Statements of Purpose

It's time to start your statement of purpose, but where do you begin? What should you include? What should you not include? Hopefully we can help answer these questions.

Provide what they ask you

The first and probably most important thing is to provide the information the school requests. Follow their prompt closely.

Choose a theme

Start by making a list of your experiences, interests and accomplishments and try to find a connection (or theme) between them. Remember, however, the base to your theme needs to focus on why you should be accepted into a graduate program. A statement of purpose is used to sell yourself to the admissions committee by distinguishing yourself from the other candidates, especially in highly selective programs.

Keep a balanced attitude

Don't sound over excited in the tone of your essay. Make sure you are professional, serious and ambitious. Don't be afraid to mention both positive and negative experiences, but always do so sounding open-minded and neutral. Don't go to the extremes. Be sure to keep a moderate balance without sounding too casual or too formal. Be confident in what you have to say.

Write in the first person

Although you may have been taught to avoid writing in the first person, it is very appropriate to do so in a statement of purpose. Remember, the purpose of the statement is to portray your personal experiences in a way that makes you stand out from your competition. You want your personal statement to sound. . . personal! Avoid using "I" too often by re-wording sentences or statements to include the words "me" and "my". Don't forget transition words, such as "therefore" and "however".

Discussing research interests

Do not go into a lot of detail. You do not need to provide the committee with a specific dissertation topic. State your research interests within the field in broad terms. You are asked about your research interests in order to provide the admissions committee with something to show your knowledge of the field. It will also be used to see how your research interests compare to the faculty member would you like to work with.

Mention the faculty you would like to work with

Verifying that your research interests match with the faculty member you would like to work with is important. Knowing which faculty you would like to work with will give the admissions committee something to consider. Don't limit yourself to only one possible faculty member. It may be that your top choice is unavailable to work with you. If you do not provide options, you may be limiting your chances of being accepted into the program. You could contact possible professors to see if they are available for you to work with before you apply.

Find every day connections in your experience

You may not have a lot of experience in the field that you wish to study. Get creative. Think of your other experiences and how you can relate that to your field of study. Make a list of your qualities and how you have used them in the past.

Only mention relevant experiences

There is no need to mention experiences that have nothing to do with your desire to gain admission into a graduate program. Focus on experiences that have given you skills to use in your field of study. If you have experience that have not provided skills required for the field, but influenced your goals, discuss that as well. It will help make your statement personal.

Avoid humor

Although using humor may keep your readers entertained, it could hurt your chances of being accepted. If you do decide to use it, do it with caution and keep it limited. Always be appropriate. You want your humor to leave a smile on the reader's face, not offend anyone.

Keep length limits in mind

Most programs have a limit on the number of words to be used in your statement. Most range from 500-1000 words. Do not exceed the limit given, however, be sure you have answered all questions asked. Give yourself plenty of time to write your statement. You may need to adjust the length by rewriting some of your answers to fit within the length limits. If you are given a range for the number of words, be sure your length is at least the minimum number of words requested.

Visit your Career Center

Make an appointment with a Career Resources Specialist to have the content of your statement critiqued for clarity and composition.

Additional resources

"Writing Your Statement of Purpose" (Cornell University Graduate School)