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Thread: Help with statement of purpose!

  1. #1
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    Help with statement of purpose!

    HI all,
    I am currently finalizing my statements of purpose for applications.

    Can anyone provide me with some insight into how strict word maximums are?

    Some ask for two pages, and that is easy to stick to...
    But UPenn requests only 500 words. Yet they expect you to describe your background, interest, experience, education and career goals!

    I am struggling to write something meaningful about my background as well as clear about my goals as it relates to this school in SO few words.

    I have 750 words currently, but I don't want to break the rules if it will become a deal breaker.

    Advice?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by urbandiva6 View post
    Advice?
    You can always call the admissions coordinator and ask, but in my experience, 500 words means 500 words. the selection committee has to read a ton of those things... they really add up! now they migh still read it, but you dont want to tick off the selection committee do you?

    [fyi - it is also an exercise to see if you can follow directions in some cases]
    "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan." - Winston Churchill

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    I feel your pain, urbandiva6.

    If it helps at all, I read the following on UPenn's admissions blog yesterday:
    We ask that you keep your personal statement to 500 words or less. Of course we are not going to sit and count the number of words in your statement! As long as you stay within a reasonably close proximity to 500 words, you should be fine. Any more than this means that we may not read your entire essay. You should keep in mind that the reviewers will be reading personal statements from multiple applicants so writing a long statement is not likely to be a plus.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by urbandiva6 View post

    Some ask for two pages, and that is easy to stick to...
    But UPenn requests only 500 words. Yet they expect you to describe your background, interest, experience, education and career goals!
    Don't know if this helps, but my advisor is on a grad admissions committee and I asked him the same question. He said a good strategy is to try and cut some of the "fluff" ie the part about how you like planning and want to help save the environment.

    His argument was that everyone applying to the program obviously likes planning and wants to create nice communities or they wouldn't be applying; and that you should spend your limited space making an articulate argument why you are a good match for the program with your professional experience, and coursework.

    Hope this helps a little...

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I visited Penn and talked to the chair about this. I'd not go over 550-560 words and if you need to cut out anything, cut it out of your experiences and background section. Figure out what is already said in your transcript and resume and take it out. The chair specifically said not to make a BIO the majority of your statement.


    If you want I can send you my statement so you can get an idea of how I whittled it down.

  6. #6
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by urbandiva6 View post
    HI all,

    I have 750 words currently, but I don't want to break the rules if it will become a deal breaker.

    Advice?
    I am turning in an abstract this week that has a 500 word limit.

    I want to write more. I can say plenty in, say, 700-800 words. I can pound out something real quick in 850, no problem. 500 takes way longer, so it is cramping my time.

    But, the limit is 500 words. So I will cut it down to 500 words.

    The point? Welcome to the world. This won't be the last time you are asked to edit your text down - wait til you get in school. Get used to it.

    Now. Cut down your words and good luck.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    How welcome are the abstract statements? And how abstract is abstract? Mine was semi-abstract in my opinion, and it was ripped apart by a planning student. He said that I didn't explain my case for why planning, why this school well enough. I was trying to explain how sustainable planning was akin to maintaining a relationship with a s/o. I used examples from the everyday experiences I've had making my way through L.A. without a car. I've always heard that schools want to get to "know who you are". Maybe I carried it too far? Now I'm shooting for 35% abstract 65% standard essay.

    Oh, and since I've been working in land development for the last two years. I wasn't planning on devoting any space to "relevant" undergrad classes that I took (I was a history major). Is that a bad idea? I thought my transcript would speak for itself, and that my work experience was more important.
    Last edited by Victory; 17 Dec 2008 at 6:12 PM.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    i deemed the abstract as fluff. that enabled me to acheive 500 words.

    LOIs are super important. some people spend 100+ hours on them to get into tier one MBAs.

    Be as concise as possible. Being abstract may allow the reader to identify you, however you are being rewarded for your qualifications, not your ability to write an abstract story.

    Personally, wrote my first few drafts, until i was able to finalize an outline of all the points i wanted to hit. i then analyzed and prioritized every sentence to gauge which sentences should take precedent over others. after about 50 hours in total, i finally condensed a 10 page life/career letter into 500 words. theres not one word that i would be willing to change.

    sometimes this is what it takes to get into an ivy league school.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    I've easily put in close to 75 hours already. I started thanksgiving weekend, and usually put in about 3-5 hrs a day working on my essay. I eat lunch at my desk and write/research for an hour, then when I get home I read through all my materials and then take my dog on an hour long walk while thinking about my essays. When I return I spend another few hours writing and editing (in addition to eating and showering). We all dedicate a lot

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan Staley View post

    The point? Welcome to the world. This won't be the last time you are asked to edit your text down - wait til you get in school. Get used to it..
    I can't agree with this sentiment more. Every paper I have had so far at UNC (albeit that is only one semester) has had a short page limit. For example, five pages double spaced for a five person project that took a couple weeks! Since the schools are going to be judging you on how concise you are, and how well you are able to get your point across in that concise space, you might as well start impressing them now. Remember, the admissions committees are looking for ways to throw out applications, not for reasons to keep them (especially in this economy when so many folks are applying). One easy way to get rid of them is to find those that violate the rules they put down. I'm not saying this will happen, but it is something to keep in mind.

    I realize the above sounds harsh, and I don't want to scare you into thinking that planning school is so hard to get into, but I hope you will use every advantage you can.

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