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BERKELEY

Writing the Statement of Purpose


The statement of purpose should convince readers the faculty
on the selection committee that you have solid achievements
behind you that show promise for your success in graduate study.
Think of the statement of purpose as a composition with four
different parts.

Part 1: Introduce yourself, your interests and motivations


Tell them what youre interested in, and perhaps, what sparked your desire for graduate study. This
should be short and to the point; dont spend a great deal of time on autobiography.

Part 2: Summarize your undergraduate and previous


graduate career
a) Research you conducted. Indicate with whom, the title of the project, what your responsibilities
were, and the outcome. Write technically, or in the style of your discipline. Professors are the people
who read these statements.
b) Important paper or thesis project you completed, as well as anything scholarly beyond your
curricular requirements.
c) Work experience, especially if you had any kind of responsibility for testing, designing,
researching or interning in an area similar to what you wish to study in graduate school.

Part 3: Discuss the relevance of your recent and current


activities
If you graduated and worked prior to returning to grad school, indicate what youve been doing:
company or non-profit, your work/design team, responsibilities, what you learned. You can also
indicate here how this helped you focus your graduate studies.

Part 4: Elaborate on your academic interests


Here you indicate what you would like to study in graduate school in enough detail to convince the
faculty that you understand the scope of research in their discipline, and are engaged with current
research themes.

a) Indicate the area of your interests. Ideally, pose a question, define a problem, or indicate a theme
that you would like to address, and questions that arise from contemporary research. This should be
an ample paragraph!
b) Look on the web for information about departments youre interested in, including professors and
their research. Are there professors whose research interests parallel yours? If so, indicate this.
Check the specific program; many may require you to name a professor or professors with whom
you might work.
c) End your statement in a positive manner, indicating your excitement and readiness for the
challenges ahead of you.

Essential Tips
1. What the admissions committee will read between the lines: self-motivation, competence,
potential as a graduate student.
2. Emphasize everything from a positive perspective and write in an active, not a passive voice.
3. Demonstrate everything by example; dont say directly that youre a persistent person, show it.
4. If there is something important that happened to you that affected your grades, such as poverty,
illness, or excessive work, state it. Write it affirmatively, showing your perseverance despite
obstacles. You can elaborate more in your personal statement.
5. Make sure everything is linked with continuity and focus.
6. Unless the specific program says otherwise, be concise; an ideal essay should say everything it
needs to with brevity. Approximately 500 to 1000 well-selected words (1-2 single space pages in 12
point font) is better than more words with less clarity and poor organization.

Glenn M. Callaghan
Psychology

Department of
San Jose State Univsersity

WRITING A WINNING STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

Before you start, check out the tips below on "Getting Started"
I. Determine your 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.
1. Pay attention to the purpose throughout the statement so
that extraneous material is left out.
2. 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.
II. Determine the content of your statement
Be sure to answer any direct questions fully. Analyze the questions or
guidance statements for the essay completely and answer all parts.
For example: "What are the strengths and weaknesses in setting and
achieving goals and working through people?" In this question there are
actually six parts to be answered 1) strengths in setting goals, 2)
strengths in achieving goals, 3) strengths in working through people, 4)
weaknesses in setting goals, 5) weaknesses in achieving goals and 6)
weaknesses in working through people. Pay attention to small words.
Notice: This example question says through people not with people, if it
says with people, answer that way.

Usually graduate and professional schools are interested in


the following:
1. Your purpose in graduate study. This means you must
have thought this through before you try to answer the
question.
2. The area of study in which you wish to specialize. This
requires that you know the field well enough to make such
decision.
3. Your future use of your graduate study. This will include
your career goals and plans for your future.
4. Your special preparation and fitness for study in the
field. This is the opportunity to relate your academic
background with your extracurricular experience to show
how they unite to make you a special candidate.
5. Any problems or inconsistencies in your records or
scores such as a bad semester. Be sure to explain in a
positive manner and justify the explanation. Since this is a
rebuttal argument, it should be followed by a positive
statement of your abilities.
6. Any special conditions that are not revealed elsewhere in
the application such as a large (35 hour a week) work load
outside of school. This too should be followed with a
positive statement about yourself and your future.
7. You may be asked, "Why do you wish to attend this
school?" This requires that you have done your research
about the school and know what its special appeal is to you.
8. Above all this, the statement is to contain information
about you as a person. They know nothing about you that
you dont tell them. You are the subject of the statement.

III.

