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Physics
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in the Eberly College of Science

The Statement of Purpose

(Based on a guide from Dr. Carla Trujillo, UC Berkeley College of Engineering.)

Things to keep in mind:
  1. What the admissions committee reads between the lines: motivation, competence, potential as a graduate student.
  2. Emphasize everything from a positive perspective.
  3. Demonstrate everything by example. Don't simply state, for example, that you're a persistent person; you must demonstrate it.
  4. You don't want to make excuses, but you can talk about the mistakes you've made as a learning experience.
  5. If there is something important that happened (poverty, illness, excessive work, etc.), which affected your grades, go ahead and state it but write it affirmatively; that is, in a way that shows your perseverance.
  6. Make sure everything is linked with continuity and focus.
  7. 500-600 words, 1 to 1-1/2 pages typed, single-spaced.
The Statement of Purpose has 3 or 4 parts:
  1. INTRODUCTION
    • Tell us what you want to study. For example, Physics Ph.D. in Condensed Matter Experiment.
  2. UNDERGRAD EXPERIENCE
    • Summarize what you did as an undergraduate:
      • Important classes which stimulated your desire for graduate study; specific project or class?
      • Research you might have done. Indicate with whom, the title of the project and what your responsibilities were. Write technically, since professors will be reading this.
      • Work experience, especially when relevant to experimental techniques, computer programming, etc.
  3. JOB EXPERIENCE
    • If you graduated and worked for a while before returning to grad school, then describe your work experience: company, work/design team, responsibilities, what you learned.
  4. RESEARCH AREAS OF INTEREST
    • Explain in greater detail what you want to study in graduate school; this is an elaboration of your opening paragraph.
      • Describe your area of interest, and why you chose it. There is no need to be over-specific; it's ok to be undecided, or to indicate flexibility.
      • Contact the department (e.g. look through our website) to learn about specific professors' research. If someone's research interests match your own, then mention this connection. (Be sincere; don't make up something bogus just to impress people.)
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