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How to Have Your Statement of Purpose Actually State Your Purpose

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Applications are structured so that every person must answer the same set of questions in the same order. Graduate school applications are no different. All applicants must answer the same sterile questions, sign there name, send it in, and hope for acceptance. There are only two elements of a graduate school application that lend the applicant any sense of individuality to the evaluators. The first of these is letters of recommendation which, unfortunately, the applicant has no voice in. This leaves the statement of purpose as the only place on a graduate school application where a potential student truly has the opportunity to be heard.

If utilized properly, the statement of purpose is the most beneficial aspect of a graduate school application. If underutilized or not done correctly, it can be incredibly detrimental to the applicant. So, how do you make the statement of purpose work for you?

  1. Use the five paragraph essay form to structure your essay. This will give your essay clarity and direction, as opposed to simply rambling on. Remember, you need an introduction, three supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion, all clearly distinguishable.
  2. Write an outline before you begin your essay. No one likes outlines, but seeing as you have a very limited amount of space in which to sell yourself, it is best to figure out exactly what you want to say before you start writing. This will save you a lot of time and headache.
  3. Use a catchy, personal story to begin your introduction. Did you decide you wanted to be an archeologist at five when you found a trilobite fossil in the creek? Use that in your statement of purpose for graduate school in archeology!
  4. Write your statement of purpose and then leave it for three days. When you return to it, edit and rewrite as you see fit and then leave it for another three days. Finish your edits or rewrites then. Chances are, by the second rewrite you will have a quality product.
  5. Spell-check, grammar-check, and then read your essay out loud. This will ensure that your essay flows and pick up on misspells that the spell checker missed.
  6. Write clearly. Your statement of purpose is not a vocabulary contest and no one is going to be impressed if you use five seven-syllable words in a row. Be yourself. Write like yourself. The admissions committee already knows you’re bright.
  7. Make sure to give yourself enough time! Writing your statement of purpose the night before is a bad idea. A bad, BAD idea.
  8. Before you submit your statement, have someone else read it. This should preferably done AFTER all of your rewrites and self-edits are completed.

And above all, let your words speak! Good luck!

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