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I got the impression from this forum and others, that it is crucial to state specific research interests in your SOP. However, in NYU's PhD open house, the head of the program clearly stated that they are not looking for student who know what they want to write about in their dissertation.
He said the it is premature to know that and that most applicants who claim they do, usually change their minds after the two year of courses. Furthermore, he said that most students admitted don't have prior research experience.
According to him, What they are looking for is "evidence of smarts" - Good grades, test scores and recommendation letters.
Is the SOP the place to define specific research interests? or should it be used mainly to express your background and goals?
i guess it depends on the school. overall, the SOP is supposed to reveal the candidate's research interests and goal after the phd. most schools look for the 'evidence of smarts' and the SOP is a good way for them to separate candidates with similar scores/recos/gpa etc.
I'm sure that the SOP is used for something. However, if stating specific research interests is importatnt, how is it that most admitted students have no prior research experience in the field?
hi, that's a good question. i personally have no reseach experience, but i will state my interest in a particular area for research in my SOP. i guess someone who is already a phd or knows more about the SOP can help here. i would like to know the answer to your question as well.
I used to think that proposing research topics was important, but after hearing, first hand, from the head of the NYU PhD program that they are NOT looking for that, I tend to think otherwise.
BTW - I have plenty of research experience, 3 years as a research assistant to one of the top scholars in finance and cowriting two papers, but, I decided not to focus on my interests in my SOP, but rather present myself, my background, experience and my career goals for the future. I did state a few areas on interest, but I also said that I do not feel compelled to any specify topic.
I hope I made the right move by doing that.
Does anybody KNOW differently? Preferably from first hand experience.
can you post a review of the phd open house @ NYU or a brief summary of you experience focusing on the main points?? what do they look for/what makes a good candidate/what is the breakdown of applicants - scores/gpa etc...those of us who do not have the opportunity to visit NYU would really appreciate it. cheers
Sure - here's a quick summary of the session at NYU:
1. Average GMAT - 728, NO candidates with GMAT under 650 accepted.
2. GPA - evaluated on a candidate by candidate basis. Depends on school and very much on courses taken. Overall GPA less significant.
3. Age - Average age - 26-27, Do not like older candidates - claim that they are usually not interested in research.
4. Acceptance rate - 6%
7. Research experience NOT important. Mainly looking for "evidence of smarts", not for people with research experience. Most admitted students have NO research experience.
8. Academic references VERY important. There is not much help with other references (such as employer, etc.).
These are the main points I can think of - If you have further question, let me know.
thanx a lot roy1000, this review is going to be very helpful for everyone interested in phd at NYU and not only there. there are some very important points about the age and research experience. if i think of a specific question i'll post it later. cheers
I also mailed Stern abt this and they clearly said that there is no need for expressing research interest in any specific areas. But other schools mentioned that they look for clearly defined research interests.
It is very school dependent. Most school profesors will not agree with the NYU professed interest in "smarts" and no importance to research interests. That said, the total package is important. Why do you want to do PhD? Why now ? What excites you ? What specific issue interests you ? Why this school ? ....
Big question for the school is simple - If they take you, CAN you develop into a researcher that will bring laurels to the school - for producing good researchers ? ie. " research potential ". That is why prior research is not important. If you have not done research , it does not mean you cannot do it in future - But you need to convince the PhD adcomm of this fact via your SOP.