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Thread: Post your statement of purpose (SOP) here

  1. #1
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    3 out of 3 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No

    Post your statement of purpose (SOP) here

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    I was thinking that posting SOPs is likely to be of a great value for future applicants (at least I was struggling with mine due to lack of examples). There is already an excellent thread by italos, which helped hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants on this forum, but I think it would be extremely useful to have some "empirical evidence" in addition to the "heavy theory".

    So, if you do not mind, post your SOP here. Also feel free to comment on SOPs posted by others (as it may be equally useful for the next generations of applicants).
    Those who know do not speak, those who speak do not know.
    -Lao Tzu

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    4 out of 4 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No
    I will post mine:

    Dear Admissions Committee,

    My goal is to be a professor of finance at a top US university or a leading European business school, such as LBS or INSEAD. Below I will outline why the unique combination of my personal characteristics, education, and research experience makes this objective realistic, and why obtaining a PhD from UCLA Anderson will be an essential step towards the target.

    Diligent in school

    Already in high school I got used to hard work: two_country_specific_achievements. By that time I was interested in mathematics and was pretty successful in my endeavors, for instance, winning the regional round and placing third in the final (i.e. third nationwide) of the country_name National Competition in Mathematics. Consequently, applying to study mathematics to the best_university_in_the_country was a natural choice for me.

    I applied and was accepted to study finance at the best_business_school_in_the_country a year after starting at the best_university_in_the_country. By then I was not interested in finance as a separate field but merely as an application area for mathematical methods. However, while taking coursework, my attitude toward the subject shifted from technical to more sociologically oriented, as I got interested in topics such as XXX and YYY. These specific areas attracted my attention because the best_business_school_in_the_country is traditionally very strong in them: while attending courses taught by professors doing research on the topic, I also got interested in their works. As the result, finance now inspires me as being both socially evolved and mathematically analytical.

    To summarize, for three years (from September 200K to June 200L), I had been concurrently studying full time at two universities while being employed as a RA (see the next paragraph). As the outcome, I graduated (am graduating) from both places a year in advance of recommended schedules with more than solid grades, and there was an article published based on my RA work. I have not found this schedule hard, just the opposite, I have enjoyed the experience as all activities I have been involved in truly interested me. Thus, I am fully confident about my ability to successfully overcome challenges of graduate school and academic career.

    Excited by research

    Since elementary school I have been interested in investigating new things. My first exposure to research occurred at the Department of Computer Science at the best_university_in_the_country, where I had been developing probabilistic models for comparative analysis of sparse high-dimensional time series under supervision of Professor lor_1 (see letter of recommendation). Later my Masterís thesis on the topic was published as a part of an article in a prestigious general-interest journal, which I now see as one of my greatest accomplishments to the date. During my two years at the the best_university_in_the_country, I had been involved in all phases of research from mechanical coding to responding to refereesí comments. I enjoyed doing cutting edge science in creative environment and understood that academic research is what I want to do. However, as work I did there was applied, I gradually realized being much more interested in phenomenon research than in method research. This became especially clear in context of my studies at the_best_business_school_in_the_country. Thus, although based on my work I received an offer to continue as a graduate student of computer science, I quitted my job at the_best_university_in_the_country and am now looking forward to pursue a PhD in finance.

    The idea about doctoral studies in finance developed gradually along with my research experience. My first independent research project in finance was my Bachelorís thesis on 2_sentences_describing_the_thesis. While working on the B.Sc. thesis, I got more familiar with ongoing financial research and my interests moved from XXX to more YYY oriented topics. Taking this into account in my Masterís thesis, which I did under supervision of Professor lor_2 (see letter of recommendation), I have been modeling (both theoretically and empirically) 2_sentences_describing_the_thesis_and_future_plans . These projects provided me great intellectual pleasure and strengthened my passion towards the field. I am completely sure that financial research is what I would like to commit for the rest of my life.