Determine your approach and the style of the statement

There is no such thing as "the perfect way to write a statement." There is


only the one that is best for you and fits your circumstances.
1. There are some things the statement should not be:
a. Avoid the "what I did with my life" approach. This was fine for grade
school essays on "what I did last summer." It is not good for a personal
statement.
b. Equally elementary is the approach "Ive always wanted to be a
__________." This is only appropriate if it also reflects your current
career goals.
c. Also avoid a statement that indicates your interest in psychology is
because of your own personal psychotherapy or a family members
psychological disturbance. While this may have motivated many of us to
go on to graduate study in psychology, this is not what your audience is
necessarily looking for in your statement.
d. These are some things the statement should do:
1. It should be objective yet self-revelatory. Write directly and
in a straightforward manner that tells about your experience
and what it means to you. Do not use "academese" or
jargon.
2. It should form conclusions that explain the value and
meaning of your experiences such as: (1) what you learned
about yourself; (2) about your field; (3) about your future
goals; and (4) about your career concerns.
3. It should be specific. Document your conclusions with
specific instances or draw your conclusions as the result of
individual experience. See the list of general Words to
Avoid Using without Explanation listed below.
4. It should be an example of careful persuasive writing.
CONSIDERTIONS ABOUT FORM:
1. Keep to the Page Limit Number!!! Reviewers have to read hundreds of these
applications, dont overburden them with extra pages.
2. Do not leave in typographical errors. You dont want to be taken less seriously
due to a typo, rite? (laugh)

WORDS TO AVOID USING WITHOUT EXPLANATION


Significant

Invaluable

appealing to me

interesting

exciting, excited

appealing aspect

challenging

enjoyable, enjoy

I like it

satisfying, satisfaction

I can contribute

its important

rewarding

valuable

fascinating

gratifying

helpful

appreciate

meaningful

useful

helping people

meant a lot to me

feel good

stimulating

remarkable

I like to help
people

incredible

GETTING STARTED
EXERCISES:
A. Recalling and analyzing experience - write short paragraphs on the following:
1. Pick a memorable accomplishment in your life. What did you
do? How did you accomplish it?
2. What sort of important activities have you engaged in? With
whom? what role did you play?
3. What work experiences have you had? What was your job?
responsibility? How did you carry it out?

Now look over your paragraphs. What skills and qualities do you see
that you possess? For example, consider working with others. Were you
a leader? important "team" player?

Looking at what you have found, you can now look for skills and
qualities that will help you in graduate school. What factors stand out?

NOTE: You will undoubtedly have more material than you can use. This
is good, but you need to make strategic choices.

B. Your career goals - write two short paragraphs:


1. What career have you chosen? What factors formed this
decision?
2. What evidence shows that this is a correct choice? That is, how
can you show that this choice is realistic? (Personal experience in
the field is a good place to begin.)

How to Write a Great Statement of Purpose


Vince Gotera
English Language and Literature
University of Northern Iowa
January 2006

The Statement of Purpose required by grad schools is probably the hardest thing you will ever
write. (Incidentally, the statement of purpose may also be called an Application Essay,
Objectives for Graduate Study, Personal Background, Cover Letter, or some comparable title.)
I would guess virtually all grad-school applicants, when they write their first draft of the
statement of purpose, will get it wrong. Much of what you have learned about writing and also
about how to present yourself will lead you astray. For example, here's an opening to a typical
first draft:
I am applying to the Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing at the
University of Okoboji because I believe my writing will blossom at your
program since it is a place where I will be challenged and I can hone my
writing skills.
How's that? It's clear, it's direct, and it "strokes" the MFA program, right? Wrong. All of it is
obvious and extraneous.
The admissions committee knows you are applying to their MFA program because everyone in
the stacks of applications they are reading is applying for the same thing. The admissions
committee will also know that your writing will "blossom" there since they feel they have a
strong program. Of course you will be challenged all undergrads going on to a grad program
will be challenged, no matter how well-prepared they think they are. And of course the new grad
student will "hone [her] writing skills" isn't that the main purpose of the MFA program?
Let's assume the required length of this particular program's statement of purpose is 300 words.
Well, with this opening you will have used up 15% of your space saying virtually nothing. 15%!
In fact, not only is this opening paragraph obvious, extraneous, and space-stealing,
it's boring!Imagine who's reading this and where: five professors "locked" in a room with 500
applications. Do you think this opening paragraph will command their attention? Will they read
the rest of this statement of purpose with an open mind that this applicant is the kind of student
they want? Will they remember this application later? You be the judge.
Remember what you learned in first-year composition? You need a "hook."

