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Sample Personal Statement for Sociopsychology

Growing up in pace with China’s reform and opening up, I have experienced drastic changes brought about by the country’s economic and social developments. The unprecedented impacts produced by foreign literary works, commodities, science and technology, management, civilizations and cultures sensitized me to the value of sociopsychology in interpreting the complicated mental reactions of the contemporary Chinese people. Sociopsychology, a discipline western in origin, was only introduced into Chinese academia in the early 1980s after a decade-long social upheavals and cultural breaks known as “the Great Cultural Revolution”. However, the speed at which this science has made its headway in China, a socialist country with an ancient historical and cultural heritage, is totally unexpected. On one hand, the special historical period that the country is in, its unique social system and its distinctive cultural characteristics have made it possible for China to present rich and diversified materials for sociopsychological studies, arousing the concern and interest of worldwide sociopsychologists. On the other hand, China’s social development under the background of increasing globalization calls for the guidance from the findings of sociopsychology more than ever. Therefore, I am determined to pursue sociopsychology as my future career objective under the hope that, by conducting penetrating researches on preeminent social phenomena, I can discover possible answers to some interesting social issues with which our society can examine itself with self-awareness and self-knowledge.

Sociology is a science aimed at studying how an individual’s personality and behavior are influenced by the social milieu of which he or she is a part by means of systematic and scientific methodologies. No other social sciences can parallel sociology in terms of the breadth of research and the multiplicity of perspectives. In the course of my undergraduate program at the Department of Sociology at Fudan University, I refused to be dominated like most of my classmates by the prevailing Marxist ideology that informs much of sociological education and research in China. I was only ready to acknowledge Marxism as one of numerous schools of sociological thought, with its inherent strengths as well as weaknesses. By learning such important and enlightening courses as Western Sociology and Social Psychology and immersing in technical literature as well as soliciting rewarding instructions from knowledgeable professors, I came to develop a comprehensive understanding of most schools of sociology, their research paradigms, and their perspectives. My education in sociology has armed me with unique visions which, to my pleasant surprise, enable me to examine diverse social phenomena from wholly novel angles and to interpret their underlying significance. In this process, my speculative faculty is considerably enhanced.

As an undergraduate, I have made conscious attempts to strengthen and improve my sociological thinking and research capability. Drawing guidelines from the course The Practice of Social Research, I did some scholarship in which I completed a series of research reports. The first social research project that I launched was a university-wide survey study regarding students’ views on love, marriage and procreation. In analyzing the statistics gleaned from questionnaires, I developed some insights into genuine scholarly procedures. My B.A. thesis, entitled Hiding the Kiss—A Research in Nanjing City on a Parental Folkway, presents a comprehensive analysis concerning the reasons for most Chinese parents’ refusal to kiss in the presence of their children by offering explanations based on Chinese historical tradition, moral and ethical values, as well as cultural taboos. My thesis is a venture into a little-studied realm and my focus on parents (independent variable) instead of on children as frame of reference is a wholly novel practice. The thesis received highly positive ratings from my advisor for its forceful argumentation and well-reasoned conclusion. My research is valuable not so much academically as empirically in that those activities involved me in searching for and applying right tools and methodologies of sociological study, an experience which will produce beneficial effects on my more ambitious academic efforts in the future.

My 4-year undergraduate program must be described as very successful. Scholastically, I achieved an almost unparalleled GPA between 3.7 and 3.8, winning scholarships for four consecutive years. My extracurricular performance is equally impressive. My English proficiency has enabled me to pass Grade 4 and Grade 6 National English Tests, the most difficult tests for non-English majors, and to obtain 3rd prize in a nationwide English contest for college students. My composition The Piano was collected in Excellent English Essays by Students from Key Universities. As a student of sociology, I realize the importance of knowing the society and I chose to do my internships as a journalist for Nanjing metropolitan newspaper Weekend, a position which allowed me to cover extensively on major social issues in present-day China. At The First International Chinese Media Forum held in Nanjing in 2000, I served as a volunteer and organized a gather-together between The Forum Newspaper from Taiwan and Nanjin University, allowing alumni across Taiwan Straits to meet. A girl with a strong sense of social obligation, I am a member of our university’s Red Cross Association and have registered for potential marrow donation.

Based on considerations of my personal belief and my strong interest in sociological study, I file this Personal Statement in an effort to apply for a Ph.D. program in sociopsychology from your prestigious university to receive professional trainings necessary for making me into a well-trained potential sociopsychologist. The massive social and economic transformations of the contemporary Chinese society have posed serious challenges to traditional moral values. Torn between conflicting values and faced with new social problems, a large number of Chinese people display unprecedented anxieties, sense of displacement (or misplacement) and rootlessness, bewilderment and major confusions. Amid such an overwhelming chaotic condition, sociology in general and sociopsychology in particular promise to furnish them with a sense of order and orientation. Unfortunately, disproportionate to the complexity of the sociological issues, sociology as a formal discipline is one of the last to develop in contemporary China. This immaturity, plus the ideological constraints within Chinese political context, have prevented the research findings and research methodologies of Chinese sociologists from being generally recognized by the mainstream sociological profession in the West. By contrast, the United States, with its maximum sociocultural pluralism and inclusiveness, constitutes an ideal environment for acquiring first-rate education and carrying out advanced researches by making full advantage of its academic resources. Another advantage for doing sociological research in the United States is that in this melting pot I will be exposed to people from different countries and to their distinctive cultures. It can be predicted that, in its sharp contrast with the Oriental culture, the modern and pluralistic social backgrounds of the United Stated will sensitize me to some of the matters that would be otherwise inconspicuous to me, thereby deepening my understanding of my home country. Most importantly, I can develop an international perspective in my future scholarship, a unique perspective which will permit me to penetrate into some important aspects underlying Chinese social problems and make unique contributions to the development of China’s sociopsychological enterprise.

An additional motivation underlying my application is my desire to overcome the fatal flaws I have encountered in my past education. In consulting relevant technical literature for doing my current project The Changing Patterns of Marriage and Family amid the Conflicts between Traditional Chinese Culture and Modern Western Civilization, I find that the extant scholarship in sociology is rather narrow-ranged, lacking theoretical profundity and insufficient in comparative and cross-disciplinary studies. In terms of methodology, the existing researches are more static than dynamic, more short-term than long-term, more qualitative than quantitative, more general than specific, scanty in evidence and imprecise in analysis. In your Ph.D. program, I will first of all immerse myself in standard literature and then assist my prospective supervisor in his or her research projects, acquiring standardized research methods and trying to apply advanced research models and paradigms. Under the guidance of my supervisor, I will choose a topic that pertains to both Chinese and American sociological contexts and conduct a comparative study over it, with the hope of unraveling the deep implications of a specific sociological issue on psychological levels. This will make for my Ph.D. dissertation.

Stanford University enjoys a top three overall ranking in the United States and top ranking in the field of sociopsychology. With such an unparalleled academic reputation, Stanford University justifiably attracts me as the top priority in my selection. Its research-intensive program, closely integrated with case studies and internship, will endow me with all the requisite professional qualities for a well-educated sociopsychologist. I am convinced that such a program will enable me to set sail into an entirely new academic horizon.

 


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