A written statement of purpose is a standard requirement for graduate school admission. It is a tool for the faculty on graduate school admissions committees to assess the knowledge, experience, motivation, intellectual maturity and readiness of applicants to pursue graduate education at their institution. The statement of purpose is a crucial component of the graduate school admissions process. It can determine whether an applicant is accepted or rejected, irrespective of their other qualifications. This essay outlines the 5 stages that a graduate school applicant should go through in order to write an impressive and successful statement of purpose.
Stage I: Do Your Homework
- Browse through the websites of the schools/departments/programs of interest to you. Obtain brochures and booklets and read through them carefully. Highlight the aspects of the programs that appeal to you.
- Read up on the research interests and projects of the faculty in the schools/departments/programs. Read publications from a faculty of interest.
- Browse through recent articles from the research field of interest and try to get a general understanding of how the field developed and what are its current problems and challenges.
Stage II: Reflect and Brainstorm (on paper)
- Reflect on your intellectual development.
• What and when were the major moments in your life that have led you to your current research interest(s) and school/department/program?
• What or who influenced your decision or interest (i.e. role models)? What quality about them appealed to you?
- Why did you choose your research topic(s)/field/school?
- Why did you choose your undergraduate major?
- What are your career goals?
• Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
• What do you hope to accomplish?
• What drives you? What motivates you?
Stage III: Outline your Statement of Purpose
- From the results of Stage II, determine a central theme/topic that stands out or dominates your reflections and brainstorm.
- Using bullet points and brief comments/statements, organize your reflections and brainstorm ideas that strengthen the central theme/topic of your statement of purpose.
• Concentrate on your life experiences and give specific examples.
• Put down only those things that excite you.
• Do not make things up!
- Your outline should cover these areas and, preferably, in this order:
• What aspects of the school/department/program appeals to you?
• What is your research interest(s)?
• How did you become interested in your current research topic/area?
• How did you prepare or are preparing to address the issues in this research area/topic (i.e. research experiences, courses, etc.)?
• What are your future goals for graduate school (i.e. PhD)?
• What are your career goals (i.e. professorship)?
• What characteristics of the school/department/program can help you accomplish
• What positive aspects do you bring to the school/department/program?
Stage IV: Write Draft of Statement of Purpose
When writing your statement of purpose:
• Always use positive language when referring to yourself.
• Give detailed, but concise examples.
• Use transition words, sentences and paragraphs. Your statement must read smoothly.
• Skip a line after each paragraph.
• Refrain from starting neighbouring paragraphs the same way.
• Avoid using vocabulary that you do not know.
• Refrain from repeating yourself.
• Have strong opening and closing paragraphs.
• Stay within the 2 – 3 page limit!
• Thank the admissions committee for their time at the end of your statement of purpose.
Stage V: Ask for Critique, Revise and Edit
- When you are finished with your draft statement of purpose, read it out loud to yourself and
- Ask friends, colleagues and professors to read your edited draft. Taking their comments into
consideration, revise and edit your draft.