Tips To Write A Strong Statement Of Purpose

These hints should help to get you going. A more comprehensive look at what it takes to write a powerful statement of purpose and conduct a thorough search for graduate programs that are good matches for you can be found in my book, “Applying to Graduate School: Assessment and Application” [2nd Edition] which is available via Amazon. This succinct paperback will lead you, as a prospective graduate student, through the process of choosing appropriate graduate programs by showing you what to look for and what questions to ask to find programs that fit your educational goals; then it will help you, using a carefully sequenced process, to start writing an outstanding statement of purpose, then contact me to insure that your essay will make you a competitive applicant.

Writing an Effective Statement of Purpose

To differentiate you from other candidates and receive serious consideration for admission, a scholarship or a fellowship, you need a strong statement of purpose. It is important to plan carefully and set aside sufficient time to write the best possible statement. How should you proceed?

  1. Understand the question[s] being asked in the application. While each school wants to know about your goals and qualifications, there is no right answer or generic essay to fit each application. Some schools will ask whether there are faculty in their program with whom you want to do research; others will ask about your academic and research interests to determine if they are compatible with those of faculty in their program. These are overlapping questions that are subtly different. Do the research and understand the strengths of each program to which you apply. If you do, your essays will be grounded and your statement of purpose focused. Unlike college applications that are read in an admissions office serving the entire college, graduate school applications are read in small departmental committees by experienced faculty. Specificity matters.
  2. Make a comprehensive list of your academic assets. Write separate short paragraphs about your research experiences, about how study abroad affected your academic development, about how Professor Smith inspired you, about the synergies created by the courses you have taken. Think about these individual facets of your academic life as components in a just-in-time manufacturing process that you can incorporate with modifications and variations as you think about your goals, qualifications and what has inspired and excited you in college. This inventory is a source of concrete examples that you can mine as you write your statements, not cookie cutter examples to fill your essays. If you carefully review your career in college you will find a wealth of insightful and exciting information to energize your statements of purpose.
  3. Address any problems in your academic career [a semester of poor grades; a year of interrupted study] directly and succinctly. Don’t whine and move on to your accomplishments.
  4. Make sure you have a strong opening paragraph. Sitting down to ‘write a strong opener’ as a first step in the writing process is not an effective strategy.
  5. Spell check. Cliché check. Be concrete, direct and vivid. Avoid obfuscation and pomposity [they know you are smart… they need to know who you are!]. Edit, edit, edit. Back up your essays each time you make changes.
  6. Get feedback from an objective, experienced person — not your aunt or your roommate.
  7. Assemble each application with care. Your essay for the University of Michigan should not be sent to the University of Minnesota.

These guidelines should make the process of applying to graduate schools less painful, more creative and more successful!

  • Let’s Talk About Your Essay!

    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.