Write a statement of purpose (2023)

Of all the different types of texts you need to write in science, the letter of intent is one of the most difficult, especially since it is about you. We spend our time getting away from other academic papers, research proposals, or term papers. Now you have to write an article about yourself. Like any other academic genre, a statement of intent has a logical structure and development, and its purpose is to show simultaneously why you are the best candidate for a particular course or scholarship and why that course or scholarship is the best fit for you . . . This page tells you how to do this. But don't stop there: when you're done, come to the writing center and share your statement of purpose with us. The resulting revised design will be even more effective.

Answer the question!

Before you start writing your letter of intent, take a good look at the instructions you were given. For example, if you were asked why you want to study at this university, make sure you answer that question and that your paragraph begins with a sentence that indicates you answer (e.g., "My reasons for studying ..."). Don't skip any of the questions you'll be asked, and think carefully before providing any information that wasn't requested. If you have 500 words, they expect you to use most of it to answer of their questions and don't offer any other information. However, often colleges don't give guidance on what they want, they may want to test if you're smart enough to find out for yourself. In that case, the following guidelines should help you.

Grab the reader's attention

When writing the letter of motivation, you have to consider that you are just one of many, maybe even hundreds, of applicants for your desired place of study. The person reading your statement will have read dozens of others. If yours doesn't stand out in some way that shows you're original, different, and interesting, which you naturally are (but at the same time not eccentric or quirky, which you can be, but don't emphasize the fact!), it'll get the Too -Rans handed over to the people who can grab a spot if there's anything left at the end.


When a purpose statement fails to capture the reader's attention, it may be due to one or more of the following issues:

  • Start with complimentary comments about the college you're applying to - the person reading your statement already knows how great their institution is - you don't have to tell them.
  • Provides a full life story beginning at birth; By the time you get to the important part, your reader will have lost interest. Unless your high school days are particularly exciting, focus on your college career.
  • It begins by explaining exactly how the author found out about this particular course; Unless this information reveals something important about you, skip them.
  • First, provide personal information that can be found on the resume, such as age or place of birth.
  • Start by guessing the reader's thoughts, for example, "You're probably wondering why a board-certified physician should apply for a place at...." This strategy will likely work, but it will likely be more effective if you go ahead and answer the question. .
  • Although they attract attention, the types of statements that are least successful are those that use overly theatrical and silly introductions unsuitable for an academic setting. If you start with "I'm a very special person" or "Ever since I was a baby I've looked forward to the world..." don't be surprised if you get rejected.
  • Some statements dive straight into the complex field of the specialist and immediately discuss obscure areas of theory. Keep in mind that while you are expected to be familiar with the topic, not all readers need to be specialists in your chosen field. If they can't understand you, they might not realize how good you are.

Grab the reader's attention - examples

Take a look at the following two attempts at starting a resume and see which one you think is most likely to pique the reader's interest:

Example A

I am applying for Central European University based on the reputation this university enjoys in the academic world. I also spoke to several alumni at your university. I am very interested in admission to the Master's program in Economics. I know that the research programs in economics are very diverse and that is the main reason why I prefer this university.

Example B

Recent figures from the Moldovan government show an alarming 40% increase in mental illness among young people over the past decade. These numbers are just another factor that convinces me that my career choice in neuroscience was the right one and motivates me to continue pursuing a PhD. level in this area to help combat this serious problem.

Sample A has several weaknesses:

  • is too general - you could insert the name of any university
  • does not mention any peculiarities of the university or justify the flattering claim of a "world reputation"
  • it simply means that the university has a good reputation and a varied offer, neither very original nor interesting for the reader.
  • it does not start with answering the question "Why economy?". but starts with the more specific question “Why does the economy work in the CEU

Sample B, on the other hand, has several positive properties:

  • draws the reader's attention with alarming information
  • begins with a reference to the real world, moving from the general to the specific
  • shows that the author is aware of the connection between the academy and the real world and has a desire to put theoretical learning into practice
  • very succinctly expresses the connection between the applicant's previous studies, the desired studies and later professional life

how to start

Ideally, you should start with an interesting fact or detail about yourself, your situation, or your interests that makes you appear interesting and intelligent. You can also try a more general truth or statement and then show how that applies to your situation. You might want to quote a famous person who said something relevant, but if so, be brief, quote correctly, and make sure the relevance to your position is absolutely clear. Don't quote for its own sake.

