provides some insight into how capable a student is in the English language. It's the first thing that jumps out when you read it, but it's the see vvhether the student is aware of and has thought about the field to which he.jQL^£j5,apj^ying; .these are graduate applicants so I think this is a reasonable issue to try to discern. Does he or she know anything at all about it, has this person identified some of the key issues that are active in research, and does he or she have some familiarity with issues in the field? At the high end would be someone, who might have even read a little bit of the literature or who is—through his or her undergraduate work—maybe familiar with some of the research going on currently in the area. At the low end would be somebody who just says, for example, "Gee, biomechanics is cool." So from the statement comes some insight about how serious a student is about a particular research area.
Some students genuinely don't know what they want to do and 1 think that's a good thing in a newly-applying graduate student. So 1
smaller of the two effects of the main thing .is. to.
don't want to discourage anyone by saying I think students should have this clarity of purpose so finely honed that they know exactly what subtopic they're going to work on; that isn't the point. But even if they're not sure, there will generally be some area—or several areas—of interest and, again, 1 would look for the student to have something knowledgeable or sensible to say about those fields.
_ It doesn't help me to knOT^he^a^pl.icanLhas_won 3,000 awards (that can be indicated elsewhere in the application); I want tojsge^ something about how the applicantjhinks.
Mistakes? Dwelling on. past accomplishments as opposed to describing future interests. The recitation of past accomplishments, prizes won and scores gotten—all that kind of stuff—is helpful but at the stage when we're reading the statement, we know all the applicants are highly qualified; that is almost beside the point. What we're looking for
It doesn't help me to know the applicant has won 3,000 awards (that can be indicated elsewhere in the application); I want to see something about how the applicant thinks*
at that stage is, again^some insight into how the student thinks, what sort of clarity of purpose he has into one or more research areas. More serious mistakes come in composing English language sentences and paragraphs; students [sometimes] write sentences that aren't cogent and don't hang together. Probably more than half our applicants are nonnative English speakers, so we see varying degrees of skill in English. However, the worst examples of English language usage are not confined to the nonnative English language speakers. We get many applicants from the United States for whom English is clearly a serious obstacle. The statement gives us an opportunity to see how well a student can express himself, both in forming thoughts and in using the English language. Like it or not, we conduct our classes in English, our publications (with very few exceptions) all go out in the English language, and the oral examinations, as well as the written ones, are conducted in English, So I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a certain level of proficiency and to see that in the statement.
Advice? Have someone else read it, preferably someone with some familiarity with the process of applying to U.S. graduate schools. If there's a professor at your school that you could ask to read through your statement at the draft stage, by all means do that. 1 don't think the U.S. students do that anywhere near as much as they should; I can't gauge how much it's done in foreign lands. A certain amount of critique by, perhaps, someone more senior than the applicant and who may know universities reasonably well, can provide some thoughts on how to construct such a statement, how to make the language read clearly, what to emphasize and what not to emphasize. Brevity is also crucial. We do not usually read past the end of the second page of any applicant's statement.
Typically, three admissions committee members read each applicant's statement. Sometimes there are four or as many as five, depending on the department to which the applicant applies.
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