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- Resources Writing a Successful Statement of Purpose
Writing a Successful Grad School Statement of Purpose Tips, Tricks and Expert Guidance for Top-Tier Statements of Purpose
In addition to previous academic records, research interests, GPAs and work experience, statements of purpose serve as an important tool in helping graduate admissions panels get to know prospective students. While these documents may seem straightforward initially, students can help themselves stand out from the pack by writing incisive, thoughtful statements that stay true to themselves but also demonstrate an understanding of the university and its mission. Use this guide to learn what academic departments look for, how to structure a winning statement, and what our expert has to say on the matter.
- What is a Statement of Purpose?
What Do Grad Schools Want?
- 12 Tips for Writing a Stellar Statement
Sample Statement of Purpose
- Additional Resources
The Statement of Purpose Explained
The statement of purpose can seem like a vague concept when students are first introduced to it, and many may question whether they are fulfilling the requirements fully and adequately. Because confusion continues to swirl around statements of purpose, we asked Melinda Maxwell, director of graduate admissions at the University of North Georgia, to share answers to some of the most common questions students pose about this process.
“The statement of purpose gives an applicant the opportunity to express non-quantifiable characteristics for consideration to an admissions committee,” Maxwell notes. “This may include the applicant's personal or professional strengths and goals or passion for career fields related the academic program.” She goes on to explain that, for the admission committee, the statement provides great benefit. “Graduate school is rigorous, and admission is often competitive,” she says. “They want to select students who are not only academically qualified, but also show commitment to achieving success in the program from start to finish.”
Before ever sitting down to write or outline a statement of purpose, students need to ensure they thoroughly read any and all instructions or guidance provided by the school. If, after making sure they haven’t missed any details, they still need clarification, they can contact an admissions officer to receive specific answers to their questions.
“Expound upon why you want to achieve this degree and how you intend to use it, and include any personal, educational or professional experiences you have that would relate to the course content and research,” encourages Maxwell. “Answer the question: ‘Why should we choose you for admission to this program?’”
While schools like to see unique the unique skills, passions, talents and interests of prospective students, these learners must also be judicial in deciding which details may be interesting but ultimately unsuitable for the statement of purpose. While the summer you spent teaching English to adults in Slovakia is fascinating, your recipe for fail-proof chili isn’t.
“A personal statement is, well, more personal,” Maxwell says. “It's your voice telling who you are and why you are passionate about achieving the degree.” Most programs will ask for one or the other, she adds. “I encourage students to reflect their desire and propensity for success in either format. That being said, personal statements should include characteristics about you as an individual — separate from what they ascertain about how you perform as a student from your transcripts and recommendations.”
It’s imperative that students write their statements of purpose to guard against any type of plagiarism or ethical issues, but that doesn’t mean they can’t ask for help along the way. Schedule time to sit down with former professors, mentors or supervisors to help get a clearer sense of your strongest attributes. Once written, allow time for trusted friends or family to provide feedback on content, style and syntax.
As will be discussed thoroughly in this guide, one of the most important things students can do to write a winning statement of purpose is to stay focused on their story, interests and unique qualities. While this remains true, applicants must also consider how to structure and present their SOP in a way that appeals to the needs and values of the school to which they apply. The following section highlights what schools do and don’t want to see in a statement of purpose.
What Grad Schools Do Want to See
- “We want to know why a student is pursuing admission to this particular program,” Maxwell explains. Students who apply to countless programs without giving much thought to the unique qualities of the school itself often fall short of the institution’s expectations.
- “We look for wording and language showing evidence that the applicant thoroughly and carefully researched the program,” she says. It’s one thing to focus on the values and mission of the school itself, but many graduate departments also have independent personalities and methods of operating. Students who tap into these qualities and highlight why they want to be in such an environment often leave a more lasting impression on admissions experts.
- “Applicants should strive to illustrate why it’s a mutually beneficial fit, including drawing clear connections between the degree and any of their future goals,” encourages Maxwell. Many students forget that statements of purpose need to be future-focused rather than dwelling too much on the past. Admissions experts want to know about the experiences that made you the person you are today, but they also need to see that you have a plan for the degree you gain from their institution.
- “Many students forget the simple step of clearly outlining what they are willing to commit to the program,” Maxwell notes. In the same way that universities lay out their curriculum and list of steps for moving through the program, students should provide a clear sense of what they plan to bring to the degree and how they hope to be an asset to the department and their peers.
What They Don’t Want to See
- “We do not want to see poor writing or grammar,” Maxwell says. Applications and statements of purpose offer prospective students the first chance to demonstrate their passion for academics and seriousness about graduate education. Those who make careless errors tell the admissions panel that they aren’t taking the process seriously.
- “Similarly, lackadaisical statements of purpose will be dismissed,” she says. Having read thousands of statements of purpose during their time in higher education, admissions experts can easily spot one that hasn’t been properly thought out.
- “We also want to see students who understand how to maximize character limits to reflect substance,” Maxwell adds. Because many SOP forms have word limits, students must know how to succinctly and clearly convey their interests and passions within a structured space.
12 Tips for Writing a Stellar SOP
After filling out numerous applications, some students start paying less attention to specific instructions and instead move into autopilot mode. It’s important to remember that individual schools seek different information, so pay close attention to the prompt at hand.
Admission panels read thousands of applications each year, so students must find innovative ways to uniquely share their story to stand out from the pack. Instead of simply talking about the importance of sports or travel in your life, share your distinctive recollections or accomplishments.
Many students believe simply stating their accomplishments or activities will impress readers, but far too often they forget to qualify or quantify what they’ve done to provide context. Rather than saying you worked at a summer camp, be sure to include information such as how long, how many children, how you spent your days and any commendations you received.
In the same way that colleges and universities want students to share matchless information about themselves, they also want to see that students recognize the unique qualities of the school. Spend time with the institution’s vision plan and statement of values before writing your statement of purpose.
While it’s important that readers get a sense of your personality and motivations, it’s equally important that they understand the academic side of you. Don’t shy away from talking about what you learned during your undergraduate degree and how you hope to build on that knowledge in graduate school.
If you didn’t move directly from your baccalaureate program into a graduate degree, make sure you talk about how you used that time off — especially if you continued working on the skills you hope to further hone while in school. Discuss how any jobs, volunteer experiences or research contributed to your future.
It’s not enough to say you want to study your given topic, you must go into the specifics of the degree. As an example, students hoping to pursue a history degree should discuss specific eras, methodologies or frameworks that serve as inspirations.
Many students leave their statement of purpose until the last minute, as they feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. Even though it can feel intimidating to condense your life into 500 words, get started with plenty of time to spare so you aren’t scrambling the day before the application deadline.
Perfection rarely takes place on the first attempt, so don’t be afraid to write several drafts of your SOP. If you’re unsure of what you want to focus on in the statement, write a few versions and then see what themes or information keeps appearing. Focus on that topic and cut anything that feels irrelevant.
A quick Google search provides hundreds of sample SOPs for students who learn best by seeing examples. Read through a few to get an idea of writing style, structure and tone before you begin the process.
After getting the SOP to a point where you feel reasonably good about the content, consider asking a few people who you trust and respect to review the document. Examples include family, previous professors, mentors or supervisors. These readers can often provide perspective on whether the statement adequately conveys your abilities and passions.
More than a few students have labored endlessly over their SOPs only to find a careless typo or grammatical error — after the document has already been submitted. Read over your SOP several times and ask multiple people to review the document for any mistakes.
Having reviewed the many tips and tricks for writing a stellar statement of purpose, many students may feel antsy to start the process. It’s important for students to keep an eye on the overarching requirements while also ensuring they provide specific examples throughout the statement, says University of North Georgia’s Melinda Maxwell. “To begin with, students need to make sure they answer any specific questions and stay within set character or page limits,” advises Maxwell. She also reminds students of the importance of starting strong with the first paragraph. “The first paragraph should make an impact, allowing the reader to get to know you,” she explains. “Use the next section to discuss goals, relevance, commitment or drive before closing with a summary of information presented.”
If you feel overwhelmed by the task, remember to tap your resources for help. “Lots of higher education institutions offer free services to students and alumni, including graduate school application prep,” she says. “Have a professional read your statement and provide feedback prior to submission; if this service isn’t readily available, reach out to a former professor or mentor from your undergraduate experience and ask if they will agree to a review.”
Within this first section, students need to clearly and concisely let readers know what they hope to accomplish by completing this degree. For historians, their goal may be to earn a Ph.D. that allows them to move into a postsecondary teaching role upon graduation. For biologists, they may want to use the degree as a springboard for a meaningful research position. Whatever the reason, panels need to understand what you hope to do both generally and specifically. While the goal of the historian may be a teaching role, they need to provide specific examples such as time periods, methodologies or frameworks they hope to study to prepare them for specific teaching roles.
This is the space where students need to clearly define their experiences up until this point in their life and connect those experiences with their desire to pursue a graduate degree. Schools want to see that you have a strong, grounded reason for pursuing advanced education, as those who don’t often find that they aren’t prepared for the rigors of graduate school. Individuals working within business may find themselves hitting a ceiling and discover that the next logical step for them involves an MBA. Meanwhile, those working in political science may discover that a master’s in public policy helps them get to the next rung on the latter. Regardless of your field, use this paragraph to passionately express your intense focus on meeting goals.
Not all schools require this section in their statements of purpose, but those that do want to see that students possess a good command of the discipline before admitting them. Students can use this section to highlight any books or studies that motivated them to pursue higher education. They can also discuss specific frameworks and/or methodologies they hope to study while enrolled.
As discussed by Maxwell earlier in this guide, admissions panels want to see that students understand how their goals and interests align with the department’s vision and values. Some students decide to highlight a few professors in the department with whom they would like to study under, while others discuss the accomplishments of alumni they respect and want to emulate. Many paths exist to highlight individualized programmatic interest, and students can use this space to creatively demonstrate their knowledge of the school and department to impress the admissions officers — so long as they connect it back to their goals.
Having laid out your case from various angles and made sure to hit all the points required by the school, the final paragraph provides you the space to succinctly cover all the high points once more and wrap up the statement with a neat finish. While it’s important to restate the most important aspects of yourself and your goals, be sure to keep this section short since it contains no new information.
More on Grad School SOPs
7 Successful Statement of Purpose Examples: PrepScholar shares a sampling of winning statements of purpose from grad students who aced this portion of the application.
10 Tips on How to Write a Statement of Purpose: The University of Southern California provides an institutional perspective on what it looks for in the best SOPs.
13 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Personal Statement: Writing a sound statement of purpose becomes much easier when you know what not to do in the process. Check out Magoosh’s article for advice.
The Definitive Guide to Unbox Statement of Purpose Writing: This exhaustive article by Edusson offers a step-by-step plan for writing a top-tier statement of purpose.
Kisses of Death in the Graduate School Application Process: This academic paper written by professors at Indiana University and Idaho State University highlights five categories of mistakes commonly seen on grad school applications.
Statement of Purpose Guidelines: MIT’s graduate school provides a comprehensive list of steps students can take when creating their statement of purpose.
Things to Avoid in Your Grad School Statement of Purpose: EssayEdge discusses some of the errors students usually make during this process and provides tips on avoiding them.
What to Cover in Your Graduate Statement of Purpose: Students feeling overwhelmed by their options when it comes to what can they include in the SOP can get help narrowing their options by reading this article.
Write a Graduate School Essay that Will Knock Their Socks Off: Peterson’s reviews some of the best approaches students can take if they want to provide a truly memorable statement of purpose.
Writing a Winning Statement of Purpose: The psychology department at San Jose State University shares its tips for creating a statement of purpose that results in an acceptance letter.
Writing the Statement of Purpose
The statement of purpose should convince readers– the faculty on the selection committee– that you have solid achievements behind you that show promise for your success in graduate study. Think of the statement of purpose as a composition with four different parts.
Make sure to check on the appropriate departmental website to find out if your statement should include additional or specific information.
Part 1: Introduce yourself, your interests and motivations
Tell them what you’re interested in, and perhaps, what sparked your desire for graduate study. This should be short and to the point; don’t spend a great deal of time on autobiography.
Part 2: Summarize your undergraduate and previous graduate career
a) Research you conducted. Indicate with whom, the title of the project, what your responsibilities were, and the outcome. Write technically, or in the style of your discipline. Professors are the people who read these statements.
b) Important paper or thesis project you completed, as well as anything scholarly beyond your curricular requirements.
c) Work experience, especially if you had any kind of responsibility for testing, designing, researching or interning in an area similar to what you wish to study in graduate school.
Part 3: Discuss the relevance of your recent and current activities
If you graduated and worked prior to returning to grad school, indicate what you’ve been doing: company or non-profit, your work/design team, responsibilities, what you learned. You can also indicate here how this helped you focus your graduate studies.
Part 4: Elaborate on your academic interests
Here you indicate what you would like to study in graduate school in enough detail to convince the faculty that you understand the scope of research in their discipline, and are engaged with current research themes.
a) Indicate the area of your interests. Ideally, pose a question, define a problem, or indicate a theme that you would like to address, and questions that arise from contemporary research. This should be an ample paragraph!
b) Look on the web for information about departments you’re interested in, including professors and their research. Are there professors whose research interests parallel yours? If so, indicate this. Check the specific program; many may require you to name a professor or professors with whom you might work.
c) End your statement in a positive manner, indicating your excitement and readiness for the challenges ahead of you.
