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Thread: why school questions

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    why school questions

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    Guys, as finishing up my sop, I find this "why school" question a tough one.

    I read the post "Mentioning professors in SOP good/bad/neutral?" by TaxGal, and seems like it's a neutral for this question.

    I used to think the strongest reason for why school is the specific faculty you wanna work with. However, if it's just neutral to put specific faculty research here, what would be some good answers for "why school"?

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    Re: why school questions

    Well, I believe different people have different reasons to want a school. So, if your strongest reason is really a specific faculty I think you should go ahead and say it. And of course try to explain why in a convincing way. If that's not the reason, then you should tell them what is the reason.

    I think too many applicants try to write what they think the school wants to hear, or try to follow a magic prescription for an SoP. Then the reasons sound weak, vague, generic, without personality. Because they are not the true reasons.

    A combination of reasons can be important too, instead of just the strongest reason. Even if the faculty is your strongest reason, it is probably also the strongest reason in many other applications the school is evaluating.

    Again, I didn't go too deep into that in my SoP (not enough space for that), but I was really asked about that kind of thing afterwards in the interview. And when I was asked, I was able to list reason after reason after reason. And many of my reasons wouldn't make sense for another applicant. Because they are MY reasons. It would be very hard to find another applicant saying the same things. By the way, I don't think my reasons were that amazing, but they were honest, and so I can be much more convincing that way.

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    Re: why school questions

    Looking back at my applications, my answers mainly centered around the schools having a research group or lab (and journals published by their professors) aligned to my research interests. I was probed further about my answers during my interviews and I was able to backup with further details. I may have lightheartedly mentioned London weather based on the location of the school as well to ease into an interview!!

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    Re: why school questions

    This is actually a simple answer. The reason you are choosing a particular school (any school for that matter) is research. Plain and simple. That is what schools are looking for you to say.

    However, what you say after that make a big difference. Do you want to research at school X because they have a solid track record of student publications? Are you interested in working with different faculty? Perhaps you saw the research stipend on the schools marketing material and thought it would really help you to achieve your goals.

    Again when it comes to writing specific professor names, the verdict is still out. However the only reason you should ever give to the "why here" question, which will come up in every interview ever, is research.

    By the way this is true when you're on the job market as well.
    Til now I always got by on my own
    I never really cared until I met you...

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