    Currently my primary area of interest is same_area_for_all_but_slight_adjustments_depending _on_the_school, from both (game) theoretical and empirical perspectives. The subject attracts me because it combines school_specific_fields. As you can see, the interest is also supported by my research experience. More specific topics I would like to conduct research on include, but are not limited to 4_lines_of_specific_research_questions_slightly_sc hool_specific.

    Why me?

    In addition to broad research experience and efficient time management skills, I have acquired several other competencies which make me a distinctive applicant to a top finance graduate program. First, having strong mathematical background, I am well prepared to complete rigorous proof-based course work in subjects such as microeconomics or metrics. More importantly, I am already now relatively well equipped to write theoretical models. In this connection, I would like to point out that at the_best_university_in_the_country I took an extended proof-based sequence of fundamental mathematics courses (see attachments to the transcript). Also on top of the courses already on my transcript (such as graduate level game theory, decision making, and stochastic processes), this year, as a part of my Masterís program, I am taking a course in graduate_IO_or_theoretical_asset_pricing taught by Professor one_of_third_lors (see letter of recommendation).

    Second, after working for almost three years in statistical modeling, I master programming and data processing, which has benefited me greatly in empirical work with financial datasets. Last but not least, I have been fortunate to grow up in two different cultures, study in two different universities, and participate in multidisciplinary projects with international collaborators, which helped me to develop comprehensive communication skills.

    Why Anderson?

    Although Anderson finance faculty is known for being extremely strong overall, the main reason for me to apply is the high number of researchers working in school_specific_areas which closely fits with my interests. Another factor directing my choice towards Anderson is, obviously, the excellent reputation of the program evident from impressive graduate placements.


    Sincerely,

    scanned_signature

    Fantiki


    Some comments:
    - I used section titles. It is not recommended on this forum, but my professors (Top 20 adcom experience) said that adcoms do not have time to read 2 pages of text and prefer to go directly to a specific thing they are interested
    - The beginning is pretty straightforward. I think it is usually recommended to start with a funny story about how you got interested in the field etc., but again my professors said that adcoms do not care at all about how you got interested in the field and are concerned only about a) research experience b) diligence c) future plans d) sometimes research interests
    - Well, to me the SOP is rather bombastic, but again I was hinted that Americans do not like shy people
    - The text itself is very simple, but again I was advised that we are not in comparative literature and I should write as easily as possible because nobody will spend time to read among the lines.
    Those who know do not speak, those who speak do not know.
    -Lao Tzu

  3. #3
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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No
    Woah, you are good. Haha. Here is mine then:

    My interest in Economics started when I first saw the proof for the existence of Nash equilibrium (1950). The notion of proving results without a shadow of doubt has deeply intrigued me since then. Hence, I wish to pursue an Economics PhD as I like the challenge of establishing the existence of equilibria in situations involving humans and social systems.

    During my undergraduate studies at [school] (where the sole medium of instruction is English), I did real analysis (covering material from the properties of the real line, up to and including the Riemann integral, and ending with the convergence of series of functions) and linear algebra (such as orthogonalization, properties of vector spaces). Courses in Mathematics for
    Economists (calculus, static optimization, kuhn-tucker conditions, matrix algebra) and Advanced Mathematical Methods (Topological spaces and properties, separability of spaces, fixed point theorems such as Brouwer and Kakutani, maximum principle and dynamic programming). At the time of writing, I amcurrently doing analysis on general topological spaces (function spaces, Hahn-Banach theorem, etc). I have held teaching assistantship appointments in Intermediate Microeconomics, Introduction to Statistical Theory, and Economic Development in Asia. My abilities have led to me being awarded the School of Economics Scholarship for 2 consecutive years in a row since its inception in my junior year, together with being awarded the Dean’s List for academic year 2008-2009.

    I wrote research papers in various classes such as monetary economics, where I provided two models to expound on the relationship between beliefs and unemployment in the long run.