1. What the admissions committee will read between the lines: self-motivation, competence, potential as a graduate student.
2. Emphasize everything from a positive perspective and write in an active, not a passive voice.
3. Demonstrate everything by example; don’t say directly that you’re a persistent person, show it.
4. If there is something important that happened to you that affected your grades, such as poverty, illness, or excessive work, state it. Write it affirmatively, showing your perseverance despite obstacles. You can elaborate more in your personal statement.
5. Make sure everything is linked with continuity and focus.
6. Unless the specific program says otherwise, be concise; an ideal essay should say everything it needs to with brevity. Approximately 500 to 1000 well-selected words (1-2 single space pages in 12 point font) is better than more words with less clarity and poor organization.
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How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School
When writing your statement of purpose for graduate school, focus on your specific plans and how the graduate program and its faculty will help you meet these goals. Graduate study is not for slackers. It takes focus and determination to pursue an advanced degree. That's why admissions committees examine your statement of purpose (also called a letter of intent or research statement) very closely—they want to see whether you have the right stuff to succeed in grad school. Follow these tips to write an effective graduate school statement of purpose.
1. Know what grad schools are really asking.
Different grad school programs have different prompts. Nonetheless, they're all asking for the same four pieces of information:
- What you want to study at graduate school?
- Why you want to study it?
- What experience you have in your field?
- What you plan to do with your degree once you have it?
Admissions committees look for candidates with clear, well-defined research interests that arise from experience. With that in mind, your statement of purpose should reveal that you care deeply about your chosen discipline and that you have the background to support your ideas and sentiments. It should also demonstrate that you're a diligent student who will remain committed for the long haul. Always answer the question asked of you. Being substantive and direct is much better than being creative or flashy.
2. Be selective about the details you include.
Grad schools don’t care that you make a great chicken casserole or play intramural bocce ball. They do care about those activities that speak to your suitability for graduate work. As a graduate student, you'll be called upon to do difficult coursework and research. You may have to teach undergraduate classes within your field and conceivably even design a course. And you'll have to get along with a diverse group of colleagues who will sometimes work very closely with you. Any experience in school, work, or your extracurricular life that speaks to those abilities is worth talking about.
Read More: 5 Tips for Choosing a Grad School
3. Make your statement of purpose unique.
While it's important to be focused, there's no need to be boring. To distinguish your essay, add unique (yet relevant) information. One of the best ways to do this is to discuss—briefly—an idea in your field that turns you on intellectually. It's an effective essay-opener, and it lets you write about something besides yourself for a bit.
Remember, the idea you choose to talk about can tell an admissions committee a lot about you. And it demonstrates your interest in your field, rather than just describing it.
4. Ask for feedback.
Be sure to show your statement of purpose to someone you respect, preferably the professors who are writing your recommendations, and get some feedback on the content before you send it in. Have someone else proofread your essay for spelling and grammar. A fresh set of eyes often picks up something you missed.
Finally, don't just reuse the same statement of purpose for each school to which you apply. You can recycle the same information, but make sure you change the presentation to fit each individual program.
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Writing your academic statement of purpose.
What is it?
Each applicant must submit an academic statement of purpose (ASOP). The ASOP is one of your primary opportunities to help the admissions committee understand your academic objectives and determine if you are a good match for the program you are applying to. The goal of this document is to impress upon the admissions committee that you have a solid background and experience in your area of interest and that you have the potential to be successful in graduate study.
The ASOP is also a place, if necessary, where you can (and should) address any blemishes, gaps, or weaknesses in your academic record. In these situations, you will want to be honest, but brief. It is best to turn negatives into positives by focusing on how you overcame obstacles, remained persistent in the pursuit of your goals, and showed resilience. Share what you learned from the particular experience, and how it led you to become a better researcher/scholar/person, etc.
Why is it important?
The ASOP is one of the most important pieces of your graduate school application because it:
- Gives the reviewers an understanding of your academic background and interests.
- Allows you to illustrate in your own words what sets you apart from other applicants.
- Helps them determine if you are a good match for the program to which you are applying.
- Shows your communication style and ability.
Information to Include
Introduce yourself and your academic interests.
- Provide simple background information on your area of interest and how it became of particular interest to you.
- Here you can also share with them how and why you decided to pursue a graduate degree in this field.
Describe your academic background, preparation, and training
- Skills you have learned from academic, lab, or research experiences (e.g., undergraduate coursework, research opportunities, scholarly writings, jobs in the field, presentations, etc.). Whenever possible, give specific examples and illustrate the points you are making, don’t just simply tell them.
- Research you conducted – project title or focus, research mentor, your specific role, what you learned and the outcome. If there were challenges, don’t be afraid to mention what you learned from them. This shows persistence and resilience in the face of adversity– these are also things they are looking for!
- Important papers or thesis project you completed, as well as anything scholarly beyond your academic degree requirements.
- Relevant work or internship experience as related to the field you are applying to.
Show them you are making an informed decision
- Indicate what you would like to study in graduate school in enough detail to convince the faculty that you understand the scope of research in the discipline and are aware of research trends.
- Show them that you have thoroughly researched the program, its faculty, and research focus areas, and why you are applying to this program specifically. This will help you write a more informed essay that is relatable to the faculty who will be reviewing your application.
- Describe why you are a good fit for the program and why the program is a good fit for you.
- If there are specific faculty you are interested in working with, check the program’s ASOP instructions and determine how best to mention this in your essay. Some programs require you to name a professor(s) with whom you would like to work.
- Are there any aspects of the program that are of particular interest to you (immersion program, opportunities for collaboration with others outside of the institution, research centers associated with the program, etc.)?
- Include information that is important to you outside of the program – supportive environment for first-year students, access to amazing literary resources, opportunities to participate in professional/career development programming, etc.
- Professional goals – you may wish to outline what you plan to do after you complete the program as a way of underscoring the importance of your choice to pursue graduate study.
- Share any extracurricular opportunities you have had that show leadership, ability to work with a diverse group of people, teaching skills, etc.
- Research degree applicants should identify specific faculty members whose research interests align with your own interests.
Important Things to Remember
- Pay attention and follow instructions very carefully – every program is different and some have specific items/topics they want you to address.
- Unless otherwise noted, this is an academically focused essay, not necessarily a personal essay. You will likely add some personal details here and there, but be sure to keep the focus on your academic background and future potential.
- Proofread and pay close attention to details – they really matter!
- Have others from a variety of perspectives read your essay before you submit it – they should be looking at it in terms of content, style, and grammar. Remember, those outside of your field can provide you with valuable perspective and feedback.
- Keep in mind that you can continue editing your ASOP after you have submitted it to programs with earlier deadlines.
Length, Format and Tone
- Unless otherwise noted one to two pages in a standard font and size is typical.
- Include your full name and proposed program of study at the top of each page – if faculty are not reading an electronic version of your essay, pages can become separated.
- Write with confidence and in an active voice – doing this makes your sentences clear and less wordy/complicated.
- Language should be positive and focused. Since faculty are the ones reviewing your application, it is fine to use discipline-specific terminology, tone, and style in your ASOP.
- Described your academic background in enough detail to show your experience and preparedness in the field?
- Shown that you are a good fit for the program you are applying to?
- Defined why you want a graduate degree in this field?
- Demonstrated that you are self-motivated, persistent, competent, and have the skills necessary to be successful in graduate school?
- Followed the ASOP instructions as defined by the program you are applying to?
- Polished, proofread, and had others review your ASOP?
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Statement of Purpose Format for Graduate School (SOP)
When it comes to applying to graduate school, there are many things students must prepare, including a graduate school recommendation letter and graduate school CV.
However, the most important element in your graduate school admissions package is the Statement of Purpose, also known at many universities as the “personal statement.”
In this article, you will learn why the Statement of Purpose is so important for graduate school admissions, how the Statement of Purpose format differs from college application essay formats , and how to format a successful Statement of Purpose for graduate school–with examples!
Table of Contents
What is a statement of purpose.
- How to Format a Statement of Purpose
- Statement of Purpose Format and Structure
- Statement of Purpose Sample Examples
In graduate school applications, a statement of purpose (SOP) (or personal statement) is the one part of the application that allows applicants to construct a narrative of their choosing that includes all relevant parts of their academic and personal histories. This includes academic and professional interests and accomplishments, personality, values, and worldview, as well as how both the student and graduate program can add value to each other.
Difference between the Statement of Purpose and college admissions essays
At the graduate school level, students often have years of research and academic experience. In the case of MBA programs, applicants also often have years of work experience they can include in their essays.
- How to write an effective MBA admissions essay
This makes graduate school admission essays or personal statements distinct from undergraduate application essays. Graduate school applicants have a significant amount of material and context with which to differentiate themselves and stand apart from other applicants. The scope (how much is covered) and depth (how detailed the experiences are) are both much more complex for a Statement of Purpose.
Do I need to write a Statement of Purpose for college?
The graduate Statement of Purpose allows applicants to summarize non-quantifiable qualities for consideration by an admissions committee. This may include an applicant’s personal or professional strengths, as well as goals or passion for certain subjects.
The graduate school application process is often competitive. In addition to being academically qualified, students must demonstrate a commitment to the program. Remember, one concern graduate programs have is that students will drop out and not continue to pay tuition.
Effect of Covid-19 on the Statement of Purpose
COVID-19 has reduced the feasibility of standardized testing, and there are increased concerns by wider society over the equitable nature of standardized testing in general.
For example, NYU Stern School of Business on June 15th became the fourth top-25 business school to announce that its full-time MBA program would not consider the GMAT or GRE any longer .
Further, Michael Hunt, director of the University of Maryland McNair Scholars Program has gone on record stating that
“[My] goal is to “remove barriers and not maintain obstacles under the guise of academic freedom or other university policies. I pray that one day, we will not need committees or a pandemic to determine if something is equitable.”
This leaves the Statement of Purpose, academic background, resume/CV , and letters of recommendation as the primary determinants of graduate admission.
How long should a Statement of Purpose be?
Generally, a Statement of Purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words long and should not exceed a single page. But this can depend on the school or program to which you are applying, as well as on the extent of your academic experience.
Graduate Statement Of Purpose Format Guidelines
We have already covered how to write a Statement of Purpose for grad school (with examples).
Read over these resources and watch our Wordvice Webinar Series for how to write a winning Statement of Purpose :
General Statement of Purpose Formatting Rules
Unlike a college admissions essay, a grad school Statement of Purpose is generally not uploaded in a text box or input field in some platforms, as the Common Application essay is.
Applying to graduate school means applying directly to the graduate program and its parent department. Graduate programs are separate entities within their universities. Applying to the College of Arts & Sciences is different than applying to a university’s College of Engineering.
As a result, most graduate school applications are simply uploaded directly to the program. So, you will likely be uploading a Word .doc or Adobe .pdf file.
Microsoft Word (.DOC) format
Typical file types for a Statement of Purpose are .doc or .docx. There is a downside to Word files being editable, and there are sometimes conflicts among the different Word versions (2010 vs 2016. vs Office365). One benefit of Word files is that anyone can view them.
If maintaining the visual aspects of your essay is important, this is a safe choice. PDFs prevent formatting issues that might arise with older versions of Word documents.
To make the statement easier to read, applicants should follow the following rules:
- Use 1-inch margins . Microsoft Word uses this setting by default.
- Use a traditional Serif font. These types of fonts include Times New Roman, Courier, and Garamond and are the “classy” fonts you typically see. They add professionalism to your essay. Avoid minimalist sans Serif fonts.
- Use a standard 12-font size.
- Use 1.5- or double-spacing. Readability is very important for your Statement of Purpose. Double spaces are not an issue as the essay should already fit on 1 page.
- Add a Header with your First Name, Last Name, university, and other required information.
- Clearly separate your paragraphs. By default, just press ‘ENTER’ twice.
Additional Statement of Purpose Format Tips
- Review and Revise. Make sure your Statement of Purpose is formatted properly and error-free, including spelling and grammar errors. One great way to prepare your admissions essay is by using an application essay editing service that specializes in Statement of Purpose editing and personal statement editing .
- Write clearly and concisely.
- Avoid clichés and repetitive language.
- Avoid casual, colloquial, and text message-based formatting. This includes emojis and hashtags!
- Do not write a wall of text. Admissions counselors only skim statements of purpose . Make your writing readable by adding line breaks and separate paragraphs.
Statement of Purpose Format and Structure Outline
One of the most important characteristics of a strong Statement of Purpose is its structure. Layout the information in such a way that the reader can easily understand it. Well-organized statements keep readers interested.
In general, a Statement of Purpose should follow the format of an academic essay .
Introduction – State your goals and introduce yourself
The first section of the application should clearly and concisely explain what the student hopes to achieve by completing the program. For a history student, the goal may be to earn a PhD that allows them to take a historian position at a major non-profit institution or museum upon graduation. For a chemistry student, the goal may be to move into a postdoctoral research position at a major university with the hope of becoming a professor later.
