Students who graduate schools need to create a statement of purpose or a letter of intent. In this article, we have gathered the most important hints on writing this paper as well as selected some good examples of statements of purpose.
This paper demonstrates your experience and interests to the admissions committee. If you are going to choose a research-focused program to get a Master's or Ph.D. degree, the statement of purpose must be focused on the past research experience and your plans for future research. If you want to select professionally-focused programs, you should mention in this paper how the chosen program is related to your experience and how you're going to use the skills in your career.
What Is the Statement of Purpose?
In the statement, you have also to explain to the admission officers why you have chosen this program and how the specific studying fits your interests, higher education, and future career. It's important to show your goals and hopes for receiving the degree and getting all the needed skills to use in your future career.
At the first point, you have to introduce yourself. The next step is what you can offer for the chosen program. Here you must describe your experience and personal skills to prove you can handle this position. Don't forget to mention your personal goals. If it's hard for you to highlight your skills, read the program description to understand what certain skills it may require from students.
Keep in your memory to keep this document brief and clear. You don't need to write a lot. Put there only the most important things you want admission officers to hear. This is a short summary that should make you look perfect for getting a higher education.
Statement of Purpose Writing Guidelines
Some applications call for one statement, while others require responses to a series of multiple questions. 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. Always read the instructions carefully! When in doubt, call the department or program for clarification.
So, here we outlined the 5 stages that a graduate school or a degree applicant should go
through in order to write an impressive and successful statement of purpose.
Step 1: 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.
Step 2: 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 interests. What or who influenced your decision or interest.
- Why did you choose your research topics?
- Why did you choose your undergraduate major?
- What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in 10 years and what do you hope to accomplish?
Step 3: Outline your Statement of Purpose
- From the results of Step 2, 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.
- Your outline should cover these areas and, preferably, in this order:
- What aspects of the program or department appeals to you?
- What are your research interests?
- 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?
- What are your future goals for the program?
- What are your career goals ?
- What characteristics of the department or program can help you accomplish your goals?
- What positive aspects do you bring to the department/program?
Step 4: Write Draft of Your 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 neighboring paragraphs the same way.
- Avoid using vocabulary that you do not know.
- Refrain from repeating yourself.
- Have a strong opening and closing paragraph.
- Stay within the 2-3 page limit!
- Thank the admissions committee for their time at the end of your statement of purpose.
Step 5: Ask for Critique, then Revise and Edit
- When you are finished with your draft statement of purpose, read it out loud to yourself and make corrections.
- Ask friends, colleagues and professors to read your edited draft. Taking their comments into consideration, revise and edit your draft.
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Five Strong Statement of Purpose SamplesWe've gathered five great statements of purpose examples here. Read these successful samples to help you in writing your own document properly.
1. Economics (PhD)
When introduced to economics in high school I realized that it interestingly qualified as a subject of both Arts and Science. It was an area defined by precise rules, principles and axioms and yet there was tremendous scope for self-expression in the form of interpretation and analysis. This facet of economics intrigued me very much and I decided to pursue further studies in Economics.
During my Master's program I equipped myself as best as I could, with various tools used in economic analysis. I obtained rigorous training in mathematics, econometrics and game theory. After completing the Master's program, I joined National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, as I was very eager to see how one might use economics to tackle real life problems, where simplified models, and assuming away of problems may offer no respite. I did some very interesting work here, which is described in my resume. I want to delve deeper into the subject to be able to carry out independent research and analysis, hence my decision to join the Ph.D. program at UCLA.
International Economics is an area I would really like to explore. I am fascinated by game theoretic modeling of issues pertaining to International Economics. I believe that game theoretic models can be effectively used in international economics as many policy issues such as negotiations over mutual reductions in tariffs, formation and preservation of customs unions, establishment of cartels in the case of internationally traded goods, all have some game theoretic character.
The current "Regionalism versus Multilateralism" debate holds its own attraction. It should be interesting to analyze the trade diversion effects of Preferential Trading Agreements and also their impact on multilateral institutions like GATT. The strategic trading that takes place in foreign exchange markets and the variety of auction-like mechanisms that have been used for foreign exchange trade, especially in developing countries, are intriguing.
