Criteria for Critiquing Admissions Personal Documents
美国教授谈PS评判标准及程序-----作者：Prof. Karena Andrusyshyn (本中心特邀美国专家)
There are a set of criteria which are nearly universal among universities for judging admissions documents, including personal statements. These are set by the various professors themselves, and determine whether or not the reader, employed either by the university or the professor, passes the documents on to the professor. They cover several attributes of the documents: format, size, content and language. In order to understand these criteria you must know how such documents are handled once they arrive at the university of application
On arrival the documents are sorted by department. The admissions office then opens each and checks that all relevant materials are included, before forwarding them to the department concerned. If there are documents missing, the packet is not forwarded. If a return self-addressed envelope is included, they are sealed into it with a printed note showing what is missing. Otherwise, they are put into the trash, unless somebody has time to send a request for the missing documents, which is rare indeed. The packets which are complete are then filed, and the personal statements, resumes, curriculum vitas, and references are forwarded to the department concerned.
On arrival in the department, they are handled in one of two ways. If the department has someone assigned as a reader, the documents go into his or her in-box. If not, they go into the professor’s in-box. His teaching assistant or secretary then handles them. They are passed to whoever is assigned to read them: the TA, the secretary or a reader employed for that purpose. The reader then reads them in order of arrival.
reader seldom reads the entire document, unless that reader is educated in the discipline of the department, which is not always the case. The educated reader who knows the major will read through the document until he or she has made a decision about its value. At any point, if the reader finds very large flaws or becomes terribly bored, the document is discarded or returned.
If the reader is not educated in the discipline, he or she first looks at the resume or curriculum vitae. If that is sub-standard for any reason, the documents are discarded or returned if an SASE is included. Next the reader looks at the personal statement. She or he reads the first one or two paragraphs carefully and then skims the middle briefly, and then reads the last one or two paragraphs. If the document at any point does not pass the judging criteria set up by the professor, the reader stops and either discards or returns the document. Only documents that meet all or most of the following criteria will be passed on to the professor for reading:
Clarity: the applicant’s objective must be clearly stated. This should be in the first or last paragraph or both.
Does the applicant show a good command of the language? Since research requires that records be kept and reported, and papers published, written communications skills are required. Now, professor’s know that many domestic and most foreign applicants have their work professionally edited. In fact, a poorly written paper is seen as belonging to someone who doesn’t care enough to pay an editor to make his documents the best they can be. Yes the documents must be written personally by the applicant, but there is no rule against having them edited.
Is the format and length consistent with the published expectations of the department? If it is too long, badly typed, or otherwise difficult to read it will be instantly discarded. 3 a" d4 J: G# M; A, J
Do the aims of the PS match the experience shown on the resume or CV?
Do the aims of the applicant match the current needs or interests of the department? ! f4 \3 J+ |/ `: x7 C" _+ Z
Does the applicant’s experience and education show enough aptitude for the research or program proposed? 1 g) j8 E0 k" C3 |5 i6 Z8 S6 M
Does the content show that this person would be a possible asset to the program? This one is the one attribute that varies more than any other, but there are certain things that most professor’s require:
1. Is the applicant a well rounded individual? This is usually shown by including other activities outside of academics and job information. 0 ~/ j6 Y8 H: a5 p! C+ R9 ?' u" [! w, N
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2. Does the applicant show a clear willingness to learn? This one is critical to the programs. Professor’s do not need any “problem children” with deficient or inflated egos. If the tone of the PS shows that the applicant thinks he or she is a highly superior human being and the smartest one to come along it will be discarded. Professors want people who are smart, but open minded. They do not, under any circumstances, want someone who will tell them what to do. That is why the information in the PS should never include the judgment of the applicant’s experience or what it shows about the applicant. Some examples of this : I was chosen team captain by my peers three years in a row, which shows how well I get along with people. Because of my friendly spirit I was always the one chosen as class president. That I managed to finish the exam in spite of being very ill shows my determination. The professor is quite able to make very astute judgments about an applicant’s character or personal faults and strong points by interpreting the information about his or her experiences.
3. Does the applicant show the ability to work as a member of a team? The old adage “Show don’t tell” applies here in the most serious way. Applicant’s who show that they have a too high opinion of themselves are immediately disqualified. Confidence is good, but conceit is deadly. Therefore, it is always helpful to include some mention of how the applicant benefited from others, and how others contributed to projects etc. Modesty and the willingness to share credit are considered as very valuable traits. One’s experience and actions will show one’s abilities well enough. They don’t need to be listed.
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4. Does the applicant appear honest? Plagiarism of any sort will instantly disqualify the applicant, and perhaps get him “black-listed” among the leaders in the discipline to which he applied. I once knew about an applicant who sent a PS in that plagiarized the professor who headed the program to which he applied. His education at any major university ended at that moment.
5. Does the applicant show a clear progression of learning acquisition? This means that there must be some evidence that the applicant progressed from beginner to current status within the narrative of the PS. It doesn’t have be listed chronologically, but it must be there, and be clearly discernable. Flashback and other devices to maintain interest are fine, as long as the progression is clear.
6. Does the applicant show evidence of ability for research, practical study as in laboratory experiments and application as in actual work or internship. Some evidence of these must be shown * T+ `+ L: P! e7 l; P% N
7. Does the applicant appear ready for the demands of this program? Is he or she focused? 2 H. E! b- p. O3 ~8 z6 ]1 H4 |5 }
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8. Does the applicant appear to know what he or she is talking about? This can only really be judged by the professor or someone educated in the discipline, but if the PS is incoherent, this criteria is not met.