A former student of mine applying to enter a master's program in library science had a great
hook. I don't remember Susan's exact words, but the opening paragraph of her statement of
purpose went something like this:
When I was eleven, my great-aunt Gretchen passed away and left me
something that changed my life: a library of about five thousand books.
Some of my best days were spent arranging and reading her books. Since
then, I have wanted to be a librarian.
Okay ... it's clear, it's direct, it's 45 words, and, most important, it tells the admissions committee
about Susan's almost life-long passion not just for books but for taking care of books. When the
committee starts to discuss their "best picks," don't you think they'll remember her as "the young
woman who had her own library"? Of course they will, because having had their own library
when they were eleven would probably be a cherished fantasy for each of them!
Suppose Susan had written this opening paragraph instead:
I am honored to apply for the Master of Library Science program at the
University of Okoboji because as long as I can remember I have had a love
affair with books. Since I was eleven I have known I wanted to be a
librarian.
That's 45 words too. Do you think the admissions committee will remember this application
among the 500 applications they are wading through? Probably more than half of the
applications, maybe alot more than half, will open with something very similar. Many will say
they "have had a love affair with books" that phrase may sound passionate until you've read it
a couple of hundred times.
All of us have had some event, some experience, like my student's personal library at eleven,
which drives us toward the discipline(s) we inhabit. I was speaking to a group of students
recently about this. One student let's call her Jennifer said she wanted to get a master's
degree in speech therapy. When I asked her why, Jennifer said she had taken a class in it for fun
and really loved it. But then I pressed her: was there some personal reason she found that field
significant enough to spend her whole life doing it? At first Jennifer said no, but after more
questioning she revealed that her brother had speech problems. This was a discovery to her; she
had not entered the field with that connection in mind at least not consciously. But there it
was; Jennifer now had her hook.
You have to really dig. Be introspective. Don't settle for "I love this field." Why do you love this
field? Why do you want to work in this field for the rest of your life? Why does it complete you?
Cut through the bull you tell your parents and relatives and friends. What is your truth? Find it
and then find a memorable way to say it. Grad schools require the statement of purpose not only
because they want to find about you as an applicant, they want you to really think about why you
are taking such a life-changing step truly and profoundly why.

Okay, back to the scene of the five professors surrounded by stacks of applications, maybe more
than 500. Do you know who they are? What they want? What they like to eat? Obviously, no.
Conversely, do they know you? Well, no. But ... the statement of purpose is your chance to help
them get to know you! Your statement of purpose should portray you as a person, not just an
application among hundreds of others. Not just paper and ink.
Here's one way to do it. When I was an undergrad senior first applying for grad schools, I knew a
grad student I'll call him Nigel who told me he had written a three-sentence statement of
purpose to get into Stanford:
I want to teach English at the university level. To do this, I need a PhD. That
is why I am applying.
That was the whole thing. That's only half of 45 words. It certainly portrays Nigel as brash, risktaking, no-nonsense, even arrogant. If this is how you want to portray yourself, then by all means
do this. But you should also know that Nigel's statement of purpose is an all-or-nothing
proposition. You can bet there will be members of probably any admissions committee who will
find Nigel's statement of purpose offensive, even disrespectful. And they might not want such a
student at their school. But then I suppose Nigel wouldn't want to be a student at that school,
either.
Try to make your paper-and-ink self come alive. Don't just say, "I used to work on an assembly
line in a television factory, and one day I decided that I had to get out of there, so I went to
college to save my own life." How about this: "One Thursday, I had soldered the 112th green
wire on the same place on the 112th TV remote, and I realized the solder fumes were rotting my
brain. I decided college would be my salvation." Both 35 words. Which narrative do you think
will keep the admissions committee reading?
Tell stories (briefly). Use vivid language. Be specific. Be dynamic. Liven up a moment in the
lives of those five professors trapped with those 500 applications. Maybe 600. Maybe more.
At the same time, be careful not to be glib. Don't be slick. Don't write your application in a
sequence of haiku. Don't put in photos. Just be yourself, but a more heightened version of
yourself in words (since face-to-face nuance and gestures won't be there to help).
Remember your statement of purpose should portray you as (1) passionately interested in the
field;(2) intelligent; (3) well-prepared academically and personally; (4) able to take on the
challenges of grad school; (5) able to have rapport with professors and fellow grad students in
other words, collegial; (6) able to finish the graduate degree in a timely fashion; and (7)
a potentially outstanding representative of that grad school in your future career.
That's a lot to cover in a few hundred words (the length of a statement purpose, as required by
different schools, tends to be around 300 to 1000 words). "Passionate interest in the field" will be
covered by the kind of hook I have described above. "Intelligence" will be conveyed by the
overall writing, organization, expression, etc. of your statement. Being "well-prepared" can be
demonstrated by using the lingo of the field (theory, craft, etc.), describing the specific kinds of

