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Persuasive Statement Of Purpose For Grad School: Full Guide

November 23, 2020

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Graduate programs are the next level you can go to after finishing your higher education. This level is more sophisticated and more scholarship oriented than basic college or university programs because, after college, you can safely pursue a career and be a fulfilled specialist. Applying to grad schools means that you are serious about doing particular research or advancing your professional skills, and so requirements for applicants are also higher and more demanding. 

When applying, you need to provide a purpose statement together with your grades list and CV. This statement will explicate to the reviewers if you fully understand what you apply for and if you will be capable of living up to your passionate claims. Hence, creating an accurate and stylistically appropriate statement is one of the key steps that will lead you into the desired program. So, let’s walk this path with confidence, step by step. 

Grad School Statement Of Purpose: What Is It And The Purpose Of Its Writing

As said, the statement of purpose is focused on describing you as the best applicant for a program resulting in a Master’s or PhD degree. But how is it different from all other letters and essays that you have completed before? 

The first and foremost idea is that this statement is shop talk. That is, it is about academic or professional matters, not about your life path or interests and easy-going character. 

The statement tackles three key points: 

  • why you take such interest in this program in particular;
  • what plan of work you have and how you will go about it;
  • and why it is you who should be given this place and opportunity to study. 

So, when compiling this important document, keep in mind these specific points. For more scholarly programs like sociology, philosophy, or Arts, the focus will be on your academic accomplishments and plans. For more professional fields, like an MBA, you will talk more about work and how this degree will help you in your career. 

Yet, in general, the text will talk about your educational accomplishments and how they match the curriculum and ‘soul’ of a given faculty or course. 

Personal Statement And Statement Of Purpose

Now, where does the difference between a personal statement and this statement lie? The personal statement is about your personality and character traits, like perseverance, integrity, curiosity, and good communication skills for teamwork. In terms of writing techniques, it can rely more on personal stories showing that you are a hard-working student rather than versed in the given academic material. It is freer in form, and it tells more about you as a person than about you as a scholar. 

Sometimes, defining lines can get blurred even for academics, and in the docs list, you will see a personal statement, not a statement of purpose requirement. But nevertheless, when applying for a grad program, be sure to focus on the profession, that is, academy, research, field practice, internships, additional training, or activities focused on the subject or area you plan to study within the grad program. Then you will be 100% up to a point. 

What To Include To Cover Questions The Reviewers May Have

Now that we decided on the overall approach, let us explore in detailwhat exactly to put into thewriting.While reviewingendless applications, the committee wants to find certain elements that demonstrate your true interest in this program and preparedness to pursue your studies seriously. Let us break down these elements into manageable parts that you will write down with ease.  

Your Research And Professional Interest In The Field

The first thing to mention explicitly and specifically is your interest in a particular topic or branch of research that fit within the scope of a program. Avoid generalization or mentioning that you like everything about the program. 

It is like saying that you like biology and so want to enter the Neurology department grad program on the neuroscience of primates (for example). First, it is untrue, because most probably you do have something particular in mind when you apply. Maybe you hope to research neural diseases in animals and find clues for their treatment in people or develop ethical guidelines for working with animals in medicine. 

Second, it means that you do not take the application seriously enough to think it through and write clearly and in a focused way. That is, you do not care much about the program altogether.  

Please, don’t think that by mentioning particular research you plan to conduct or an area you plan to explore, you confine yourself to this area once and for all. The academic staff reviewing your application realizes pretty well that you may change your mind later, but first of all, you have to have in your mind this clear focus of studies that you will potentially change later. 

Example: 

I aim to deepen my knowledge and hone my skills in Neuroscience and related surgery techniques to be able to further research in the restoration of neural cells and curing or facilitating the conditions of patients with neural damage. Neural problems are most tricky to tackle and treat, and so additional research and efforts invested in this problem are of utter importance. I forged my path in academy already with these goals in mind, and so I hope to join the grad program at California University because it is the best opportunity, both in theoretical and empirical terms, to master my research and practical skills – and contribute to the medical community and patients. 

Your Passion In The Field

This point is closely tied to the previous one. If you have a particular interest in the field, something has definitely made you so interested in it. Most probably, it was some personal experience with deep emotional impact, or maybe not so personal but nevertheless emotionally strong incident that pushed towards looking deeper into this area.

 If the program is more professionally-oriented, like MBA or grad law school, your initial interest may be more academic or practical. Yet the key driver to mention is how you are practically involved in the research. Improving legislation, advocating for a particular group or case, clarifying and streamlining some obscure points in regulations or laws are all viable drivers of your interest. Mention briefly how you encountered the field, got hooked, and decided to contribute. 

It may seem close to defining the interests, but it is more about the background: how you landed in this scholarly area and why. 

