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What Is Statement of Purpose?
Deciding you want to pursue further education because it is a worthwhile investment for you is one step. The next is looking for the best school to pursue your graduate studies in. Chances are, you are not the only one with this idea. To get into your dream school, you will undergo a rigorous selection process that sifts for the best candidates for the limited slots in the program. All the while, you have to convince the selection committee that you fit the criteria. Official transcripts, good GRE scores, and letters of recommendation are pieces of your persuasion puzzle. Make the picture whole with a statement of purpose essay.
Your statement of purpose sums your entire field experience and qualifications into a compelling narrative of why you should be considered for a slot in a graduate degree. Graduate schools require you to submit such a letter of intent to enroll in their program together with your application requirements. You have a few pages to convince the school and justify your motivations to enroll in that program. The essay should highlight your skills, interests, and goals. Its purpose is to differentiate you from fellow applicants who are just as interested in the school and the degree as you are.
Elements of an SOP Essay
When the admission committee scrutinizes your application files, you are not in the room to make your case. Your statement of purpose essay expresses your intent to enroll in the college graduate program. Your SOP letter should answer the following questions about you.
The Fresh-Grad Crisis
After finishing their undergraduate or graduate program, people find themselves in that hazy area between proceeding with further studies or dipping their toes in the real-world. Although people who obtained their master’s degrees also find themselves in the same predicament, this situation is most prevalent in fresh graduates looking for jobs. After years of sticking to a determined plan, suddenly fresh grads feel a tad lost in the new environment. Overwhelmed and intimidated by change, one becomes unsure of himself or herself. This period of ambiguity and confusion lead many people to want to go back into the familiar and comforting arms of the university. These people see grad school as a way to delay growing up and its corresponding responsibilities.
This notion, of course, becomes problematic when it is the person’s motivation for pursuing further studies. Such a drive is short-lived and will not sustain you through the physical and mental rigors of grad school. Aside from that, grad school is also very expensive. Even though people who pursued graduate education can earn more than college graduates, your dream job might not even require a higher degree. There is also no telling that you will be more successful just because of your degree. Unless you applied for a graduate degree scholarship, you just paid more for something that will have little influence on your career.
However, some careers benefit from more specialized knowledge of a field of study. Certain professions in business management, finance, sciences, law, and research may require that you know more than your undergraduate background. People on the academic side of these areas apply for study leave to obtain higher degrees and be experts in their fields. There are pros and cons to furthering knowledge. It can be a worthwhile investment or an unnecessary time-and-resource expenditure that you would regret. Grad school is not your escape from responsibilities. Therefore, you have to research your dream career and find out whether graduate studies will open more doors for you.
How to Compose Your Statement of Purpose
If you have decided that grad school is the path for you for the right reasons, your next step is persuading the selection panel so. You can’t force people into believing what you think. However, you can persuade them to decide for themselves to act in a way that is favorable to you. According to an article in Entrepreneur, the secret to persuasion lies in your ability to communicate your points, so your audience agrees with your stance. Instead of just saying things that force your ideas on people, illustrate and set examples of what you mean. Present your arguments on why you belong in the school’s graduate program in the way that the committee will agree with you. Use your essay to help the board reach a favorable conclusion.
Step 1: Tune Your Language
Speak as a graduate student would. Make your SOP letter an interesting read, but it should still sound like a qualified graduate school hopeful wrote it. The forms of writing vary on structure, form, tone, and the intended audience. Informal writing appeals to a general audience. On the other end of the spectrum, there is something as too formal form of writing, such as those found in dissertations. Stay in the sweet spot where you can still find yourself in the content. You can still be professional without sounding like a robot. When possible, err towards the active and first-person voice. Remember that your content, from its substance to its structure, should reflect your qualifications.
Step 2: Reel Readers In
Readers should want to read your letter. A letter of intent is still an essay, so it should still function the same way. Dull opening statements that do not invite the readers to continue reading have no place in your essay. You are writing the letter to convince the committee why you are a fit candidate for the program. Boring them with a lazily put-together essay will not help your case. Reel the readers in with a powerful hook that is relevant to your interest in the field. Otherwise, your application will be rejected as fast as you bored your readers with an uninteresting and generic introduction.
Step 3: Illustrate Career Highlights
In your SOP essay, describe your academic and professional background and accomplishments that demonstrate your competence. Give examples of your capability. You can include related classes you took, projects you participated in, and other curricular and extracurricular activities. Explain how those endeavors advanced your growth and expanded your understanding in the field of study. If you worked with an important or well-known firm, company, client, or professional, you can include your experience in the endeavors. If you have received recognition and awards for your work in the academic and professional communities, you can add these accomplishments in your highlight reel.
Step 4: Justify Your Choice
Explain your motivation when you chose that university to pursue the program. You can cite programs, offers, or relevant facilities that they have that will help you with your study. You may be inspired by the expertise of the university faculty and want to pursue your graduate studies under their wing. There is a fine line between compliments and flattery. The latter will not secure your spot in the program and will make you look bad. You also have to justify why you are different from the competition, and what you can bring to the table. You should adequately answer why the committee should accept your application to the program.
Step 5: Review Your Essay
The first few drafts are rough patches of your thoughts. Polish your essay by having someone proofread it for you. Ask someone to read your SOP essay, and take note of their comments. It is good practice as a writer to have someone else read and review what you wrote. Someone else can provide a fresh perspective because there could be some things you might have missed. Because you are not your audience, it is a good measure to test the persuasion power of the essay on someone else. Revise and refine your SOP letter until you can trust it to persuade the selection board for you.
How do I begin my statement of purpose essay?
Select the field of study you wish to pursue and the school you wish to pursue it in. Check their admission guidelines on application requirements. Create a list of the relevant background and experience that you can include in your essay. Start your draft as early as possible so that you have enough time for revisions. Write using the active, first-person voice.
How long should my statement of purpose essay be?
Unless the format is specified in the application guidelines, limit your essay at around 500 to 1,000 words. Writers should stick to a readable and formal font at 11 or 12 font-size with enough space in between lines. You may utilize around five to seven paragraphs with up to 200 words per part. Given such a format, you can exhaust two to three pages for your essay.
How can I organize my statement of purpose essay?
As much as possible, limit your use of bullet points. It is an essay. Therefore, organize your thoughts in concise and specific paragraphs. Do not deviate from the focus of your essay. Your paragraphs should revolve closely around an axis. Arrange your essay so that the content follows a coherent and logical flow of ideas.
Can I ask someone to write my SOP essay?
Your statement of purpose essay should reflect who you are and what your interests and career aspirations are. Someone else cannot duplicate your thoughts as you would have written them. Because you are expected to write your SOP essay, having someone else write the content for you is lying and misleading. You can take inspiration online, but you have to pen your essay.
It’s a fact that undergraduate studies don’t cover everything we wish we can learn. Then there’s the fact that specific jobs may require a level of specialization possible only through post-grad studies. Those two are reason enough to pursue further education. An informed decision like that can lead not just to professional growth, but towards personal development as well. With that choice made, now it’s just a matter of finding the best schools. Place your best foot forward and make the ultimate impression on the admission committee with a combination of good scores, sufficient experience, and a convincing statement of purpose essay.