Spend enough time creating a good opening paragraph. It's the first thing your audience reads, and first impressions are made quickly. If your first few sentences are boring, irrelevant, whimsical, or pompous, or worse, full of grammatical or spelling mistakes, your reader will quickly create a negative impression that will be difficult to dispel.

The structure of a letter of intent

The word "purpose" usually means "what you want to do," but it has a secondary meaning, which is the quality of knowing "that you want to do something." Purpose in this sense means having a direction and it is important that your statement of intent shows that you have a direction and know where you are going and how best to get there. A good statement of intent usually has the following structure:

(Video) How To Write A Perfect Statement of Purpose (SOP / Admissions Essay) | ChetChat MasterClass

your past

How your bachelor’s and master’s level studies and other work or study experiences have prepared you for the desired degree program.

your desired course of study

It is to be seen as a logical continuation of your previous studies/activities and prepares you for your professional future.

your professional future

It must be something to which the proposed course of study is valuable or essential, and it must have a logical connection to what happened before.

Of course, your own career may not be that easy. Maybe you started studying biophysics and then developed a passion for medieval poetry. That won't disqualify you, but you have to ask yourself, "Why would a university choose me over someone who has always been interested in medieval poetry?" If you can answer this question, you have a chance to be considered. However, if your reader gets the impression that you've suddenly become interested in an area they've never studied for no good reason, they can expect to lose interest just as quickly. Your best chances usually lie in demonstrating that there is significant progress in your career, driven by your sense of purpose and your academic or professional ambition.

The above model suggests that a statement of intent should move from your past and present studies to your proposed studies and eventually your future career. If you want to innovate, you don't have to follow this pattern, but the elements and connection must be there and clear to the reader. Before you start writing, create a clear structure plan, maybe leaving a paragraph or so for each phase. Obviously, your past will be much clearer and more detailed than your future, but don't neglect the second and third boxes in the diagram above, or you may seem like a perpetual student always looking for something new to learn.

How many details to provide

1. Respect the word limit

Colleges often offer a word or page limit to guide you. Keep it. When they say they don't want to read three pages, they mean it. Remember that academics need to read a lot, not only from letters of intent but also from essays and theses. If you can't meet the word limit for a letter of intent, they may worry that you'll write a 450-page thesis when the limit was 150 pages. Writing too much is never a way to become popular. If a limit is given, it is good to set a personal limit of 10-15% below that. And don't feel like you have a word limit to fill out. If you said everything you wanted in 700 words and the limit is 1000, great! Arrest. Don't look for words to fill in the gaps.

2. Set section word boundaries

If you have 800 words, consider how many you want to spend on each section of your statement. If you describe your previous studies in 750 words, there is nothing left for the other sections. By setting rough word boundaries for each part, you ensure that the message is balanced.

3. Be selective

Any writing where there is a word limit, you don't have enough space to say everything about everything. That means you have to be picky. You have to collect all the necessary information, look at it and throw away the things that are least necessary. It may hurt not being able to say you got an A in physics from your school (if you're applying to a sociology major), but you have to be ruthless. Remember that the ability to judge and choose what to include and what to leave out is a valuable academic skill in its own right, and demonstrating that you have this skill can count heavily in your favor.

4. Use appropriate language

Of course, you must demonstrate that you have a good command of the English language: avoid technical jargon, use vocabulary appropriate to your field and show that you can write a sentence of more than 5 words. At the same time, don't look for long words to impress. If a common word suffices, don't look up a larger one in the thesaurus, especially as you may misuse it.

