Having trouble with addressing the “Why this school in particular?” question in my statement of purpose because, although I’m applying to various master’s programs in CS, I’m not interested in pursuing a thesis or project option. Many of these programs offer a coursework-only option with an oral/written exam at the end which is convenient, but it makes writing the SoP a little more difficult. Specifically, because I’m not interested in research (did research throughout undergrad–I like academia, but it’s definitely not my life passion), I’m not sure how I can sell myself to these programs. I can’t name-drop any faculty and I can’t talk about specific research that these universities are participating in, so what do I do? Are there other ways I can convince my readers that X University is a good fit for me and vice versa?
Side question while I’m here: is it appropriate to write about an undergrad thesis in progress in a statement of purpose? I’m about halfway through the work, but I haven’t started any writing yet.
First off, to answer your side question: yes, absolutely. It’s not only appropriate to talk about the topic of your unfinished thesis, but expected. This is, after all, the culmination of your scholarly efforts and it should be tied directly to what you hope to accomplish in graduate school. In fact, it would be a great thing to introduce in your introductory Frame Narrative.
Now, how can you show “fit” otherwise? In the past, I’ve told students in similar scenarios (no desire to do a thesis/research) to just fake it and write about research prospects anyway. I’ve done so because these students were mostly just lazy and unimaginative, and as I expected, they actually DID go on to contribute to interesting research once the opportunity presented itself in grad school.
I assume you’re not in that situation, so I suggest you make a detailed, semester-by-semester study plan. Pick the courses you want to take. Ask yourself why. What’s your ultimate goal? How will these courses help you achieve that goal? You want to work in computer vision later? Okay, then you’re going to need classes in video tracking, 3D pose estimation, learning, indexing, visual servoing, etc. Does the college have all of these classes? Great. Does it also have corporate co-op partnerships in computer vision companies? Fantastic. That’s all you need. That’s a great SOP.
“At X University, I’m particularly excited about the course sequence in computer vision, starting with Video Tracking 101, then moving through 3D Pose Estimation, Learning, Indexing, and Visual Servoing. This alone will constitute a strong foundation for my hopeful career as a software engineer specializing in CV, Signal Processing, and Perception Algorithms. However, the opportunity to complete my capstone project in a firm like Lucid Automation (thanks to XU’s corporate partnerships) makes me certain that no other master’s program will prepare me more fully for my career.”
The key is to just be thorough. Show them that you’re serious about your education, tell them exactly where your interests lie, and explain why it would be cool to obtain this education at X University.
Hope that helps!
*This question originally appeared on Reddit here.