If you plan on applying to graduate school, or any other upper level schooling, you will be expected to write a statement of purpose as part of the application process. This difficult essay will discuss your past, present, and future, and how they relate not only to the school you are applying to, but the subject you wish to study. This essay requires a delicate balancing act, requiring you to tell your personal story, describe your ambitions, and pepper them with a bit of self-promotion, among other things.
Today, we will discuss what you need to mention in this important essay, but it may also be helpful to know that there is no one way to write this essay. Every school requires something different, and everyone’s life is different. If you’d like a refresher on the basics of essay writing, this course on paragraph and essay writing might refresh your memory.
What to Include
There are many ways to write this difficult essay, which may be inspiring, but can also derail you. This list of the things you should include in your statement of purpose will help keep you on track, and even might help focus your mind should you get distracted at some point.
- Your Past: This is where you bring up your relevant past academic experiences. Discuss your undergraduate studies, any internships, work experience, community service, life experiences, etc. Make sure to explain how these past experiences have inspired to to keep studying, and how they have prepared you for the future.
- What You Want to Study: Shine a light on what you want to study and why. Go back to the first time you became interested in this subject, and track your progress through life in pursuing it. Remember that this essay is about you, and don’t forget to describe your personal talents for this area of study. If business is your passion, this course on the MBA admissions process should be helpful.
- Your Future: After discussing your past, you’ll next want to focus on your future. Talk about your specific goals, including what kind of degree you want, as well as what disciplines of this subject you wish to focus on. Also, mention what professional goals you may have after completing this degree, such as professor, researcher, consultant, etc. This course on shaping your future will help you set goals and find your purpose.
- How Are You a Match: Explain why you belong at this specific institution. What professors at the school interest you, and how do your interests align with their’s?
Dos and Don’ts
- Follow Directions: Make sure you read the instructions for the essay, and keep in mind any specific things they want you to address, like any questions they want answered. Make sure to mind the word limit, as well, and not get too long-winded.
- Attract Attention: Just like writing a fiction story, this essay needs to stand out, especially since you are one of possibly thousands of people competing for this opportunity. Make your essay stand out, and grab the reader by the collar right out of the gate.
- Be Too Casual: Of course you want to make sure there are no grammar or spelling issues, but you also want to watch out for contractions, slang, or any other colloquialisms that have no place in formal writing. Need help with your grammar? This course on advanced English grammar should get you ready for this essay.
- Get Off Topic: Discuss things that relate to your field of study. If you discuss a class you took in the past that might be pertinent, don’t get caught up in nostalgia, and if you do, make sure it’s brief and adds to the overall subject.
Statement of Purpose Format
There is no one way to write a statement of purpose. Not only will the requirements vary, each applicant is also unique. What we can do is provide you with an outline of how the statement of purpose should flow. Beforehand, make sure you outline what you want to say, and how you want to say it.
Introduction and Thesis Statement
The thesis of your essay will announce the paper’s central idea. It must be specific, and should prepare the reader for what to expect over the course of your statement of purpose.
- Paragraph 1: The very first sentence should be your attention-grabber. You want to stand out from the competition, in addition to making the reader excited to read your essay. Next, focus on what you want to study and why. Explain your career goals, as well as your life goals as it pertains to your career.
Body of Paper
After your intro and thesis, you will get into the meat and potatoes of your statement of purpose. This will be several paragraphs long, and will comprise the bulk of your paper. Each paragraph must have its own central idea, introduced in a topic sentence. After introducing a topic, the rest of the paragraph must support it, and make sure each paragraph flows smoothly into the next. This part of the essay may vary in length, depending on the directions.
- Paragraph 2: Here, you will discuss your past, and recount any interest in your field of study you have had since childhood. Discuss your past studies with the subject, and feel free to tug at the heart strings of any potential readers with a childhood anecdote of why you were meant to study this subject.
- Paragraph 3: Here, you can discuss any practical training, seminars attended, awards received, journals studied, etc. Try to make this part technical, making sure to showcase your knowledge of the specifics of your field of study. This may also be where you want to mention what your final goal of researching would be.
- Paragraph 4: In this paragraph, you may toot your own horn, so to speak. Explain any skills you’ve acquired over the years that are specific to your field of study, mentioning not only technical skills, but also any managerial experience you may have, including any experience you have with teams or subordinates.
- Paragraph 5: If you have the space, this would be a good place to include more personal information, such as extracurricular activities, outside interests such as sports, drama, music, etc., and any clubs or organizations you may have belonged to or started while in high school or college.
- Paragraph 6: If you haven’t already, you will want to address the specific school or institution around this part of the essay. Mention the work they do, specific professors, and how your interests, skills, and future plans align with those of the school.
Here you just want to reiterate what you’ve already mentioned. No new ideas or subjects should be brought up at this late of a point in the essay.
- Paragraph 7: Tie everything you’ve previously mentioned together, and try to sound hopeful in this last part of your essay. Insinuate yourself into the school, saying things like “I look forward to…”, “I would benefit from…”, or any other sentiment that reinforces the fact that you belong there. Finally, make sure your last line is a real winner, not only tying everything together, but looking forward to the future.
So that’s the statement of purpose. Don’t get too hung up on format, but rather focus on your passion and ambition, and how you will fit in at the school you are applying to. Don’t forget to be specific, not only about yourself, but about your field of study, and the institution. If you can find a point where your passion and your writing skills can meet, the statement of purpose should just flow out of you. This course on writing essays and theses might be helpful if you’re feeling a little shaky about essay writing.