Or perhaps an applicant has goals of going into the private sector. Regardless of the field of study, your professional experience, academic history, prior internships or jobs, and goals should be introduced here.
Tips for writing the Introduction for the Statement of Purpose
- Grab attention. Your introduction is the first impression you make on your reader.
- Write a compelling first sentence. Consider using an anecdote, quotation, or gripping personal story.
- Preview. The second half of your introduction should briefly preview the other sections of your Statement of Purpose.
Main Body – Academic and career history
In the first part of the body, you must support the idea of you being a qualified candidate with details about your academic and career history as well as examples of projects, accomplishments, and learning experiences.
Start with a brief history of your undergraduate experience and academic results. Then, move on to extracurricular, professional, and career experiences and achievements. As a graduate studies applicant, professional and career experiences will naturally be more diverse and therefore help you stand out.
You should of course emphasize your academic experience and grades. Mention how you took advantage of your university’s resources and if you developed any special relationships with professors–that is especially what PhD advisors are looking for!
In the second part of the body, support your assertions with examples.
Tips for writing about academic and career history and goals
- Interest in the program. Why are you interested in this particular graduate program?
- Academic goals. As a graduate student, you are entering into a research environment. What tangible research goals do you hope to achieve?
- Career and professional goals. What are your post-graduate plans? Specify if you have academic or private industry goals.
- Strengths and weaknesses. Give context to why and how you developed your strengths and weaknesses. Demonstrate self-awareness as to how your behaviors and personality affect others–collaboration and equity are huge concerns!
- Provide context, not a CV. Fit your achievements and experiences into your compelling narrative, not as standalone.
- Give examples. Extend your personal narrative with compelling examples. The more specific you are, the more convincing your narrative becomes. If you are applying to a program in statistics, write about your poker games with your grandpa and the moment you learned the power of weighted expected value.
Main Body – Why you are a fit for the program ?
Students’ goals and interests must align with the mission and values of a college or university when being considered for admissions. A common tactic is to highlight a few professors in the department, which demonstrates that the applicant has done the research, whereas other students discuss the accomplishments of prominent alumni they admire.
Students can use this space to create an impressive application by creatively demonstrating their knowledge of the school and department while matching it with their goals.
Tips for writing about fit with the program
- Align with the program . Use the university’s program description as a guide on how to align your Statement of Purpose with the graduate degree program. Refer to your experience in the context of the program.
- Community and culture. Nowadays, universities seek students who can be representatives of and contributors to their community. How do your history and goals fit into that program’s city, university, and culture?
- Your benefit to the program. You are not giving just your money and time to the graduate program; the admission committee wants to know what benefits you seek to get out of it. This is where you can reference specific departments and professors in the program and any academic contributions of theirs you are familiar with.
Conclusion – Summary
The conclusion must accomplish two goals: package everything together and leave the reader interested in knowing more. If you can accomplish the second part, you will likely get a passing grade on your Statement of Purpose.
Reflect on what attending the program would mean to you, both professionally and personally, as you give one final thought or insight. Write about both the impact you hope to have on the world and the impact attending the program would have on yourself.
Tips for writing the Statement of Purpose conclusion
- Keep it succinct. This section will usually contain no new information, so don’t repeat any information.
- (Re)State your value. You are your own best marketer here. Display confidence not just in your abilities but in your decision to apply and stick with your decision. You also bring a unique profile of academic, career, and personal experiences and goals. You may not gain admission, but make sure it’s because you’re not the right fit, NOT because your value was understated or misunderstood.
Statement of Purpose Format: Structure and Summary
Be sure to check our article on how to write a Statement of Purpose for grad school.
We also have recommendation letter templates and dozens of other useful resources to help you prepare your admissions essays.
If you need editing or proofreading, you can start by checking out our professional proofreading services , including admissions editing services , SOP editing services , and college and graduate essay editing services .
How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School
Congrats! You’ve chosen a graduate program , read up on tips for applying to grad school , and even wrote a focused grad school resumé . But if you’re like many students, you’ve left the most daunting part of the application process for last—writing a statement of purpose. The good news is, the task doesn’t have to feel so overwhelming, as long as you break the process down into simple, actionable steps. Below, learn how to write a strong, unique statement of purpose that will impress admissions committees and increase your chances of getting into your dream school.
What is a statement of purpose?
A statement of purpose (SOP), sometimes referred to as a personal statement, is a critical piece of a graduate school application that tells admissions committees who you are, what your academic and professional interests are, and how you’ll add value to the graduate program you’re applying to.
Jared Pierce, associate director of enrollment services at Northeastern University, says a strong statement of purpose can be the deciding factor in a graduate student’s admission.
“Your statement of purpose is where you tell your story about who you are and why you deserve to be a part of the [university’s] community. It gives the admissions committee the chance to get to know you and understand how you’ll add value to the classroom,” he says.
How long is a statement of purpose?
“A statement of purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words,” Pierce says, noting that it should typically not exceed a single page. He advises that students use a traditional font at a readable size (11- or 12-pt) and leave enough whitespace in the margins to make the statement easy-to-read. Make sure to double-space the statement if the university has requested it, he adds.
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Get your questions answered by our enrollment team.
How to Write a Statement of Purpose: A Step-by-Step Guide
Now that you understand how to format a statement of purpose, you can begin drafting your own. Getting started can feel daunting, but Pierce suggests making the process more manageable by breaking down the writing process into four easy steps.
1. Brainstorm your ideas.
First, he says, try to reframe the task at hand and get excited for the opportunity to write your statement of purpose. He explains:
“Throughout the application process, you’re afforded few opportunities to address the committee directly. Here is your chance to truly speak directly to them. Each student arrives at this process with a unique story, including prior jobs, volunteer experience, or undergraduate studies. Think about what makes you you and start outlining.”
When writing your statement of purpose, he suggests asking yourself these key questions:
- Why do I want this degree?
- What are my expectations for this degree?
- What courses or program features excite me the most?
- Where do I want this degree to take me, professionally and personally?
- How will my unique professional and personal experiences add value to the program?
Jot these responses down to get your initial thoughts on paper. This will act as your starting point that you’ll use to create an outline and your first draft.
2. Develop an outline.
Next, you’ll want to take the ideas that you’ve identified during the brainstorming process and plug them into an outline that will guide your writing.
An effective outline for your statement of purpose might look something like this:
- An attention-grabbing hook
- A brief introduction of yourself and your background as it relates to your motivation behind applying to graduate school
- Your professional goals as they relate to the program you’re applying to
- Why you’re interested in the specific school and what you can bring to the table
- A brief summary of the information presented in the body that emphasizes your qualifications and compatibility with the school
An outline like the one above will give you a roadmap to follow so that your statement of purpose is well-organized and concise.
3. Write the first draft.
Your statement of purpose should communicate who you are and why you are interested in a particular program, but it also needs to be positioned in a way that differentiates you from other applicants.
Admissions professionals already have your transcripts, resumé, and test scores; the statement of purpose is your chance to tell your story in your own words.
When you begin drafting content, make sure to:
- Provide insight into what drives you , whether that’s professional advancement, personal growth, or both.
- Demonstrate your interest in the school by addressing the unique features of the program that interest you most. For Northeastern, he says, maybe it’s experiential learning; you’re excited to tackle real-world projects in your desired industry. Or perhaps it’s learning from faculty who are experts in your field of study.
- Be yourself. It helps to keep your audience in mind while writing, but don’t forget to let your personality shine through. It’s important to be authentic when writing your statement to show the admissions committee who you are and why your unique perspective will add value to the program.
4. Edit and refine your work.
Before you submit your statement of purpose:
- Make sure you’ve followed all directions thoroughly , including requirements about margins, spacing, and font size.
- Proofread carefully for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
- Remember that a statement of purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words. If you’ve written far more than this, read through your statement again and edit for clarity and conciseness. Less is often more; articulate your main points strongly and get rid of any “clutter.”
- Walk away and come back later with a fresh set of eyes. Sometimes your best ideas come when you’re not sitting and staring at your computer.
- Ask someone you trust to read your statement before you submit it.
Making a Lasting Impression
Your statement of purpose can leave a lasting impression if done well, Pierce says. It provides you with the opportunity to highlight your unique background and skills so that admissions professionals understand why you’re the ideal candidate for the program that you’re applying to. If nothing else, stay focused on what you uniquely bring to the classroom, the program, and the campus community. If you do that, you’ll excel.
To learn more tricks and tips for submitting an impressive graduate school application, explore our related Grad School Success articles .
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in March 2017. It has since been updated for thoroughness and accuracy.
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Statement of Purpose Examples for Graduate School in
Including 9 sample statements of purpose that got multiple acceptances.
Article Contents 47 min read
Review these successful graduate school statement of purpose examples, expert tips, and strategies to help you create your own effective essay. The samples come from our own past students who got into multiple top graduate schools. Note that the students worked with our admissions experts as part of our application review programs to create these statements. The sample statements are the result of multiple rounds of reviews and hard work by our students. We hope they will serve as a starting roadmap for you.
Note : If you want us to help you with your applications, interviews and/or standardized tests, book a free strategy call . If you are a university, business, or student organization representative and want to partner with us, visit our partnerships page .
Listen to the blog!
A statement of purpose is an essential part of your application for a graduate program. While your academic transcripts and letters of reference reveal your academic credentials, your statement of purpose gives you the chance to present yourself as a candidate in a more well-rounded and compelling way. This is your opportunity to make yourself stand out as an applicant! Your preparation for writing and completing the statement of purpose is not unlike your preparations with graduate school interview questions - you need to leave yourself an ample amount of time to ace it.
Of course, each school is different, and you need to make sure you have checked the specific requirements of your chosen institutions before you begin writing your statement. But no matter which school you’re applying to, one thing is certain: a strong statement of purpose is crucial to your success!
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Statement of Purpose Example for Graduate School
Sample #1 (998 words).
“Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space.” I was 16 when I first read this quote by Mies van der Rohe, and, back then, I thought I really understood what it meant. Thinking of this quote one summer evening, as I walked around my beloved New York City, I was inspired to commit to a future in architecture. At that early stage, I cherished romantic ideals of designing grandiose buildings that would change a city; of adding my name to the list of architectural geniuses who had immortalized their vision of the world in concrete, steel, glass, and stone. It was in college that I became passionately interested in the theoretical design and engineering concepts that form the basis of architecture, while also exploring in greater detail the sociological and economic impact of architecture.
The true breakthrough for me took place in my sophomore year of college, when I was volunteering at The Bowery Mission, a women’s shelter situated in Queens, New York. The shelter was in a poorly ventilated building, with an essentially non-functioning air conditioning system. The little bit of relief for the people who stayed there was a small park nearby, a patch of green between suffocating buildings. One day when I was working the afternoon shift there in the peak of summer, I looked out to see bulldozers in the park. It was being torn up to make room for yet another building. I saw that completed building a year later – a grey block of steel that did not utilize any of the original park space. Witnessing this injustice, while learning every day about how climatology, materials technology, and engineering mechanics intersect with urban planning and architectural design, ignited a passion for sustainable design in me. [BeMo2] How can we, as architects, minimize our harm to communities and eco-systems? How can we design buildings with a view to sustain long-term energy and resource efficiency without sacrificing immediate economic viability? What are the eco-conscious solutions that architects can put forward to address the environmental changes of the 21st century? These were the questions that plagued me then and I have pursued the answers to these questions throughout my academic career so far.
The statement of purpose provides the admissions committee with a way of understanding more about you as an applicant on a deeper level. The admissions committee already knows about your academic performance from your transcripts, but the statement of purpose gives them the opportunity to assess your suitability for their particular program and institution. Finding the right fit between an applicant and a graduate program is crucial for both parties, and your statement of purpose is your opportunity to explain to the admissions committee why you believe this graduate program is right for you.
With this in mind, it is important to use the statement of purpose as a way of showcasing what led you to the program in the first place, and what you hope to achieve if accepted. Here is what a successful statement of purpose should reveal about you to the admissions committee:
- Your motivation and capabilities. A strong statement of purpose should always make it clear why you feel compelled to apply to this specific program, and what you think both the program and the institution offer you in terms of both intellectual and professional development. If there is a specific reason that has led you to apply to this particular program or school – a faculty member you might like to work with, state-of-the-art libraries or labs, work placement opportunities, etc. – be sure to let the admissions committee know. You might also wish to mention aspects of the program’s curriculum or courses offered that are especially important to you, as this reveals your familiarity with the details of your chosen program.
- Your connection to your chosen field of study. The statement gives the admissions committee insight into the interests and experiences that have led you to apply to their program. It will also reveal how you think about contemporary issues in your chosen field of study, and how you approach the core problems of interest faced by current practitioners in the field. A good statement of purpose will leave the admissions committee with the sense that you will not be the only one who benefits if they accept you – they will also gain a valuable new addition to their academic community!
Before You Begin: Steps to Prepare
The key to great writing is great preparation. That is why you need to lay some groundwork before you even start drafting your statement of purpose. Here are the steps you need to take to prepare yourself.