During my graduate studies I aim to equip myself with some advanced tools and develop my analytical and research capabilities. I want to get an excellent command over econometrics to be able to confront stochastic statistical data with exact models of economic theories and also for empirical verification of other models, which might otherwise be set in a partial equilibrium framework. I expect to emerge as an economic engineer and an expert in model building.Econometrics per se, also interests me as a subject of economics and I might like to research econometric methodology. I want to be an academic economist. I have cleared the National Eligibility test conducted by the University Grants Commission of India, which makes me eligible to teach an undergraduate course in economics in any Indian university.
I want to study at UCLA, as it emphasizes on the rigor and analytical tools that are necessary for academic research. I have well-developed analytical and mathematical skills and I want to exploit these skills to the greatest extent. I feel the help and guidance that can be provided to me by the distinguished faculty of your university will be invaluable. I am sure if I am given the opportunity to study at your university that attracts some of the best students from all over the world, it will provide an environment competitive enough to bring out the best in me.
2. Psychology (PhD)
When I came to college I wanted to be a doctor. I was going to study biology, pick up a second major along the way, and go to medical school to become a rural practitioner. I soon realized that I was suffering from my own version of "Med. Student Syndrome." I did not think that I was sick, but I did realize that I was obviously delusional. I realized that I did not have the burning desire to become a medical doctor. The profession did not interest me; it was my perception of the profession that had caught my fancy. Luckily, by then I had begun to study psychology, so I understood what a good delusion was like.
As I studied psychology more and more, I found what excites me most of all were the investigation, dissection and understanding of problems that I saw around me in the world. I found psychology courses stimulated me to think and explore my world as I took courses in development, psychopathology, personality and behavior analysis. Dr. XXXX's behavior analysis classes gave me good critical and analytic skills through our repeated analyses, discussion and practice of both basic and complex behavioral principles.
I received research training with XXX, Ph.D. while working on an autism and social behaviors study, and with XXX, Ph.D. while writing an honors thesis and subsequent poster presentation. My work with Dr. XXX helped me develop my observational skills and learn to classify and define abstract descriptors into concrete variables. In my honors research, I started with a broad question, wondering whether young adults' substance use behaviors were related to both sensation seeking and their friendships and if so how. Once I narrowed my ideas, collected and analyzed the data, I had to deal with the frustration of getting results that did not support the hypotheses. I did more data collection and analyses for a poster presentation at the Society for Prevention Research annual conference, and in post-hoc analyses I found that while I had studied the sample as a whole, males and females had different predictors of alcohol use. Even though I hadn't supported my original hypotheses, this gave me ideas as to why. One of my favorite biology professors used to say that advances in science are often made by proving something does not exist, something I learned well through my research.
I am currently volunteering for a year in Fairbanks, Alaska, through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps at a parenting resource center. I work in Family Preservation Services with families whose children have been in state custody trying to keep the families together. It's difficult work; I see kids every day who are very young but who have already had pretty tough lives. Many of these children could be case studies of multiple risk factors. As some here have put it, they are "damaged." My work here has really driven my thinking about how abuse, divorce, and familial discord interact to affect children in their social interactions, their view of themselves and the world, and the future predicted for them.
Through my undergraduate research, including my honors thesis, I was introduced to the issues surrounding adolescent substance use. I found myself very interested in both the specific issues of adolescent substance use and the ideas of how an adolescent's context, whether it is familial, environmental or peer, could affect the adolescent's life. I would like to find ways to help kids like those I work with have more promising lives. I am interested in studying child and adolescent mental health, particularly issues of substance use, risk and resilience, pathology and aggression, and how social and family context affects each of these issues. Essentially I am interested in ways in which we can make growing up less difficult, particularly for high-risk kids.
I see myself spending my career primarily in research and teaching. I see it as crucial to have research that is well informed by clinical practice, and clinical practice well grounded in research. I also see it as necessary to ensure that research is properly disseminated, and that under-served areas gain increased attention as targets of study and clinical practice assistance. For example, most of Alaska does not have a strong university presence, and I believe that the social service programs here suffer from not being up to speed on the latest in clinical developments. I'd like to develop prevention programs and interventions to help address what I choose to specialize in, and a position as a university professor would be the ideal way to achieve this goal. Further, I am very attracted by the prospect of teaching and mentoring college students about what I love.
