Home

      My Experience       Step-by-Step Guide       Students in US      Links


Timetable

Choosing Universities

TOEFL

GRE

Statement of Purpose

Introduction
Dos and Don'ts
Q&A
Sample Statements
Useful Phrases
Links to Other Resources

Recommendations

Introduction
Dos and Don'ts
Q&A
Sample Letters
Useful Phrases
Links to Other Resources

Resume

Other Documents and Issues

Waiting for Decision

Making Choices

Before Departure

Upon Arrival

Join our Mailing List

Forum

Questions? Comments?
e-mail me




Last modified
11/13/02


General Outline of the Statement of Purpose

The Statement of Purpose is the single most important part of your application. It should present a vibrant and original picture of your character and aspirations, creating a distinct and positive impression in the minds of the admissions officers in the critical but very short time your application is under discussion.

Step 1 Determine the purpose in writing the statement
Step 2 Determine the contents of your statement
Step 3 Organize your statement
Step 4 Write, read, rewrite...
Step 5
Distribute, analyze, rewrite...

When looking over the following work plan keep in mind that there is no best way to write your statement, use your judging and creativity.

Step 1 Determine the purpose in writing the statement

Usually the purpose is to persuade the admissions committee that you are an applicant they should choose. You may want to show that you have the ability and motivation to succeed in your field, or you may want to show the committee that, on the basis of your experience, you are the kind of candidate who will do well in the field. Whatever the purpose, it must be explicit to give coherence to the whole statement.

Pay attention to the purpose throughout the statement so that extraneous material is left out.
Pay attention to the audience (committee) throughout the statement. Remember, 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 think.

Step 2 Determine the contents of your statement

Prepare an outline by selecting the main topics you want to cover (here I give you the sample list of main topics, needs will vary according to the area you're applying for) and listing supporting material under each topic (here this step is represented by questions which you need to answer)
If you have hard time making an outline, check out the tips on Getting Started

Remember, that while information on your past work is important, it is most relevant in explaining how it led you to focus on the problems that currently interest you. The admission committees are primarily concerned with learning about your current and future research interests.

Personal background
List personal reasons for your interest in the area, for example, difficulties overcome, great extracurricular achievements, etc.
Have your parents or unusual life situations influenced your aspirations?

Professional objectives
Why do you want to be a physicist/mathematician/historian/...?
When did you know you wanted to be a physicist/mathematician/historian/...?
What life experiences contributed to this?
What do your plan to do with your degree in physics/math/history/...? (Discuss your future educational and professional goals)
What area of physics/math/history/... do you want to get into?
Why do you want to attend X University? (You can discuss academic environment, geographic location, etc.)
Why will you make a good candidate for X University? (You might want to discuss your past triumphs, your commitment to academics)

Educational background
(summarize what you did as an undergraduate and in rare cases as a high school student)
List important classes you took or specific projects for a class which enhanced your interest in the field and stimulated your desire for graduate study.
List specific skills you have acquired and projects you have worked on, stress the ones which might be useful in your graduate work.

Related research and work experience
Research you might have done, indicate with whom, the title of the project, what your responsibilities were, and the outcome. Write technically, professors are the people who read these statements.
Work experience, especially if you had any kind of responsibility related to your professional interests (for example: testing, designing, or researching a product or apparatus).
Work done with or that displays knowledge of top people in the field--summarize key points of your actual experience
Recognition of and interest in work of individuals in the department to which you are applying

Outstanding achievements
Have you been a winner of regional, state, international, undergraduate Olympiads?
Have you received any special fellowships such as Soros, Eximer, etc.?
Have you got any special awards or nominations?

Step 3 Organize your statement

Organization is the 'macro' level of clear writing. Not only should each sentence be clear, but the entire text should flow together in a logical order.

Start your essay with an attention-grabbing lead -- an anecdote, quote, question, or engaging description of a scene.  End your essay with a conclusion that refers back to the lead and restates your thesis.

Put the most important sentences at the beginning and end of the paragraph. When people skim passages, they look at the first and then the last sentence. Make a good first and last impression with substantive statements. Don't begin or end on fluff.

Put the most important paragraph first. Don't "save the best for last"; you don't know how long the attention span of your reader will be.

Have an outline. There should be a reason that paragraph 1 comes first and paragraph 2 follows. Have a clear outline of the main points and how those main points fit together. Use that outline to check whether the most important point is first, whether all points are equally important, and which points you might sacrifice in the interests of space.

Use transitions between paragraphs. Have meaningful transitions based on your organization, e.g., time-based, academic then applied work, etc. Don't rely on phrases such as "In addition" to carry the reader to the next paragraph, but  do use this and other words (like later, furthermore, additionally, or moreover) for transitions within the paragraphs.

Step 4 Write, read, rewrite...

Write a rough draft in which you transform your outline into prose according to the organization you have chosen in Step 3 (
do it without reading sample statements, you might get some really innovative ideas that way). Set it aside.  In the mean time read as many sample statements as you can, pay attention to how and in what good statements differ from bad ones, look at the good word combination, try to invent your own. Next day or a few days later, read your draft. If it still sounds good, make changes and additions according to what you have learned from sample statements and go to the next step. If not, rewrite it until it sounds right.

Step 5 Distribute, analyze, rewrite...

Put your draft from Step 4 away for a day or two, then reread it, make changes, proofread. Now it's time to send or give your statement to all your friends whose knowledge of English is adequate, once again do (!!!) send your statement to your friends, acquaintances or just anybody you know in US, the more people read your statement the more comments and ideas you will receive from them, so don't be shy - act!  After you receive all the feedback accumulate it, use what you feel is suitable and write your final version of the statement. Proofread it, give it to friends again, continue in this manner until it seems good enough or the deadline has approached.  The time and energy that you put into this activity should result in a personal statement that can be used, with minor modifications, for each university and/or scholarship to which you apply.

Please 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.