Statements of Purpose: After You Finish a Draft
The statement of purpose is perhaps the most important, and most challenging, element of your application packet. This letter needs to reflect who you are and why you would be an asset to the program you are applying to. It needs to make you stand out from the hundreds of other applicants and yet stay within the genre-based expectations for a statement of purpose. This resource provides information on writing statements of purpose specifically for graduate school applications.
Last Edited: 2012-09-21 11:22:07
Have someone else read through your draft along with the prompts that the particular school is asking you to address.
Do not be afraid of breaking up your “finished” draft as you revise. Your readers may say that a section in your statement should come earlier or that an entire paragraph isn’t “working;” they may ask you to move sentences to various other paragraphs before making a judgment call on whether to excise those sentences completely. These changes take a lot of time and patience, and can be frustrating if you have come to think of your rough draft as “mostly finished.”
Be sure that you have tailored each statement to each school’s specific questions. At the very least, this means making sure that each of the statements has the correct school’s name on them.
In How to Write the Perfect Personal Statement, Mark Allen Stewart suggests a simple yet highly important task in order to ensure that what you have written in your statement of purpose sounds original and personal. He recommends going through each line and highlight sentences that sounds like it could have been written by anyone (7-8). Leave all sentences that could only have been written by you untouched. Too much highlighting in your statement implies that you have not taken enough risks with your statement and that it will most likely sound like any of the dozens—if not hundreds—of statements that the committee will receive. If this is the case, you may not be able to simply “convert” each general sentence into a personal one. You may need to restructure your entire statement to create a consistent personal narrative.
Your first paragraph sets the tone for what is to come. Leave yourself enough flexibility to write this part last, once you have ironed out what exactly the overarching theme of your statement is. Try to capture the attention of your reader with a memorable introduction. This could include a brief anecdote or an elaboration of a gripping recent finding in your field that plays into your theme.
Once you feel that you have written the best statement that you possibly can (or if time has simply run out), be sure to edit your work. One of the most common complaints of admission committee members is reading essays that have not been completely polished. Remember that as a piece of writing that you are submitting, your statement conveys what kind of professional you are not only in terms of the content you write, but how you have presented the content itself as well. Admission committees accept applicants who demonstrate care for their work.
Stewart, Mark Allen. Peterson's How to Write the Perfect Personal Statement. Lawrenceville, NJ: Peterson’s Publishing, 2009. Print.
Getting In: A Step-By-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 1997. Print.
Kaplan, Inc. Get into Graduate School: A Strategic Approach. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2003. Print.
Stelzer, Richard J. How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School. 3rd. ed. Lawrenceville, NJ: Peterson’s Publishing, 2002. Print.