    The first model made use of the Aumann (1987) correlated equilibrium concept in a simple bargaining game over wages between employers and employees. It is shown that the presence of over-optimistic beliefs for the employees, and over-pessimistic beliefs for employers result in a pareto-inferior equilibrium being reached, as the expectations do not match. The second model uses the paper by Wright (2008) et al. In his paper, he established that the long run Phillips curve isnot vertical, using micro-foundations and the implications of this is that monetary policy could have real effects in the long run. They showed that, if the intersection of the Mortensen-Pissarides curve and Lagos-Wright curve is unique, then an increase in interest rate must lower output and increase unemployment. I showed that under certain beliefs of the households and employers that emerge as a result of market conditions, it is possible for the rise in interest rates to only reduce output without changing unemployment levels. Namely, this occurs when the employers and employees have equal bargaining power.

    For labour economics, I examined the role of the tripartite system between the union, the government and the employees, in my country (Singapore). By modeling this as an expectations-coordination failure problem over the issue of wages agreed in advance (as an expectation of the future states of the economy), the presence of the government is shown to be pareto-improving if the uncertainty is due to the conflicts of interests over the employers and employees. Theoretically, the desire of the incumbent party to remain in power is examined through a simple voting process at the end of each period. Necessary and sufficient conditions are proposed so that the government’s action to direct the expectations is pareto-improving for the country, and does not result in it being voted out of office; namely sufficiently large mass of demand for labour and accuracy by the government in their estimate. The second part of this paper used
    the Shapiro-Stiglitz (1984) model as a baseline, with the morale factor added in as an added source of worker non-pecuniary renumeration, together with asymmetric information about the workers’ types. By requiring disclosure from their workers which are then checked against the output, government intervention in the sorting process is not pareto-improving as the workers end up worse off while the firms end up better off.

    For developmental economics, I established the existence of equilibria in Acemoglu (2005) under a different set of conditions, namely with the presence of probabilistic threats of revolt. It is shown that the optimal suppression by the government, in terms of the tax rate relies critically on the rate at which the probability of revolt increases. Using the mechanism design framework, I refined his results to derive the necessary and sufficient conditions under which the oligarchic structure of the economy is better off, compared to the democratic structure in the long run.

    For my senior thesis, I looked at the issue of robust mechanism design in the presence of Knightian uncertainty. The conventional literature assumes that agents either possess Bewley-type preferences (Lopomo, Rigotti and Shannon (2006)), or possess Gilboa-Schmeidler type preferences (Bose, Ozdenoren and Pape (2006)). I relaxed the assumptions of both papers by allowing for both types of agents to be present, together with the set of priors being private information. The main aim is to investigate the effects that these conditions will have on the
    optimal mechanism, together with the changes in the efficiency and fullextraction.

    For my future research, my first interest is to examine the role of Knightian uncertainty on the decision making process and its effects on general equilibrium. The work of Savage (1954) led the start of this area, and the contradictions raised by these were noted by Allais (1953) and Ellsberg (1961); this led to new contributions from Anscombe and Aumann (1964), Bewley (1986), and Gilboa-Schmeidler (1989). The focus of the research agenda is currently on the reasons behind the formation of the Bayesian prior, together with the updating of beliefs in the absence of new information. I believe that the use of sunspots (Cass and Shell (1983)) and the role of extrinsic uncertainty will provide a valuable lead to work on this.

    My second research interest is to examine which institutions are inherently stable over time (time-invariance in the long run), and answer questions as to which types of institutions are better able to withstand exogeneous shocks, for example when the preferences of the people change. I believe a concrete and rigorous explanation of why growth occurs requires the use of political economy and institutions, in the vein of Acemoglu and Robinson (2006). Here, the term, ‘institution’ is broadly conceived as both economic and political rules and arrangements that govern the electorate and the system in place. An interesting question in mind would be the means of designing institutions that are timeinvariant, and the welfare properties on the affected agents of such a system. The key question is to examine the necessary and sufficient conditions under which institutions last in the long run. As pointed out, the aggregation of preferences will induce conflict and tension between the different choices of the individuals. Hence, the incorporation of search theory into this framework, will allow one to capture the notion of frictions
    between the institutions’ demands and the preferences of the electorate, while embedding it into a general equilibrium framework with different sectors. The main aim is to explore the sufficiency conditions for institutions to be stable, and to produce a framework that allows for empirical testing. The aforementioned issue of Knightian uncertainty will be useful when applied to this area, from the initial stage where agents’ preferences are aggregated to the phase where the institution tries to stay in power for as long as it could possibly do, as it can explain why seemingly stable institutions fell over time, due to the occurrence of rare events or shocks that cannot be rationally expected by the agents in their decision-making process. A related field to this would be mechanism design, which I am keen to get a good training in, so that I can possess the proper skill sets in order to design time-invariant institutions.

