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Grad School Tips: What is a Statement of Purpose

| | 2 minute read

Writing a statement of purpose is one of the requirements of being accepted into graduate school. We are often asked what a statement of purpose is and how to write one. So, we have teamed up with Graduate Admissions to answer those questions and to give you some writing tips!

What is a statement of purpose?

“In the most general of terms, in their statement of purpose, the applicant is usually telling the program’s committee something about their reason or purpose in pursuing a graduate degree. However, in practice, that can end up meaning hugely different things for each program. One program might be interested in an applicant’s proposed area of research, while another might expect the applicant to discuss their long term career goals and how earning a degree might help them reach those goals. “ – Elisabeth McBride, Graduate Admissions.

In short, a statement of purpose needs to tell the faculty on the selection committee who you are, why this degree is a good fit for you, and why you would be a good fit for the degree committee.

How to write a statement of purpose.

There is no one-size-fits-all way to write a statement of purpose. Each letter should be individualized not only to the applicant, but the degree that they are trying to earn! Elisabeth from Graduate Admissions says, “Because it [statement of purpose] can have quite broad interpretation, I am hesitant to give applicants much in the way of specific advice regarding the actual content of the statement, since we don’t make admissions decisions. When someone contacts us regarding the statement of purpose (or a letter of intent), we usually mention that very general description, but then refer them to either the application, where they can find any instructions their program might offer, or to contact the program coordinator for additional guidance.”

Since we can’t give you specific tips, we can give you a general guide of what your statement of purpose could look like.

Tip: You should always check your departmental website to find out if your statement of purpose should include specific information!

General Layout for Your Statement of Purpose:
  1. Briefly introduce yourself.
    Tell your committee who you are! This could include your interests that are relevant to the graduate program and how that motivates you for earning the degree.
  2. Include previous work.
    This could include previous research you’ve done, papers/projects you have completed, or work experience that is relevant to your intended program. Be sure to write technically, or in the style of the discipline you are looking to enter!
  3. Show you’re interested.
    The ultimate goal is to show your selection committee that you are serious and dedicated to earning your graduate degree. So, show them you’re interested! Tell them why their program excites you and what you want to study while earning your degree. End your statement in a positive way that shows you are ready for the challenges of the degree.
    Via Berkley

Tip: Write in an active voice! Not passive. And unless the program requirements say otherwise, your statement of purpose should aim to be between 500-1000 words.

We hope that these general tips will help you start your statement of purpose with confidence!

If you have any questions about our online degrees and their admissions requirements, please feel free to reach out to us!

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