In the context of applying for graduate studies, a statement of purpose (SOP) is a concise essay that forms a crucial part of your application process. This is because it tells the admission committee who you are, why you are applying, why you are a good candidate, and what you want to do in the future. It is sometimes called an SOP letter, application essay, cover letter, or something related. The statement of purpose shows not only who you are as a candidate, but also how well you can express yourself.
Table of Contents
What is the General Format?
Ensure you use 12 point Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins on all sides, and 1.5 line spacing. This format will ensure your writing is easier to read. Also, it is the expected format. However, you probably won’t get extra points for good general formatting. Therefore, it is going to benefit you much more to focus on impressing your reader with your actual content.
Do I have to put my Name on my Statement of Purpose?
In general, you don’t have to put your name on your SOP. The reason is that your statement is a part of your more extensive application, which already has your name throughout it. Nevertheless, it is essential to look at the specific requirements for the program you have chosen. If the requirements for your program demand that you should include your name, then you should abide by those requirements.
How long should a Statement of Purpose be?
A statement of purpose should be one page. You could write up to one and a half pages if needed, but nothing more than this. The reason is that you have to be economical with your writing. Admissions officers get to read several applications a day, so you have to be able to concisely and clearly state what you have to say. Writing anything more than 1 – 1.5 pages may make you seem like you lack focus and clarity in your writing.
Guidelines on a Good Statement of Purpose Format
It may be difficult to ascertain what to include in each paragraph of your writing. In this article, we will let you know what to do using a statement of purpose format that is a simple five-paragraph essay. This format will help you address all the necessary points the admissions officers expect you to cover in your writing.
Who are you, and what do you wish to do? (1st paragraph)
In the first paragraph, it is expected that you introduce yourself by briefly providing background information on yourself, stating your current career goal. Your introduction should be relevant to the program you have chosen. Talking about your love of cooking when you are applying to medical school may not be of good help to you. Always ensure that any information you include in your introduction has to be relatable to specific areas of the programme.
For instance, observe this statement derived from the description of a program in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology (HST): “HST students learn to carry their engineering and scientific expertise from the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside and to bring clinical insights from the bedside to the bench.” Applying to this programme means that you would probably want to include some background information on how you have engaged in scientific research or bedside interactions with patients. Also, your career goal should clearly show that this is the type of work you wish to do.
Research the program for which you are applying thoroughly and ensure that what you write about directly relates to the precise information included in the description of the program.
Why do you wish to do it? (2nd paragraph)
For the second paragraph, explain how you came to be interested in your chosen area of study. Since you have made it clear that you have a background and goal related to the programme, explain your interest in it. Your statement of purpose should tell the admissions officers why you are applying.
Don’t give general reasons like, “I like to help people.” General reasons hardly help admissions officers to understand you as an individual. Try instead to focus on why you like helping people. What inspired or motivated you to like helping people? Why do you wish to learn in this particular program to help people? The more thoroughly you understand your reasons, the better you can convince the admissions officers you are the right candidate.
Why are you the right candidate for this program? (3rd and 4th paragraphs)
In the third paragraph, describe any experience you might have had in your area of study. Think of any jobs, internships, projects, etc. that you might have done. It can be challenging for some people to think of any relevant experience they may have. If this is your case, try talking to some family members or friends that know you quite well. They may be able to help you come up with some relevant experience that you can write about.
Don’t deviate from the background and career goal stated in the first paragraph. This should be your reference point when discussing your experience. Using the school’s program description as a guide, present any related experience you have. The more direct the experience is, the better it is for you. If you don’t have any direct experience, go for the most closely related experience and link it as effectively as you can. Ensure you reference how your experience relates to the program you have chosen. What this shows is that you have a vivid understanding of what the programme is and how well you fit in.
In the fourth paragraph, describe any other experiences you have had that have helped you to choose your specific area of study, or has helped you to prepare for graduate studies generally. Be concise with this. Your statement of purpose is not for lengthy narratives.
If there is any other relevant information you think the admissions officer should know about you, ensure you include it in this paragraph. It is essential to emphasize that the admissions officer really should see this information. Try to be unique, while being focused on explaining why you are the best candidate for the programme you have chosen.
What do you wish to do in the future? (Closing paragraph)
In the final paragraph, briefly describe your long-term career goals. Ensure you are very clear and specific when writing this. Also, notice how this is quite different from the current goal in the first paragraph. For the first paragraph, you talk about what you want to do right now; that is, the next goal you wish to accomplish. In the closing paragraph, your focus is on where you want to be years from now. For instance, your next step may be to become the manager within your field, but your long-term goal may be to be the director or CEO.
Up until this point, you have discussed the past and present. These are crucial for showing how you fit into the programme right now. From the admissions perspective, they want to choose students that have a long-term vision related to the chosen programme. The reason is that it reveals that you see yourself as using what you will learn to grow and contribute to the development of your field of study. Why should an admissions officer admit a student that doesn’t have any clear vision of how he/she wants to grow his/her field? It makes no sense for them to choose a student that does not have a clear long-term goal over a student that does, right?
How to use this Format Effectively
Since you now have a basic idea of the statement of purpose format, the next thing to do is to get started. If you are ready, you can get started writing immediately. If you are not quite sure what this format looks like in action, you should read some sample essays. Ensure you take notes while you read up and use them as a reference point.
Remember that you want to be able to show the admissions officers that you are focused on your purpose for going to graduate school. This process will assist you in taking control of how you present yourself in your writing.
What to do when you’re done
Writing and editing are complicated. When you are writing something as crucial as a statement of purpose, having your essay well-edited can make a huge difference between a letter of acceptance and a letter of rejection.
Also, you don’t get to reapply right away continuously. If you get rejected from the school you have chosen, you may have to wait for months or even about a year before you can reapply. To be more confident that the statement of purpose you have written will get the best chance of an acceptance letter, consider hiring a professional editor.
In all, as you write your statement of purpose and apply for studies at any university, we wish you all the best!