Doctoral Entrance Essay

The personal essay is a necessary but difficult part of the PhD program application process. You have to simultaneously emphasize your strengths as a potential doctoral student, but not cross the line into bragging, boasting, or outright lying. The admissions committees that read these personal statements have seen it all, so no amount of gilding the lily is likely to impress upon its members that you deserve a seat in the program.

The 5 tips outlined below will not guarantee that an admissions committee will take your personal essay more seriously in your application to a PhD program, nor will it make up for serious deficiencies in past academic achievement, lack of extracurricular activities, or lack of job experience. However, coupled with the right elements, the 5 tips below for a sample personal essays for a PhD program can help you stand out in a crowd of lesser personal essays and plant the seed in the minds of the admissions committee members that you are the right choice.

First, I would recommend reading some of the requirements from schools you intend on applying to. Most schools have very similar requirements, but it may be worth looking at the schools that you are most interested in attending before you get started (page requirements, etc. can deviate from school to school).

Since you are applying to PhD programs you will want to be addressing the questions of "What makes you an individual well suited to research in computer science?" and "Why should institution X accept you?"-- this will involve talking about your past achievements, what made you want to pursue a PhD in computer science, what type of research you want to do, etc.

As far as definitive strategy goes, there are numerous routes you can go (I will leave a couple of links at the end of this post). One that I would recommend is to write the majority of the statement such that it can be sent to any institution (i.e., is not institution specific). Set it up (as far as continuity goes) so that your last paragraph is why you want to attend institution X. This way you will only need to re-write the last paragraph for each application you send out.

Here are some helpful links I found:

Sample Statement for MIT

A post on SoP w/ Example

An article with some examples

Hope that helps!

answered May 1 '16 at 4:33


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