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The Statement of Purpose Essay


Most if not all graduate schools require you to write a statement of purpose essay. The specific question may differ from school to school, but generally, schools want to know:


  • What you want to study at graduate school?
  • Why you want to study it?
  • What experience you have in your field?
  • What you plan to do with your degree once you have it?


Similar to the undergraduate essay, graduate schools want to see if you can think and write clearly. Unlike undergraduate schools though, they are not interested in knowing everything about you. They expect to see a more focused and experienced mind, who can do sophisticated graduate work. They would like to see if you are determined, committed and able to do what you say you want to do.


You statement of purpose should reflect all these points. It should answer the question and the prompts directly and substantively. You don’t need much fluff. Add only experiences and stories that show a quality that will help the university directly or your program directly, or both. You can make it interesting by talking about an idea, or a vision or a question you want to pursue in your field.

It’s Time to Reflect and be Honest


A well-written essay comes after a great deal of introspection, or self-searching. It requires you to reflect, to think, to be honest with yourself and the people who will read your essay. It has to make sense and it has to ring true. It is not just about what you want to study but why do you want to study it, and why now?


Writing a good essay will take many days and many drafts. It is not a good essay that gets you in, as much as a bad essay that gets you rejected. Do not write a generic essay.


Research Well Your School


If you apply to several schools, make sure the essays you send are different. Even though there may be overlap in terms of content of the statement, essays should reflect your understanding of the program and how you would fit in.


Many applicants underestimate the differences between the various graduate programs to which they apply. Admissions officers know this, and when they detect a generic statement, they feel the applicant has missed understanding the unique aspects of their program.


Connect the Past to the Present


You need to be logical and show connections between your past and present. You want to who why you want a particular career. This will require that you explain your future objectives in light of your past. Therefore, much in your statement would be recounting select and relevant aspects of your past.


At the University of Northern Iowa’s site, you can find a brief tutorial or writing a statement of purpose. There are many other references both online and in print. or
There are many internet references about writing a good statement. Be careful since most of these references are superficial, and too similar. Read some, and reflect.

January 22, 2015

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