Tips for Writing a Statement of Purpose
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March 16, 2019 at 9:06 pm
[This article was written by Lin Qiu. Any organization, or individual, publishes this article without linking to this website will subject to legal consequence.]
A thoughtful, well-written Statement of Purpose essay can significantly enhance your chances of success during the admissions and scholarship decision-making process. In reality, however, many essays fall short. Below are the tips I have derived from proofreading numerous graduate and professional school application essays.
The Statement of Purpose essay relates to many other forms of English writing in that the writer intends the audience to develop a viewpoint, or to make a decision, in his or her favor after reading it. As a result, prior to writing this essay, you should know your audience and what they expect to discover in your essay. Members of the admissions panel from an engineering school would certainly emphasize some information in your essay, and even the tone of your writing, differently from an admissions committee at a business or law school. In short, in your Statement of Purpose essay, the style, tone and references to CV details should prompt the reader to thoroughly review your application portfolio.
The Statement of Purpose essay should clearly and succinctly express your reasons for applying to the graduate program, your academic preparation, cogent perspectives concerning your chosen academic/professional discipline, and equally important, your suitability for this program in terms of the program’s characteristics, local culture and even expectations concerning the students. In consideration of these factors, your Statement of Purpose essay should serve a specific purpose, which is to convince the admissions panel that you are someone who will likely thrive in the program. (Question: Can a Statement of Purpose essay be written dishonestly in terms of your purpose? No…it is a checklist…cv and references and test scores and grades…false info no good…)
3. In Relation to Other Application Documents
The admissions committee assesses your application based on the totality of your application portfolio including transcripts, quality of undergraduate/graduate school, CV/Resume, letters of reference, course descriptions, etc. As a result, readers expect to find supplementary information in your Statement of Purpose rather than duplicating details in the other documents. There is no reason to mention your 3.9 GPA in your Statement of Purpose essay since your transcript already indicates that. So, the admissions panel would prefer not to read a second version of your CV in your Statement of Purpose.
You will likely be competing against thousands of other bright applicants from many parts of the world. You will stand out from the crowd by presenting an impressive Statement of Purpose essay.
That is only one idea I want to share with you. While many websites emphasize academic/professional training to further develop your skills, in truth the current media and journal articles often analyze these new developments more thoroughly and often more vividly. Try to expand your range of knowledge in your academic discipline to ‘develop’ unique perspectives in your Statement of Purpose essay. While guiding a Japanese student to prepare a Statement of Purpose essay about regenerative medicine, for instance, I found that none of the related American or British graduate program websites offered as complete and insightful an analysis on the latest developments as could be found in three articles published in The Economist between 2014 and 2016.
The writing style of the Statement of Purpose differs from many other forms of writing because it is ‘Personal’. So, the Statement of Purpose essay in principle differs stylistically from a Personal Statement.) As a result, it would be inappropriate to use the same writing style you would likely use to write the GRE/TOEFL essay, a scientific paper or an email message.
While applicants choose various writing styles when drafting this essay, I recommend a journalistic writing style using 1) short paragraphs and 2) effective language. Certainly, a Statement of Purpose essay being submitted to various scientific/engineering programs would involve the use of specialized terminologies, but a well-written essay should also allow readers with minimal scientific background to understand the main points. (I once edited biopharmaceutical report and had to check the specialized grammar every two minutes…but ‘bad writing’ and ‘highly specialized’ grammar are two very different things…)
While reviewing your final draft, ask yourself the following:
* Is each sentence stylistically and syntactically connected to the prior content?
* Does each sentence offer new information, or create novel imagery?
* Will your essay help to resolve any questions or potential doubts that the admissions committee might have after reviewing your application portfolio?
* Would your essay reinforce the likelihood that the admissions committee will choose to admit you and/or to grant you a scholarship after consideration of your other application documents? * After studying the program’s website, do you know which factors the admissions panel values most in terms of the applicants?
* Have you provided all of the details that are needed?
Unless the program provides specific length requirements, a two-page essay (500-600 words) is more than sufficient to present a detailed and compelling Statement of Purpose.
6. Writing Effectiveness
The Statement of Purpose essay reflects both your writing ability and your preparatory efforts. As a consequence, you owe it to yourself, as well as to the admissions committee, to draft an essay that is completely free of spelling errors and grammatical mistakes, as well as factual or logical inconsistencies. A poorly written Statement of Purpose essay will reflect poorly upon your academic capabilities and resourcefulness. (Keep in mind that your non-native English language background may not be a consideration of the admissions committee when reviewing your Statement of Purpose essay since your application materials will be examined alongside the professionally edited essays that many other overseas students will submit. Do yourself a favor and find an experienced writer to proofread your essay(s), if at all possible.
7. Nature of MS/ME/Ph.D Degrees
Generally speaking, applicants for Master’s degree programs are not expected to state clearly defined research interests, while doctoral program candidates are expected to present very detailed information concerning both academic background and proposed research groups and/or supervisors. However, depending upon the technical requirements of the curriculum this is not always the case, so the individual program requirements must be clearly understood prior to indicating your research area(s) or stating your academic goals (such as attaining a Master’s or a doctorate degree). This is the single most important element of the Statement of Purpose, so take the time to indicate to the admissions committee that you are familiar with their program’s structure and personnel. It is always a great idea to contact potential supervisors in advance since any support from faculty will definitely enhance your application.
Many specialized US graduate degree programs accept students at the Master’s degree level with an opportunity to reduce the time needed to subsequently attain a doctorate through the same institution. If this is the case, it is generally advisable to indicate in your Statement of Purpose essay that you ultimately intend to pursue a Ph.D degree. I assume that such an indication would increase your chance of acceptance than otherwise indicating a Master’s degree as your ultimate academic goal. （I agree…it cannot hurt even if the student doesn’t intend to follow through with the doctorate…the main idea is that students can save a year of study in this fashion…quote from a professor working in graduate school admissions panel)
Lastly, it is also wise to indicate several potential staff research supervisors in your Statement of Purpose essay. On the other hand, if you have already received notice of a professor’s willingness to supervise your research, then of course it is important to indicate this in your Statement of Purpose essay. Our advice is the following: If the supervising professor has provided a letter or an email that states his/her indication to sponsor your doctoral research, then don’t suggest any alternative supervisors, but if the professor’s ‘willingness’ is only verbal, then try to formalize it in writing. If that is not possible, then feel free to contact additional potential project supervisors since this is a very critical part of the application process. Even at the Master’s degree level, it is always a good idea to try to email appropriate faculty members in advance. Most of the time they will not reply unless you are already admitted as a student, but this is certainly not always the case. If the professor does reply to your message, then you can state in the Statement of Purpose that you have already been in contact with Professors X and Y. This extra effort may help to emphasize your high level of interest in the program, as well as your personal initiative.
In conclusion, as someone who has been cultivated and refined at both Chinese and U.S. academic institutions, I believe I have obtained crude knowledge in relation to writing this form of essays. I hope reading this article, and subsequently implementing relevant techniques, will help you to present a winning Statement of Purpose essay to the admissions panel.
Insightful, methodic and detailed suggestions these are.
wish someday I could write like this.
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