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Thread: Is it always better to mention specific professors in SOP?

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    Is it always better to mention specific professors in SOP?

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    Hi guys,

    I am finishing up my SOP for all my applications.
    Originally, my plan was to mention one professor at each program in my SOP.
    At some schools, there were actually at least one professor whose research is very aligning with my future interests.
    In that case, I obviously mentioned their names and their works.
    However, at other schools, there are professors who definitely seem to be capable of advising me but not researching the very specific topic that I plan on researching.
    Obviously, my research interest might change over time so I don't want to just cut out those schools that do not have professors who are researching in that very specific topic.
    But as I am writing, I realized that it doesn't really make sense to mention their names if their work is not specifically aligning with my future interests that I mention in SOP.

    What do you guys think?
    Should I just talk about my future interests and end it there?

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    Re: Is it always better to mention specific professors in SOP?

    Some people would advise against mentioning names in your SoP, even if you've found someone you'd really like to work with. The simplest reason could be that said professor might actually be leaving.

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    Re: Is it always better to mention specific professors in SOP?

    Quote Originally Posted by tutonic View Post
    said professor might actually be leaving.
    It seems like listing 3-4 professors would solve this.

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    Re: Is it always better to mention specific professors in SOP?

    Quote Originally Posted by therealslimkt View Post
    It seems like listing 3-4 professors would solve this.
    That's true. However, if you list 3-4 professors, you run the risk of coming off as simply name dropping, since you'll need to elucidate why you wish to work with said professors, and how their interests align with what you hope to pursue. I'm operating on the assumption that most departments don't have multiple people working in the exact sub-section of any one field.

    Simply put, it's easier to craft a 'story' when you're talking about one professor, but it becomes markedly tougher when you're trying to weave together the interests of multiple people. You risk coming off as being superficial and potentially naive. At least, that's what I think. It's also one of the reason why some people don't name-drop in their SoPs.They wish to hide their types, till after they get accepted.

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    Re: Is it always better to mention specific professors in SOP?

    Thank you for your inputs tutonic and therealslimkt.

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    Re: Is it always better to mention specific professors in SOP?

    Quote Originally Posted by tutonic View Post
    That's true. However, if you list 3-4 professors, you run the risk of coming off as simply name dropping, since you'll need to elucidate why you wish to work with said professors, and how their interests align with what you hope to pursue. I'm operating on the assumption that most departments don't have multiple people working in the exact sub-section of any one field.

    Simply put, it's easier to craft a 'story' when you're talking about one professor, but it becomes markedly tougher when you're trying to weave together the interests of multiple people. You risk coming off as being superficial and potentially naive. At least, that's what I think. It's also one of the reason why some people don't name-drop in their SoPs.They wish to hide their types, till after they get accepted.
    By "They wish to hide their types", do you simply mean not mentioning specific names or specific research interests at all?
    After all, is it more common to not mention any names in SOP, although it would be pretty obvious which professors that you can possibly work with after talking about your research interests?

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    Re: Is it always better to mention specific professors in SOP?

    I did a compromise by mentioning my research interests and the corresponding research centers (not any specific professors) at each of the schools.

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    Re: Is it always better to mention specific professors in SOP?

    When I am reading apps, many applicants list names that don't make any sense. Folks who have left or people who don't fit the research areas the students say they are interested in. I mostly ignore it, but it certainly doesn't help the application. My advice--if you really have a reason for wanting to work with a particular faculty member it's fine to mention. But trying to game the process doesn't work.

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    Re: Is it always better to mention specific professors in SOP?

    Quote Originally Posted by econApp2018 View Post
    By "They wish to hide their types", do you simply mean not mentioning specific names or specific research interests at all?
    After all, is it more common to not mention any names in SOP, although it would be pretty obvious which professors that you can possibly work with after talking about your research interests?
    By hide their types, I mean a hypothetically naive candidate avoid name dropping, to svoid conveying the fact that they are of poor type, till after they get admitted.

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    Re: Is it always better to mention specific professors in SOP?

    Honestly I've heard so many contradictory things about this, from professors and people online... I get that mentioning specific professors can seem obsequious, presumptuous, or even ignorant, and that there's a good chance you might not work with those professors if you are even admitted. On the other hand, I do think it's a nice signal that you're not just submitting a form SOP, but have taken the time to really consider why you are applying to that program and that you have actually looked at some of the research going on.

    I included a small section in almost all of my SOPs where I talked about why that program in particular appealed to me, and mentioned a few professors whose work I was drawn to. My sense of it is that it very likely doesn't matter one way or the other -- worst case scenario, the reviewers might be a little exasperated or annoyed and ignore that section. Best case, they take it as a nice little sign that you really are trying to apply to *their* program (I think this could be especially nice for the "safer" lower ranked and smaller programs, maybe not so much for a Harvard). But the SOP is just one factor out of many, and whether you talk about professors or not is just one factor for that, so I doubt it will make or break a decision one way or the other.

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