    Based on the research done by the faculty, I believe my interests are a good fit with University. Hence, I would like to enroll for the program. After my graduate studies, I wish to do research and teach at a top 20 program. For the issue of Knightian uncertainty, I wish to discover institutions or frameworks that are robust to this phenomenon, in the sense that any distortion
    is minimized. In the longer term, I wish to explore other areas that are of considerable significance too. For example, I wish to discover and examine sufficient statistics that are able to gauge empirically, the time period for the short-run so that the policy advice and recommendations will be more relevant, after taking into account the possible presence of Knightian uncertainty.

  4. #4
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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No
    Fantiki, that is very generous of you to post your SOP for future generations. Clearly, you were well prepared for graduate school in Finance, and congratulations on your acceptances.

    However, as someone who's been around the forum for a while and seen a lot of people stress about SOP's, I would just like to add a couple of my own thoughts to this thread for general discussion and critique.

    1) The SOP is of very little importance when the rest of your profile is without major flaw. The SOP only becomes very important for those with mistakes or alternative backgrounds to explain.
    2) The contents and layout of an SOP are (hopefully) fairly well-understood by those who use this forum, and anyone who needs guidance on what and what not to say has only to do some basic googling/TM searching to figure it out.

    most importantly

    3) If somone is really struggling to put down 1000 words about why you want to do a PhD, they should take a good long look in the mirror and ask themselves why they are applying.

    Feel free to add or critique

  5. #5
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    I would post mine but the problem is that I've step in the shoulders of a giant, using the structure of someone else's SOP from my university, who applied to different universities a couple of days before. If he says it's ok with author's rights, etc, I'll post it.
    Attending: Washington University in St. Louis. Fall 2010.

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    I think that the application process is fair if the best people get into the best schools, the second best people in the second best schools etc. Thus I believe that the application process gets even less fair (because it may for adcoms be even more difficult to distinguish applicants) if many SOPs are made public and as a consequence SOPs start to look increasingly similar. If someone can convince me of the opposite, however, I will also post mine.
    Attending: Stanford econ

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    Agree with zurich. Admissions and school assignment at any level, pre-K to PhD, is just a sorting/matching problem, and an efficient match is really hampered by bad information about ability and preferences. Econ candidates are already becoming increasingly indistinguishable on paper due to standardization of pre-PhD undergrad curricula, grade inflation (perceived or actual), etc - making the SOP a little more valuable on the margin. It would be a shame for the process to get even more obfuscated by making the candidate pool even more homogeneous.

    Really, though, the best thing would be for these schools to coordinate on their offers. Of all people, Econ adcoms should know how to solicit preference revelation or arrange a better match via a clearinghouse


    Quote Originally Posted by zurich_econ View Post
    I think that the application process is fair if the best people get into the best schools, the second best people in the second best schools etc. Thus I believe that the application process gets even less fair (because it may for adcoms be even more difficult to distinguish applicants) if many SOPs are made public and as a consequence SOPs start to look increasingly similar. If someone can convince me of the opposite, however, I will also post mine.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by zurich_econ View Post
    I think that the application process is fair if the best people get into the best schools, the second best people in the second best schools etc. Thus I believe that the application process gets even less fair (because it may for adcoms be even more difficult to distinguish applicants) if many SOPs are made public and as a consequence SOPs start to look increasingly similar. If someone can convince me of the opposite, however, I will also post mine.
    I'm not sure - the format of the SOP isn't really the important thing to ad-coms, but the content. Since this is the internet and it's pretty easy to figure out who I am from what I wrote, I'm not going to add it, but I'm happy to describe it in lieu of doing actual work.