For example: 

The decisive moment for my choice was when I had personal experience encountering neural problems in my family. Watching helplessly how my family member deteriorated, I had a bitter insight that it is up to me – up to us – to change this situation of helplessness. I invested my interests in medicine before, but this experience helped me see what exactly path in medicine I should take. Moreover, I realized what I wanted to research and what I wanted to achieve in this field. 

Your Qualifications And Background

This section narrates how you went about your passion and specific research before, in undergrad, and extracurricular activities. If you are so interested in neuroscience, then probably you have taken some courses already and had an internship or part-time work in a related facility, like a laboratory, hospital, or elderly care facility. 

Your task is to talk about it in full and in the manner that shows how invested and interested you were and how much you have already accomplished. 

You may say that picked the course, completed the tasks, and was able to lead other students in some research project. Or maybe you were able to assist in care for an elderly person with neural problems and observed something specific that you want to investigate and possibly cure or treat with higher efficiency. You definitely have some accomplishments under your belt; you just need to express them properly and clearly to match them to the program you aspire for: 

  • Topical courses completed with high grades;
  • successfully handled labs and practical tasks;
  • leading fellow student’s research; 
  • writing articles on the topic you explore; 
  • internships; 
  • volunteering; 
  • etc.

Practically anything goes as long as you can show how it brought you closer to your research goal and made a perfect candidate for this very program. 

Let us consider an example (surely, you will write everything related, and we will bring in a few possible options):

I began deepening my interest in high school already, as I volunteered at our local hospital. I was entrusted with non-medical tasks, but I observed, asked questions, and so shaped my empirical understanding of the matter even before I went to college and pursued the medical curriculum. In college, I focused on courses related to neurology and surgical interventions. I conducted several small types of research successfully and was invited to make a report on the state students’ conference.

I am deeply thankful to Professor So-and-So for leading me through the rigorous experimentation process and for teaching me to document everything, even the unrelated results, because they may point to unexpected but correct assumptions. Due to mastering this academic toolkit and applying it in my research, I was able to enroll in an exchange program and visit the biggest neurosurgery facility and attend several groundbreaking operations with comments from surgeons. Later, I took an internship at the local neurology division and started applying my skills under strict guidance. 

Back in college, I was entrusted with leading the freshmen’s team in their research and with reviewing the laboratory tasks, which is a rare case. Yet I am proud to say that due to the experience of our teaching staff and my perseverance and dedication, I advanced significantly in the field. Hence, I was prepared to assist fellow students and pass them my skills. 

Why This Very Program?

This is a logical point to mention, and utterly important one. Okay, you are a great student and know for sure what research you plan to conduct and even know how you will develop it in your future career. But why this program? Why not the neighboring university? Not the one in your native city so that you do not have to travel far and spend money on accommodation and food? 

The program you apply for holds some specific clues that appeal to you and enable something that you cannot get in other similar programs. Maybe it is a famous professor who developed the concepts you are interested in or a writer whom you greatly admire and want to master your skills under their guidance. A great practicing surgeon who can teach you things you desperately need for your particular research goals. 

Think neuroscience and brain surgery. They are closely connected, so you would naturally want to join a program where a famous neurosurgeon is teaching. Think it through in such specific terms and write down the particulars. 

Also, do not forget to say why you should get there. What is it that you can bring? What do you plan to do to advance the field you are entering? Many guides instruct you to show that you are a valuable asset and a great future contributor, but hey. You are a student who only wants to develop skills and gain a deeper understanding of a profession. You just cannot promise to make a great discovery right away. It is senseless. Be honest and serious, not an Instagram star advertising the next best cure-all diet. 

Mention readiness to co-teach, or assist in paper checking, to take responsibility to lead, or to undertake a painstakingly long and complex experiment that was not previously completed. You definitely have something in mind, so express it to show that you are definitely a welcomed student and a great fit for the program in question. 

Example: 

Now, with this luggage of knowledge and skills, I know exactly what I want to accomplish and what I need to do to achieve the goal. The California University program offers unique opportunities for attending live sessions with surgeons, the ability to work under their supervision, and at the same time, access to top-class facilities for conducting dedicated research. I, on my part, am ready to contribute my skills, teaching and researching experience to advance knowledge on neuroscience and related surgery. I am ready to assist or lead students in their research and to share my hands-on experience in rigorous experimenting methods. I believe I am the best fit for the program, and it will provide me with opportunities I need to make a difference in the medical field. 

Presentation of Your Ideas In Written Form – Can You Cope With It?

The last but not the least consideration. The statement of purpose is a sample of your writing, how you organize ideas, keep the focus on the topic, and in general polish your written piece. It should not contain any typos or silly auto-corrections; it should follow some structure and present a coherent story. 

So, along with planning the content, plan the form. Take time to proofread, fix mistakes, and reread the finished piece. Besides, allow yourself enough time to do it. This statement is important, so take the writing process seriously. 

Planning and Writing process

The writing process, as such, will target two goals: creating informative and focused content and wrapping it into the presentable and academically appropriate form. Brainstorming, outlining, and drafting are stages of content creation while revising, redrafting and feedback-seeking are stages of polishing the text and style. 

