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Perfecting a Statement of Purpose

Tips on drafting a convincing statement of purpose while applying to U.S. universities.

The statement of purpose is a part of your application whose importance is widely speculated upon in the masters’ admission process to U.S. universities. This is, however, not true for Ph.D. applications, where its importance cannot be overstated. The truth is by December, students would have already sent their GRE scores and letters of recommendation, and their grades would have been set. The statement of purpose is the only part of the application that would still be in their hands.

Some universities might ask for a personal statement along with the statement of purpose. The two are quite different. While a personal statement allows you to write about your interests and life experiences, which describe you as a person, a statement of purpose should highlight your academic and professional achievements, and the reasons behind choosing a particular program.

The statement of purpose is not a recap or a summary of your achievements. You have your résumé to establish your work experience and your transcript to highlight your stellar academic record. Reiterating these details in your statement of purpose is not going to add any value for the admissions committee.

Most colleges have specific guidelines for writing statements of purpose and personal statements. For example, Stanford University wants students’ statements of purpose to describe “your reasons for applying to the proposed program at Stanford and your preparation for this field of study, your research and study interests, future career plans and other aspects of your background and interests which may aid the admissions committee in evaluating your aptitude and motivation for graduate study.”


Why are you applying to the program?
Start off your statement of purpose by describing your reasons for applying to the program. Talk about how the program aligns with your future goals. This will vary from program to program and applicant to applicant, but every applicant does have a reason for applying to a particular college or program. You may want to gain some research experience and figure out your areas of interest before you apply for Ph.D. programs. Or, you may be working for some time and want to learn or hone a certain skillset in graduate school. The reason is personal to you. Share that with the admissions committee through your statement of purpose.


Why are you a good fit for the program?
Now, delve into your preparation for this field of study. Here, the admissions committee essentially wants to know why you will be a successful participant in the program. Convince them that they are not wasting a spot on you.

This is the meat of your statement of purpose, and there are many things you can mention here. You can talk about your research experience if you are applying right out of college, or you can highlight certain graduate-level courses you may have taken and done well in as an undergraduate. Again, these reasons will be related to your background. Make sure the admissions committee knows that you are a qualified applicant who can handle the rigors of the graduate program.


Why is the program a good fit for your goals?
Lastly, there could be certain things unique to a particular program that fit your personal goals really well. This is the perfect place to mention them.

The statement of purpose is the only part of your application which allows you to give your personal perspective and explain your reasons for joining the university you’re applying to. Do it well!


Suvrat Bhooshan is studying computer science at Georgia Institute of Technology. He will start his master’s study at Stanford University this fall.