(Video) Reading My Statement of Purpose + Tips | Harvard Grad School

5. Edit the background

Once you've written a first draft, review it and see if any of your sentences are wordy or awkward. Try to repeat them clearly and concisely. While it's nice to sometimes use longer sentences, don't digress. If your sentence is longer than 30 words, read it and see if it wouldn't be better to break it into two parts. Reading aloud can help you feel if your ideas are being articulated clearly.

Some examples of purpose indications

The following sample statements, while well-written and successful, are not perfect and may contain errors or weaknesses. It's not about you either. It is not included to show you a model to copy but to give you an example of how others have done it. You must write your own statement in your own words.

Probe 1

My interest in International Relations and my decision to pursue further education in this field stem from my deep interest in Asian Studies. During my senior year, I specialized in Indian history and took a particular interest in the field of international relations and Indian foreign policy, writing my thesis on Indian foreign policy during the Nehru government and India-India relations in China. Two trips to India in 1997 and 1998 enabled me to get to know this country better, to deepen my knowledge of Hindi and to collect unique data for my research. This unforgettable experience convinced me that I had made the right choice of study, leading me to apply for a PhD to further my research in the field.

So far I have completed a two-year PhD program at St. Petersburg State University. My dissertation aims to reveal those issues that are still hindering the normalization process between the two Asian countries, India and China, by reflecting on how Indian scholars perceive these issues. Therefore, my research encompasses both regional studies and the field of international relations as a global world system in which these two countries play an important role.

My presentation of an article on Indo-Chinese relations in the 1980s at the international conference "East Asia - St. Petersburg - Europe: Intercivilizational Contacts and Prospects for Economic Cooperation" in St. Petersburg a year ago gave me the opportunity to meet many prominent researchers , including my reviewer Marcia Ristaino, who encouraged me to pursue my studies with a special focus on International Relations and Regional Studies. For this reason, I applied with a scholarship from the Soros Foundation for the Master's program in International Relations and European Studies at the Central European University in Budapest and was accepted. The courses I am taking here will give me a solid foundation in International Relations theory.

The reason I am applying for another Masters is that despite its theoretical strength, the CEU program has very few courses directly related to my main interest, Regional Studies and Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping. For this reason, I would like to deepen my practical understanding of International Relations and combine it with a more focused concentration on conflict analysis and resolution through the program at Carleton University.

I am aware of the good reputation of your school and the excellent Masters program you offer at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. I believe that it will surely help me in my research and career goals, be it in the diplomatic service or in an international organization, where I can apply my knowledge and skills acquired while studying at your university.

Courses such as Conflict Analysis, International Mediation and Conflict Resolution, and International Organizations in International Affairs will be very useful in my analysis of the issues in the South Asian subcontinent and beyond, allowing me to understand more deeply the reasons behind numerous conflicts, both inter-state and intra-state. that exist in the region. In addition, these courses are of particular relevance to my career plans, which are to find employment with the UN or a similar institution in the field of conflict resolution and peacekeeping. The opportunity to combine theoretical studies with practical skills in conflict analysis and resolution at Carleton University will allow me to become a good specialist who will be able to contribute to the common cause of peace in the world. I look forward to becoming a professional Orientalist as I believe this field of study will always be important in the changing world where Asian countries like India and China are playing a major role on the international stage. MA at Carleton University would be a valuable experience for both my academic and professional career. I hope they give me the opportunity to realize my ambition.

(A CEU student – ​​reproduced here with permission)

(Video) How to write a PERSONAL STATEMENT for university or college

Probe Nr. 2

After completing my bachelor's degree in Literature (World Literature), I would now like to concentrate on English and American literature. I am particularly interested in 19th-century literature, women's literature, Anglo-Saxon poetry and folklore, and popular literature. My personal literary projects involve a combination of these themes. For the oral part of my overall exam, I specialized in 19th-century novels written by and about women. The relationship between "upper" and popular literature became the subject of my Honors essay, which explored Toni Morrison's use of classical, biblical, African, and African-American popular traditions in her novel. I intend to continue working on this essay, discussing Morrison's other novels and perhaps preparing a suitable article for publication.