Set aside the time. Preparing and writing a statement of purpose is not a quick undertaking. Proper preparation is a commitment, and you need to make sure you are setting aside enough time to complete the steps below. Since the statement itself will also require several drafts before reaching its final form, always keep in mind that this is not something to leave to the last minute! Ideally, you should give yourself 6-8 weeks to write your statement. Do yourself a favor by getting started on your preparations as early as you can, leaving yourself plenty of time to write and re-write your statement afterwards.
Research your school and program thoroughly . Visit the school’s website and pay close attention to any mission statements or explicit values that are stated. Visit the pages dedicated to your department and program of choice to glean clues regarding their academic culture. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the research specialties of the faculty members. Make note of any faculty members whose research interests align with yours, as they could potentially serve as a supervisor or mentor.
Brainstorm how and why you would fit into the school and program . It’s not enough to want to attend a particular school just because of their good reputation or nice location. While learning about the school, its faculty, and your program of choice, you should be constantly reflecting upon how and why you would fit in as a member of that community. These reflections will prove crucially important when you write your statement.
Contact any potential mentors . If you have discovered a faculty member whose work sounds intriguing to you, reach out to them to introduce yourself and your own research interests. Forming a direct connection with a faculty member could significantly boost your candidacy, especially if the faculty member is willing to consider playing a supervisory role in your work. A faculty member will also be able to answer any questions you may have about your common research interests, and how you could explore those further within the program.
Make a list of any requirements/suggestions offered by the school for your statement of purpose . As noted above, every school is different, and each program is unique. Make sure you understand the specifics of what they are looking for in a statement of purpose, e.g. length, emphasis, any required formatting guidelines. The more closely you follow their guidelines, the less prone you will be to making errors in terms of structure or formatting. Many graduate schools will provide prompts to make your writing process easier. Make sure to read the prompt carefully. While these tend to be very open-ended, they can provide clues as to what the admissions committee expects to see in your statement.
If in doubt, ask . If you are in doubt about what the school expects from your statement of purpose, ask for clarification from an appropriate authority at the school. Remember that each institution’s website and admissions office is there to help clear up any uncertainty you may have about deadlines and requirements. Seek clarification if you are not sure about something.
Get your materials in order before you write. Before you begin writing, you need to make sure you have everything you need for your reference close at hand. Make sure you have copies of your academic transcripts and your CV for graduate school within easy reach, to help jog your memory about specific courses or achievements you wish to include in your statement of purpose. You might also wish to keep nearby any useful information you have about the program and its faculty, for quick reference when you need it.
If you also need to prepare a CV, check out our video for tips:
Make some notes. Sitting and staring at a blank page can be a little intimidating. That’s why having some useful notes can make writing the actual statement much easier! Go over your reference materials and make a short list of which experiences and achievements you would especially like to highlight in your statement. Note down specific examples for achievements whenever possible. Brainstorm your strengths and weaknesses beforehand, and how they relate to the program. The better your prep notes are, the more straightforward writing your statement will be.
After researching the program, you have an idea of their mission and culture. Think of your accomplishments and strengths in relation to what you know about the school. Jot down any relevant experiences or events that might make a great narrative for your statement for that particular school.
Once you have completed the research and preparation steps outlined above, you will be ready to start drafting your statement of purpose. Remember: each school is different, so make sure you know exactly what their requirements are before you begin! You should not start writing until you are sure you have done all of the necessary prep work and know exactly what is expected of you.
When you are ready to write, take a moment to review the length requirements. A statement of purpose is typically between 500 to 1,000 words long, which means that you must make a special effort to convey as much meaningful information about yourself as you can within this relatively small word limit. The statement of purpose should usually have four main sections, but you can avoid explicitly separating the four sections and opt for the more natural flow of a letter instead. If, however, your program explicitly asks for a certain format, be sure to give them what they ask for!
Structuring your statement
A strong statement of purpose is one that has a clear structure. You need to ensure that the information is laid out in a way that makes it easy for the reader to follow. A well-organized statement keeps the reader engaged!
The structure of a statement of purpose should follow the general structure of an academic essay:
Introduction. Your introduction is the first impression you make on your reader, and we all know how important first impressions are! You need to grab your reader’s attention by briefly introducing yourself and why you are excited to apply to this program. Write in a clear, enthusiastic manner and capture the reader’s attention right away with a compelling first sentence. Whether you choose to open your statement with an anecdote, a quotation, or jolt the reader with a gripping personal fact, ponder what kind of an opening statement would make a reader stay with you to the end. Your opening sentence can often make or break your essay, so keep in might that a stiff or sloppy opening can dissuade the admissions committee members from reading the rest of your statement. The second half of your introduction should provide a brief snapshot of what you will cover in greater detail in the main body of your statement.
If you find yourself struggling to write your introduction, set it aside until you have written the body and conclusion of your statement. Writing your introduction will become easier once you have a better sense of your statement as a whole, since you will then know how the introduction could tie it all together.
Main body of the statement. The main body of your statement should highlight 2-3 formative experiences that you have had. In these sections you will address the four main elements – your focused interest in the program, academic/professional preparation, your strengths/weaknesses, and your career plans – which we will be looking at in more detail in the next section. Throughout these sections, it is important to always make sure you are crafting a compelling narrative about your experiences and interests, not just providing a dull list of your accomplishments or goals without any context. You should not just be repeating your academic CV!
As ever, you need to be specific, as giving examples and explaining why your experiences matter and what you have learned from them takes your statement to the next level. The more specific you are, the more convincing you become as a candidate. Remember, it’s more important to show why you are a great candidate, rather than simply talk about it. For example, if you are applying to a graduate program in philosophy with intent to study the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, you can discuss a seminar or monograph that led you to pursue the study of German Idealism. Talk about how the seminar shaped your worldview and what kind of skills you learned. Did it strengthen your analytical skills? Did it make you question Western ethics? Has it changed how you view the history of the first half of the 20th century? Whatever you choose to write about, use solid examples to create a compelling narrative.
Conclusion. Your conclusion needs to tie everything together and should leave the reader wanting to know more about you. Try to leave your reader with one last compelling thought or insight as you reflect upon what enrolling in the program would mean to you, both personally and professionally. You could speak about the current challenges faced by experts in your discipline, and your own eagerness to become more involved in contributing to the field. For example:
“The underrepresentation of minorities in higher levels of government continues to pose major challenges for experts attempting to make senior roles more accessible to all. Through my studies on the relationship between ethnicity and barriers to political participation, I hope to discover various new strategies that could help to address this enduring imbalance.”
Your conclusion might also be a good place to address your career plans, as it ends the statement by looking to the future. You could end by specifying how the program will help you achieve your professional goals: “Completing my proposed Master’s thesis on the desertification caused by climate change will help me hone the research, writing, and analytical skills needed to excel in my career in environmental advocacy.” Leave the reader convinced that you are committed to learning and growing, and that you are absolutely prepared for this next step in your academic career.
A strong statement of purpose should include the following elements in the main body of the text:
While you don\u2019t necessarily have to have your entire life planned out already, showing the committee that you are capable of long-term thinking will help to create a favorable impression. Telling the committee about how you envision making the transition from school to the workforce shows them that you are choosing both your program and your career path with care. It also assures them that you are truly devoted to your discipline, and are committed to building a professional life for yourself related to your field of study. ","label":"Your career plans","title":"Your career plans"}]' code='tab1' template='BlogArticle'>
We will now take a look at each of these four elements in greater depth below, with some useful examples.
Examples of Focused Interest in the Field
Your statement of purpose also allows you to share your focused interest in the field of your choosing. In thinking about your particular intellectual and research interests, consider including some of the following elements:
- Problems of interest in the field that you find exciting or compelling . Introducing the contemporary problems of interest in your field of choice and why you find them intriguing is a great way of showing the admissions committee that you are familiar with the discussions in your field, and that you are fully ready to contribute to helping address those problems and issues in your own work and studies.
- Potential area of interest/research question you would like to pursue. Although it may sound obvious, a statement of purpose is based upon a purpose . A strong applicant knows what their purpose is, and that purpose is most clearly expressed in sharing the area of interest or research question that you wish to pursue in your studies. Let the admissions committee know what you would like to learn more about, and as ever, why. You don’t need to have a detailed research project already planned out – just sharing the paths you might wish to explore further shows the committee that are you in tune with your own intellectual curiosity and eager for opportunities to dig a little deeper. Keep in mind that you will be free to change your research focus once you are in the program if you wish, but that you should still have a strong potential interest at the time you apply! Your statement will be especially memorable if you can name a faculty member whose research interests reflect your own, and who might be someone you could work with during your studies.
- Your perspectives and intellectual influences . If you have ever encountered a teacher or scholar that has shaped your perspectives and influenced your intellectual pursuits, feel free to mention them. If there is a particular faculty member whose work you admire at the school you are applying to, then that’s a bonus! Either way, be sure to share your intellectual influences and what you have learned from them.
My interest in the Health Economics specialization option is a testament to my conviction that health is one of the most interesting and complex determinants of social welfare. In my experiences as a traveler, researcher, and student, I understand health policy to be one of the most defining characteristics of a national identity as well as the locus of key clashes between equity and efficiency. Health economic policy is the most interesting because it juxtaposes health care, in which universality and equality are perceived as dominant principles, against the rationality and efficiency considerations of an increasingly liberal global economic reality. Graduate studies in health economic policy is the ideal corollary to my academic, personal and social background. I am most keen to explore the relationship between economic and psychological models of human behavior to hopefully advance a more holistic social sciences perspective on why people act against their own self-interest when it comes to their health.
Examples of Academic & Professional Preparation
Your academic and professional preparation can take many forms, and that is why it is important to think carefully about the ways in which your path has given you the tools needed to succeed in the program of your choice. But note that the statement of purpose is not meant to be a recitation of your CV. Instead, the statement of purpose should be a narrative about why you took the steps you did and how it brought you to graduate school. Some examples that might apply include:
- Previous jobs, internships, or volunteering. If you have gained any valuable and relevant volunteer or work experience, be sure to mention it! For example, an applicant writing a statement for a public health program might want to mention how volunteering at a soup kitchen inspired her interest in the relationship between food insecurity and poor health outcomes in marginalized communities. You can also let the admissions committee know about any relevant technical skills you may have gained through these experiences as well.
- Research. If you already have some exposure to undertaking research projects of your own or if you have helped as an assistant on someone else’s research project, sharing what you have learned from such experiences could make an excellent addition to your statement. Research experiences that have shaped your interests and sharpened your abilities assure an admissions committee that you are ready to perform the necessary intellectual labor a graduate program demands. Also be sure to mention the important skills you have developed through completing research tasks! Such skills may include multi-tasking, finding and synthesizing relevant information, strengthening your communication skills through writing reports, or developing greater attention to detail.
- Teaching Assistantships. Just like the research assistantships mentioned above, a teaching assistantship that helped you gain valuable exposure to your field of choice and/or helped you to develop your mentorship skills may be worth mentioning in your statement. After all, a teaching assistantship is valuable work experience in an academic environment, and shows that you know how to be a team player in an academic community. Skills you could highlight from such experiences include: effective communication with others, working collaboratively with others (such as faculty and other TAs), mentorship abilities, and the ability to adapt to different learning styles.
- Relevant degrees, courses, and conferences. Again, be sure to resist the temptation to just recite your CV! Be specific. Single out specific courses or degrees you have taken that have led you to apply to this particular graduate program, or any conferences you may have attended or even presented at that are connected with your current research interests. As ever, take some time to reflect on why certain courses or conferences have proved formative for you. For example, you could discuss the importance of the specialized knowledge you gained in a course, or the public speaking skills you developed through presenting at a conference.
After spending four years as an Arts & Science undergraduate and earning a Minor specialization in Economics, I have developed strong analytical research skills, a capacity for truly critical thought and an appreciation for the universal relevance of economic investigation. My interest in the social determinants of health, and how these interplay with policy and economics, was the impetus for my senior undergraduate research project entitled, “Health and behavior: Advancing a microeconomic framework for changing decision-making in people with obesity.” I was fortunate to work with economists Drs. Levi and Traut, with whom I interrogated the classical and contemporary theories around human behavior and health. In my role as a research assistant, I conducted three literature reviews, one of which was used to support the work of a senior graduate student and will be published in an upcoming issue of Health Economics and the abstract was accepted for a poster presentation at the Annual Health Economics Conference in Denver CO.
Every applicant has strengths and weaknesses, and a statement of purpose is your chance to show the committee that you are self-aware enough to know what your own achievements and setbacks are. In discussing these, keep in mind the following:
- Be self-aware and clear. Try to sound honest and objective instead of boastful or defensive when discussing your strengths and weaknesses. Your statement will be even stronger if you include ideas or plans for improvement for any weaknesses you may have. Proving to the committee that you have the capacity for self-growth will strengthen your candidacy, and will also assure them of your intellectual and personal maturity.
- Explain how your strengths and weaknesses relate to your academic and professional responsibilities . Strong statements of purpose include sentences that demonstrate strengths or weaknesses with specific examples, such as, “Because analytical research and writing are my most well-developed academic strengths, as evidenced by my GPA, undergraduate thesis, reference letters, and writing samples, I am especially interested in pursuing the independent research project in this program.” When discussing a weakness, be sure to address how you have improved, also using specific examples: “I noticed that I struggled with time management during one of my undergraduate courses, and so I developed the habit of planning out work schedules for all of my tasks in advance in order to meet all of my deadlines.”
