Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Personal Statement

I realized that if I would like to actually continue this blog, I need to make it a habit. I have about four failed Livejournal revivals that can attest to that. That being said, I've been coming up with different things that I could write about that would be suitable for “teh intarwebz”. The first of these is featured below.


So, as a humble senior in college I find myself in the terrible position of having to start thinking about grad school. I've looked up many different sources on how to keep on track with the application process and right now I should have a finished and functioning Personal Statement, which according to the man linked in the footnotes, should answer the questions: "'Why should we, the admissions committee, believe that you, the applicant, have the potential do research in field X?' and 'What kind of research could you see yourself doing and why?'”. I highly recommend that you read the rest of this particular article as well as the other articles on and in connection with matt.might.

So with his lessons in mind, I present to you a first draft of my Personal Statement. Obviously it will change based on the faculty member and University I send it to, but the bare bones Personal Statement is presented to you.

Dear Professor XXXXX,
I'm writing this letter with every intent of making it convince you to accept me as a student at your University. In doing this, I can't flout a perfect GPA but I can flout my thirty hour work week flipping burgers for the students with perfect GPAs at the campus food court. I can't illustrate my prestige of mind with a flawless GRE score, but I can illustrate my prestige of devotion with the amount of e mails I have sent to the various members of the Psychology Department asking each if they needed a research assistant. I can't give colorful anecdotes about exotic locations traveled and once in a lifetime lessons learned there, but I can tell you about finding all the lessons I need through hard work and sacrifice.

As the above paragraph may indicate, I'm not a perfect student. In fact, I worry for the health of those who are. However, I believe I work harder as a student than possibly any other candidate for a position at your university. Without the benefit of coming from a family that would eliminate financial worries, I've been forced to take on a grad-student level work load at the undergraduate level. My responsibilities as of this writing include a 20+ hour work week at a job I've held (with similar, sometimes greater hours) since my Sophomore year, keeping on top of an 18 credit semester that focuses on my second major (Philosophy) and my two minors (statistics, religious studies), as well as pursuit of a Senior Thesis which will conclude with a defense next spring featuring a counsel of professors in psychology, philosophy, and statistics, which I am performing under the guidance of Professor XX XXXXXXX, Ph. D. This last experience is actually my second foray into research. As a Junior I performed another project in the field of eyewitness identification, the results of which I presented at the Eastern Colleges Science Conference at Pace University in the spring of 2010 in a poster entitled “Attempts to Reduce the Weapon Focus Effect via Prolonged Weapon Exposure”.

These experiences have helped shape me into someone who I believe can be a fantastic addition to your program. With my focus in psychology I have not only gained a familiarity with the base of material I will be pursuing in Graduate School, but I have developed a passion for it. With a major in philosophy I have fostered a healthy attitude of skepticism and honed my ability to analyze of ideas and theories. With a minor in statistics I have given myself the ability to make data truly mean something. With my minor in religious studies I have ensured that the diploma I receive next May will have a little bit more ink on it and reflect academic subjects I find interesting rather than just useful.

Hoping that the above has persuaded you to the point of my qualification, allow me now to expand on my intended field of research should I be allowed to enroll at your school. My main interest is the field of cognitive sciences, specifically Cognitive Psychology and relating this field to models of Artificial Intelligence. Perhaps it's primarily bad science fiction movies that won me over to this subject, but I genuinely believe that the most practical application of psychology in the future will be for the use of building computer programs that not only work better with the users but in the fostering of consciousness in the programs themselves.

I have already done much in my spare time doing what I can to research the subject of my own (I am a casual member of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence) and though some of the material escapes me, I believe that your institution is precisely the resource that I need to gain the insight necessary to use such resources to their full potential.

I believe your institution is the most acceptable place for me to accomplish this due to [highlights from the schools website and mentioning of the most cognitive psychologist faculty member].

While taking into consideration who should be accepted, I realize again that there are aspects of my transcript that may make one wary. However there is much more that my history has provided that has granted me such greater potential.

Thank you for your time,

The Studyblogger