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Thread: Mentioning professors in SOP good/bad/neutral?

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    Mentioning professors in SOP good/bad/neutral?

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    Accounting hopeful here, I'm trying to finish up my personalized portion of my SOPs for a few schools that I really want to go to, like these are my dream schools. Upon reviewing the department websites there are a few professors whose research really interests me but I have no way of knowing if they are involved with the Phd program. Should I mention my interest in their research specifically or will that hurt me if they aren't working with the program?

    Also there are multiple professors at one program that in interested in so could I mention maybe 2 of them in hopes that at least one is working with PhD students? I have no research experience so I want my SOP to drive home that I at least kinda know what research is and what I'm interested in without being too specific and I figure showing I read a few articles from current professors may help but I could be wrong.

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    Re: Mentioning professors in SOP good/bad/neutral?

    In my opinion, it is definitely a good thing. As it proves that you are already thinking about your potential research ideas. I started my PhD recently and already I am working on couple of projects, one from my topic of interest and another project led by my supervisor (also very interesting topic). Over the course of the initial years of the PhD, your interests might change. But by mentioning their names in your SOP, you would send right signals to the admissions committee.

    Quote Originally Posted by TaxGal View Post

    Also there are multiple professors at one program that in interested in so could I mention maybe 2 of them in hopes that at least one is working with PhD students? I have no research experience so I want my SOP to drive home that I at least kinda know what research is and what I'm interested in without being too specific and I figure showing I read a few articles from current professors may help but I could be wrong.

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    Re: Mentioning professors in SOP good/bad/neutral?

    I have the same concerns with you. Even if the professor is working as an advisor, I'm afraid if my chance would pass in case he doesn't recruit any new students in his case. However, as PobleNou said, everybody know interest can change, so I guess it would do no harm if you state clearly because it would just serve as a signal that you have done some research. This is my personal opinion. Good luck!

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    Re: Mentioning professors in SOP good/bad/neutral?

    I think, more often than not, that it marginally helps as long as what you're saying is true. Don't mention certain professors just in an attempt to suck up or get attention. But if you truly have research interests that you think would align with a certain professor, then I'd certainly mention it.

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    Re: Mentioning professors in SOP good/bad/neutral?

    At least for me, I believe talking about specific professors and their research helped a lot during the interview, and the interview looked a lot like the things I had written in my SoP.

    If you're really worried about professors who are not working with the program, I guess you might try to get in contact with the current PhD students at that program to see if they can provide some more information about that.

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    Re: Mentioning professors in SOP good/bad/neutral?

    I think it's not good. Simply mentioning a name doesn't reflect too much, and thus won't help you. But it may hurt a lot if the professor will move/doesn't want new students to work with. It's probably better to focus on what subfield/topics you are interested in (and how good you are) and make the professor feels that you have similar interest and want to work with you after reading the essay. It's much more important for the professor to be interested in you than vice versa.

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    Re: Mentioning professors in SOP good/bad/neutral?

    Yeah this is one of those questions that we get a lot at this time of the year. The short answer from what I've learned over the years is this: it's up to you.

    There are some potential benefits as listed above. There are also some potential problems with doing it. For what it's worth I think that it is worth it to do. I know for my program when we look at applications we ask the question of who would this applicant work with. If there isn't a clear answer to that question they get rejected. People that speak specifically of working with a professor gain a marginal benefit of making the life of the person reading the application easier. Sometimes that's all it takes, though.

    Let me elaborate a bit on littlechild's points. You do run a risk when saying that you want to work with professor X that professor X may leave or not want another student. If that's the case, putting down their name pretty much ensures that you won't get accepted. However if you really want to work with professor X, then it shouldn't matter if you get rejected because the person you wanted to work with wouldn't be available to you. For the record who you work with is a much bigger deal than the school you go to.

    You can mitigate this issue rather simply by including at least two profs in your SOP. As littlechild mentioned, though, just mentioning a name isn't good enough. Say I'm interested in the work of professor X on subject Y and feel like I could add value with Z. That's the strongest SOP statement you can make, even better if you can say it fits in with my previous research on Y. That can be powerful. If the profs are discussing you and can point to a specific research idea you are interested in and if that fits in with a current professor that gives you a huge advantage.

    One final note. If you are mentioning different profs make sure that they research the same area. Like make sure they have similar methodologies. That is one way to get yourself rejected right quick if you say you want to work with professor X on subject Y and professor W on subject Z and those things don't actually work together.

    As has been previously mentioned on here, there are pros and cons, trade-offs and choices. The choice is up to you. Good luck!
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