coursework and other accomplishments you have in the field. Ability "to take on the challenges
of grad school" can be shown by describing the rigor of the work you have done. "Collegiality"
is not particularly important but is nevertheless a factor if you can show yourself as a
generally nice and cooperative person, that will do just be true to your own style. Ability "to
finish the graduate program" can be conveyed implicitly by your success thus far and more
explicitly if you can tell some (brief) story about adverse obstacles you have overcome. Being a
"future outstanding representative" can be implied by your being an outstanding representative of
your undergraduate school for example, don't "bad-mouth" your current college or professors.
Often, grad schools will ask you to address other or similar qualities as I've listed above. Just use
common sense in focusing on each. Don't address them in the same order as the grad school has
listed. Combine them; rearrange them; do whatever you need to do to show yourself as an
imaginative person, not a parrot following a line of Brazil nuts to crack.
If you have some problematic academic background, address that as well to reassure the
admissions committee. For example, let's say that you got all C's one semester. Take a (brief)
paragraph to explain that you had some emotional setback that semester but then demonstrate
how your grades have been sterling since then, and that you now have a 3.83 grade-point average
in the discipline. If you spin this well, your story will enhance the admissions committee's image
of you as someone with the abilities to "take on challenges" and "to finish on time."
Here's an organization I would recommend: (1) passionate hook; (2) segu to your background in
the field; (3) specific classes by title and professors you have had (especially if well-known in
the field); (4) related extracurricular activities (especially if they hint at some personal quality
you want to convey); (5) any publications or other professional accomplishments in the field
(perhaps conference presentations or public readings); (6) explanations about problems in your
background (if needed); and (7) why you have chosen this grad school (name one or two
professors and what you know of their specific areas or some feature of the program which
specifically attracts you).
I should probably expand on item 7. This is a practical issue as well. If you are applying to ten
grad schools, it's a mismanagement of time to write ten separate, tailored statements of purpose.
Items 1 through 6 above can be exactly the same for all the statements. Then when you get to
item 7, put in a different paragraph for each school. Remember this means the ten statements will
all be as long, in terms of word count, as the shortest required length among the ten schools. If
the shortest length is 300 words, probably that length will be okay for the 500-word school (in
fact the admissions committee at the 500-word place may see you as savvy for not going on and
on). But those 300 words will clearly not work for the 1200-word school, so you'll need to
expand that one. Don't pad. Find other engaging material in your background.
About mentioning professors at each grad school: doing this will portray you as someone "who
has done her homework," as someone who is genuinely interested in the field, enough to have
done some prefatory work in that area. Don't just mention their names (anyone who can browse a
web site can do that). Say something of substance about each professor by name, something that
reveals you know and appreciate that person's work. Don't necessarily pick the most famous
professor at the grad school; chances are many other applicants will do the same, and the

admissions committee members will soon be unconsciously filtering those mentions out.
(Besides, the most famous professor doesn't always work with all graduate students or may be
out of town half the year, and you may come off as naive if you say you're looking forward to
working with her.) Find a lesser-known professor whose work truly intrigues you (and truly is
the operational word here). Then say something about what you know of that professor's work
remember that person may be on the admissions committee. Don't suck up don't be a
sycophant. Be fair and honest.
Be sure to show your statement of purpose to several professors. Remember they will have
different ideas about what constitutes an appropriate and effective statement of purpose. If one of
your professors has a connection with a specific grad school, she may have some inside
knowledge about what kind of statement of purpose will work best at that school. Make your
final editing decisions based on what will convey you most accurately as you see it. Again, be
specific, be dynamic, come alive on paper. Continue to get advice from your professors on later
drafts.
Proofread your statement of purpose. Copyedit for consistency, accuracy, and style. Ask your
friends to copyedit and proofread your statement; perhaps you can do the same for them if they
are also applying for grad school.
Remember that style in writing can be parallel to style in dress: the second affects your image in
person while the first affects your image when you may not be present. Leaving in typos and
misplaced commas is like dressing in your grubbies for a coat-and-tie / cocktail dress event.
Being too wordy is comparable to dressing in an evening gown or a tuxedo for a casual gettogether. Being too glib, too mannered, may be like wearing a furry rabbit costume to a party
which turns outnot to be a Halloween bash. Be careful. Be a perfectionist.
Keep working on your statement of purpose even after you have sent it to the school(s) with the
earlier deadline(s). You might have a later epiphany about your personal and academic
background, your motives for applying for grad school, your long-term plans, and this epiphany
may be just the thing that gets you into the school(s) with the later deadline(s).
To close, the statement of purpose, in the eyes of Department Heads, Program Chairs, and
Admissions Committee members, can be the most important document in the application. Other
parts of your graduate-school application test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation,
writing samples do not say as much about you as a person as the statement of purpose can:
your proudest accomplishments alongside your fondest hopes and dreams.

