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Thread: Please critique my statement of purpose

  1. #1

    Please critique my statement of purpose

    Hey Guys,
    I am applying to grad school and I need to write a statement of intent. Here is what I have and I need input please. It can only be <300 words. I got a crappy GPA but great letters of recommendation and 2 internships. Thanks a bunch!

    "My name is Aspiring Planner and I am applying for the masters program in Urban and Regional Planning at Cal Poly to gain the practical and theoretical expertise necessary for the planning profession. Within the past year I have been employed at two planning departments, one of them as a volunteer in the City of Arcata, and the other as a paid intern in the County of San Mateo.

    My interests within the field of planning include revitalization of derelict neighborhoods, historical preservation, and affordable housing. I am especially interested in learning about the public policy and economic aspects of planning, so that I can improve the vitality and efficiency of the communities I work in. My career goals are to hopefully join the Peace Corps (which has always been a goal of mine) or other international agency so that I can assist in the development of communities abroad. I would be eager to work within the United States as well.

    I realize that my grade point average from my undergraduate years at UCSB is not stellar. This was due to the fact that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life and I floundered a bit. In hindsight I probably should have taken a year or two off before going to college, so that I could gain some focus and motivation before perusing a degree in higher education. But I hope that my GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and internship experiences are able to compensate for my poor GPA, and prove that I have goals which I am now working towards. If you require that I join your program on a probationary status, I would welcome that. Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to join your program by next fall."

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by aspiringplanner
    I realize that my grade point average from my undergraduate years at UCSB is not stellar. This was due to the fact that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life and I floundered a bit. In hindsight I probably should have taken a year or two off before going to college, so that I could gain some focus and motivation before perusing a degree in higher education. But I hope that my GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and internship experiences are able to compensate for my poor GPA, and prove that I have goals which I am now working towards. If you require that I join your program on a probationary status, I would welcome that. Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to join your program by next fall."
    I think this last paragraph is really negative and would benefit from being rewritten. If your GPA from the last couple of years is substantially higher than from the first couple, I would suggest you say something like "Although my overall GPA is only X, my GPA from the my junior and senior years is Y. I am more mature, focused, and goal-oriented now than I was at age 18 or 19. Now that I have discovered my passion for planning, I am willing to do whatever it takes to get into your program. If my more recent academic work, internships blah blah blah are not enough to thoroughly convince you that I belong in your program, I would welcome the opportunity to prove myself."

    Most folks won't judge you harshly for being an unfocused, irresponsible 18 year old if you can show that you have changed and grown up a lot since then. A lot of people do nothing but party their first year. That can be overcome.

    HTH and good luck.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    I agree with Michelle. You should really try to stay positive with your writing. Show your strengths without dwelling on your weaknesses.
    Satellite City Enabler

  4. #4
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmm....

    My two cents:

    Maybe drop that part about being willing to be on probation.....it may not be needed and they may just let you in.....or at least let them propose that you take a few classes as a non degree seeking student to prove yourself first.

    I agree about the last paragraph, revise it to include positive career goals and future ambitions....

    Good Luck
    Skilled Adoxographer

  5. #5
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One
    My two cents:

    Maybe drop that part about being willing to be on probation.....it may not be needed and they may just let you in.....or at least let them propose that you take a few classes as a non degree seeking student to prove yourself first.

    I agree about the last paragraph, revise it to include positive career goals and future ambitions....

    Good Luck
    I like MZ's version of the last paragraph better.

    You should definitely drop the statement about willingness to go it on probation--they will assume that if you applied, you will take virtually whatever status they assign you if it means you get to go there. Your statement of purpose must appear confident and poised--leaving discussion of probation in there conveys feelings of underachievement and lack of confidence. Even though you don't say it, I as a reader would believe you think the program is "above" you.

    Your letter should spin to the positive and how you will benefit their program, rather than begging for admittance and exclusively discussing how the program will benefit you. You should restrict discussion of the program benefiting you to how you will take your education from there to build a successful career that will benefit the program's reputation.

    That's my two cents... do with it what you will and good luck!

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  6. #6
    Thanks for the replies, but to be honest my academic work waivered from extreme highs to extreme lows all throughout my undergrad years. My GPA for all 4 years was 2.42 and my GPA for the last two years was 2.62. It was consistantly bad. That would be a difficult thing to positivly spin and I don't know how. Maybe I should just ignore the GPA issue all together?

    How about for the last paragraph:

    "I realize that my grade point average from my undergraduate years at UCSB is not stellar. But I hope that my GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and internship experiences are able to compensate for my poor GPA, and prove that I have goals which I am now working towards. If my more recent accomplishments are not enough to thoroughly convince you that I belong in your program, I would welcome the opportunity to prove myself. Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to join your program by next fall."

