Thursday, September 6, 2012

How to Approach a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

Here are five key things you should keep in mind when preparing your Statement of Purpose for Graduate Programs.

1.  Don't Hedge with your Academic Objectives

It is not a good idea to state your academic objectives broadly and without focus just to ensure they are accepted by many schools. It is better instead to be as specific as possible when it comes to what you want to study.  Show that you are focused, and show as well that you have a plan to accomplish your academic goals using resources provided at the school you are applying to.

2. Know your Target Schools

If your study objective is completely inappropriate for a given program, you should know this before you apply. To this end, take the time to research programs. Do a deep dive into the courses they offer, as well as extra0-curricular or other activities. Also, do your best to talk with current and former students why may be able to help you find out if a given program can offer what you are looking for, at least based on their own experience of the program.  

3. Background Information: What is Relevant?

There is a lot of ways you could introduce yourself, your experiences, and the skill set and knowledge you have gained from those experiences.  But instead of giving everything in your statement of purpose, you should instead focus on only those parts of your background or current experience that is truly relevant to your academic and future goals. 

4. Always Be Specific

A clear, easy-to-read, and even easier to understand essay will be specific and full of detail.  Avoid words like "various" when describing experiences or takeaways.  When in doubt, offer more information rather than less. You can always cut redundant volume later on.

5. Edit, and Proofread

Your drafts will likely be well above the word count of the final essay you will submit. At some point you'll need to make tough decisions about what sentences or examples are entirely necessary. When it comes to English level, you do not need essays written to a native English speaker's level, most especially if you yourself are not a native speaker of English! But your essays should demonstrate the best possible English you can manage.  So proofread, or better get, ask someone else to review and critique the clarity of your writing.

John Couke