What should you write for a statement of purpose?

If you are planning to apply for a master’s or doctoral degree in the United States, one item, more than most, makes you nervous. For most international students one of the most significant challenges you will face is writing the statement of purpose (or SOP). Let us spend some time covering what you need to know.

Graduate statement of purpose

What is important to remember in applying to U.S. graduate programs is that each department within a university may have different things it looks for in what prospective students write in their application statement of purpose. As a result, we strongly encourage applicants to focus on the department they are applying to more than the university when composing their thoughts. Oftentimes the graduate departments that require statements of purpose have the final say as to which applicants are admitted to their programs.

Tips for graduate applicants

There are many suggestions out there for writing an acceptable statement of purpose. Four tips have consistently shown to be reliable as international students approach this important writing assignment.

  • Find the right academic program
  • Investigate the specifics of each program
  • Get to know the faculty and their research
  • Be careful – one SOP does not fit all

As always, US graduate departments are keen to attract students that clearly demonstrate a desire to attend their programs. Many institution’s graduate schools offer specific advice on writing the statement of purpose. Check out these two suggestions from University of California, Berkeley and Cornell University (one of the US Ivy League institutions).

Final advice …

As you begin this process, we have some final words of advice. Remember this …

  • Nothing is perfect the first time.
  • Don’t be afraid to start over.
  • Be honest, specific, and concrete.
  • Proofread.
  • Have others read your drafts.

In the end, your SOP should reflect who you are, why you are applying, and what this degree will help you achieve in life.

For more insight on this topic, check out our Facebook Live chat from March 2022.

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