Checklist for Writing a Statement of Purpose


Vince Gotera | University of Northern Iowa

[ ] Organization ...
[ ] A "hook" that demonstrates your passion for the field
[ ] Segu to your background in the field
[ ] Description of your academic background in the field
[ ] Specific classes you have taken, given by name
[ ] Specific professors you have had, especially if well-known in that field
[ ] Extracurricular activities in the field
[ ] Publications or other professional accomplishments in the field (perhaps conference
presentations or public readings)
[ ] Explanations about problems in background (if needed)
[ ] Explanation of why you have chosen the specific grad school
[ ] Mention one or two professors in that school and what you know of and appreciate
about their work
[ ] Specific features of the grad program which attract you
[ ] Get advice from several of your professors philosophical advice as well as specific writing
advice
[ ] Proofread and copyedit; ask friends to proofread and copyedit as well
[ ] Keep working on the statement of purpose, even after you have already sent it to school(s)
with earlier deadline(s)

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How to Write a Statement of Purpose

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Four Methods:Create an OutlineWrite the Statement of PurposeReview Your StatementSample Statement

If you're applying for a graduate or PhD program, you'll probably have to write a
Statement of Purpose. It may be the most difficultand most important thing you will
ever write. Usually two or three pages in length, your Statement of Purpose can make
or break your application. We'll show you some tips to write an excellent one!

Method 1 of 3: Create an Outline

1.

1
Know yourself. With a well-crafted Statement of Purpose you can persuade an admissions
committee to accept you. In order to convince them, you must be convinced yourself. You must
be sure of what you want, why you want it, and why that particular program can help you.

Why should the school select you over someone else? You must be able to answer that
question for yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses.

Before beginning to write, think. Review your intellectual and personal development over your
academic career. When you can clearly articulate the history that led you to decide to apply to a
particular program, you are ready to begin writing.

Ad

2
Write the introduction and thesis statement. Before writing an essay like this, you must have
a thesis statement. This is the one sentence that introduces the central idea of the paper. It
must be specific. This statement should sum up the basic meaning of the essay, and signal to
the reader what to expect.

The first sentence is the most important one because it gets the reader's attention. Create a
strong opening paragraph of five sentences or less. Briefly explain who you are, where you're
from, why you have chosen the particular field to which you're applying, and why the university
is among your first choices.

Make it count. The first paragraph is very important. It is your introduction, and should hook the
reader from the start. You want to make him or her want to continue reading.

3
The body of the paper. Each paragraph should deal with a single central idea. This idea
should be introduced early in a topic sentence, telling the reader what to expect in the
paragraph.

Several ideas in a single paragraph will only confuse the reader. If the central idea has several
supporting points, break it into several paragraphs rather than having one very long paragraph.

Support your ideas, don't just spit them out without backingit's like writing a cheque without
money in the bank. By giving support to your ideas, you convince readers of their truth and

accuracy. If you successfully prove your statements, the reader should agree with your
conclusion.

Structure the sequence of ideas carefully and logically. Remember, you are mapping a course,
leading the reader through the points that support your thesis. You do not want to confuse them,
or make them take the long way around. Transition smoothly from paragraph to paragraph to
link them together logically. Use connecting sentences to keep the paper flowing smoothly.

4
Conclusion. Restate your thesis and the main points supporting it. In the conclusion, add some
new ideas or information to challenge the reader to think further.

Method 2 of 3: Write the Statement of Purpose

1.

1
This is the easy part. If you've written a thorough and thoughtful outline, this will just be a
process of refining what you've already written. Let's review and expand on the steps here:

2.

2
Introduction: state your goals. The first sentence is the most important one. You want to grab
the reader's attention, and not let it go until you are finished.

3.

