Graduate study is not for slackers. It takes focus and determination to pursue an advanced degree. That's why admissions committees examine your statement of purpose very closely—they want to see whether you have the right stuff to succeed in grad school. When writing your statement of purpose, focus on your specific plans and how the graduate program and its faculty will help you meet these goals.
1. Know what schools are really asking.
Different schools have different prompts. Nonetheless, they're all asking for the same four pieces of information:
- What you want to study at graduate school?
- Why you want to study it?
- What experience you have in your field?
- What you plan to do with your degree once you have it?
Admissions committees look for candidates with clear, well-defined research interests that arise from experience. With that in mind, your statement should reveal that you care deeply about your chosen discipline and that you have the background to support your ideas and sentiments. It should also demonstrate that you're a diligent student who will remain committed for the long haul. Always answer the question asked of you. Being substantive and direct is much better than being creative or flashy.
2. Be selective.
Grad schools don’t care that you make a great chicken casserole or play intramural bocce ball. They do care about those activities that speak to your suitability for graduate work. As a graduate student, you'll be called upon to do difficult coursework and research. You may have to teach undergraduate classes within your field and conceivably even design a course. And you'll have to get along with a diverse group of colleagues who will sometimes work very closely with you. Any experience in school, work, or your extracurricular life that speaks to those abilities is worth talking about.
3. Make your statement of purpose unique.
While it's important to be focused, there's no need to be boring. To distinguish your essay, add unique (yet relevant) information. One of the best ways to do this is to discuss—briefly—an idea in your field that turns you on intellectually. It's an effective essay-opener, and it lets you write about something besides yourself for a bit.
Remember, the idea you choose to talk about can tell an admissions committee a lot about you. And it demonstrates your interest in your field, rather than just describing it.
4. Ask for feedback.
Be sure to show your statement of purpose to someone you respect, preferably the professors who are writing your recommendations, and get some feedback on the content before you send it in. Have someone else proofread your essay for spelling and grammar. A fresh set of eyes often picks up something you missed.
Finally, don't just reuse the same statement of purpose for each school to which you apply. You can recycle the same information, but make sure you change the presentation to fit each individual program.
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How to Write a Statement of Purpose
I. Basic Outline Format for Essay
** Say what you want to do ... do it ... say what you have done **
A. Introduction and thesis statement (Say what you want to do)
1. Before writing an essay you must have a thesis statement. This is one sentence announcing the central idea of the paper. It must be specific. This statement should sum up the basic meaning of the essay and signal to the reader what to expect.
2. The first sentence is the most important one because it get's the reader's attention.
3. The first paragraph (introduction) is very important. It should "hook" the reader, i.e. make him or her want to continue reading.
B. The body of the paper (Do it)
1. Each paragraph should deal with one central idea. This idea is introduced early in a topic sentence, telling the reader what to expect in the paragraph. Several ideas in one paragraph will only confuse the reader. If the central idea has several supporting points, break it into several paragraphs rather than having one very long paragraph.
2. It is not enough to simply state ideas, you must support them. By giving evidence, you convince readers of the truth and accuracy of your ideas. If you successfully prove your statements, the reader should agree with your conclusion.
3. As a writer, you must structure the sequence of ideas carefully and logically. You are mapping a course, leading the reader through the points that support your thesis. You do not want to confuse the reader. Transitions between paragraphs link them together logically. These "connecting sentences" keep the paper flowing smoothly.
Ex. The man was sick, and my father was mortified that he could not help him because he did not speak English. Due to my father's experience, I vowed to learn a foreign language fluently.
C. Conclusion (Say what you have done)
1. Restates the thesis and main points supporting it. In the conclusion, the writer should give some new ideas or information to challenge the reader to think further.
II. Writing the Statement of Purpose
** "Graduate schools and competitive undergraduate programs want students who are able to think clearly, without confusion. The statement of purpose will demonstrate, fortunately or unfortunately, whether you possess that quality. When one reads a proposal that is poorly organized, filled with EXTRANEOUS details, and foggily focused, one gets the immediate impression that the mind that produced such confusion can never be disciplined enough to regard facts objectively and present them logically." **
A. Step One: Know Yourself
With the statement of purpose you can persuade the admissions committee to accept you. In order to convince them, you must be convinced yourself. You must be sure of what you want, why you want it, and why that particular program can help you. Why should the school select you over someone else? YOU MUST KNOW YOURSELF. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Before beginning to write, think. Review your intellectual and personal development over your academic career. When you can clearly articulate the history that led you to decide to apply to a particular American program, you are ready to begin writing.
B. Step Two: An Outline
1. This does not need to be written in complete sentences. The outline below is just an example. The points you want to discuss can be in a different order, as long as you have an introduction, body, and conclusion. You need to decide what order of ideas is the best for your essay. You want the strongest and most logical essay that you can write.
I. Introduction: State your goals
II. Body of the Paper
A. Explain background (Prove that you are academically prepared for this study program)
1.Where and what studied
2.Past research/diploma project
3.If applying to a program in a different field of study, explain how skills learned in earning your degree can be applied to the new field.
B. Description of professional goals
1.Why that field of study interesting/what influenced you to choose that field
2.Any related experience/research after university
3.Future plans after receiving degree
C. What and why study in graduate school
1.What your specific interests are in your field
2.Why this program is needed for your professional development
3. Why U.S.
4. Why that particular university -- courses, faculty, research projects/facilities
A. Summing up the main points
B. What you can contribute to the program
Ex.Growing up in Siberia during the period of perestroika has given me first hand exposure to the transition from a command to a capitalistic economy.
C. Step Three: Writing the Statement
If you have done a good job with steps one and two, the writing should come easily. Keep the following points in mind:
1.The first sentence is the most important one. You want the reader's attention.
2.Cut out any sentences that are not absolutely necessary. Every sentence should be important and clearly stated. Most points can be made without a lot of necessary background.
3.Be self-confident. Frame everything positively. Use phrases such as "actively participated in" rather than "although I was only an assistant". Even if your English is horrible, do NOT tell them. Your TOEFL scores will indicate your English ability. Do not write any negative statements.
4.They are looking to see if your background and expectations match with what they offer. The more specific you can be with each institution you are applying to, the more convincing you will be.
5.If written correctly, the statement of purpose should show that you are goal-oriented, that you can identify what you want, and that you have taken steps to obtain those goals.
III. Different Programs
The emphasis in your statement of purpose depends on where you are applying.
A. Undergraduate Program
Put emphasis on you as a whole person, not just academic ability. They are looking for a well-rounded person who will adapt well into the school's social as well as academic community. Be sure to mention sports, volunteer activities, dance or music lessons, hobbies, etc.
B. Graduate School
The emphasis here is on scholarship and your research interests. While you want to come through as a person, you want to focus on those aspects of your personality that relate to your intellectual and academic interests and goals.
C. Grants, Fellowships, and Scholarships
What you include in your essay should depend on the purpose of the scholarship. Whom does the organization want to support?
a. If it is a women's organization, emphasize how your goals relate to you as a woman.
b. If it is a scientific organization, explain your scientific achievments and future goals.
c. If the fellowship is for a business program, your work experience in the business world will be more important than your university coursework.
a. Emphasize practical work experience. You want to include your academic accomplishments, but this is secondary. It does not have to be paid work; organizations, committee work, and classroom projects at the university are also important.
b. Demonstrate how that internship will help further your professional goals.
c. Highlight the qualities that make you right for that job. If the job involves sales, you want to stress your ability to get along with people. If the job involves research, emphasize your powers of concentration and persistence.
IV. Final Comments
A. Be honest. Be confident and positive without being pushy or demanding.
B. There is a saying, "Nothing good is ever written, it is re-written". No one ever writes a perfect first draft.
C. Do not be discouraged if you are not accepted. Be constructive and analyze the possible reasons for your rejection. Could your statement of purpose have been stronger? Are your academic qualifications strong enough for that program? Maybe it really is not the right program for your goals.
D. Another saying is, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again". If you really want to study in the U.S., look into other programs. If you were rejected from a school that you feel is really the best for you, improve your weak points, work on new projects that show you are serious about your goals, and reapply, do this.
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