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Personal Statement for Exchange to Caltech | To be graded by fellow students | Impressions of me?

Raikhyt 1 / -  
Nov 25, 2019   #1

I would like to go on an exchange to Caltech

I'm writing a personal statement for an exchange programme to Caltech.
The guidelines are:

Please write a personal statement of no more than 5000 characters addressing the following three points:

1)Focusing on your first choice of institution please explain your academic motivations for applying for an Exchange

2)Please elaborate on the qualities you have which would make you a good representative for the *University of XY* citing examples from your extracurricular activities.

3)Please explain how this opportunity would benefit you from a personal perspective.

There are also some recommendations:
- You should give equal weighting to each point.
-This statement is your opportunity to explain why you should be given a place on Exchange.
-This application will only be used by the *University of XY* so you can just focus on your top choice.
-Keep in mind that this is an academic programme and your statement should reflect this.
- Think of this as your pitch to your fellow students detailing why they should select you.
- As this will be marked anonymously by your peers, you should avoid the use of names or any other personally identifying information.

I am a second-year student in Physics and I would like to go on an exchange to Caltech next year.
My interest in Physics first and foremost stems from an innate desire to understand the underlying structure of the matter that makes us and the universe that surrounds us up - and the consequences that has on the world we observe. I believe that an exchange at the California Institute of Technology would be an ideal opportunity to develop this understanding, leave my comfort zone, and learn valuable skills.

I have always planned to spend some time abroad during my studies, because I believe that the experience of leaving one's familiar territory to explore the world to be eye-opening. What attracted me to Caltech was the focus and drive of the environment in which I would be studying. It is well known that the Physics programme offered there is one of the most rigorous and challenging in the world - as such, I would be able to study alongside highly ambitious, very scientific, and like-minded people. The crucial element that led to me choosing Caltech as a destination for my exchange is its unique offer of research opportunities for undergraduates in return for credits, which is a perfect fit for me, since I am deeply interested in working towards a PhD and having a career in research. Two areas of research that Caltech specializes in are particularly interesting to me. The first is astrophysics, as Caltech is host to LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) and has Katie Bouman, one of my role models, as a professor, who is widely known for developing the techniques that led to the first picture of a black hole. The second area is quantum computing, which relies upon condensed matter physics (superconductors, lattices, etc.) Pasadena is close to Silicon Valley, where cutting-edge research is being done at companies such as Google and IBM. These areas tie in well to more advanced courses such as Quantum Hardware and Advanced Computational Physics, which I would not be able to take in *XY*.

I strive to lead and volunteer wherever I can, preferring to take a proactive approach to problems I see in the world. Currently, I volunteer for the Peer Proofreading Scheme to help non-native speakers write higher quality papers; I represent Year 2 Physics as a Student Rep, facilitating dialogue and the exchange of opinions between staff and students; and I also volunteer for the Tandem Language Exchange Society, helping people learning the languages that I speak (English, French, and German).

Moreover, I am dedicated to the goals I set for myself, which usually comes in the form of new aptitudes and abilities: beyond my degree, I have taught myself programming in Python, creating particle simulations and using machine learning to simulate and predict the properties of materials, for example. I also recently started learning C++, a useful skill for my future career. Last year, I began to learn Mandarin Chinese in my spare time. Now that I am in University XY, I have registered for courses at the Confucius Institute and attained basic conversational fluency.

The most exciting of all my extra-curriculars currently is *activity XY*, where we are trying to build a "Hyperloop", a near-supersonic train in a near-vaccuum. The particular goal of our team is to model the system to determine the feasibility of the Hyperloop as a mode of transport. Caltech, host to similar societies building rockets, drones, and electric cars, may benefit just as much as *XY* from an exchange in technology and ideas. I believe this would let me represent *XY* effectively.

The *University of XY* emphasizes diversity, versatility, and multi-disciplinary learning, made possible through a system not too dissimilar to the American liberal arts. I believe that I would be able to represent this approach rather well. Caltech is perhaps the polar opposite, letting focusing students on the very core of their degree. I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to gain deeper insight into my true passion, physics.

As to the benefits from a personal perspective: undoubtedly, an exchange year would present an extremely valuable addition to my credentials, both through the prestige associated with such a university on an academic level, as well as the experiences that I will have made. Furthermore, Caltech is pleasantly small compared to the *University of XY*, and, as a result, is a rather more close-knit population, with undergraduate enrolment under 1000. I had the fortune to be in a similar situation last year - the small, international community truly facilitated discussion and the exchange of ideas on another level and through this opened my mind significantly.

Finally, there are just a few small additional benefits that I would like to mention. Some of my friends from my previous school study at universities very close by, and an exchange would be a wonderful chance to see them again. Also, Pasadena is located next to the Angeles National Park, which provides hiking, mountain biking and climbing locations so I can keep active during my time there - all in much sunnier weather than *XY*!

I'm slightly above 5000 characters at the moment, so any feedback on useless parts/what's worth cutting out would be extra appreciated. Also, what impression would you have of me after reading this? Should I be aiming for a different impression?

Thanks a lot!

Maria - / 1,099 389  
Nov 26, 2019   #2
Hi there. Thanks for coming to the site! I hope that my feedback gives you an idea on how to improve your writing. Please don't hesitate to approach us should you have any more questions.

Firstly, improve that introductory sentence, bearing in mind the fact that first impressions last in these types of applications. It is insufficient for you to merely mention outright that you wish to go on an exchange. Rather, try to be make it appear more dramatic to create a more lasting impression in the mindset of the readers. If you are able to do this, then you will show the evaluators that this goes more in-depth in the latter parts of your writing.

Try to also be more organized when you're presenting your extracurricular activities. In that same light, you can try to minimize the usage of excessive parts of the essay that are not imperative for the overall writing purpose. Focus a lot more on what you can offer to the exchange program compared to a normal student - this will show them that you are purposeful in your intent in wanting to be a part of the program.

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