I am specifically facing an issue in approaching the first paragraph. While brainstorming about the opening lines, I am confused about which event to prioritize – my 2 years of professional experience, or a technical event which I showcased at an international level. I only extract the parts which will be relevant to my graduate application (from both), but including both of them reduces the coherency of my SOP. FYI, I was more inclined towards sharing the story about my technical event on the international stage as it might be something unique compared to the professional work experience. (Again, both of them are relevant to the program I intend to apply to.)
Hmmm…this is quite the interesting question. I can’t say for certain without reading both versions, but my suspicion is this:
- Choose one or the other
- Probably go with the international showcase, because it’s more unique and memorable (lots of applicants have work experience, but far fewer have such unique successes)
- Remember the story is only a frame, an injection port, a narrative capsule that allows you to dig into the deeper intellectual questions.
Thus, you’ll probably want to write something like:
“When presenting at XYZ event, I felt honored to be recognized for my work in ABC. [Insert another sentence of explanatory detail/storytelling elements.] Yet, as I stood beside my XYZ device, I couldn’t help but think about the questions I hadn’t yet answered. [Insert sequence of academic questions that compel you to pursue a graduate degree.]”
Yes, now that I think about it, definitely go with the story of your international presentation. Having work experience just isn’t special, unless you’ve done something really remarkable. Showcasing on an international stage, that’s far more unique, and thus separates you from the competition. But mixing two narratives into one introduction…that’ll just bog the essay down and waste space you could better use describing Why This Program is perfect for you.
Think of it this way. One my mentors (a dean of admissions from the University of Virginia) once told me that the key to admissions is making yourself one in a million. By this he meant: find the very specific niche area in which you’re unique. Hundreds of thousands of computer science students graduate every year, for example. But how many can claim they’ve attended international exhibitions to present on viable new integrations of AI and Brain-Computer Interfaces? Five, maybe? Ten?
So, choose one story, and choose the one that’s most memorable and unique.