  7. #7
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by aspiringplanner
    Maybe I should just ignore the GPA issue all together?
    Yes, do that. Your transcripts will be show your GPA, so just let them do the talking. How was your GRE?
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    Yes, do that. Your transcripts will be show your GPA, so just let them do the talking. How was your GRE?
    550 verbal, 570 math, 4.0 writing

  9. #9
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Well....

    I think they should give you a chance to SHINE If they ask, just tell them your ready to focus your efforts on planning and are no longer confused about a direction. That's your story and you should stick to it Good Luck....
    Skilled Adoxographer

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    I don't know anything about how the GRE is scored but it sounds to me like your GRE and letters of recommendation indicate more ability than your grades reflect. A big disconnect between ability and academic performance like that can (and often does) indicate some kind of hidden learning disability. Learning disabilities often impact academic performance much more severely than work performance and if you go talk to the folks on campus who address such issues, you may find that you qualify for some label or other and that this label entitles you to accommodations in the classroom. If so, it would also very likely mean that with appropriate accommodation, your future grades in your Master's program would be much better than your undergrad grades.

    Additionally, the self doubt and low self-esteem suggested by your initial statement is very often the product of a hidden learning disability. An undiagnosed learning disability generally trips up the person in ways they cannot understand nor predict, leaving them frustrated with the gap between how intelligent (able) they know themselves to be and their performance, which is usually poor relative to their intelligence. Very intelligent people who also have a learning disability often go unidentified because their performance is in the "average" range, hiding how very much they struggle, how enormously frustrated they are, and also masking how very intelligent and capable they are. Discovering the real cause for their relatively poor performance typically resolves a lot of their problems and opens up much more opportunity for such people.

    Good luck.

  11. #11
    I'm curious as to how you find an internship, if they are not advertised? I have no related experience, and can't afford to work for free for more than a day or two a week, and I'll be living in a town of ~20,000. What would be the best way to 'get my foot in the door', and find work?

    By the way, good luck! Reading your statement was helpful - I'll be doing that soon myself.

    - belinda

  12. #12
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    I agree with what's been said but I'd also dump the term "derelict." Find a warm and fuzzy euphemism.
    RJ is the KING of . The One

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    hope this helps!

    i would skip the "my name is XXX and i'm applying....." put your name in the header and if you're submitting this application then they already know that you are applying to their program.

    i agree with not mentioning the GPA. it is the admissions people's job to figure out what why they wouldn't want to accept you (we hope they have no reason!) so don't point out anything negative, just allow yourself to SHINE SHINE SHINE!!

    focus on your internships and the work you did there. Start out with something like "As an intern with XXXX and XXXXi discovered my passion for planning. I am interested in continuing my education at Cal Poly XXXX in order to expand my knowledge of the theories and practices in planning."

    why are you interested in derelict neighborhoods, historical preservation, and affordable housing? is it because you grew up in a derelict neighborhood? saw a neighborhood you love go down the tubes? are looking for an affordable place to live? mention the why, it makes you more of a person rather than just another applicant.


    grammar tips: 1. try not to end your sentences with a preposition 2. the word hopefully means "full of hope" so unless you can substitute those three words and have the sentence still make sense try use something else.


    good luck! i remember struggling through my personal statement a few years ago. keep working on it and it will come together.
    In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally posted by JustB
    I'm curious as to how you find an internship, if they are not advertised? I have no related experience, and can't afford to work for free for more than a day or two a week, and I'll be living in a town of ~20,000. What would be the best way to 'get my foot in the door', and find work?

    By the way, good luck! Reading your statement was helpful - I'll be doing that soon myself.

    - belinda

    Hi Belinda. It was easy actually. I just walked into the local planning department and asked if they had any internships. They offered me a volunteer position which I worked at for a number of months, about 8 hours a week. I did a lot of shadowing and worked on some easy projects. A little later, through a coworker at my other job I met the Planning Director in another County and he offered me a paid internship which I took. It pays about 13.59 and hour and I have learned quite a bit. I have no where near the expertise in becoming a real planner but I have the personal recommendations to go back to school.

    Just rmember, everyone out there is willing to help you, and if they are not, then simply find someone else. All the planners and people I meet in local government are very helpful and amiable. Good Luck! Also you should read William Foultons "Giude to California Planning".

  15. #15

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    I would definitly take out that part talking about your not so stellar GPA and college regrets!

    That is a good line if you are trying to transfer colleges in sophmore or junior year, but not for grad school!

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