Writing a compelling statement of purpose

The statement of purpose is a critical requirement for many graduate applications; it must be clearly and thoughtfully written to highlight your uniqueness. One of the most frequently asked questions by intending graduate students is “how do I write a statement of purpose?” I get asked this question a lot, so I have compiled a few tips in this post which I hope that you would find somewhat helpful. My aim is not just to provide information on how to write a statement of purpose, but a compelling one at that.

Compelling SOP

  1. Your statement of purpose is not your research proposal: I have seen several people try to get overly technical in writing their statement of purpose – you need to pause right there. You are certainly not writing a research proposal here, so there is no need to “try to impress” by using ambiguous words and terminologies. Keeping it simple always works.
  1. You do NOT need to state the obvious: I mean, this sounds obvious enough right? There is no need to say anything unnecessary; a classic example of this is: “I strongly believe that this M.Sc./PhD programme would help me expand my knowledge in my chosen field”. There is also no need to repeat yourself over and again – we all got the point the first time you stated it. An unduly long statement of purpose can be a huge put-off. It shows a lack of thoughtfulness in documenting your ideas. As much as you can, be concise.
  1. You do NOT have to “cook up” a story: While it would be so much fun to tell a very intriguing life story in your statement of purpose, you do not have to be dishonest to get attention. Keep it real, guys. Honesty is still the best policy.
  1. Be creative: I am sure that whatever position you are applying for, many other people are doing same as well. You want to capture your reader’s attention within the first few minutes of reading your work and keep them spell-bound till the very last full stop. But how do you do about that? Well, you need to be creative and figure out how you can accomplish that.
  1. No embarrassing errors, please: Do not be too much in haste that you fail to proof-read your write-up before sending. Nobody enjoys reading anything filled with grammatical and syntactical errors – that is one of the easiest ways NOT to make a good impression, and you certainly do not want that. Give yourself enough time to read and revise your work. Ask friends to assist you to do so where possible.

All that said, some fundamental questions which you would want to answer in your statement of purpose are:

  • Why are you passionate about the field of study/course that you are applying to?
  • Why are you applying to that specific programme and not anyone else?
  • What skills have you acquired that makes you an excellent choice of a candidate?
  • How do you hope to use the information that you have acquired from the programme you are applying to in the long-term?

There is for sure no perfect way to write a statement of purpose, so do not expect your first draft to be perfect. Everything good comes with practice and practice makes for perfection.

“Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason, mastery demands all of a person.” — Albert Einstein

I am pretty sure that with all these, you are on your way to writing a compelling statement of purpose. Congratulations!

Please feel free to drop questions and comments here. You can also reach out for any further information: piakazue@gmail.com.

Categories: My PhD Experience

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