The ultimate resource for grad students.
Advice from those who read MANY Statements of Purpose : (Click to collapse/expand)
David P. Giovanella (DG), New York University, Graduate School of Arts
& Science, Graduate Enrollment Services - The statement of purpose is
one of the most important parts, if not the most important part, of the
Gregg Glover (GG), Associate Director of Admissions, Harvard Graduate
School of Education -
For our process at HGSE, it is very important. We
often announce that it's the most important single item in an
applicant's application. The essay can make or break a person's chances for
admission, which is probably true at most schools. We are not test score
driven in our process, so the statement takes on much more weight.
Remember, the statement is the only part of the process that you have
complete control over: you cannot change your GPA, or create the content of
your letters of reference, but you can determine the finished product of
Dr. Liza Cariaga-Lo (LCL), Assistant Dean, Yale Graduate School of Arts
and Sciences -
The personal statement is very important, as it is
often (in cases where there is no interview requirement) the only
opportunity for the student to share information about themselves that they
think is relevant to their pursuit of graduate study.
DG - NYU: It should be typed. The applicant should outline their goals
and aspirations. Present information chronologically, and show your
writing skills and style.
GG - Harvard: The statement of purpose should demonstrate excellence in
writing and clarity of thinking. It functions as a writing sample,
often the only one you submit. Make it as solid a piece of writing as
possible. It can also function as your interview if none is required. It is
a chance to introduce yourself and describe who you are, what your
background is, and what is important to you.
Perhaps more importantly, the statement is an opportunity for an
applicant to describe his or her purpose in pursuing graduate study. Why this
school, and/or this specific program? What are your reasons for
graduate study? What is your plan in pursuing this degree? In the statement
we look to see how well the candidate knows the school and justifies
their reasons for studying there.
Another way to think about it is to consider "focus and fit": are your
interests in graduate study focused, and is there a good fit with your
interests and the particular program or school? This requires carefully
researching the school or program to which you are applying. Read
about the program's emphasis, the nature of the required courses, the work
or research of its faculty. The more you know about the program to
which you are applying, the better. You will sound more knowledgeable and
more convincing in your essay.
Admissions committees at our school are trying to determine what the
school or specific program can offer to the applicant, and what the
applicant can potentially offer in return. It's a two way street: do we have
what the applicant wants and needs? If admitted , how will this person
contribute to our community? The essay allows you to express this. We
also look for an applicant's commitment to the field of education, and
the statement of purpose is an excellent place for an applicant to
describe what fuels that commitment and where the source of his or her
For essays to research-based doctoral programs, it's important to
remember the following issues: Have you clearly articulated your potential
research interests? Have you determined if the particular department, or
specific faculty members in it, can support your research? We prefer
that our doctoral applicants identify potential faculty with whom they
might work to produce the dissertation. This requires you to carefully
research the scholarly interests of the faculty and to clearly think
through your own research ideas. You do not have to identify your specific
dissertation questions, but it is important to focus your interests
and argue that you will be well supported.
LCL - Yale: The goal of the statement of purpose is to provide
(concisely, thoughtfully and in a well-organized, easy to read format)
information about the student's path to pursuing graduate study in this
particular field. The statement should cover the following areas: (1) his/her
motivation for applying to graduate school, (2) relevant experiences
and academic coursework that have prepared him/her for graduate study in
the field, (3) characteristics and strengths that make him/her
particularly well-suited to graduate study in the discipline and within the
graduate program he/she is applying to, (4) academic plan for graduate
study, (5) future career objectives, and (6) extenuating circumstances
that may have resulted in less than ideal academic credentials for
DG - NYU: It's a red flag when the statement is not typed, not well
thought out, or an edited statement designed for another school.
GG - Harvard: Poor grammar and usage in an essay certainly signal a red
flag to admissions committees, as does an inappropriate fit with
program. It's not a good sign if the applicant demonstrates little knowledge
of program or school, or worse, names another school in the essay by
mistake! Presentation matters: have others read the essay for grammar
LCL - Yale: Too much personal information that is not directly relevant
to why you want to pursue graduate study in a discipline area (e.g.,
lengthy stories about your childhood), unexplained gaps in a student's
educational pathway, and demonstrated lack of understanding about a
particular field or the program/institution you are applying to (e.g.,
making naive or erroneous remarks regarding research) are all red flags.
1. evidence that the person applying will be able, right off the bat, to
participate actively in training her/himself - that is, someone mature
enough to motivate and discipline her/himself in seminars and TA work
for the next five to six years;
2.evidence that this person has a mind that her/his faculty will enjoy
watching at work on literary texts;
3.evidence (as you can imagine, pretty much inference) that this person will be able to evolve and eventually complete a dissertation interesting and substantial enough to attract job offers, six or seven years down the line.
2. What are your research interests?
3. Why are you interested in these research topics?
Don't write an autobiography!
4.Do you have the motivation/perseverence to complete a PhD?
5. Think very seriously about why you really want to go to graduate
school and put it in your statement.
6. Make your Statement reflect your thought about the research and
writing work you have done. It should mention what inspired you to pursue
literary criticism, and the sort of very broad trajectory you’d like to
7. It’s fine to mention professors who inspired your work and thought,
8. Personal history is fine if it is relevant to your decision or what
you intend to pursue in school.
9.Think very seriously about why you really want to go to graduate
school and put it in your statement.
10. Your purpose in graduate study. This means you must have thought
this through before you try to answer the question.
11.The area of study in which you wish to specialize. This requires
that you know the field well enough to make a decision and are able to
state your preferences using the language of the field.
12.Your intended future use of your graduate study. This will include
your career goals and plans for the future.
13.Your special preparation and fitness for study in the field. This is
the opportunity to join and correlate your academic background with
your extracurricular experience to show how they unite to make you a
14.Any problems or inconsistencies in your records or scores, such as a
bad semester. Be sure to explain in a positive manner and justify the
explanation. Since this is a rebuttal argument, it should be followed
by a positive statement of your abilities. In some instances, it may be
more appropriate to provide this information outside of the personal
15.Any special conditions that are not revealed elsewhere in the
application, such as a significant (35 hour per week) workload outside of
school. This, too, should be followed with a positive statement about
yourself and your future.
16.You may be asked, "Why do you wish to attend this school?" This
requires that you have done your research about the school, and know what
its special appeal is to you.
Make your Statement reflect your thought about the research and writing work you have done. It should mention what inspired you to pursue literary criticism, and the sort of very broad trajectory you’d like to pursue.
It’s fine to mention professors who inspired your work and thought, and why. Personal history is fine if it is relevant to your decision or what you intend to pursue in school.
The statement of purpose is also an opportunity to describe some of your accomplishments and their significance. The reader will not be familiar with the programs, competitions, examinations, etc. for all parts of the United States, not to mention other countries.
We also have complied an interesting link with guidlines and sample SOPS.
The samples provide here should be used just as a guideline and should
not be copied or mailed directly as is.
To know more about:
1. Guide lines for writing Recommendations letters
2. The Art of writing recommendation Letters
Asking for a letter of recommendation won’t be a problem if you have been doing research with this
person, but that won’t be possible in every case. Here’s a guideline which willmaximize the contents
of your letter. This works on the theory that professors have very little time and little memory (both
of which are good assumptions):
i. Prepare a packet for each recommender. This packet should contain all the relevant information
about you that could help the recommender. Be careful not to make the packet too large.
Here’s what should be in it:
At the top of the packet should be:
Go to your potential recommender with your packet and ask him/her the following question: