Imagine this — you sit down to write your statement of purpose for your graduate school application and you know exactly what you want to say. Sounds like a dream? Keep reading to find out how this could be your reality. When you start by understanding how to write a statement of purpose, the entire process will become smoother and less stressful. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to tell your story, there are some tried and true best practices.
Learn everything you need to know about your grad school statement of purpose. Then it’s up to you to get to writing!
What Is A Statement Of Purpose?
If you’re applying for graduate school, you’ve more than likely written a statement of purpose for your undergraduate education. Whether you know this already or not, let’s take a quick look at all that a statement of purpose entails.
When applying for graduate school, your statement of purpose (SOP) is one of the most important pieces of writing you’ll ever complete. This is because it lets the admissions committee know who you are, why you’re applying to their institution, and the qualifications you have to make you the right fit.
Not only will your SOP give insight into who you are as a person and a scholar, but it is also a piece of writing that can leave a very strong impression. To make it a good one, you want to demonstrate your writing abilities. In graduate school, so much of your education will be in the form of long research papers, so this is the time and place to showcase your skills.
Here are some basics to remember:
- Don’t be repetitive
- Avoid cliches
- Write formally
- Have a positive tone of voice
- Write clearly and concisely
- Avoid any grammar or spelling errors
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What Is The SOP Format?
Like most academic writing, your statement of purpose should follow these general formatting rules:
- 12-point font
- Times New Roman or Arial
- 1.5 line spacing
- 1-inch margins on all sides
Before submitting your SOP, be sure to read your institution of choice’s directions. In general, you don’t have to put your name on your paper because it is attached to your application that already identifies you.
What Length Should My SOP Be?
College admissions committees have to read through thousands of applications. For this reason, it’s best to keep your SOP limited to one page. If you must go over that, try to keep it no longer than 1.5 pages. Being able to write concisely while still getting your point across is a key to strong writing. This will be one important document in which you can showcase this ability.
What Should I Write About?
Now, let’s get to talking about the good stuff! Your statement of purpose is meant to answer all the big questions that admissions committees would want to know.
In your own tone of voice and through your own truth, you’ll want to touch on the following:
1. Who You Are And Your History
Spend only a brief amount of space introducing who you are. For the most part, all the basics are already included in your application, so you don’t want to be redundant. However, you’ll want to open your SOP by grabbing the readers’ attention and introducing the reason for studying what you’ve chosen.
2. Your Interests And Research
Dive into what you’re interested in researching and your prior accomplishments. This could include prior research you’ve conducted and with whom. You can also share experience outside of academics that are relevant and related to what you’re going to study.
3. Your Qualifications
Showcase all you’ve done that makes you qualified to earn your master’s degree. This can include not only academics and work experience, but also anything extracurricular that is related to your field.
4. Your Intention And Goals
Importantly, you’ll want to summarize what it is you want to research and why their institution is the right fit for your needs. Perform research yourself and find out more about their program and professors, so that you can even include specific names of those you’d want to work with and why.
You should also pose the question you want to answer through the graduate degree program. This will lead you to your conclusion where your tone can depict your excitement for studying at their program and how you are ready to overcome any potential hurdles.
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Top 10 Tips For Writing Your Grad School Statement Of Purpose
1. Read Instructions
Don’t try to do anything so out of the box. The admissions committee has put together directions for what they want to see out of your SOP. Be sure to stay in line with the instructions.
2. Take Time To Self-Reflect
Before jumping to the page, take some time to reflect on your previous experiences and your future goals. See the ways in which your life has led you to want to master your subject of choice. This is the basis of the picture you’re going to have to paint for strangers, so it helps to first take the time to reflect on it all yourself.
3. Demonstrate Your Motivation
There will be thousands of people vying for the same spot you wish to occupy in being accepted. As such, you will need to clearly demonstrate all that makes you capable to succeed in their program. This can come in the form of quantification, meaning you can share the details of how long you spent working on prior research, for example. It is within these stories that you are able to demonstrate your motivation and unwavering determination.
4. Ask Friends And Family
It’s always useful to get a second, or third, opinion. Talk to your friends and family that know you best. They may remind you of instances you may have forgotten that help to explain who you are. They are also a good source for feedback and proofreading.
5. Be Authentic And Real
Don’t exaggerate and think you need to make anything bigger than it is. Be honest and authentic. Those who are reading your SOP will be able to pick up on any added fluff or over exaggerations.
6. Be Clear And Concise
As mentioned before, your SOP is a first glance into your ability to write clearly and concisely. Be straight to the point and ensure that the writing flows.
7. Address Problems
There may be a gap year in your education, or perhaps you have a big space in your resume without work. Use your SOP to explain the circumstances while remaining honest. There’s no need to be defensive in your writing. Instead, tell your story.
8. Start With A Draft
Start writing by knowing that you’ll need to make edits. First, get everything you want to say out on the page. Allow the first draft to be an exploration. Then, you can start to remove anything that’s not necessary to your story in the editing process.
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9. Take Time To Edit
It’s true that editing down your first draft may be even harder than writing it in the first place. That’s because you have to take the time to really analyze what is and is not necessary to include. If your SOP is already less than 1.5 pages, it may be easier to edit. But, if your first draft goes way over the limit, then start by identifying topic sentences. Any information that doesn’t support your main message can be stripped away. Look for ways that you can consolidate information into less words.
10. Ask For Outside Feedback
Regardless if you need to shorten your SOP or not, you’ll want to get some outside feedback. Once you’ve looked at something for so long, you may miss obvious mistakes. Having someone else edit your work and also provide their honest opinion can be of great use to complete your SOP.
Next Steps: What To Do When You’re Done Writing
First, congratulate yourself! Writing a strong SOP isn’t an easy feat.
Second, before you submit your SOP, read it again — and again. Check for grammatical errors. One of the most common errors is having various verb tenses, so be sure your verb tenses align. Additionally, make sure that you’re adhering to the format, you’ve removed any spelling errors, and that after reading your SOP, you have answered the prompt’s questions.
Once you submit your SOP, it’s better to let it go and await for the admission decision instead of re-reading it and worrying about any changes you never made.
The Wrap Up
Your statement of purpose for graduate school admissions is one of the most important pieces of writing you’ll share with strangers. Prepare by giving yourself enough time to reflect on what you want to say. Read the directions and adhere to them. This is your time to explain who you are, why you belong at their institution, and what you will bring to the table.
Leverage those you trust around you for both feedback and proofreading. Remain honest, concise, and positive in your writing. Above all, get started and don’t doubt yourself!
One Last Note
Some schools — like the University of the People which is online and tuition-free — have master’s programs that do not require a statement of purpose.
In our case, you can apply to our MBA program with just these requirements: proof of completion of your undergraduate degree, demonstration of English proficiency, a minimum of two years’ work experience, and a reference. For those seeking their Master’s in Education, all that is needed is: proof of completion of a bachelor’s degree and English proficiency.