- Mention any special circumstances that may have led to compromises or delays in your academic performance. If you believe that your academic performance has been affected by something that has occurred in your life, you can discuss such experiences in this part of the statement of purpose to explain the impact that these challenges have had upon you. As ever, try to emphasize your ability to adapt and grow by explaining how you overcame these setbacks and what you have learned from them. Your resilience and adaptability will boost your candidacy by showing the committee that you are able to overcome challenges.
Examples of Career Plans
A statement of purpose can showcase not only your past achievements and current plans, but also your goals for the future. You don’t necessarily have to know exactly what you want to do after graduating, but including these goals can show the committee that you are capable of long-term planning, and that you are eager to put what you learn in the program to good use afterwards. You can use the part about career plans to address some of the following:
- Roles you might like to pursue. If you have a very specific job in mind as your dream job, you can discuss that and explain what makes it a dream job for you. For example, is it the institution, the location, or the mission of the job/position that attracts you? Alternatively, you can discuss what kind of role you are hoping to have even if you don’t know exactly where you will end up yet. For example, if you wish to become an educator but have no specific course or university in mind, explain what attracts you to this vocation and how the program would prepare you for such a role. Or maybe, you can explain how this Master's or PhD will help your med school chances .
- Transferable Skills . Every graduate program instils valuable transferable skills in their students, so if your career plans are still very open-ended, you can always choose to discuss what skills you hope to gain through taking the program, and how those skills could help you in whatever academic or professional career path you pursue after graduation. For example, you could discuss how your research projects strengthened your writing and communication skills, or how balancing the demands of all your coursework and lab work taught you how to manage time effectively. Don’t overlook the importance of “soft” skills, either: conferences can develop your public speaking skills, while group projects can help you become a valuable team player. Both technical skills and interpersonal skills will be valuable to you in whatever workplace you join.
It is the responsibility of economics researchers to offer sustainable and feasible alternatives and recommendations to experts in all other fields regarding their most pressing challenges such as climate change and regulation of illegal trade. Further, the intermediary between economics research and the implementation of its corresponding results is the policy process. Because analytical research and writing are my most well-developed academic strengths, as evidenced by my GPA, undergraduate thesis, reference letters, and writing samples, the MA Economic Policy (Health Specialization) program is an ideal launch point for a research career in academia with branch points into policy work in the social determinants of health. Eventually, I want to complete a PhD. I want to build a focused academic practice at McMaster where I can help civil society, government and social enterprises understand and address ‘wicked problems’ at the intersection of economics and public health. The skills I aim to acquire through this graduate training are crucial to the evolution of my practice.
Prefer to watch a video instead? Check it out below:
In order to avoid some of the most common pitfalls when writing your statement of purpose, review the following list of Do’s and Don’ts to make sure your statement is the best it can be:
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Your writing needs to be clear and concise. Do not try to show off to the committee by using words that are unnecessarily obscure or too specialty-specific. Not everyone on your committee might be familiar with your research field. Always aim for clarity above all else. If you must use a specialty-specific term, be sure to define it to ensure that both you and your reader understand what you mean when you use that term. "}]' code='timeline2'>
Before You Submit: A Checklist
When you think your statement is as good as it can possibly be, take a moment to check over the following checklist before submitting:
- Have you made sure your statement meets the requirements specified by the school/program? Is it the right length, in the proper format, and does it include any specific information they may have asked for? Does it answer the prompt?
- Has your statement gone through several drafts? If the answer is “no”, stop what you’re doing and commit yourself to rewriting your statement. Remember that a strong statement is one that has gone through several drafts, getting stronger and more effective each time! If the answer is “yes”, ask yourself, “Is this the best my statement can possibly be?” If in doubt, ask for more feedback.
- Do you provide examples for every claim you make? Check over your statement for instances where you claim to have an ability or experience. Have you provided clear and specific examples to back up your claims?
- Does your statement tell a compelling story? Carefully read over your statement to get a sense of the narrative you have crafted for your reader. Is it a compelling narrative, or have you lapsed into just listing random items from your CV? Make sure your statement is telling a story that gives context for who you are, not just a list of things you’ve done.
- Have you proofread your statement? Even when you’re absolutely sure your statement is in top form, you need to proofread your statement several times to make sure that all typos and grammatical errors have been eliminated. Take breaks after each time you proofread. This way, you will be looking at your statement with fresh eyes every time you read it. You should also take some time to make sure the statement is well-organized and has a proper “flow” in terms of both structure and style. Better yet, get a graduate school admissions consultant to look it over!
Statement of Purpose Examples for Graduate School
Sample #2 (984 words).
When I was 12 years old, my sister suffered a traumatic car accident that left her with PTSD, depression, and severe anxiety. Our parents did not really understand the impact of what she was going through and as a family, we never talked about it much, though we all could witness her pain. So, through my teen years, I watched as a beloved family member struggled with her mental health. Though I did my best to support her through the worst times and assist her in getting professional help, there were still many moments when I felt powerless and clueless in the face of her suffering. This challenging experience set me on the path to pursuing clinical psychology as a career. I wanted to question, dissect, analyze, and hopefully, understand, this mysterious phenomenon that had dominated my life for so long. Through my academic study of psychology and personal experience of my sister’s PTSD, I found that I was particularly interested in clinical psychology with relation to adolescent populations.
From the age of 16 to 21, I worked as a volunteer at an after-school care program for children and teens from disadvantaged backgrounds. While there, I met numerous young people, who had faced starvation, neglect, abuse, and violence, from a very young age, and who needed help to cope with the long-term effects of those early experiences. Working with these kids, helping them through events that might be unimaginable for most adults, further sharpened my interest in how trauma influences the development of generalized anxiety disorders and panic disorders, and in particular, the pre-existing conditions and underlying risk factors for suicide in adolescents with PTSD, anxiety, and depression. This is the topic I hope to continue to explore as a Master’s student in the Clinical Psychology program of your university. Thanks to my personal and first-hand experiences with the effects of trauma, I think I can bring a unique perspective to the study of long-term PTSD in adolescents.
Though my core interest in clinical psychology and the effects of trauma started as deeply personal, my scholarly curiosity and intellectual proficiency led me to academic explorations of this subject from a young age. While in high school, I took up Intro to Psychology classes from my local community college and completed a Peer Youth Counselling certificate course from the Ryerson Center for Mental Health. This academic exploration confirmed my desire to study psychology in college, and my coursework through my undergrad years focused on building a broad portfolio of the key areas of psychology, including Clinical Psychology, Cognitive Psychology and Behavioral Science, Industrial Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and more. I also took up courses in Biology, Physiology, and Neuroscience to better understand the physical pathologies of adolescent trauma. I believe this thorough grounding in the biological aspects of developmental psychopathology will help me to address the sorely needed requirement for cross-disciplinary research into effective treatment programs for trauma survivors.
Throughout my undergraduate education, I gained research experience that helped me develop the skills and knowledge I need for my clinical psychology graduate studies. For my last two years of undergrad, I worked with Drs. Rebecca Brown, Tyler Baker, and Gary Wolf at the Guntherson Memorial Lab at ABC University, on their studies into the development of substance abuse in adolescents suffering from PTSD. As a research assistant, my responsibilities included conducting literature searches, data collection, data entry, supervision of study participants, preparation of research documents, and drafting of participant assessment packets. Thanks to this experience, I was able to develop my valuable observational and data analysis skills and learn more about critical aspects of clinical research such as programming computer tests, investigating study measures, forming hypotheses, supervising participants, and more. I also enrolled in Dr. Brown’s senior level research class and through my final two years of undergrad, I published four research papers on a variety of clinical psychology topics, including a paper on “Depression, Anxiety, and Traumatic Amnesia in Adolescent Survivors of CSA” that was published in the New England Psychology Journal’s June 20XX year issue.
What attracted me to the clinical psychology master’s program at XYZ University was the strong emphasis on diversity in the classroom and cultural context in the curriculum which aligns with my ambition to gain a holistic, socially conscious understanding of trauma manifestations in vulnerable populations. Moreover, your program offers the chance for students to complete two research projects in the world-class research facilities associated with the XYZ University, allowing me to develop and perfect my research skills in the most appropriate environment. I hope to complete these projects under the supervision of your faculty members, Dr. Sally Hendrix and Dr. Mirian Forster, widely considered two of the most brilliant, forward-thinking minds in trauma research today. Their work on the endocrinological risks of anxiety development in adolescents and development of abnormal psychology in CSA survivors is particularly pertinent to my own research interests. With my background in clinical research, my first-hand experience of the effects of trauma, and my deep devotion to and understanding of the pathological effects of adolescent PTSD, I think I can bring a lot to your next master’s cohort.
Through all the clinical experiences and academic knowledge I gained in the last few years, my interest in the questions of trauma, anxiety, and depression continue to be deeply personal. Though my sister survived her teenage years, she continues to live with anxiety and symptoms of PTSD that she doesn’t fully understand. There is still so much about human psychology that we simply don’t know, and I hope to address that gap a little by using the training and education I gain at your university to pursue a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology in the future. By seeking the answers to the questions of how trauma can warp an adolescent brain and what we can do to try and manage it, I hope to shed light on an under-represented area of psychology that sorely needs our attention.
During the first year of my undergraduate degree, I took a small course entitled “Third World Development” taught by three rather radical and lively professors from Trinidad, Chile, and Lebanon, respectively. This course, despite its passé title, existed to deconstruct our notions of ‘otherness’ by illustrating the deep connectedness of issues, people, and nations. This theme of ‘connectedness’ is threaded through my research and work history under various labels and theories. My undergraduate research was dedicated to understanding the ways and means of political participation for women in remote Northeast India. I became curious about the role of women as informal politicians within their small collectives where survival literally hinges on connectivity. My time in observation of these women opened me to the idea that health and wellness can emerge from places facing serious food insecurity, poor shelter, corruption, and long distances from the center of national power. The extent to which women could draw upon their collective power and roles as givers of care in order to lobby local governments and participate legitimately in the polity was the very definition of their empowerment.
During my graduate work at [x] University, public health approaches to vulnerable populations were of particular interest to me. It became clear, during my fieldwork with care providers for women who sell sex and do high-risk drugs in downtown eastside, that vulnerable populations around the world often have more in common with each other than with the ‘dominant’ or non-excluded populations. My research led to my questions about the role of social capital, defined in this case as a public good comprised of relationships and networks, in leading to better health outcomes amongst highly-marginalized urban women. The mechanisms through which both groups of women, in Northeast India and downtown Vancouver, became able to rely on or reject peers, givers of aid or care, and the social and political systems in which they were enmeshed, are very similar. I have witnessed how health outcomes can be a partial function of connectedness for women on the periphery.
Public health has proven the best venue through which I can search for explicit, concrete evidence that individual and population welfare can be socially determined, by access to and power to make choices regarding housing, education, employment, income, political participation, nutrition, and transportation. I see the centrality of connectedness, to institutions and peers, to the processes that enable an individual to access, choose, and influence. My current work as a policy analyst with the Public Health Agency within the Strategic Initiatives and Innovations Directorate is focused largely on reducing health inequalities by mobilizing action on particular social determinants of health. While this work is important and generally on point, I suspect that the United States and Canada may benefit from exploring the micro-level ‘enablers’ of change with respect to the social determinants of health. These enablers, including social networks as a form of social capital, are sometimes lumped, and incorrectly so, with the more tangible determinants, such as housing and nutrition. I see these enablers as characteristics of favorable environments in which health can be positively affected: in families, neighborhoods, schools, communities, etc.
My proposed dissertation research would fall into the broader goals of studying the social mechanisms by which parental social connections impact the eating behavior of their children as well as the way in which these mechanisms may vary across local neighborhoods. My particular interest is the potentially causal nexus between maternal social networks, neighborhood environments, and the transmission of eating behaviors to children. In effect, my role would be to help operationalize maternal adversity and identify potential moderators on the effects of maternal adversity on obesity and eating behaviors of children.
I am drawn to [x] University School of Kinesiology and Health Studies specifically due to Dr. Spencer Moore’s background in medical anthropology and current work with social network analytic techniques. The application of network theory analytical techniques will be a new endeavor for me, but I am attracted to the study of populations that are not necessarily bound by their geography but by common circumstances, such as maternal adversity, and, potentially, common health effects related to obesity and food behaviors. I want to understand the links between the nature and degree of ties between low-income women and how these ties affect norms related to obesity and food.
The School of Kinesiology and Health Studies is an excellent institution that is well-equipped to support new graduate students interested in innovative ways to explore social challenges. It is here that Dr. Moore is developing an important critical mass surrounding this particular way of examining social networks as enablers of obesity and food behavior outcomes among marginalized women and their young children.
My prior individual research experiences were qualitative in nature, relying on grounded theory and warranted assertion analysis techniques common to sociological research. I have experience as a research assistant on a larger project studying large, linked quantitative databases of provincial health and corrections data in my home state. Also, I have a sufficient course work history in statistics and epidemiology to be able to make the leap to more advanced quantitative techniques, given access to graduate courses on the subject. Social network analysis is a fascinating way of quantifying social capital and social networks and I am very enthusiastic about the opportunity to study these methods and methodologies under Dr. Moore.
