost all my blog's reader's blogs regularly. And some other blogs too :-)

Hawkeye said...

anonymous,

most current bschool students blog. its a trend now. brit-chick, bskewl blog. poweryogi blogs. atta girl has been down for a while now but she'll be back.

really it took me about 20 minutes to type out this SOP blog and another 10 minutes to edit it. with the 2 spellcheckers (the software and the wife) its easy to do it.

but i understand time may not be so easily available once things are in full swing

Anupadmaja said...

Just adding to hawkeye's reasoning for how he finds time to blog so much ... HE IS NOT TRYING TO BE POLITICALLY CORRECT! It saves a lot of time and worry you know!

And Barath (maaplai), good to hear from you! Kai olarinaalum parava illai :)

Anonymous said...

Anu,
You sound like you sit next to him all the time while he blogs. Just make sure that you maintain the distance, because he's married, you know :-)

BTW, I was not the one who commented about his "political correcness" earlier.

Ram said...

For heaven's sake anonymous, how do you find the time to worry so much about someone else's time? More than that, you even have the time to worry about someone else supporting the first one's stand? Boy you do have a lot of time and so do I to give this comment at the minimum!

Hawkeye said...

anonymous,

so mothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, onnu vitta athai's all know what I do . so they are also allowed to make that comment. i think i have given enugh of the hint :-)

Anu,

your comment was pretty sweet. Dont mind the big bad wolf Mr.Anonymous. i think its an innocent joke though.

Babs said...

Machi,
I dont know if you remember, you wrote my SOP may be thats why I didn't get me admission in States :-) (JK). Ofcourse I'm not blaming your writing daa (I wud be the last person to do that) but myself for not being original. Like you emphasized quite strong being yourself is very important not just while writing a SOP even while applying for jobs (Resume, covering letter, etc).

Good to see nobody took that Flammable bait from the Ridiculously condescending juvenile anony. Well nonetheless its quite interesting to read people's reaction to it. IMO the best treatment to that sort of comment is "Just Ignore like it never happened", I understand that would welcome some more comments of similar sort.

Cheers,
Babs

ps: Bharath you shd read this blog
http://bbthots.blogspot.com/

Ram said...

Is there another Ram reading this blog?

Bharath.. keep it up, your intention with these posts is noble and the cause is certainly worthwhile for several aspiring candidates. Keep it going!

tilotamma said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tilotamma said...


Check this out.


and be happy Hindus don't do tombestones :-)

vik said...

wow! what an article..though i ve read only the first half..hope the rest is just as good

Anonymous said...

hey nice blog

raj said...

WOW .....

rahul said...

hey really good insight!! You wont believe i found this link while searching for suitable SOP quotes,so much for that idea.

To be honest i have no clue where to begin. Is it really necessary to mail professors while applying?? Another thing is that im not really sure what my long term goals are, so how do i put it in a suttle way in the SOP??

Perhaps i can send you my SOP when im done. Open to your comments and be as cynical as need be.

Anonymous said...

hi... you have fairly discussed about 'what not to write in the first para' of your sop. can you plz discuss more on what a 'good starting para' actually means and what it should have (that will make the reader curious to know more abt me!!)

Anonymous said...

hi... you have fairly discussed about 'what not to write in the first para' of your sop. can you plz discuss more on what a 'good starting para' actually means and what it should have (that will make the reader curious to know more abt me!!)

Munmun said...

Haha! great post.. really enjoyed the sarcasm :-D

RyU said...

hey really enjoyed the post man... u really rock...!!! u posted exactly the way we(readers) think..;)

Anonymous said...

Awesome.Indeed. =)
Sp the GB Shaw part.

dp4c said...

hahahahahahahaha!! so true man! i wrote my sop according to what u wrote or accroding to wat u said not to! n its turned out well i must say :D

Anonymous said...

Awesome blog
straight from the gut and very helpfull

neha gulati said...

very helpful.... thanxx for sharing..

Anonymous said...

Simply brilliant. I think it's awesome!

Anonymous said...

I want to burn stuff.
and place random F words in my SOP.

Good job !!!!!

Madh said...

hi Hawkeye, i went thru ur blod while searching a good start for a SOP.. i found ur this interesting and humorous. nice :)

madhura said...

thank you thank you thank you!

Dhruv Arya said...

True and great ! Thanks a ton

Ashish said...

"You can even hint that you maybe open to a PhD without actually committing to one"

Sir, how can I hint that I'm interested in PhD without committing to it?

Please reply...

suhailbinsalim said...

hey...coz of you ....i change ma whole sop...after readin your blog...i felt ma sop is full of crap.!!!but any way thanks du thankzz...big time..!!!

suhailbinsalim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

WOW! Excellent article. Thanks a lot!