I decided to apply to XXX University for several reasons. I am attracted to XXX University by the strong emphasis on research and methodology. Particularly, the strong preventive focus of the Child Clinical area of emphasis is one that meshes well with what I am looking for in a program. In researching XXX University, the work of Drs. XXX and XXX particularly piqued my interest. I worked with XXX at XXX University, who exposed me to much of Dr. XXX's work on children of alcoholics. I would be interested in further pursuing work in risk factors for substance abuse, particularly looking at how familial and social context affect risk behaviors. Dr. XXX' research in risk and resilience and her prevention work with high risk adolescents is very much what I am interested in doing, as I not only have research experience but the clinical work with similar populations to what Dr. XXX' is working with.
The Clinical Psychology program at XXX University has everything I am looking for in a program, just as I feel I have what XXX University should be looking for in an incoming student. I would be very excited to join the incoming class at the XXX University for 2000. I feel I am well prepared to enter graduate study, and my strong motivation and career goals are a good match for what XXX has to offer.
3. History (PhD)
One of the proudest accomplishments of my life was earning my college degree, despite the fact that my early adulthood pointed in the opposite direction, beginning with my marriage at the age of 19. Throughout the 1990s I lived as one of the "working poor," someone who slipped through the cracks of supposedly historic prosperity. By the age of 25 I was divorced and frustrated with menial, low-paying jobs: clerk, receptionist, and housecleaner. There is nothing like scrubbing someone else's toilet to inspire one with determination toward obtaining an education. Because of my absolute commitment toward earning my degree, I got a flexible shift at a retail warehouse which enabled me to acquire my degree while supporting myself financially.
Enrolled at the local community college, I experienced a different world opening up to me; excited by a new encouraging environment, I excelled academically. I learned that if I tried hard, I could succeed; if I wanted something badly enough, I possessed the ability to take advantage of these opportunities. I worked a minimum 35-hour workweek for five years to put myself through school without succumbing to the temptation of a student loan. I paid tuition up front with the money I earned. It was the example of my mother, a Puerto Rican immigrant working diligently to provide for her family, who instilled a work ethic into me that has stood me in good stead.
With a lifelong passion for history, I have developed an interest in the cultural history of early modern and modern Europeans, especially women's history. The experiences of ordinary women fascinate me: how they constitute their world through popular folktales and literature; how the seemingly irrational paradoxes of the past to modern eyes are completely rational when taken within the historical context; and finally, how these historical changes and transformations in culture constitute the present. I enjoy studying the early modern period of English history, especially the Tudor- Stuart period, because of the tensions that existed between medieval philosophies and the rising Enlightenment intellectualism. My influences have been diverse. I read the popular historian Barbara Tuchman, not for her technical accuracy, but for her beautiful prose. Natalie Zemon Davis's research inspires me in the way that she cleverly picks out fresh life from tired sources. And finally, Michel Foucault's philosophies have profoundly influenced the way I write, for now I have a philosophical grounding that makes me highly sensitive to my own biases. In fact, Foucault's post-structuralist matrix has been instrumental in shaping my current project focusing on the 17th-century midwife Elizabeth Cellier. In this project, I am reexamining the current histories of English midwifery using Cellier as a case study, detecting a decided bias embedded within them. The underlying assumption of these histories is that pre-industrial professional women-and Cellier in particular- struggled against patriarchy and oppression from the male medical community, when in fact Cellier's literature shows that she utilized the accepted discourses of patriarchy available to her in her writing and turned them into useful tools of political and religious power.
As a student, I feel that my success lies in the fact that I approached my studies as if I were a professional (historian, not student, that is). I always enrolled in the most challenging courses and worked with professors I felt were the most qualified in my areas of interest. Never did I settle for an A- or B+. If I got one, I would ask what I could do to improve--and ultimately, I utilized the advice to strengthen my work. My personal academic milestone occurred while I was completing a research seminar on historical methods. This required course was taught by an Americanist-Dr. W., director of the [school withheld] history department - so our research topics were limited to American sources. I was able to work within my main interest, which is marginalized women, while using the primary sources of The New York Times. The resulting paper, "Biologically Unsound: Women, Murder, and the Insanity Plea in the Progressive Era" examined the preponderant use of the insanity plea for women who went outside their "innate nature" and murdered, regardless of the circumstances which drove them to kill. Although the topic was outside my focus, which is European history, this paper was selected for publication in the Phi Alpha Theta journal, The Historian.