Sample #4 (993 words)
As a child of Bangladeshi refugees who fled from war, famine, death, and other horrors I myself have never had to face, I was always attracted to the hidden facts behind the grand narratives of history; the little stories of small people who didn’t leave an impact on major world events but lived, breathed, and worshipped just the same. My parents left everything behind in Bangladesh – their papers, property, lands, family, and friends. It was an erasure of not only their personal history but the history of generations who came before them. As I grew up, I became passionately interested in the history of my ancestors, perhaps as a way of making sense of my own experiences as a second-generation immigrant. I remember how once in grade school, we had to prepare a “family tree” project with the names and photos of our parents, grandparents, and so on. My mother started crying when I asked her for these details and photos; it was a traumatic reminder of all she had lost. I consider this genealogical tree my first history project, as I combed through the internet using the meagre information my mother gave me to supplement my bare project board with a few details. The internet wasn’t very helpful and, needless to say, I proved unsuccessful in finding any information. But it fueled a passion in me for finding out all about where I had come from, and from there, I developed my interest in the social, cultural, military, and economic history of south-east Asia.
I pursued this interest all the way to college, majoring in history with a minor in anthropology, and it was in my undergrad years that my general interest in the history of south-east Asia crystallized into an interest in the politics of historical interpretation, especially in regard to women in pre-modern south-east Asia. The history of women’s spaces, especially under patriarchal regimes, fascinates me; how oral traditions develop to combat lack of literacy, how their social roles shift and change in response to military and economic developments, and finally, how these historical changes constitute the present. Specifically, I am deeply interested in how women’s spaces evolved as a result of colonial influences in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I credit a wide range of authors, thinkers, and historians with molding my interests and refining my analysis. The latest papers by BW Anandya, Wazir Jahan Karim, and N Choi about the pathways to religious and political power for women in southeast Asia, profoundly opened up my mind to the possibilities for what we can learn from primary resources about these “lost” populations of history. On the other hand, the philosophical and sociological theories of Edward Said, Gayatri Chakrovorti Spivak, and Homi Bhabha provide the philosophical framework for how I approach my writing.
I have always followed my intellectual curiosity to take on challenging coursework and build a solid academic foundation for my intended pursuit of historical research. Apart from completing the most intensive coursework pertaining to Asian history studies in my department, I also took courses in British History, Postcolonialism, Anthropology, Philosophy, and Women’s Studies, so as to round out my understanding of the key topics related to my area of interest. My professor also allowed me to complete independent studies and research projects in selected areas of my interest such as African American history in Canada and History of Hebrew Scriptures. The study of such diverse historical topics helped to provide greater context to my primary area of interest; I found many interesting parallels between the experiences of oppressed populations in different parts of the world. Three of my papers were published in our university’s academic magazine, and I presented my paper on “Development of Oral Traditions in Women’s Spaces” at the Annual National History Symposium in X year.
In my junior year, I got the chance to write an independent research paper about the historical figure of Savitri Bai Phule, analyzing her community ties from 1920 to 1935, within the framework of Spivak’s concept of “strategic essentialism” and cross-cultural solidarity. This was a major milestone for me as I got the chance to work on my main area of interest while using primary resources on loan from University of Mumbai, including Savitri Bai Phule’s journals, historical Times of India newspapers, and more.
I would love to continue my research into these and other unexplored histories of women in south-east Asia as part of the master’s program at your university. With my personal background, academic proficiency, and focused historical interests, I think I represent an ideal candidate for ABC University. I look forward to working in an environment that encourages diversity, forward-thinking research, and cutting-edge investigative techniques. Your rigorous curriculum will help me refine my understanding of historical investigation methods and expand my consciousness of the cross-cultural socio-economic influences in pre-modern women’s spaces. As an aspiring PhD candidate, I would love to get the chance to tap into ABC University’s extensive network of primary resources, subject matter experts, and trailbreakers. In particular, I am very excited to work with Dr. Nina Gupta from the History of Southeast Asia department. I am in communication with her about her findings on historical distortion and its intersection with political agendas in colonial Southeast Asia, as it directly impacts the research I’d like to do. In fact, her encouragement and support motivated me to apply to your master’s program!
My next big goal is to pursue a PhD, also from your university, under Nina Gupta’s supervision. Through my master’s education, I plan to work towards developing my expertise in Southeast Asian women’s studies and making myself an asset for your PhD program. One day, I hope I can become a professor at a top university such as yours, so that I can continue my research into the rich and untapped veins of history just waiting to be investigated, and pass on my love for the subject to interested young minds.
One of the greatest gifts my parents gave to me, very early on, was a keen sense of just how unique my childhood was. Though by no means a position of high stature, my mother’s clerking post at the American consulate in Cairo provided us with an immense array of benefits, and those that impacted me most were, unsurprisingly, the plethora of cultural institutions a short walk away from our home. Whether the Coptic, Luxor, or the Grand Egyptian, the first thing I wanted to do each afternoon after getting out of school was to zoom into cool air of a museum. Even at a young age, I was aware of the complexity of being a light-skinned American kid wandering through these halls, gazing at artifacts of a civilization that far preceded the origins of what I understood to be “western” civilizations. How did I end up here? What was the nature of my relationship to this rich and vast culture that both fascinated me and exacerbated my feelings of being somewhat alien in its midst?
This intersection of cultural and political analysis expanded as I got older and began to unpack the complicated colonial forces that played a part in both early and contemporary Egyptology. As I matured as a student, I became able to articulate questions that had hitherto lived as abstract uneasiness in my head. Curators and guides of many Egyptian museums were reluctant at first to really open up about the pervasive presence of English and North American archaeologists in the 19th century's antiquarian boom, but I was fortunate to have longstanding relationships with many such officials, both through my own wanderings and my parents' work.
As I began to ask more pointed questions, and gained the ability to explore museum records on my own, I became overwhelmed by how drastically the Egyptian archaeological "industry" had been shaped by British colonialism, and how this resulted in a still-developing tension between international exhibition and the local or indigenous preservation of civilizational artifacts. My undergraduate work in anthropology has sought to develop a number of theses in this regard, most importantly the need for efforts of artifact repatriation and return from the British Museum as a step toward more complete reconciliation after centuries of extraction.
Throughout my undergraduate research with Professor X at [undergraduate university], I sought to utilize careful historiographical analysis to better support repatriation efforts popularized by former Egyptian antiquities minister Dr. Y. These efforts helped mobilize the X museum in Boston to return a priceless bust of Prince Ankhhaf under Dr. Y’s insistence, which was not only one of the most satisfying moments in my academic career so far but of my life overall.
In addition to the historiographic focus of my work, I’m keen to shift into the present politics around artifact repatriation and reclamation of physical heritage, specifically relating to how contemporary North African political struggles utilize cultural and anthropological discourses. Professor Z’s work in this realm has been hugely influential and inspiring to me, and were I to be admitted to your PhD program it would be an incredible honor to assist her ongoing research in contemporary cultural discourse in Egyptian and Islamic political movements.
I was fortunate to be selected for the American University in Cairo’s Presidential Internship program in 2019, just after graduating. Returning to Cairo for the first time since I was 13 years old was incredible but bittersweet in some ways. The lens through which I observed many of the institutions I’d mythologized as a child was far more critical, and I realized that my graduate work would necessarily be inflected by this added layer of complexity and disillusionment. If admitted to this PhD program in anthropology, I would seek to capitalize on this personal experience. I think it’s incumbent upon people who have lived in anthropological intersections like this—in my case specifically as an unwitting addition to longstanding “Western” colonial presence in North Africa—to produce academic work that illuminates the political and cultural tensions that they’ve hitherto experienced as largely subjective phenomena.
To this end, I propose utilizing modeling techniques common to digital-archaeological projects in Egyptological studies to support a more culturally-focused analysis of the flow of expropriation during the heyday of colonial extraction in the early 20th century. I believe that object-oriented models of provenance can be utilized to support analysis of ongoing repatriation discourse. This would build on Professor X’s work mentioned above, providing more graphic and tangible insights into emancipatory nationalist and post-nationalist movements in contemporary Egypt and North Africa in general.
If admitted to ______'s graduate program, I would not only seek to contribute to the program's ongoing scholarship as a student, but would hope to continue working collaboratively with the department once I move into independent scholarship and teaching following graduation. I feel especially passionate about forming long-term relationships with faculty given the scarcity of nuanced scholarship that addresses the intersections of anthropology, political science, and archaeology in Egyptological studies. Teaching and research have guided every step of my journey so far, and I know without a doubt that this is my path forward as well. As such, I would seek to serve as a paragon not only of ________’s interdisciplinarity and intellectual inventiveness to my future students, but to continue to be a productive and prominent member of _____’s research cohort no matter where I end up teaching.
Sample #6 (859 words)
My road to mechanical engineering began with my dad unceremoniously kicking me out of the kitchen. By the time I was in kindergarten, I couldn’t resist rummaging through my family’s cupboards, trying to find something to take apart and rebuild it. This became a running joke in my family that, rather than knives or other sharp objects, I had to be kept away from screwdrivers, lest I end up taking the whole house apart. This all changed when I discovered desktop computers, and specifically GPUs, which I found endlessly fascinating in their ability to be easily disassembled and modified.
Although my free time during high school was indeed spend huddled over computer hardware much the way my childhood was, I became interested in the capabilities of redirecting the work capacity of hardware, and in particular the ability to reorganize the way hardware acceleration can be optimized to assist in Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) tasks in manufacturing. During my undergraduate work at X University, I developed an interest in machine learning while working on Dr. Cheboygan’s ongoing research in augmenting GPU software to better optimize their performance in general-purpose computations. In both my senior thesis and independent study blocks, Dr. and I studied a number of potential workarounds for latency bottlenecks relating to DDR5 infrastructure.
This phase of my research cemented my desire to continue on with both machine learning and CAE, and it’s precisely around these points that I’d like to develop my MSc thesis. Specifically, I want to build on the considerable research on GPU acceleration I undertook during my BS in order to further expand upon shifts in both manufacturing and product design. As abstract as this work has been in many ways, its end result would be to streamline workflows for product engineers that will greatly speed up the process of dealing with intractable problems relating to bottlenecking by physics computations.
I’m motivated to address sophisticated problems like this for a fairly non-academic reason. Throughout the last two years, I’ve participated in organization drives with X organization, my region’s largest manufacturing union. Admittedly, I came to this work with quite personal motivations, having seen my mother’s engineering positions often under attack by naïve or even ignorant efforts to automate various aspects of product design. My work with this union sought to argue, from a scientific perspective, the need to improve both software and hardware using human-supervised machine learning and not wholesale robotic automation. Rather than downsizing and eliminating human positions in the manufacturing process, I offered data to union leadership that showed how a minimal investment in technological upgrades at the level of product implementation could preserve job security for product engineers and implementation supervisors while vastly speeding up the manufacturing process to deliver an increased output of nearly 80% in some cases.
This was immeasurably satisfying, and although not every negotiation was a success, I was able to contribute something unique to a class of workers who I felt had suffered under an outmoded and overly aggressive model of automation for nearly 20 years. In short, I would like to pursue graduate work in mechanical engineering at Z University because I think my work can have an overwhelmingly positive impact in aspects of labor tensions relating to instrumentation and automation. I think that through careful work in machine learning and deep learning, we can target specific aspects of the manufacturing process that have proven to be flashpoints of conflict between engineers and administrators.
The department's emphasis on teaching throughout the graduate program is also a huge draw for me. I tutored privately throughout my undergraduate years, and volunteered at my school's learning center to help students not only with introductory engineering courses but also calculus and linear algebra. Reconnecting to this passion for high-level mathematics, I would seek to work with Dr. Muskegon and Dr. Flint to both participate in and utilize their research in computational methods to clarify the mathematical dimension of my proposed thesis. Dr. Muskegon’s recent publications in the International Journal of Computer Theory and Engineering are especially relevant to this work, as I believe my course of study would benefit greatly by implementing her utilization of novel approaches to principal component analysis.
Lastly, on a simpler note, I’ve always been drawn to the West Coast, and would love to explore the wilder, mountainous areas North of Vancouver during my free time. Growing up in the flatlands of the Midwest seeded a very strong desire for the “big landscape” areas of Western Canada, and I can think of no better compliment to the abstract and small-scale work I’d be undertaking in the mechanical engineering program than to spend my free weekends hiking and camping in places like Coquitlam mountain Which is to say, simply, that I believe UBC is an ideal location for my next phase of scholarship not only because of its academic innovation and integrity, but because its surrounding environment is both beautiful and inspirational. I would arrive and continue to be an enthusiastic and incredibly engaged student in UBC’s MSc program, and I would be honored to assist in the incredible work being undertaken by both faculty and fellow graduate students alike.
Not many students seek to spend their gap year surrounded by the choking aroma of sulfur, but I will readily admit to being just such a student. After 4 years spent in a blur of library lighting and research, I found myself in desperate need of immersion into both Soto zen Buddhism and Japanese culture more generally. So, after some careful planning, I spent 4 months last year working in an onsen in Fukui, spending my 1 day off each week wandering around the shrines interspersed between Echizen and Kyoto and generally trying to soak up every bit of soto history I could.