3
The body of the paper. Flesh out the details of who you are and what you've accomplished.

4.

4
Explain your background. Show that you are academically prepared for your chosen program.
Include the following:

Where and what you've studied

Past research or diploma projects you've participated in.

If applying to a program in a different field of study, explain how the skills you learned in earning
your degree can be applied to the new field.

5
Describe your professional goals.

Why you find your particular field of study interesting. What influenced you to choose that field?

Include any related experience or research you've had or been involved in to date.

Describe your future plans after receiving your degree. Will you be continuing in your education,
or will you be working in your field?

6
Explain your reasoning. Describe what and why have you chosen to study in graduate school.

Where your specific interests lie in your field.

Why this program is needed for your professional development, and how great is the need.

Describe what led you to your choice of universitycourses, faculty, research projects, facilities,
etc.

7
Write your conclusion. Sum up the main points, and describe what you can contribute to the
program.

8
List all the enclosures you will include in your application and give a very brief
description of your portfolio.

9
Thank the admissions committee for their time. Chances are they are reviewing hundreds of
applications along with yours.

10
Provide your contact information.

Method 3 of 3: Review Your Statement

1.

1
Go back and revise, edit and rewrite. Remember to include everything above while aiming for
2-3 pages maximum. This is where being very concise and to the point is important.

If possible, let the letter sit for a few days after you've finished writing it. Come back with a fresh
pair of eyes and start revising.

Perhaps ask someone else edit your letter. Ask for honest and constructive criticism, and be
prepared to accept it gracefully.

Cut the chaff. Is there anything in your letter that is not absolutely necessary, or doesn't tie well
to the other parts? If you can't revise it so that it fits, cut it. Remember that whoever reads your
letter has a lot of SoPs to get through, and only has time for the information that matters.

2
Print your letter, sign it, and include it as the first item of your application portfolio. Be
aware that some schools may ask you to submit your letter electronically. If that's the case,
convert your letter to a PDF before sending.

Sample Statement

Sample Statement of Purpose

Tips

Remember that your first paragraph should be no longer than four or five sentences, but it
should give a summary of the entire Statement of Purpose. Many graduate committees will read
your first paragraph to decide if the rest of your application is worth reading as well.

Presentation is very important. Use a legible font (such as Times New Roman) and respect
term paper-style margin standards (1" - 1.25") and font sizes (11-12 pt). If you cite sources, be
consistent with your style sheet (Chicago, APA, etc.). Do not mail in an SoP with wrinkles and/or
coffee stains or it might end up in the trash where it belongs.

Don't be overly specific about your research goals if you are actually somewhat flexible. If there
are no faculty in a particular department working in your described area who are taking students
in a given year, you might be rejected even though you are considered "above bar". At the same
time, there's no point pretending to be interested in a broader range of topics than you are.

Avoid sending the exact same Statement of Purpose to all the universities to which you're
applying. The admissions committee will easily spot a cookie-cutter essay and more than likely
reject you. Admissions committees also notice whether or not you include specific references to
people, labs,groups etc., within their departments.

Don't tell the admissions committee how amazing you are. Avoid empty phrases like "I'm
talented", "I'm very intelligent," "I'm a great writer/engineer/artist" or "I had the highest GPA in

my department as an undergrad." Show them through your professional Statement of Purpose


and application portfolio and let them decide if you are amazing enough to attend their
institution.

Should you attempt to explain how "amazing" you are, make sure that you justify it. Yet, you
must remain humble. For example: "I believe that I have the confidence in myself to strive for
the furthest goal."

Don't be too technical, i.e., using words or jargon-style expressions within your field that are
unfamiliar to you or that you have picked up while skimming literature relevant to your studies; if
you use a term blatantly incorrectly it may deter your acceptance.

Avoid being too poetic in applying for creative writing graduate programs. Address the questions
without too much extraneous material. Your writing portfolio is more than enough writing to
show your talent.

Focus on your previous and future research experiences. Many students make the mistake of
summarizing their CVs. Committees that bother to read your application know already that
you're a good student; they now want to see whether you'll make the transition to a more
unstructured and self-directed form of learning in graduate school. They look for evidence of this
by seeing how you describe your past research experiences and your future plans. The key is
not particularly the topic you propose--the committee will expect that to change, as your
awareness of graduate school increases. Instead, they will look to see whether you have a
realistic and well-informed sense of what a graduate student would expect to do in a degree.

Keep it clear and concise, yet detailed and specific when it comes to faculty and areas of
potential research.