The statement of purpose is a very important part of graduate school applications; however, most students are not sure what it entails or how to write a statement of purpose that stands out and impresses admissions committees.
A statement of purpose is a one to two-page essay, single-spaced, describing your research interests and how the program will fit your needs and best enable you to achieve your career goals. According to The Princeton Review, “admissions committees examine your statement of purpose very closely – they want to see whether you have the right stuff to succeed in grad school.” In order to write a statement of purpose that convinces them of this, you will need to focus on what your career goals are and how the specific graduate program/faculty will enable you to achieve those goals. You should also indicate to the faculty that you have a passion for your chosen field and that you are well equipped for graduate school in that field.
In your statement of purpose you will want to include:
- A concise introduction, detailing what research you are interested in and what led to your interest in this research/graduate program.
- A summary of your undergraduate career, including research you conducted, any thesis you may have written, and any relevant work experience you have.
- If you have taken time between finishing your bachelor’s degree and applying to graduate school, discuss what you have done in that time to expand your experience that would help you to succeed in graduate school.
- Emphasize your specific academic interests, showing the faculty on the admissions committee that you are well versed in their research and how it fits with your interests. If your research interests don’t fit with the program, it is not a good match for you or the faculty in the program.
- A conclusion that indicates your positivity and enthusiasm for the challenges of graduate school.
You want to write your statement of purpose in a positive manner. Even when you are explaining away an issue in your undergraduate career or time off, you want to emphasize the positive aspects that it brought you. Use examples when noting positive attributes that you have. For example, illustrate a time in which you demonstrated leadership rather than simply saying that you are a leader. Only mention things that are relevant to the specific field of study or graduate program; your baking ability is of little concern to a clinical psychology graduate program, delicious as your cheesecakes may be. However, extracurricular activities that you are involved in that would demonstrate skills and knowledge that will prove useful in the program, such as group communication skills gained from participation in a team sport, are useful topics in your statement of purpose. Try to make your statement of purpose unique. Admissions committees receive a lot of applications, and it is easy to get lost in the mix. Being memorable could improve your chances of admission. Don’t just use the same statement of purpose for each program that you apply to. It is okay to reuse some parts of the statement, but you want to personalize a fair amount of it for each program. Lastly, give yourself plenty of time before applications are due to write the statement of purpose and have several people look over it, including the professors that are writing your letters of recommendation, career/graduate services, and peers that you trust. They may catch a grammar or spelling mistake that you overlooked or even recommend a way to make the statement flow better.