Once the PS passes the above criteria it is passed on to the professor. The professor then reads at least part of the document, and sorts them into NO and MAYBE. The criteria used by professors include:
Is there something that makes this applicant different from others? This is the finest tooth of the filtering comb. If the applicant’s PS looks and sounds just like every other one, it doesn’t pass this criteria. There must be something that sets this person apart from the crowd, and it isn’t academic scores. An engaging beginning, a statement that shows modesty or a bit of humor will get the PS put in the MAYBE pile. & `. u( `! r9 n
Does the experience look adequate? If the professor cannot readily see the papers published and the projects done it may get discarded. This is where summaries of experience are better than detailed step by step descriptions. A few details about each important project or experiment are quite enough. They need not be complete. For the most part, the professors have already done all the experiments listed and the projects also, so the step by step description gets in the way. 0 r+ d/ Y' \& e, N( k) t
Would the applicant be an asset to the department or program? This is very subjective, and it is the most critical. The professor must believe he or she will like and respect the applicant. This is where showing respect for the professor is paramount. Do not insult his or her intelligence by including anything he or she already knows. Do not insult them by incredible statements. Professors are looking for hard working, intelligent individuals who get along well with others, share the glory of accomplishments with others and can learn from their mistakes. The last can only be shown by including a mistake or two. They are not looking for perfect machines: these are called computers. 6 e7 g. \0 n: v! I
Does the applicant show the ability, the intelligence and the drive to complete the program, and does she or he show the good sense to have other interests in order to avoid burn-out?
A last piece of advice: since the number of words in a personal statement or a reference or CV is limited, don’t waste words on things the professor already knows, or on things that can easily be inferred. Remember that most of these professors are either native English speakers, or equivalent to one.
In critiquing a document written in very high level language you must remember that such documents cannot be translated line by line, as much of the content is cultural, and the high level language requires interpretation on a paragraph by paragraph basis in order to convey the full meaning. That is why interpreters are so highly paid, and good writers are in high demand.
I am a thinker, but not one to think out loud. I love myself, but am not in love with the sound of my own voice. I want to be loved, but not at the cost of not loving myself. I want to know everything, but realize that nothing can ever be known for sure. I believe that nothing is absolute, but I can absolutely defend my beliefs. I understand that chance is prevalent in all aspects of life, but never leave anything important to chance. I am skeptical about everything, but realistic in the face of my skepticism. I base everything on probability, but so does nature...probably.
I believe that all our actions are determined, but feel completely free to do as I choose. I do not believe in anything resembling a God, but would never profess omniscience with regard to such issues. I have faith in nothing, but trust that my family and friends will always be faithful. I feel that religion is among the greatest problems in the world, but also understand that it is perhaps the ultimate solution. I recognize that many people derive their morals from religion, but I insist that religion is not the only fountainhead of morality. I respect the intimate connection between morality and law, but do not believe that either should unquestioningly respect the other.
I want to study the law and become a lawyer, but I do not want to study the law just because I want to become a lawyer. I am aware that the law and economics cannot always be studied in conjunction, but I do not feel that either one can be properly studied without an awareness of the other. I recognize there is more to the law than efficiency, but believe the law should recognize the importance of efficiency more than it does. I love reading about law and philosophy, but not nearly as much as I love having a good conversation about the two. I know that logic makes an argument sound, but also know that passion makes an argument sound logical. I have philosophical beliefs informed by economics and economic beliefs informed by philosophy, but I have lost track of which beliefs came first. I know it was the egg though.
I always think very practically, but do not always like to think about the practical. I have wanted to be a scientist for a while now, but it took me two undergraduate years to figure out that being a scientist does not necessarily entail working in a laboratory. I play the saxophone almost every day, but feel most like an artist when deduction is my instrument. I spent one year at a college where I did not belong and two years taking classes irrelevant for my major, but I have no regrets about my undergraduate experience. I am incredibly passionate about my interests, but cannot imagine being interested in only one passion for an entire lifetime.
I love the Yankees, but do not hate the Red Sox. I love sports, but hate the accompanying anti-intellectual culture. I may read the newspaper starting from the back, but I always make my way to the front eventually. I am liberal on some issues and conservative on others, but reasonable about all of them. I will always be politically active, but will never be a political activist. I think everything through completely, but I am never through thinking about anything.
I can get along with almost anyone, but there are very few people without whom I could not get along. I am giving of my time, but not to the point of forgetting its value. I live for each moment, but not as much as I worry about the next. I consider ambition to be of the utmost importance, but realize that it is useless without the support of hard work. I am a very competitive person, but only when competing with myself. I have a million dreams, but I am more than just a dreamer. I am usually content, but never satisfied.
I am a study in contradiction, but there is not an inconsistency to be found.
A clear and relevant essay in English (2,000 - 3,000 words) addressing the following:
Your motivation for taking the MSc programme of your choice.
Why you wish to pursue this programme abroad and/or in the Netherlands in particular.
Why you are interested in TU Delft.
If there are optional specialisations in the Master’s programme of your choice: which specialisation(s) interest you most, and why?
Examples of three Master’s thesis topics that interest you and with an explanation of your particular interest.
A brief summary (maximum 250 words) of the thesis work or the final assignment done for your Bachelor’s programme, including information on the credits earned, grade, and full workload.