Grad School, Special Projects

How to write a statement of purpose

As part of their application process, students applying to graduate school need to complete a statement of purpose, or a personal statement, that offers admissions committees a sense of the applicant’s academic interests and qualities.

According to an article by Northeastern University, a “strong statement of purpose can be the deciding factor in a graduate student’s admission.” Students should “make a lasting impression,” according to the article, and use the statement as a way to emphasize the characteristics that differentiate them from other applicants.

When writing a personal statement, students should work in steps to make the process less intimidating, according to the article, and focus on brainstorming ideas first and developing a draft to later refine. Northeastern University recommends that a statement of purpose ranges between 500 and 1,000 words, not be longer than a page and be written with an 11- or 12-point traditional font.

Although all graduate school programs are different, the Princeton Review maintains that “they’re all asking for the same four pieces of information,” including the student’s subject of interest, their reason for pursuing a graduate degree, their experience in the field and their plans for the future once obtaining a graduate degree.

While it is important for students to showcase individuality in their applications, the Princeton Review suggests to be selective about the traits they mention in their personal statements, as “grad schools don’t care that you make a great chicken casserole or play intramural bocce ball.” Schools do, however, “care about those activities that speak to your suitability for graduate work,” the article said.

It is also important to ask peers, mentors and professors for feedback and to not reuse the same statement of purpose for all graduate schools. It is recommended that students write individual statements for all schools they’re applying to in order to tailor their answers to fit each program, according to the Princeton Review.

Long Beach State’s graduate program seeks applicants who demonstrate that they “are inquisitive and able to think analytically [and] critically,” according to Jody Cormack, vice provost for academic programs and dean of Graduate Studies, and Bryan Rodriguez, director of Graduate Studies Resource Center. 

Cormack and Rodriguez said in an email that “being admitted to a graduate program does not mean that a student must necessarily have a perfect academic record or exam score or needs to ‘know everything’ in their field.” 

“Rather, graduate applicants should demonstrate a genuine interest to grow academically and professionally within a graduate program, while also contributing to the learning of their peers,” they wrote. 

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