My focus as an undergraduate has always been with an eye toward graduate school and a career as a professional historian. Aware of the rigors of graduate study, I have not only completed an undergraduate language requirement in Spanish, but I am also currently enrolled in an accelerated French course. In addition, I have become active in the historical honor society, Phi Alpha Theta, including serving as chapter president. During my tenure our chapter hosted the Phi Alpha Theta Regional Conference, the largest regional conference in the nation. With the help of faculty adviser Dr. G., I created the conference sessions, I chose appropriate student commentators for those sessions, and gave a keynote speech. The experience taught me that I have a flair for organization as well as mediation. Under my leadership, our chapter also published its first journal, and hosted a variety of campus activities. This year I am working with the Computer Society in order to establish a Website for students who need help succeeding in history courses; we are going to call it the Clio homepage. My position as an authority figure both in classroom work and within these various organizations has awakened a desire to embrace teaching, for I enjoy sharing the excitement of education with my peers, as well as helping them achieve their own academic success. I feel that my life experiences as well as my commitment to education would be an asset to Cornell's doctoral program in History. Cornell has an exciting interdisciplinary program that is exceptionally impressive. In particular, Dr. W.'s specialty in Tudor-Stuart social and cultural history complements my own interest in studying the experiences of English pre-industrial women. This combination will provide the strong background I desire in order to shape my future research interests. I feel that Cornell is a premier institution for an aspiring Ph.D. candidate and as such, a very competitive program. But I know I have the tools and the determination to excel in such a stimulating and challenging environment.
4. Economics (MA)
In this essay I am going to concentrate mostly on the incentives that stimulate me to pursue further studying, and reflect the motives for my choice of Princeton University as well as state my future career objectives.
I have chosen to work in the area of international microeconomics because it has such a demand for new ideas. At the same time it requires a good mathematical background and has obvious implications in real life.
My education suits this field very well, I have a Master of Science with Honors in the field of applied mathematics and physics and a Master of Arts in economics with a specialization in international economics. I already have extensive research experience both in applied sciences and economics, know basic economic models and have a strong background both in abstract modeling and data manipulation. All this probably makes me an economist, but my objective is to become a good one.
I have been taught by very good lecturers. After the course I took with Professor Branson I decided that there is nothing more interesting than international economics. Professor A made issues of monetary economics and government policy fascinating. Lectures delivered by Professor B attracted me to labor market problems. I enjoyed listening to them and want to teach my mind to operate in a similar manner - attention is paid to every individual fact and each formal problem solved reflects a real economic situation.
While writing my master's thesis I had a chance to see that a simple look at a graph can be more useful than application of sophisticated economic techniques. One of the reasons I want to study further is to reach at least the same level of intuitiveness and panoramic view of the subject as my teachers have.
My Master of Arts degree was in the field of Health Economics, which I am very interested in. It was mostly an empirical dissertation. My dissertation was titled ".." and I worked under the guidance of Professor C. The greatest part of my work was devoted to macroeconomic cross-country econometric (panel data) analysis. The task was complicated by the necessity to work with omitted variables and low quality data as well as the low reliability of data for developing countries and countries in transition.
We also made efforts to build a model that explains the impact of macroeconomic parameters on health deterioration and the probability of death. My master's thesis has been presented at the "Russian Economic And Political Institutions In Transition" conference and currently we are preparing it for publication.
At this time I am also doing empirical research devoted to inflation and monetary policy. I feel cautious specifying which area of economics interests me most for further study, but I do not think that this is a drawback. I find economics particularly attractive for the fact that it is broad, and has not yet been split into a set of narrow sub-branches - economists all speak almost the same language. I also think that in the face of complexity we face in this discipline, it would be ineffective to specialize too narrowly.
This year I realized as I had not before that I wish to continue my studies. Being a teaching assistant in Professor A's Macroeconomics and Advanced Macroeconomics classes, I understood a lot of effort must be applied for a good student to turn into a good teacher. I feel that a similar gap lies between a good student and a good researcher.
I am a hardworking and determined person, and I am ready for a new leap in my economics career. I will work hard in hope that the quantity of the effort I put in will result in high quality knowledge. The fact is that the best possible supervisors and a highly competitive atmosphere are necessary for this quality. The only reasonable decision for me was to aim for such a place. All this gives me the motivation to apply to Princeton University.
5. Physics (PhD)
My goal is to combine my background in physics and mathematics with experimental neuroscience to build quantitative models of how brains work. As a child, I fell in love with mathematical problem-solving but it was not until college that I knew what to do with that love. I considered several majors in my first few semesters at USC, but my persistent question - “yes, but how does that work?” - eventually led me to the physics department and an electricity and magnetism course with Dr. P. Z. Using the mathematical problem-solving that I reveled in, we explored the physical mechanisms behind magnets, sunsets, and a wealth of fascinating natural phenomena. The uncompromising inquisitiveness of physics resonated with my own curiosity, and I was hooked.
