What is a Statement of Purpose?
A Statement of Purpose goes beyond the traditional Personal Statement. It asks applicants to not only describe their professional journey and how that led to their research interests, but also offer additional insight into their proposed area of study. This article offers a useful framework for writing your Statement of Purpose as well as tips to get you started.
Step 1: Introduction and Outline of Goals
The first section of the Statement of Purpose should include a broad overview of your academic interests as well as a brief outline of your short term and long-term goals. Introducing your interests and goals early frames the rest of the essay for the reader, and more importantly, answers the prompt.
Step 2: Relevant Academic History
Describe relevant academic or work experiences in detail and how they have shaped your desire to pursue a graduate degree in your proposed field. A common mistake made by applicants is providing a detailed account of every single past experience in their Statement of Purpose. While certainly comprehensive, it is not necessary, and can reflect poorly on the applicant, especially if it excludes or dilutes other essential components of the essay. Instead, consider including 3-5 of your most impactful experiences. Describe the projects in detail, skills you developed, lessons learned, and any outcomes. For example, for a research project involving human subjects, you could describe the process of obtaining IRB approval, developing and validating a survey, or mixed methods data analysis. PhD programs are rigorous. Convince the selection committee that you “know what you are getting into,” that you have the knowledge and resilience to be successful in their PhD program.
Step 3: Next Steps and “Why X” Program
Here, describe your research interests, detailing potential projects, research aims and methodologies. Discuss potential mentors at the institution you would like to work with (the buzzword here is “mentoring team”), and the specific skills you will learn from each of them. If done correctly, this section has the most potential to set you apart from other applicants.
Writing a Statement of Purpose that is both comprehensive and concise can be challenging. Before you begin, outline your essay using the above sections, paying close attention to your overarching goals. Do your past experiences clearly explain what brought you to your proposed field of interest? How will pursuing a PhD help you achieve your future goals? Connect the dots for your readers.
Need more guidance with your Statement of Purpose essay? The Art of Applying® is here to help. Our experienced team of consultants have trained at the top academic institutions in the world and more importantly, are dedicated to your success. To learn more about how we can help, click here to schedule your 15-minute Quick Call.