In writing, the hardest part is just starting. Having a format is helpful because it gives structure not just to what you should write, but also what the piece should look like. The statement of purpose format we will use in this article will offer some general direction so you can start getting ideas and get to writing.
Consider it for a moment, do you really want to waste your time trying to figure out everything about your statement of purpose? Of course not. Therefore, we have created this quick guide of how to write a statement of purpose to help you through the entire writing process, starting with staring blankly at a blank page, until you are confidently able to write your own statement of purpose.
What is a statement of purpose?
In the context of applying to graduate school, a statement of purpose is an essay that is crucial to your application, explaining who you are, why you are applying, why you will contribute to the program and why you are well suited for the program.
Often it’s called an SOP letter, personal statement, objectives for grad school, cover letter, or something alike. Besides showcasing who you are as a candidate, the statement demonstrates your writing abilities as well. With that in mind, it is really important to show that you are a truly competent writer.
When writing a statement of purpose, we believe it should/should not have the following qualities:
- Shouldn’t have any spelling or grammatical errors
- Use strong, clear, and concise writing
- Avoid cliches and repetitive language
- Stay away from overly informal language
- Keep a positive and confident tone.
What is the general format for writing a statement of purpose?
The general format is similar to any other piece of academic writing. You should use:
- 12 point Times New Roman font
- 1-inch margins on all sides1.5 line spacing
This format will make your writing easier to read. It is also the expected format. Sadly, you probably won’t get bonus points for standing out with your general visual formatting. It is going to benefit you.
Do I need to put my name on my statement of purpose?
You do not have to include your name in your statement of purpose. The reason is that it is a part of your application, which already has your name throughout it. But, when you apply to a program, make sure you look at the specific requirements. If the requirements for your program state that you should include your name, then you should follow those instructions.
How long is a statement of purpose supposed to be?
Statements of purpose should really be one page long. They could be extended up to one and a half pages if needed, but not longer.Admissions officers read dozens of applications a day so you are going to need to be able to concisely and clearly state what you want to say. Writing longer than 1 – 1.5 pages will make you seem like you lack focus and clarity.
Statement of Purpose Format – What do I write?
It can be hard to know what to include in each section of your statement of purpose. The following example serves as a checklist for covering all the points admissions officers expect you to cover.
Part 1: Who are you and what do you want to do? – 1st paragraph
The first paragraph should introduce you by briefly stating your background and the objective you’re striving to achieve. The introduction should relate to the specific program you’re applying to.
If you are applying to medical school, mentioning your love of cooking won’t help much. Any introduction you make must relate directly to specific aspects of the program.
Part 2: Why do you want to do it? – 2nd paragraph
In the second paragraph, briefly explain your reasons for choosing your particular area of study. You are already showing that you have a background and goal related to the program, so explain why you deserve to be considered for admission. Your statement of purpose will tell admissions officers why you’re applying immediately.
Give specific reasons, rather than general reasons, like, “I like helping people.” General reasons don’t help admissions officers understand you as an individual. It is due to the fact that these reasons are so common. You probably do like helping others, but now dig deeper.
Do you like helping people? How did you come to enjoy helping people? Why are you interested in learning in this program to help people? The more thoroughly you know your reasons, the easier it will be to convince admissions officers that you are the right choice.
Part 3: Why are you the right candidate for the program? – 3rd and 4th paragraphs
Next, in the third paragraph, describe what experience you have had in your area of study. Don’t forget to mention anything that you have done such as jobs, internships, projects, and so on.
It might be difficult for some people to think of any relevant experience they have. If this is you, try talking to some family or friends who know you well. They might be able to help you come up with some relevant experiences.
Remember what you wrote in the first paragraph about your background and career goal. This should be your point of reference when talking about your experience.
The more direct the experience the better. If you don’t have direct experience, choose the most closely related experience as possible. Be sure to reference how your experience relates to the program. This will show that you clearly understand what the program is and how you fit into it.
Here you can describe any other experiences that you’ve had that have helped you prepare for graduate studies in general or have helped you decide on your specific area of study. Do this briefly though. Your statement of purpose is not the place to give long narratives.
If there is any other information you really think the admissions officer should know about you, include it here. It is important to emphasize that the admissions officer really should know this information.
Ask yourself if you can clearly articulate the specific value these experiences add to your story. This is another chance to stand out and be unique, but it still needs to be tightly focused on explaining why you are the best person for the program.
Part 4: What do you want to do in the future? – Closing paragraph
The final closing paragraph should briefly describe your long-term career goals. Consider being very specific and precise when writing this. Also, note how this differs from your original goal from the first paragraph.
In the first paragraph you talk about what you want to do right now, in other words the next goal you want to achieve. The closing paragraph discusses where you want to be years from now. For instance, your next step may be to become a manager in your field, but your long-term goal may be to be a director or CEO or whichever title best describes what you do.
What admissions officer would want to admit a student who doesn’t have a clear vision of their plan to grow their field? It wouldn’t make sense to hand preference to a student that is lacking a long-term vision.
What to do when you’re done: How to write a statement of purpose
In fact, writing and editing are really difficult. This statement of purpose format is supposed to give you an idea of how to structure a statement, but there is a lot more to it.
It takes a certain skill to choose the right verb for a sentence. You have to manage to cut through the clutter and deliver your message with just the right amount of punch and evocativeness.
Good writing can actually make clear thinking visible. When you have only one page to convince a stranger that your future should be exactly as you envision it, it’s optimal for you to rely on good writing.
A well-written statement of purpose can make all the difference between an acceptance letter and a rejection letter on a statement of purpose.
Moreover, you don’t get to apply again right away. If you get rejected by the schools you want, you may have to wait up to a year to reapply. Therefore, ensure your best efforts are put into your Statement of Purpose.