I became especially interested in the physical basis of information processing and joined Dr. Z.’s Quantum Information Theory group in Torino. Through calculations and simulations, we sought to define an appropriate concept of thermal equilibrium in quantum mechanics. I learned a great deal about milking mathematical models and simulations for physical results, but most importantly, the excitement of constructing a new theory convinced me that I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing science. Combined with a desire to inspire other students as Dr. Z. had done for me, I knew then I wanted to become a professor.
It struck me that while I and other researchers grappled with the fundamental limits of computation, we still lacked a deep understanding of the very information processor that enabled us to do so – the human brain. When I thought about math, which neurons fired? How were the things I learned embodied in my brain? Was it possible to understand the physical basis of the human mind just as we understand a magnet or sunset? I searched for a neuroscience group at USC who might have a need for a physicist and soon found Dr. B.’s group, who were having an issue with their simulations of neural synapses. Their numerical integration algorithm was having trouble with the multiple timescales present in biological dynamics, and I discovered the source of this difficulty and proposed an adaptive algorithm to significantly speed up simulations. I also assisted a graduate student in building compartmental models of hippocampal neurons, gaining valuable experience in using the simulation package NEURON.
Since then, I have pursued neuroscience and physics in parallel - neuroscience for the questions that drive me and physics to better understand the physical basis of information processing and hone my ability to build and analyze mathematical models. I spent the first half of summer 2010 at the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) in Waterloo, Ontario working with Dr. A. C. on the proof of a mathematical theorem that we felt might lead to new algorithms for quantum computers. Over six weeks, Dr. C. and I iterated between provisional theorems and test cases generated by a computer program I had written, converged on a candidate for the theorem, and found our proof. I gave an IQC colloquium on our findings, and Dr. C. and I are currently working on a generalization of our result for publication. Beyond offering new tools of analysis, my physics research has also influenced my neuroscience by giving me a visceral understanding of the play between theory, simulation, and experiment and how to iterate between them.
Currently, I am working with USC Professor B. to understand how brains rapidly and robustly encode information presented only once. In particular, we are investigating the optimal dendrite morphology for memory capacity during one-shot learning tasks and studying how the optimal morphology varies with input features such as noise and density of activation. We hypothesize that dendrite morphology is optimized to shift response variability to a regime efficient for memory capacity. We are also exploring various definitions of memory capacity and the connections between them. One of Dr. M.’s students amassed a collection of simulation data, and my role is to build mathematical models that help explain his results, enable analytic calculations of memory capacity, and suggest new simulations to further refine our hypotheses. Our hope is that the optimal biophysical variables we identify will correspond with experimental values in the brain. Our approach is characteristic of what I believe is a unique and important contribution that physics and mathematics may offer biology - explanations for the functional role of biological mechanisms rooted in arguments for their optimality.
My strategy of pursuing research in both physics and neuroscience has provided me with unique insights into the brain, valuable experience with interdisciplinary collaborations, and clarity on my career goals. I would like to pursue a Ph.D. followed by a professorship to continue my research and share my passion for discovery with eager young minds. Through collaborations with experimentalists and my training in physics and mathematics, I want to explore the links between biophysical mechanisms and their functional roles in neural computation. In addition to my research, I have pursued and excelled in several graduate courses in physics and mathematics and even picked up new analytic tools from other graduate departments, such as information theory and mathematical optimization. Concurrently, I have attained a significant knowledge of modern neuroscience through extracurricular study and research. Thus I am confident in my choice of graduate research and in my preparation for pursuing it.
Furthermore, I am confident that the University of Washington’s Physics program would be a great place for me to do so. I am attracted by the large community of faculty and students interested in biophysics and particularly interested in working with Drs. A., F. R., and E. S., each of whom I have contacted. As I prefer theoretical work closely coupled with ongoing experiments, I am especially interested in a project co-advised by Dr. R. and either Dr. F. or Dr. S. Another potential focus of our collaboration could be the modulatory effect of persistent network activity on single-neuron responses and the role of this modulation in neural computation. Though the research is my main attraction to UW, I would be remiss if I did not mention that I do my best thinking in the outdoors and welcome the opportunity to spend weekends hiking and mountaineering in the environs of Seattle.