re-apply sop / dismissal record

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re-apply sop / dismissal record

Post by tigigi » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:46 am

Hi everyone,

I'd like to have some advice on my sop for applying physics graduate school. I used to attend a physics PhD program, but I was dismissed b/c of low GPA. It happened at the end of 2011. I worked out my problems and am ready to go back to school and finish my degree. I'm planning to apply for fall 2013. I have trouble composing my sop, and would like to have your advice.

The situation was that I was actually suffering from major depression and then PTSD. I stayed at school but kept suffering and struggling. I spend almost all my time and energy on recovery. I worked so hard to get well, but didn't work on things about school (wasn't able to). Anyway I got dismissed from school.

I don't want to reveal my personal stories. But my concern is that I think the committee would doubt if I have the potential to complete a PhD, which would take years, since I once being dismissed.

They would want to know if my problems causing the dismissal is solved, if I can handle graduate school, etc. So I think I need to explain something about it. The career counselor thinks the same thing too. I don't know how to explain without revealing too much personal things, without writing things that may harm my chances, and convince them that what caused the dismissal was all over and I can handle school and complete my degree now.

I've been working on my issues and just started working again in Nov. Things had gradually changed. I'm sure I can handle grad school now. But how should I persuade people about this? How to disclose more enough but not too much to harm my chance ?

Any suggestion? Thank you so much. I really appreciate all your help.


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Re: re-apply sop / dismissal record

Post by bfollinprm » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:24 pm

You have to be pretty personal in a SoP, especially if you're writing about extenuating circumstances. It's the nature of the thing. You can count on the committees for discretion, however.

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Re: re-apply sop / dismissal record

Post by TakeruK » Fri Dec 07, 2012 6:19 pm

I don't think you have to provide a lot of personal details in your SOP. For example, I think what you've told us on this thread here is more than enough. Actually, I don't even think you need to mention depression and PTSD specifically.

If you have any resources now, e.g. a health professional, or someone in the health office at your old school / current work that you can talk to, maybe they can also give good advice on how to demonstrate that you are now capable of completing graduate studies now.

Personally, I think all you really have to say in your SOP is that you were not able to complete your original PhD programs due to health reasons. You can then say that you have resolved these issues and you are now ready to handle graduate studies again. I think the best way to convince the committee of this is to speak about what you've accomplished since leaving your first graduate program. For example, starting work again is a good sign.

The SOP -- Statement of Purpose -- does not have to be personal. I view it as a professional account of your background and what you hope to achieve in graduate school. Some schools ask for a "Personal Statement" or a "Personal History Statement" and this is where you can tell your more personal stories if you wish. However, I don't think telling your stories in full detail is going to be more convincing than simply stating that there was a problem and you've now overcome it. If they don't believe you, then telling the details isn't going to make a difference -- it's still just you saying "I'm ready now". The best way is to show that things have changed instead of just saying it has.

In addition, I also feel that the admissions committees are NOT health professionals, so they should not expect to hear about applicants' full history and they should not be the ones judging whether or not the applicant is "healthy enough" to attend graduate school. Instead, their job is to look at your qualifications and experience and judge whether or not you are qualified enough to succeed in their program. The only reason to mention your health problem is to explain that your previous program dismissal was not due to the lack of your physics ability and qualifications.

I know there are some profs that serve on admissions committees on this forum -- maybe they can give more relevant feedback. But my opinion is that you should not have to disclose anything personal and the admissions committees should not expect you to either.

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Re: re-apply sop / dismissal record

Post by Andromeda » Mon Dec 10, 2012 8:05 am

I honestly have a question, which is how long were you in this other PhD program for. Because if it was just less than a full year and it's been awhile, and you're concerned, why do you have to mention it?

No really, I've known people who tried the first time, failed utterly, then went back to do their PhD and just never mentioned the first go around when they applied for a postdoc or what have you (on the grounds that it added utterly nothing to their application). So unless you actually did something worthwhile during that first try, why mention it?

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Re: re-apply sop / dismissal record

Post by astroprof » Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:35 am

You do need to include at least a brief statement about why you
were dismissed from the previous program. It does not need to
be long, nor does it need to include details (TakeruK is correct,
we are not health professionals, so a simple statement that you
had health problems that are now resolved is sufficient). You should
also discuss this with your recommenders, to the extent that you
feel comfortable. Their letters will have more impact if they can
also (briefly) address your poor performance during your first
attempt at graduate school and why they still have confidence that
you will succeed if you try again.

Andromeda's statement that you can ignore your previous attempt
at graduate school is not correct for most US schools, where you
are expected to submit transcripts from all Colleges/Universities.
It is also not wise to omit it from future job applications (you simply
list school and years attended), since it may come up in the letters
of recommendation, etc (Physics is a very small community; such
omissions are viewed more negatively than the actual situation).

In any event, it is important that you demonstrate in your SoP that
you are ready to start graduate school again. If appropriate, discuss
your new job. Provide a more detailed discussion of your research
interests (you should have a better idea of your research direction
than a student coming directly out of undergraduate). And, make
certain that you are applying to schools that will have the resources
you need to keep on your path to recovery.

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