Statement of Purpose
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Dos and Don'ts
following are lists of dos and doníts to consider when writing personal
statement. These lists are based on suggestions which I consider
sensible and which are common to those providing guidance.
Prepare an outline of topics you are asked
to cover by the graduate schools and others you want to cover and list
supporting material under each topic. This information will be
useful when you develop the drafts of your statement. Typical
topics include professional career goals, academic interests and
objectives, research experience, practical experience, special skills,
and related personal material about your motivation and reason for
choosing a program.
writing your statement, stick to the points requested by each
program. If a
program stresses research, clinical work, or work experience,
emphasize those issues in your statement. Avoid lengthy personal or
philosophical discussions unless the instructions specifically ask for
the web or email the department for information about the professors
and their research. Are there professors whose interests match
yours'? If so, indicate this, as it shows a sign that you have done
your homework and are highly motivated. You might use the names of
faculty and their research interests as examples of what you would
like to do.
the instructions about length. Usually programs ask for one page, so
try to be concise and stick to this limit. Using small print is not a
good solution, better send 1 and 1/2 pages of print 11-12 than one
page of print size 8 (don't go over two pages though).
everything from a positive perspective and write in an active, not a
Demonstrate everything by example; don't say directly, for example,
that you're a persistent person, you must demonstrate it.
Writing about specific experiences has a number of advantages:
* Specifics keep the reader's attention more effectively than
* Drawing on situations in your life will distinguish you from other
applicants who superficially may be very similar to you.
Make sure your essay is well-organized and everything
is linked with continuity and focus. Pay special attention to the
first paragraph which should capture the readerís interest.
Check your grammar,
spelling, punctuation, and capitalization carefully. Errors distract
from the content of your statement and make admission committee
members to assume that your writing ability is weak or you don't care.
your essay by asking yourself the following questions:
my goals well articulated?
explain why I have selected this school and/or program?
demonstrate knowledge of the program?
include interesting details that prove my claims about myself?
Make changes to your statement for each
school, read as much as possible about their program so that you can
tailor your statement to the program and convince the admissions
committee that you will fit well there.
many others as possible to proofread your work for writing
styleógrammar, spelling, etc. You should also ask those who currently
study in US graduate schools to critique the content, organization,
and clarity since they will be aware of what graduate schools are
empty, vague, overly-used words like meaningful, beautiful,
challenging, rewarding, etc.
overly common phrases and nonspecific information. For example:
"My above qualifications and my placement in the top 10th of my class
demonstrate that I have the leadership, organization, and academic
ability to succeed well at your school."
This generic statement says nothing specific about you as an
individual. When you're writing, think about whether it's likely that
100 other people said the same thing you did. The personal statement
is your chance to show how unique you are.
information from the application unless you use it to illustrate a
Try to be
funnyóyou donít know your audience, so humor can backfire.
statements like ďIíve always wanted to be a . . .Ē or other hackneyed
excuses, but you can talk about the mistakes you've made as a learning
experience. If there is something important that happened (poverty,
illness, excessive work, etc. ), which affected your grades go ahead
and state it, but write it affirmatively, that is, in a way that shows
special fonts or colored paper.
slang, technical jargon., long quotations.
an arrogant manner. Instead, make it clear that you are confident
about your ability, but still eager to learn what the program has to
Do or donít?
mixed opinion about whether to call attention to and explain any of your
obvious weaknesses in your essay. Some recommend clarifying any
weaknesses on your transcripts or your GRE scores in your essay. Others
believe one should only be positiveóthat if you feel you need to explain
something, that you should attach an addendum to your application, make
note of it in a cover letter, or ask one of your letter writers who
knows you well to discuss it.