The Statement of Purpose is probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of undergrad as well as graduate applications. Most students pass it off like it is just another essay about themselves, and naturally, write monotonous stuff that doesn’t stand out. That is why, the university admissions committee puts a hefty weight on statement of purposes and their structure – they want to see whether you take the interest in letting them know how much you want to study at their university.
Strategies to Write a Powerful Statement of Purpose
It is important that you follow a specific strategy when it comes to drafting your statement of purpose. Though most students write whatever comes to their mind, or whatever they see on the internet, you are not most people. You would want your statement of purpose to sound brilliant, and original. And for that, you’ll need some strategies.
1. Write Stories. Not Statements
If given a choice, would you prefer reading a novel or a newspaper? A novel, without a doubt. Do you know why? Because while a newspaper gives you news and some eye-catching headlines, a novel tells you a story; a beautifully written piece of literature that you will be emotionally connected to. It brings those humanly feelings out of you, and involves you in its storyline. You imagine yourself in place of the narrator/character, and understand why he/she has done that, or taken such decisions. We remember stories much easier than statements. Because stories connect to us, statements don’t.
2. Quantify Your Stories
Even though we asked you to write a story, you will have to remember that your story should not read like a thesis. It should rather serve as the best source of information about you. And when it comes to information, numbers play a key role. Your story should be not only qualitative, but also quantitative. Which means, your story must contain measurable quantities instead of just stories, so the reader can understand the depth of it.
3. Be Specific
You have to make sure that whatever you say on your statement of purpose, you need to be very specific with it. Don’t just say something because you think it will impress the admissions committee. Whatever you say, you have to really dig into details. Be introspective. Don’t just say “I chose this degree because I love this field.” Explain clearly why you love this field, what made you decide that you want to work in this field for the rest of your life, what skills you are trying to amass, why it completes you as a person, etc. Don’t beat around the bush like you normally would, when you talk to your friends. Don’t use ideal sentences like ‘I want to change the world’ or ‘I want to find my inner self’ or any of those cheesy lines. Just be straightforward and always to the point, but not so much as to come off as arrogant. Find your reasons and then find a nice, memorable way to say it. More importantly, they want you to think for yourself, as to why you are taking such a life-changing step; why you think this is the best thing that can happen to you; and why you think you truly need it to succeed in life. The ‘why’ is always profoundly important, and also an extremely difficult question to answer, which is why, if you can find answers to all the whys, then you are almost in.
4. Customize Your Essay
One of the biggest mistakes students make is to prepare a basic template for their statement of purpose, and if they are applying to more than one university, they simply change the relevant names and details. But the rest of the statement is an exact copy. This is never a good idea, because though they might seem quite similar to each other, every university is vastly different from the others. Each of them has a diverse set of characteristics that define them, and their cultures, methodologies, visions, values, mottos, strengths, weaknesses, etc., vary greatly. These things are much more important than the departments, or university rankings, or number of Ph.D.’s or other materialistic qualities. So, if you are applying to multiple universities, you need to factor in all these qualities of every university, and customize your statement accordingly. Mere changes in names and details won’t suffice.
5. Use a Formal But Conversational Tone
Nearly all statements or essays come under two categories: The super formal, and the super friendly. The first category is when you write a statement of purpose that is so formal, it looks like you are writing to your lieutenant in the military. The second one, of course, looks like a casual email to a friend. A conversational tone is the best and the safest way to go. Write like you are talking to someone, but avoid using casual language. Imagine you are talking to your dean, or the director of your college. What would your language be like?
6. Decide How You Want To Portray Yourself. And Learn How to Portray Indirectly.
You must see that the statement of purpose serves as a medium to convey your attitude, your personality and your character. Your statement of purpose should portray you as, in terms of a few criteria, which tell the admissions committee that you are: Very passionate about the field of study you have chosen,well-prepared academically and personally, and eager to study new courses , able to take on the challenges of studying at an international graduate school, able to build and maintain a good rapport with professors and fellow students. Able to finish the graduate degree within time, and graduate with a good percentage.
7. Don’t Create Stories. Be Yourself
Because we asked you to write stories, there would naturally be an inclination to “create” stories out of thin air. Do not do this at all. Write great stories only if you have great stories. If you don’t have anything great to write, don’t write it. Be normal, and write normal stories. It is better to be normal than to pretend to be someone you are not. The admissions officers are expert psychologists, and they can spot a true applicant from a false applicant with just one reading. So, don’t even think about fooling the committee with a false storyline. Try and be yourself throughout the essay.
8. Address Your Problems
The Statement of Purpose is a great opportunity for you to address some of your problems. If you have had any problematic academic background, or a gap year in your career, or if you had any work-related problems, you can address them on the statement of purpose in order to reassure the admissions committee. You must try and be as honest as possible, and talk about your problems in a matured manner. Instead of trying to defend yourself, you can point out the actual reasons that led to the problems, but more importantly, you should highlight ‘how’ you overcame the situation, and ‘what’ you have learnt from the experience
9. Do Your Homework
This is one very important point you should exercise while you are writing an statement of purpose. You should be thorough with the details of all the universities you are applying to, and list down all the things you like about each university, before you write the essays. You should let them know what exactly you like about them, that you so badly want to be there. The specifics are really important
10. Proofread, Edit, and Re-edit.
Another mistake students make is, they try and keep their essays to themselves. Maybe they are shy, or may be they think their friends and family aren’t necessarily experts on the subject. So they think there’s no point in asking friends and family to critique on their essays.Wrong. Your statement of purpose speaks about you as a student, as an individual. Yes, there is technical slang involved, and yes your family members may not be experts on that. But, they sure are experts on ‘you’. Which is exactly why you should approach them. Also, remember to proofread your statement time and again, and keep on re-editing content until you, your family and friends think you have the best statement in the world. And, once you are done with everything, do not forget to ask your friends and family to grade your statement of purpose, and ask them to criticize it accurately, so you can avoid submitting a less than perfect copy of your statement.
11. Take Advice From Professors.
If you know a professor at your institution, don’t hesitate to approach him/her for advice regarding your statement of purpose. They are of course very experienced prospects, and they might have seen thousands of statement of purposes and students in their careers. So, it wouldn’t hurt to ask for their opinion. Plus, since unlike your family, they are technically sound, they can also provide you valuable insights on how to project your technical expertise and project works in the statement. After all, a professor knows what another professor looks for in a prospective student, so it would only help if you approach your college professors. And, if they are really close to you, you can also ask them for a really good letter of recommendation. So whichever way you look at it, there are only benefits for you.