Brainstorming and Review Of Your Credentials

Begin with looking at previous sections of content. Keep them as a guide and think of all ideas and cases that you can write on. For your convenience, select the brainstorming technique that fits you, whether written or audio recording. Look at the list as a cue and jot down what comes to your mind. Free-flowing thoughts or bullet points – it is all fine for brainstorming. You will create elegant sentences and transitions later. 

Your interests: what is it that you are interested in specifically? An exact point on the map you need to get to? It can be:

  • Topics;
  • Research opportunity;
  • Methods;
  • Concepts;
  • Theories;
  • Practical application. 

Your passion: how did it all begin? Where do you want to arrive at the end of the program? The most thrilling or fascinating aspect of the topic that keeps you hooked?   

Your background: this is about what you have accomplished so far on your path to a degree. Courses you took, internships, projects, app prototypes, completed and defended theses, clinical work. Look back and pick everything meaningful that counts as moving towards your goal.  

Focus on this program: why this one? Famous professors? Unique labs? Internships? Facilities? What is it that you can contribute to this place and program? Time, efforts, ideas, anything else? 

Outlining 

Now that you have the backbone of your statement, it is time to organize ideas one by one to facilitate the draft writing. Pick the most impressive items from your brainstorming session and put them in a logical sequence. Details and nice wording will come later, and now you need to keep you going on the content. 

Initial Draft

Now organize your rough ideas into a text. Look through provided samples to get an understanding of expected language and style, read samples you can find on the web, and try to use more complex vocabulary than you use daily. Have paragraph division, key ideas, and their explanation included in this draft. 

It does not have to be perfect immediately. This is a first draft only. But you need to get the feel of it to be able to edit and rewrite it successfully. 

Reviewing and Editing 

Now let it sit for a while, get some rest, distract to do other tasks, and then you are ready to revise. Begin with getting close to the required word count. It will be about one page and a half. So decide what is necessary to keep and what can be cut out without harming the overall impression. 

Check the logical sequence of what you say. See if you have specific details and examples for every main idea you express. 

Make sure you have the description of your specific interest, your background, and your passion for this very program intact and clear after this editing. 

Reread and have someone who is aware of academic standards read it. Their feedback will help you write a second draft and refine the writing to make it suitable for academic eyes. 

Second Draft 

Now that you understand how it all should look like; you can write the clean version. See if you can shorten the text even more if ideas flow smoothly and are easy to follow. Think of the wording is academic enough (not too complex, but not all one-syllable words either). Consider the order of ideas, examples, and explanations. Do they feel important? Scholarly? Up to a point? Consult your outline once again to make sure you did not leave out anything vital about your academic accomplishments and interests. 

Final Touches

Now it is time to get creative and add a bit of style to your writing. 

Think about an interesting opening. The first sentence should catch readers or at least standout. Do not start with general claims that are most probably untrue, like ‘I wanted to be a brain surgeon right from my childhood’. Likely, you got hooked by this field of medicine or science somewhere along your academic path, in school, or at college, so mention this specific point.

It will be more specific and real. It will also save you precious space and let you jump right into the academic matters instead of narrowing down from afar. Also, avoid beaten quotes and pathetic claims. This is academics, and the more specific and focused you can be, the better.  

Look through the text to see if you avoid clichés or informal expressions in the text. They take up precious space and say nothing (except that you have no ideas of your own). Use your own words to express what you want. It will impress the committee more. 

Avoid sweeping generalizations, because they show that you do not have evidence to support them. Like, ‘Everyone knows that neuroscience is a fascinating and important field…’ is bound to flop because not everyone knows that neuroscience exists, to begin with. If you say ‘this or this event made me aware of this specific field of science and pushed me to explore it in depth and realize how important and fascinating it is,’ it will be more personalized and reflect the actual state of affairs. So, write like that. 

Third Party Reviewing And Finishing The Job

Now you can ask people you trust to read the text again. Definitely, people should be from the academic field and should know what the goal of the text is. But even your English prof and prof in science can have a look at the statement and point out the most obvious inconsistencies or omissions. It does not mean you should fix your paper according to every tip you get. But nevertheless, have other people read it and say what they think. 

If they find it OK and compelling, let the text sit for a while, then reread it to pick the lonely typo you did not see before, and you are ready to submit it to the committee in the desired grad program. 

Afterword

We hope we have described every step you should take to create a decent statement of purpose. Only you know what you want to accomplish and why you want to get into this very program. But it may happen so that you just cannot make yourself write this final document. You have compiled a set of papers to submit, but writing this one is beyond your capacity for some reason. Fear not.

We are here to help you out. Drop us several lines describing your interests, achievements, and the program you need, and we will spin it into a good and professional statement of purpose. Our writers have walked this path themselves and rescued many other students, and so they know pretty well what – and how – to write in this important document. So let’s get it done!  

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