It’s now the time that aspiring PhD students are putting together their applications for admission to graduate school. In addition to providing a transcript, CV, (maybe) test scores, and letters of reference, applicants are asked to provide a personal statement. This statement is a bit different than the essay you had to write for your undergraduate applications. How should you approach it?
As a professor for 20 years, I’ve read a lot of personal statements. Therefore I thought it might be useful to share my thoughts about what makes a good one. I also solicited input from a few colleagues and include their suggestions too. I’ll present my thoughts in Q&A format. Hopefully it goes without saying: This is just my opinion from my vantage point at UMD; different professors might have a different perspective based on where they are.
As we are gearing up for POPL’19, my students putting their talks together. For one of them, this is his first conference talk, and for the other it’s his first PL talk. So both of them separately asked me for advice about putting the talk together. After answering the second time, I realized I should follow Matt Might’s advice, and “reply to public” by sharing what I wrote to them.
There’s lots of good advice out there about making conference talks, which I summarize at the end. I think what I say here reinforces much of that good advice, and adds a bit to it.