My real wish was granted near the end of my time in Fukui, when I was accepted for a 1-week sesshin at Eiheiji castle. This was the fulfillment of a desire I’d stoked throughout my BA work in Asian studies at X University. Throughout my research, I’d devoted considerable time to analyzing concepts of time in extended religious ritual, and at Eiheiji, I was able to not only observe this in action but to experience it directly as well. My personal relationship to zen was not especially developed prior to this point, but after just the first step through Eihiji’s main gate, I felt something shift in me, and knew that I wanted to dedicate my academic career to exploring not just zen but soto ontology specifically.
To this end, my dissertation with the religious studies department would seek to utilize ongoing scholarship by professor Farmington in discussions of temporal dilation and dissolution in religious ritual. At Eihiji, and in sesshin settings specifically, there are numerous conceptualizations of time that are at odds with typical monastic linearity, and I believe incorporating a more careful analysis of temporal augmentation is key to unpacking the metaphysics of both sesshin and “intensive” events in other traditions as well. I may feel a personal connection to much of what I’ve studied and written about so far, but I feel an even stronger dedication to exegesis of religious ritual experience for the sake of furthering philosophical and theological discussion across traditions.
My abiding love for Soto zen is a key motivator in this project, but I come to this study earnestly and with academic rigor. Interfaith dialogue has been a constant part of my life outside of academia. Throughout high school I volunteered a great deal of time with both Saint Sophia Orthodox church and Bharatiya Hindu temple in [hometown]. This provided not only opportunities to engage in beneficial community projects, but also myriad opportunities to discuss theological and doctrinal matters with people outside my own religious practice. These activities, much like my enthralling experiences in Fukui, clarified and concentrated my desire to pursue high-level scholarship in religious studies.
Your program will allow me to pursue interdisciplinary studies that will touch upon more than just community interfaith dialogue. My early undergraduate years heavily focused on Western philosophy, and specifically German idealism. Dr. Huron’s work in examining influxes of hermeticism and esotericism in general in this tradition is incredibly fascinating to me, and while my thesis doesn’t directly touch on it, I am quite curious about potential intersections of Western esoteric ritual and Soto Zen ritual, specifically their descriptions of atemporal experience. Indiana university’s overarching emphasis on collaborative work, and especially the religious studies department’s similar commitment to intersectional and comparative analysis, is a massive draw for me. Although Northwestern’s Asian studies department boasted a number of interdisciplinary and cross-specialty working groups, the offerings at IU are significantly more numerous and broader in scope, and I would be honored to participate in the East Asian epistemology working group especially. The paper I presented at last year’s International Conference on Buddhist Philosophical Studies centered on epistemological contradiction in Yunmen’s koans, and I think there’s a great deal of room in my proposed project to explore theories of knowledge in relation to the discussions of ritual temporality and chronology.
While I certainly found aspects of my time working in an onsen exhausting, the difficulty of the work and communication therein was a challenge I greatly enjoyed. I would bring this newly enhanced sense of dedication and discipline to graduate studies at[BeMo3] Indiana university, and, gratefully, be able to formalize an ongoing academic project that’s deeply connected to the religious and cultural experiences I had during this time as well. I feel profoundly ready, in other words—ready for both advanced scholarship and the semi-monastic lifestyle that best supports this work. My week at Eiheiji was transformative in a few ways, but perhaps the most unexpected of which was the way it showed me what I already knew about myself from a clarified or even purified perspective, and I know without a doubt that the zeal I felt bloom within me is inextricable from continuing along the path toward doctoral research and eventually teaching.
Sample #8 (1144 words)
Note how the following personal statement is truly personal and after reading this statement you feel like you know this applicant already. They also leave you feeling a lot of emotions. Both warm and sad. And that's good. You want to create some sort of emotion in the admissions committee members that read your personal statement.
Click here to read this statement of purpose example.
Sample #9 (1705 words)
Statement of purpose is a chance to tell the story of your life. Your statement is not only a celebration of your triumphs, but also a true reflection on the challenges and struggles you have faced. Remember, you cannot victimize yourself in the essay. Rather than simply talking about your difficulties, make sure to emphasize how you overcame them. Create a captivating narrative of how events in your life led to this moment - your decision to apply to grad school.
A statement of purpose tells the admissions committee more about you as an applicant. A strong statement of purpose offers a compelling narrative about your interests, abilities, and experiences, to show the committee that you are a strong applicant and the right fit for their institution and program.
A statement of purpose usually ranges between 500 and 1,000 words in length. Be sure to check the specific requirements stated by the program as you prepare to apply.
Set aside plenty of time for preparation so that you are not doing anything at the last minute. Research your institution and program of choice carefully to get a better sense of its values and academic culture. Brainstorm how and why you would make a good fit for the school and program of your choice. Contact any potential mentors amongst the academic faculty to discuss your research interests with them. Make a list of any requirements your program specifies for your statement of purpose. If you have any questions, be sure to ask the appropriate authority at the school for clarification. Before you start writing, make sure you have all of the materials you may need for reference close at hand, such as your academic transcripts. Make some notes outlining what you would like to include in your statement to help guide you as you write.
A statement of purpose should contain an introduction, a main body based on 2 or 3 experiences, and a conclusion. Your statement should be clearly written and well-organized to help the reader follow the flow of your narrative.
A statement of purpose should include four main elements: your research interests in your chosen field, your academic and professional preparation, your strengths and weaknesses, and your career plans. You need to give specific examples for each of these main elements, and to explain what you have learned from every experience you mention.
In writing your statement of purpose, you need to commit to writing several drafts to make sure your statement is as strong as it can be. You should ask for feedback from trusted academic mentors or professional consultants to ensure that your statement is effective and compelling. You also need to carefully proofread your work multiple times before submission.
You must never plagiarize your statement of purpose. Avoid using clichés and tired phrasing to keep your writing original and fresh. It is also important to favor clarity over artfulness, so be sure to avoid using overly-fancy language so that the focus is always on the substance of what you’re saying. Also avoid technical or overly specialized language unless absolutely necessary, and be sure to define any technical or specialized terms that you must use.
Before you submit your statement of purpose, take some time to review your statement in its final form to make sure it is the best version it can possibly be. Make sure you have followed all of the requirements in terms of length and formatting as specified by the school. Ask yourself if you have rewritten the statement several times, and if you truly believe it does not require another draft.
Check to make sure you are providing compelling examples for every claim you make regarding your experiences or abilities. Read your statement over again and make sure it is a narrative that gives the reader interesting details and context, not just a list of your achievements to date. Finally, make sure you have proofread your statement and eliminated any typos or grammatical errors that would distract your reader.
Your own research and ability to write concisely and clearly will be important in making your statement strong. Firstly, give yourself enough time for multiple drafts. Trust us when we say that your statement will need to be written and rewritten multiple times - it's inevitable. Secondly, be selective with the experiences you choose to include in your statement. It is more important to show rather than tell how you would be a great addition to the program. Being selective about your experiences will allow you room to go into detail and demonstrate to the admissions committee how your experiences make you the perfect fit.
Remember, if you are feeling overwhelmed, you can always research legitimate companies or consultants that can help you polish your statement and avoid wasting another year on applications. If you are considering whether BeMo is worth your time and money , make sure to read up on the successful experiences of our past students.
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Hi Ablie! Thank you for your comment! We are glad you found this helpful!
Thanks a lot for your information. If my intended field of Ph.D. research is quite different from my previous research experiences, what am I suppose to do to link my previous interest with the new one? and Is it possible to have feedback on my writing?
Hello Ayman! Thank you for this wonderful question! It is not a problem that your previous research experience is not related to your new PhD interest. Even if they are not related in theme, it is important to showcase how your previous research experience honed your skills as a researcher. Demonstrate that the expertise that you acquired throughout your research history can be easily translated into this new field. Do not forget to give the admissions committee some sense of how you got interested in this new field, but it is not a problem that you decided to switch disciplines/interests. And of course we can help you with feedback on your writing. Please contact us for a free initial consultation (https://bemoacademicconsulting.com/Contact-Us.php) and we can discuss how we can help you make your statement the best it can be.
Ayman Alfadil, you are the winner of our weekly draw. Please email us by the end of the day tomorrow (June 19) at content[at]bemoacademicconsulting.com from the same email address you used to leave your comment to claim your prize!
This is indeed the best Statement of purpose ever ,I love everything written here! It has really help me thank you!!!
Hello Joana! Thanks for your comment! We are glad you enjoyed this article!
Hi...I want the sample for statement of purpose (for masters) where the student changes his filed/background/majors from science to IT... Atleast one sample which helps me to write my own. Thank you.
Hi Asra! Thanks for your comment and suggestion! We will try adding this kind of example as soon as possible!
I am so much in love with the way you make a big and difficult task simple. As a practitioner in adult education in Nigeria with over 6 years of experience, I intend to further my experience by having a Masters program in Canada. Problem is, my first degree is not in education, but Arts - Philosophy. I hope to scale through. Thank you for this great write ups.
Hi Segun! Thanks so much for your comment! We are glad you enjoyed the article. When you apply to a Master's program in Education, you do not need to have an undergrad degree in education. Your first degree in liberal arts will be a perfect fit for an Education graduate degree. Good luck and let us know if we can help you any further!
Chika happiness nwachukwu
Hi,indeed is the best statement of purpose ever,please I want the sample for statement of intents for masters,where the student changes his field,background/ majors from accounting education to educational foundations that will help me write my own. Thank you.
Hello Chika! Thanks for your comment! We will keep your request in mind when we update this blog! Thanks!
Hi, I wonder if you can only help me with SOP edits? Thanks.
Hello Bob! We can absolutely help you! Please contact us here https://bemoacademicconsulting.com/Contact-Us.php to schedule your free initial consultation.
Hi, this is the best article on SOP I have read. Please, I need your advice. I am very passionate about teaching. I studied English, but my M.A. thesis is related to pragmatic. How do I relate both to my deep flare for education?
Hello Nwabueze! Thanks for your comment. Try to reflect on what connects your educational and professional background to teaching? Just because your MA thesis is not related to education, it does not mean that it cannot inform your love for teaching. Try making connections between your experience in the MA and what you want to do next. Hope this helps!
Can i get samples of these write-ups in Music?
Hello Smuela! Thanks for your comment. When we update the blog, we will make sure to keep your request in mind.
Good morning, please I want to start up personal statement but don't seem to know how to go about it am applying for Agricultural science soil and water option. Please I will need a guide. Thank you
Hi Chisa! Thanks for your comment. Please feel free to reach out to us to discuss how we can help you with your personal statement! Look forward to hearing from you!
hey, thanks for the clear explanation, can you please help me write purpose statement for a journalism degree course
Hello Lucy! Please feel free to reach out to us to discuss how we can help you with your statement of purpose. Hope to hear from you!
This piece is extremely helpful
Hi Frimpong! Thanks! Glad you found this helpful!
Thank you for sharing this useful tips on SOPs.
Hello Anne! Thank you so much for your comment. Glad you found this helpful!
Elif Ülkü Türkoğlu
Thank you so much, this will be super helpful for my MA applications.
Hi Elif! Thanks for your comment! We are glad this is helpful!
Raphael Barrack Wangusu
Currently struggling with SOP preparations..i pursued Law for my bachelor degree and i wish to apply for masters scholarships in CANADA, UK, SWEEDN and USA. Thank you.
Hello Raphael! Thank you for your question. Please reach out to us for a free strategy call to discuss how we can help.
Amazing content! I've never seen it explained the way you guys did it here!! Thank you!!!
Hello Joy! We are very glad you found this helpful!
It made me understand clearly what i have to do. thank you
Thanks Tumie! Glad you found this helpful!
i cant find any sop become related to food science. I really need a sample to help me. Could you help me please
Hello Shabnam, thanks for your message. We will keep your request in mind for when we update this blog.
I have enjoyed reading every bit of this document. I am so enlightened by it. Thank you.
Hello Michael! Glad you found this helpful! Thanks for your comment.
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Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts
Statements of Purpose: Drafting Your Statement
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The statement of purpose is perhaps the most important, and most challenging, element of your application packet. This letter needs to reflect who you are and why you would be an asset to the program you are applying to. It needs to make you stand out from the hundreds of other applicants and yet stay within the genre-based expectations for a statement of purpose. This resource provides information on writing statements of purpose specifically for graduate school applications.
Write one essay for each program. Although they may sound similar, each program’s statement prompts asks for slightly different pieces of information about who you are. You may be fortunate to have two or three similar prompts for a few programs, but even then, remember that you must meld your own interests with the opportunities available at each particular program--so, no two statements should read exactly alike. In essence, be prepared to draft (and continuously revise) dedicated statements for each program application. Don’t send out a boilerplate essay.
Attempt to create one unifying theme in your narrative. Some applications ask you to include the answers to broad prompts in your statement. For instance, the only instructions you get may be: describe your goals and preparation to pursue graduate study in no more than 1500 words. Conversely, others may ask you to answer a series of very specific questions such as your reasons for applying to their program in particular, how your background fits into your professional goals, how your past achievements would aid you during your time in graduate school, and what you have learned from your prior professional experience. Regardless of the particular kind of writing situation, attempt to fit your narrative into one unifying theme. For example, if your essay focuses on how family has played an important role in your decision to go to graduate school, do not throw in an experience from your trip to a foreign country as another factor in your decision making process unless it is strongly tied with the overall theme of family. Also, be sure to stick to the word limits.
