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How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Your Graduate School Admission

As you have been looking at graduate schools you have undoubtedly run into the dreaded statement of purpose – almost all graduate programs will ask for it, but why is it so difficult to write and why is it important? Writing a strong statement of purpose is essential for graduate school admission, no matter what type of graduate program you are trying to attend. A statement of purpose allows admissions committees members an opportunity to know you better. For some programs they will want to know about research interests and more importantly why you have an interest in their specific program.

A great statement of purpose highlights your strengths, interests and experiences. In the following article I will offer you some advice on what you can do to write a successful statement of purpose that will make your application stand out.

Statement of purpose vs. personal statement: What’s the difference?

A personal statement gives insight into who you are, while a statement of purpose is meant to showcase what you want to do. For many Masters programs you will be asked to write a personal statement whereas many PhD or research-based programs may ask you to focus your efforts on a statement of purpose.

When writing a personal statement, admission committees are most times looking to really get to know you as a person and get a sense on why you have an interest in their specific program. Differently, if you are looking at a research-based program you will likely see schools requesting either a statement of purpose or a research statement where the admissions committees are looking to gain a stronger sense of your academic background as well as your research interests and what you hope to accomplish in the program itself. 

Talk About Your Weaknesses

While you are working on your statement, don’t just focus on your strengths. Many students assume that they shouldn’t talk about their shortcomings in their essays but the point of applying to a program is to impress the reviewers and to let them know the whole you. Constructively addressing your weaknesses can be a great way to demonstrate how this program can help you achieve your academic and career goals.

Take some time to look at your coursework. Is there a course that interests you? Is there a course that can help you obtain a skill or understand a concept? If so, talk about it!

By delving deep you demonstrate that you are seeking programs to both better yourself and your education. It also shows that you are willing to learn new things and challenge yourself along the way.

Keep it Brief

Most graduate programs will specify how long a statement should be, but if it doesn’t I would assume that it should not be longer than two pages. Your statement should be long enough to give the admission committee a glimpse of who you are and what you have to offer the program.

Your statement helps you communicate why this particular program is the right fit and how it will help you meet your academic and career goals. Through what you are writing you have limited space which means you have to prioritize what you write. 

To make the most of your statement, take time to plan out what you want to say to ensure you hot the points that are most important to your application and to the program to which you are applying. Also, by framing your essay before you write it, you can avoid stream-of-consciousness writing that can often come across as hard to read.

Read, Read and Read again!

You will take some time to write your statement. When you think you are done, take some time to read your essay out loud. When you do this you will be able to catch typos, poor grammar, and oddly worded sentences. Once you catch these, make changes to your essay. Also, if you have someone that you trust, have them also read your essay to get their feedback and incorporate it into the final product.

By asking someone else to read your essay you are getting an outside perspective that can both ask questions and also helps you clarify your points to make it more compelling. In writing your statement you are allowing the admissions committee to know you through your words. You do not want to make many mistakes or present messy words as it shows them more about who you are but also your attention to detail.

As you get ready to submit, make sure that you are submitting the correct document for the right institution. Too often students have multiple versions of statements that they use for different institutions, so you do not want to make the mistake of submitting the incorrect documents. Not only is this embarrassing but it could also make the admissions committee decide to not consider your application.

If you are going to spend all the time you have on perfecting your application you want to make sure you review everything before you submit so you can rest easy knowing you’ve presented yourself in the best way possible.