Questions and Answers
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What is the function of the
statement of purpose?
How important is the statement of purpose in the application process?
What information should I include in the statement of purpose?
How exact should I be about the research field I would like to work in?
Should I mention the faculty members who I want to work with?
How long should the statement of purpose be?
Can I use the same statement of purpose for all universities which I
Who will read my statement of purpose?
What is the
function of the
statement of purpose?
You must demonstrate to the committee how your goals coincide
with what the program has to offer as well as how you will fit in and
how your qualifications will benefit the program. It is the personal
statement that communicates to the admissions committee what it is about
you which makes you stand out from the other applicants. The more
competitive the school, the larger the pool of applicants with strong
GPAs and GRE scores, the more important the personal statement becomes
in the selection process. Therefore it is important to devote ample
time to writing your statement.
important is the
statement of purpose in the application process?
In short, it is a very important piece of application materials. Start
working on it at least three weeks before the deadline for you to sent
your documents. Even if all the rest of your application is perfect the
carelessly written statement can spoil all your efforts. Members of the
admission committee will use it to determine what kind of person you are
and whether you are capable to be successful in their PhD program, how
well you are suited for that, how goal oriented you are and many other
things. Well-written statement can greatly help you to get admitted even
if you have average test scores.
information should I include in the statement of purpose?
Discuss your career goals, and how an advanced degree and
this program would help you get there. Include relevant experiences such
as research you have done and skills you have demonstrated.
Relevance is key, and doing your homework about graduate school programs
will help you determine relevancy. Ask some of these questions... what
degree programs does this school offer? What areas of emphasis does it
offer within that major? What license and certificate preparation does
the program provide? What original research is being done by which
faculty at this school? The answers to these questions should help you
decide to which schools and programs you'll apply. This information
should also be incorporated into your statement of purpose. Only include
your life story if it's relevant.
How exact should I be about
the research field I would like to work in?
People in the admission committee are looking for applicants
with determination, for those who know what they want to do in their
life and know why this university and this program will enable them to
reach their goals. If you have broad interests and experiences you can
state that you are still choosing the exact field for your research,
usually though it is better to state the area you are especially
interested in (it can be quite a broad area such as experimental
condensed matter physics or modeling of cellular processes). Don't
narrow you field to much though. Make sure that at least 2-3 faculty
members (4-6 is even better) are working in the field you have
emphasized. And remember (!!) you can always change your mind after you
have been admitted into the program, nobody will force you to stick to
the area of research you emphasized in your application materials.
Should I mention the
faculty members who I want to work with?
It is highly advisable to mention faculty members who you
might be interested to work with. It is especially important if you have
already done some work similar to the research some of these professors
are now doing. If the professor you have mentioned is in the admission
committee this can also help. Also, do not hesitate to contact these
(and other) professors personally (via email). Ask questions about their
current and prospective research projects, about the possibility to
become members of they group if you get admitted, about the department,
you might want to attach your statement of purpose and resume to the
first letter you send them.
How long should the
statement of purpose be?
Your statement of purpose should be about 1 to 1 1/2 pages
(500-600 words). Use normal margins and font 11 or 12, refrain from using small fonts since
they are hard to read. Generally, a shorter statement of purpose that is
clearly written is better than a longer one.
Can I use the same
statement of purpose for all universities which I apply to?
Mostly you will see advices that you need to write a separate
statement for each program. Ideally this might be the best, but
realistically you will not have time to do all the work it requires
well. So it is better to spend time writing one really good statement
and then for each university changing particular part of the statement
which emphasizes some aspects of particular programs and mentions
faculty members (usually it is one or two last paragraphs of the
statement). Do not sent completely identical statements to all
universities, mention the name of the university in the text, it is fine
to use "Your University", but you also need to use the name of the
university. Finally, make sure you send right statement to the right
Who will read my statement
Your audience is made up of faculty members who are experts
in their field. They want to know that you can think as much as what you
explore the links on the left. I hope you will find the information I
presented there useful. I am always happy to receive your comments,
suggestions or questions.