Strong statements of purpose answer four important questions that inform admissions committees of who you are professionally and personally.
Professionally, statements of purpose answer two questions for the committee.
First: what kind of work are you interested in doing in graduate school?
Be specific, don’t make the mistake of thinking that being vague in your focus will reach a wider audience. For instance, if you mainly want to study business ethics with two prominent faculty members who focus on that topic, write that in your statement. Do not worry that you are pigeonholing yourself by being specific and instead list several other areas that you could be interested in. There will not be enough time to go into all of these areas and it will make your statement sound aimless and disconnected.
Second: why is the program you are applying to a good fit for you?
This is where your online research on each program comes into play. Be specific about what makes the program that you are applying to your ideal choice. Avoid general statements such as “your program is one of the best in the country.” Focus more on the specific things that you think make it great—for you and your research in particular. If it has a good instructor to student ratio, how will that benefit you? If what separates the program from the rest is that it provides excellent field training before you graduate, how will you take advantage of this? Be specific. You may also talk about your goals after grad school. Where do you see yourself? Does the program have a good history in helping other students get there? You don’t have to be one hundred percent certain about your future plans; no one will pull your application essay before you graduate and express shock and disappointment if your interests happen to change. But generally, going to graduate school is a huge commitment. Admission committees want to know that you understand this and that you envision some type of gain for your dedication.
A word of caution: Avoid changing your statement just to get into a program if it is a bad fit for you. You’ll save yourself time and money down the line.
Be aware that while it is generally a good idea to be as honest about your intentions as possible, avoid being too candid about your reasons for applying to a certain school if they are less than scholarly. For instance, admission committees do not want to hear that you are applying to their program primarily because of the school’s proximity to significant others, family, friends; because it is located in a place with a great college town feeling; or, because it offers a variety of funding opportunities (however, you could probably mention this last one in passing if their funding is outstanding among other programs, signaling a dedication to its students’ goals).
Personally, statements of purpose also answer two questions for the committee.
First: What matters to you—and why?
The committee will receive a lot of data about you. The statement of purpose allows you to give that data meaning. It is important that you not just rephrase whatever is on your CV or resume because this won’t get at the meaning behind your experiences. A job or a class may have lasted only a few months, but it may have been the impetus for you to go to graduate school because of a unique experience that occurred there. The statement of purpose should give the committee a sense of who you are and how you have personally interpreted events in your life.
Second: How are you unique from the other candidates?
Above all, avoid playing it safe with bland language. It can be tempting to resist making yourself stand out in your statement because you don’t want to ruin your chances by “sounding weird.” Ironically, this type of information may be what makes you the most compelling candidate. Graduate program committees receive dozens—sometimes hundreds—of applications each year. Make your voice stand out among the rest by showing that you are not only professional but that there’s a person behind the important decisions you have made. What was the human element that motivated you to get you to where you are?
Many people wonder whether they should mention their minority status. Generally, you should mention your minority status only if it pertains to your studies. For instance, did working with a minority group (that you belong to) motivate you to go to graduate school? How so? Are you interested in undertaking minority issues once you have earned your degree—and, if so, in what capacity? For example, once you earn your Masters in Social Work, are you hoping to help Hispanic individuals who suffer from serious and persistent mental illness? Tie this with your background to give this goal some context.
Remember to switch over between other graduate application tasks such as asking for letters of recommendation, ordering your transcripts, filling out the questionnaire for each school, and so forth. This will break up the writing task and help to re-energize you.
Getting In: A Step-By-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 1997. Print.
Kaplan, Inc. Get into Graduate School: A Strategic Approach . New York: Simon & Schuster. 2003. Print.
Stelzer, Richard J. How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School . 3rd. ed. Lawrenceville, NJ: Peterson’s Publishing, 2002. Print.
Stewart, Mark Allen. Peterson's How to Write the Perfect Personal Statement . Lawrenceville, NJ: Peterson’s Publishing, 2009. Print.
Statement of Purpose for Graduate School
Criteria for success.
- qualified for their program, and
- a good fit for their program’s focus and goals.
- You show a select group of skills and experiences that concisely convey your scientific accomplishments and interests.
- Your experiences are concrete and quantitative .
- Your personal statement is no more than 2 pages (less if you can, or if it is required by the school).
The graduate school Personal Statement (≈ Statement of Purpose ≈ Statement of Intent) is a document that complements your resume and application form, describing your profile in a narrative way and convincing the admission committee that you would be a good match for a particular department or program. Take into account that matching goes both ways: they should be interested in you, and you should be interested in them. Your personal statement should make this match clear.
Analyze Your Audience
Your personal statement will be read by a graduate committee – a handful of faculty from the program. They’re trying to determine if you will be a successful graduate student in their department and a successful scientist after you graduate. They are interested in your qualifications as a researcher, your career goals, and how your personality matches their labs and department.
The graduate committee probably reads hundreds of applications every year. To make it easy for them to figure out that you are a good fit, keep in mind the following suggestions:
- Make direct, concrete statements about your accomplishments and qualifications.
- Create a narrative that serves as a personal brand and helps them remember you.
- Give them some unique examples that describe you and make you stand out, and which will make them remember you as “that candidate that was so passionate about…” or “who has a lot of experience in…”, although they might not remember your name.
- Align your academic goals and motivations with specific research projects or research directions of the target department.
Assessing your match to the target program
A key point on writing your Personal Statement is to demonstrate that you have done previous research about the program to which you’re applying, that you understand its characteristics and objectives, and that you are really interested in joining it and willing to do your best to be successful in it. To do this:
- Read the program’s website. Learn about its faculty members and the projects they are working on. Check what topics and high level goals the department is committed to. Identify the main research areas.
- Get in contact with faculty and students in your target program. Browse recent publications and presentations but remember lab websites can be outdated and a publication may lag a few years behind the active research in a lab so pay attention to the motivation, direction, and methods of the faculty member over specific results. If you have had a positive discussion with someone at the department, you can include in your essay how those interactions confirmed that you would be a good match for the program.
Reflect before you start
To convince a graduate committee that you are ready for and excited about graduate school, first you need to be able to articulate this to yourself. Earnestly reflect on the following types of questions. A lack of authenticity is easy to detect.
- Why do I want to go to graduate school?
- How am I sure?
- Why will I be successful in graduate school?
- What can I do with the help of this degree that I couldn’t do before?
- Where do I want to be in a few years?
- How am I going to get there?
Create a personal narrative
Graduate programs invest in the professional and scientific growth of their students. Get the committee excited about investing in you by opening your essay with a brief portrait of what drives you as a scientist. What research directions are you passionate about, and why? What do you picture yourself doing in 10 years?
- E.g. “Graduate study is the first step towards my goal: I want to improve my ability as a researcher and gain more technical depth and breadth to maximize my impact. In the long term, I hope graduate school will better position me to be a leader in shaping the conversation about what problems can be addressed by mechanical engineers.”
Close your essay with a 2-3 sentence discussion of your long-term career interests. No one will hold you to this; this just helps your committee visualize your potential trajectory.
- E.g. “Above all else, a MIT PhD would help me achieve my long term career goal of becoming a professor, the position in which I can best see myself accomplishing my mission to show others the hidden beauty in everyday life through science.”
Connect your personal narrative to whichever degree you are applying to (be it research-based or course-work-based, or a Master of Science, Master of Engineering, or PhD). Especially in mechanical engineering, each of these degrees will enable different career trajectories and provide different educational opportunities. Articulate clearly why the degree you are applying for helps you achieve your goals. In the same vein, consider mutual benefit: what will you contribute to the academic community over your time at your target school? Remember, it all comes back to “qualified match” , no matter what level of degree you are applying for.
Describe your experiences
Experiences are the “what” of your essay. They are the most efficient and easiest way to prove your capabilities to the admissions committee.
- What experiences led you to develop your skill set and passions ?
- Where have you demonstrated accomplishment, leadership, and collaboration?
- Show your depth with a range of experiences: research, teaching, relevant extracurriculars and leadership positions.
- State concrete achievements and outcomes like awards, discoveries, or publications, or projects completed.
Achievements need not be limited to research projects or publications. Think about all the experiences that demonstrate your ability to conduct research and succeed within the structure of your target program. (Where have you demonstrated creativity? Self sufficiency? Perseverance? What open ended problems have you tackled? What enabled you to succeed at them?)
Quantify your experiences to show concrete impact. How many people were on your team? How many protocols did you develop? How many people were in competition for an award? As a TA, how often did you meet with your students?
For each experience you include, focus on how the experience affected you. Describe your actions, and always direct the message to highlighting your performance and growth (not how important the company was or how well-known the professor you TAed for is). Remember, it is not an essay about science, it is a personal essay—about you and how you have positioned yourself to succeed in graduate school.
Explain the meaning of your experiences
Your goal in sharing your experiences is to demonstrate that you have the qualifications, qualities, and drive needed to succeed in graduate school. Therefore, you will need to not only choose experiences wisely but also state specifically what they mean within the context of your application.
- Why was this experience important to your growth as a scientist?
- What did you gain from or demonstrate during that experience?
- How will this make you a better grad student?
Even if it feels obvious to you, you need to explicitly answer these questions to your audience. Here are some examples experiences that have been expanded to contain meaning:
Contemplate how disparate activities can be unified into a common narrative about your motivations and achievements. Articulate this clearly to make your statement cohesive.
Demonstrate your match to the target program
Using the research you did to assess your chosen programs, clearly articulate why you are a match . Consider both directions of the match: not only why you want to go to the school, but also why you would fit in well and contribute to the program.
State which professors in the program you would be interested in working with. Demonstrate that you have done your homework regarding the program. Show how their research areas align with your background and your goals. If you have had conversations with students or professors in the program, be sure to include that as well.
Write about you , not your role models. One of the most common pitfalls we see in the Comm Lab is students writing touching Personal Statements about family members or role models who have inspired them. There is nothing wrong with including personal stories about people who have helped you understand yourself better, or positioned you to succeed in graduate school, but it is important to tread very carefully. Don’t leave the reader wondering why they are reading about someone else in a document that is meant to be about you. If you take time to talk about someone who positively affected you, make sure to be very clear about how that experience with that person molded you into a strong graduate school candidate.
Be judicious with childhood stories. A brief mention of some childhood experience that shaped your interests in STEM is probably okay, but if you talk about it at length (more than ~2 sentences), you are taking up space that should probably be used to talk about who you are today, not who you were over a decade ago.
Don’t simply restate your resume. Your Personal Statement should be a technical document (having evidence, numbers, and supporting facts) with personal outcomes (talking about your motivations, ambitions, and ability to succeed as a graduate student). Of course, you will reiterate parts of your resume in your Personal Statement , but what uniquely makes it a “Personal Statement” is the discussion of how those professional experiences affected you , as a researcher and person well-suited to the graduate program at X University.
Insufficient quantification of your experiences. We are all scientists and engineers; our line of work is inherently quantitative. Quantification is a quick and easy way to add context, lend credence to your experiences, and impress the reader. Even little quantifications can help: “I spent two semesters working on a project about…” is much better than “I spent some time working on a project about…”. See more examples in the section on Experiences, above.
Being a great student and having an impressive resume is only half the battle when it comes to graduate school applications. You need to be able to communicate and convince the committee that your personality and particular set of skills and experiences are well-suited to the graduate program you are applying for. This extends beyond graduate school applications: as scientists and engineers, we write papers and technical reports to communicate with our peers and convince them that our work is meaningful.
By reading this article, you have recognized the value of communication and are well on your way to crafting an effective and powerful Personal Statement. This is your opportunity to make yourself shine among all the other candidates, so make it count! You can do it!
Acknowledgements : This content was adapted from the NSE and CEE Communication Labs’ CommKits for graduate applications.
Resources and Annotated Examples
Annotated example 1, annotated example 2.
12 Tips for Writing a Stellar SOP · Pay attention to the prompt. · Focus on unique experiences and qualities. · Include details. · Consider
Writing the Statement of Purpose · Part 1: Introduce yourself, your interests and motivations · Part 2: Summarize your undergraduate and previous graduate career.
How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School · 1. Know what grad schools are really asking. · 2. Be selective about the details you include. · 3. Make
Introduce yourself and your academic interests · Provide simple background information on your area of interest and how it became of particular interest to you.
Explain briefly why you think you are a good match for the school, and why the school is a good match for you. Mention the school and/or program
Review and Revise. · Do not write a wall of text. ; Grab attention. · Preview. ; Interest in the program. · Give examples. ; Align with the program
1. Brainstorm your ideas. · Why do I want this degree? · What are my expectations for this degree? · What courses or program features excite me the
Go over your reference materials and make a short list of which experiences and achievements you would especially like to highlight in your
Be specific about what makes the program that you are applying to your ideal choice. Avoid general statements such as “your program is one of the best in the
The graduate school Personal Statement (≈ Statement of Purpose ≈ Statement of Intent) is a document that complements your resume and application form