    I only wrote about things that I'd done recently - nothing from before my senior year. I was told that one of the biggest concerns of Ad-coms is that Americans - especially ones from LACs - don't know enough math, so I mentioned a math project I'd done. I had 4 paragraphs about projects I've worked on, one on my thesis, three from my individual contributions to projects that I'm an RA on (the projects I mentioned changed depending on the program, at some I talked more about finance & IO, at others more behavioral stuff). At the end of each paragraph, I talked about how I would want to continue that research in an innovative direction, and how the school I was applying to would help me do that. I tried to be detailed & specific instead of generally listing contributions or things I'm interested in. While that means I left stuff out, I felt that I had a better shot at being remembered if I went all-out talking about just a few things.

    It was always under 1000 words, for some programs I only mentioned the math and my thesis. I didn't cite anyone else's work, and didn't talk about how I've wanted to do econ ever since I was wee. I had it edited by a friend in law school, and while she didn't have much to say about the content she was hugely helpful in making it clearer.

  9. #9
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    I have a few SOPs from people that managed to get into schools on the margin. What I've seen they gave a pretty honest explanation on why they don't look like cookie cutter candidates, explained their backgrounds were honest about why the liked economics (nothing like this paper there), and explained they new what their deficiencies were and had started to make up for them, or planned to, then what they planned to do with a PhD and what fields interested them. Nothing more than that.

  10. #10
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    First, thanks for all who posted their SOPs, provided advices and expressed their opinions.

    Woah, you are good.
    Clearly, you were well prepared for graduate school in Finance, and congratulations on your acceptances.
    Thanks. I should mention that in reality I am not that good as my SOP suggests, I just wrote it self-confidently and did not address any of my weaknesses which were however easily observable from the rest of my application package.

    1) The SOP is of very little importance when the rest of your profile is without major flaw. The SOP only becomes very important for those with mistakes or alternative backgrounds to explain.
    I have a few SOPs from people that managed to get into schools on the margin. What I've seen they gave a pretty honest explanation on why they don't look like cookie cutter candidates, explained their backgrounds and explained they new what their deficiencies were and had started to make up for them, or planned to, then what they planned to do with a PhD and what fields interested them.
    This is to some extent true, but I tend to disagree that you can credibly explain major flaws in your SOP. Adcoms simply do not trust it that much, because you can write almost anything there. Also what I have heard from some professors that explaining flaws in SOP sounds pity and indirectly signals about looser-attitude. My general impression about SOP is that it is very important in the sense you can not improve your profile with that but you can relatively easily screw up the whole thing bż sounding arrogant or having a low self-esteem.

    2) The contents and layout of an SOP are (hopefully) fairly well-understood by those who use this forum, and anyone who needs guidance on what and what not to say has only to do some basic googling/TM searching to figure it out.
    I agree that the "skeleton" of the SOP is much discussed and should be clear but like saucyapples pointed out the contents (i.e. what do you exactly say) and attitude (i.e. how do you say things) have received very limited attention, while I feel that these still matter.

    3) If somone is really struggling to put down 1000 words about why you want to do a PhD, they should take a good long look in the mirror and ask themselves why they are applying.
    Very good point, but I think that, it is often very difficult for some of us to express feelings without sounding naive. For instance, I want to do PhD, because I have enjoyed the research I have done and like the process of thinking about relatively abstract things. However, it is obvious that I can not put it that short and straightforward. For instance, I think that SOP by Gecko is an excellent example of how do you express your passion about research at the same time giving impression of a very deep personality.

    I believe that the application process gets even less fair (because it may for adcoms be even more difficult to distinguish applicants) if many SOPs are made public and as a consequence SOPs start to look increasingly similar
    Very reasonable argumentation. However, I think that it is not as much about copying but getting inspirations. I feel like it is the same as with research: you do not start from scratch, you read some papers, get insights, and develop your own, even better, ideas. Then other researchers read your papers, get insights etc.
    Those who know do not speak, those who speak do not know.
    -Lao Tzu

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