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Statement of Purpose in Grad School

written by: •edited by: Noreen Gunnell•updated: 6/27/2011

When writing a statement of purpose for graduate school, it is important to remember that this is your introduction to the committee reviewing your application. You will want to tell them who you are, why you are interested in the subject area as well as what experiences influenced your career.

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    Let Your Light Shine

    A statement of purpose is a major part of a graduate application. It is the one of the few times in life when you literally can highlight the best about yourself as well as the work you are doing or would like to do in the future. Therefore, it is important to take the time to review what would be the best and most precise information to share with the admissions committee.

    Creating a mind-map can be a useful tool for this process. Begin by putting the subject area you wish to explore in your graduate career in the center of the paper. Next, using a different colored pen, list the attributes, talents, descriptors that best illustrate why you would be an asset to that academic department. Now, with another colored pen, list the experiences that will prove your expertise in this area. Finally, again, with another colored pen, list what you wish to accomplish with this degree. (i.e., what will you research? What will you do once you graduate?)

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    Answer All the Questions

    Often, graduate schools will ask specific questions that they expect answered in the statement of purpose. It is imperative that you address these questions fully. Also, be aware that the statement of purpose can also be referred to by other terms such as a personal statement or statement of goals.

    For instance, the University of Massachusetts Graduate School asks for the following: "Prepare a brief but carefully written statement regarding: 1) reasons you want to do graduate work in this field, 2) your specific interests and experiences in this field, 3) any special skills or experiences that may relate to an assistantship, and 4) your career plans." This is referred to on their application as a personal statement. On the other hand, the University of Portland requests the following under the heading statement of goals: "Please provide a narrative statement of your academic and/or professional goals. The importance of your intended degree program in the pursuit of these goals should also be made clear."

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    Polishing Your Essay

    Once you have your ideas down on paper, it is time to hone your statement. Read your statement aloud. Note whether if flows smoothly from one paragraph to the next. Use transitions words (such as - therefore, in as much as, additionally, etc.) to help the flow.

    Have you left the reader with questions? If so, answer them.

    Nothing turns off an admissions committee like an essay filled with misspellings and incorrect grammar. Use spell and grammar check that has been placed on the highest settings. In addition, having your essay proofread by others is essential. There are professional proofreaders who will review your essay for a price; however, you may ask the aid of a learned colleague or favorite professor. In addition, it is best to give your proofreaders the actual question(s) from your application so that they can also determine if you have answered all the questions fully.

    Following these suggestions, when writing a statement of purpose for graduate school, will increase your opportunity to have the admissions committee flag your application for acceptance.