How to write a purpose statement that is sure to impress: Tips that help guarantee acceptance into graduate school

Meagan Malesic, Staff Writer

        Applying for grad school is easily one of the most daunting and most stressful tasks that a college student faces throughout their time as an undergraduate.  Along with the grad school application, as if that in and of itself isn’t intimidating enough, many schools also request a personal statement or a statement of purpose for admittance into the program.  This statement, even though it is only a short essay, can be the make-or-break it for your entire future – and that is absolutely terrifying.  If the idea of having to write a grad school statement of purpose is currently your biggest stressor, you’re not alone.  Here are some tips to ease the writing process, and hopefully help your chances into getting into your dream graduate program become a reality.

       Even though different grad schools give different prompts for their statements of purpose, most of them tend to be asking for the same thing.  Grad programs are most interested in the following concepts:  what you want to study, why you want to study it, what experience you already have in the field, and what you plan to do with your degree after graduating from graduate school.  Providing the answers to all of these questions is a sure-fire way to impress the reader of your purpose statement.  Do you have research experience?  Have you worked in your field or completed an internship?  How will this degree help you advance in your career path?  Grad school program directors are looking for direct, clear responses to these prompt questions, and want to know that you are a strong student with passion for your field and well-thought out plans for the future.

       As you answer these questions, you should keep in mind that statement of purpose should read like a narrative, not an essay.  If you really want to captivate your reader, you should tell them a story – not bore them with generic statements.  Remember, this personal statement is meant to be personal; this is your chance to impress your grad school program with who you are and how you stand out from the competition.  Presenting yourself as a unique candidate can really help your changes. There may be thousands of other applicants applying to this same program, and you want to be the one who stands out from the pack.  If you tell a story that emotionally captivates the reader, and depicts you as a human being with real emotions, passions, and dreams, you have a much higher chance of making a positive impact.

      Specifics are also extraordinarily important when writing a statement of purpose.  Why have you chosen this program?  Sure, you might be a great student, but what specifically makes you a good fit for this particular program?  Pointing out specific professors at the university that you would like to conduct research with or mentioning certain classes that are unique to the program that interest you are sure to impress the reader of your statement.  This also makes it obvious that you took the time to research your program, and that you really are passionate about getting into it – another detail that could really help you get accepted into a graduate program.  

      Of course, it is also important to keep in mind that purpose statements are written essays.  With that being said, proofread, proofread, proofread.  This cannot be stressed enough. A written piece of work is your chance to demonstrate your intelligence as a writer, as well as your attention to detail.  Spelling and grammar mistakes hold no place within a statement of purpose.  Graduate program admissions readers will be on the look-out for any careless errors, and, even if your content is stellar, a plethora of grammar and syntax errors could be your downfall.

      Remember, a statement of purpose is meant to help you sell yourself to a grad program.  This is your chance to stand out from the crown and really convince the program that you would be a great fit at their specific university.  If you answer all of the prompt questions, as well as provide a clear, detailed, and personal account of who you are as an individual, you are sure to impress any program to which you are applying.