In my doctoral studies, I would like to take a closer look at the relationship between high literature and popular literature. My freshman year and private study of Anglo-Saxon language and literature led me to explore the boundaries between folklore, popular literature and high fiction. If I attend your school, I would like to resume my studies in Anglo-Saxon poetry, with a particular focus on its folk elements.

Writing poetry is also one of my academic and professional goals. I have just started submitting to the smaller journals with some success and am slowly building up a working manuscript for a collection. The dominant theme of this collection is poetry, drawing on classical, biblical and popular traditions, as well as everyday experiences, to celebrate life's process of give and take, be it literal or figurative. My poetry is based on and influenced by my academic studies. Much of what I read and study finds a place as a theme in my creative work. At the same time, I study the art of literature by participating in the creative process and experimenting with the tools that other writers have used in the past.

In terms of career, I see myself as a literature teacher, a review writer, and a poetry editor or publisher. A doctorate would be valuable for me in several respects. First, your teaching assistant program would give me the hands-on teaching experience I look forward to. Also a Ph.D. in English and American Literature I would advance my other two career goals by improving my critical and creative language skills. Ultimately, I see the Ph.D. as an end in itself, but also as a professional springboard; I enjoy studying literature for its own sake and would like to continue my studies at the level required for a PhD. Program.

(Stelzer p. 40-41)

Some additional sources to help you:

Write the personal statement- Purdue University online writing lab

Hunter College School of Social Work Writing Center –The Personal Statement: Writing a letter of intent

How to write a personal statement-Edge.com essay

(Video) Reading my Statment of Purpose | How to write a catchy SOP for a Canadian student visa 🇨🇦

The text sources on this page come from:

How to write a compelling personal statement for professional and graduate school. by Richard Stelzer (Princeton, NJ: Peterson's Guides, 1989)


What is an example of a statement of purpose? ›

For example, “The PGY-1 Residency Program at UO Hospitals will provide me with the opportunity to further develop my clinical knowledge, critical thinking, teaching, research, and leadership skills” is a generic statement that could apply to any residency program.

How do I start a statement of purpose? ›

1st Paragraph: Introduction of SOP
  1. Discuss your long-term goal and connect it with your idea of pursuing the course you are applying to,
  2. Present your understanding of the chosen field and write how you want to contribute to that field,
  3. Explain your background in 2-3 lines and connect it with your future goals,

How should I write my statement of purpose? ›

Articulate a clear, realistic research purpose. Set you apart from other applicants. Demonstrate evidence of relevant experience and preparation. Convince committee of your fit and suitability to the specific program to which you are applying.

What is a simple statement of purpose? ›

A purpose statement is a declarative sentence which summarizes the specific topic and goals of a document. It is typically included in the introduction to give the reader an accurate, concrete understanding what the document will cover and what he/she can gain from reading it.

How do I make a statement of purpose attractive? ›

7 tips to help you write that winning SOP
  1. Start early. ...
  2. Go for stories over statements. ...
  3. Talk numbers. ...
  4. Customize. ...
  5. Professional, but conversational. ...
  6. Ask others for opinions & constructive criticism. ...
  7. Proofread, proofread, and then proofread some more!
Aug 23, 2022

What should you avoid in a statement of purpose? ›

Top Mistakes to Avoid in SOP
  • Dull Introduction. ...
  • Talking Too Much About Your Childhood Dream. ...
  • Writing at the Last Minute. ...
  • Not Writing in the Required Word Limit. ...
  • Using Informal Style of Writing. ...
  • Being Flashy. ...
  • Over Complimentary. ...
  • Proofreading.

Can I write my own SOP? ›

Usually, a SOP has to be written by the student, but there are some cases where an admission officer might write one for them. A SOP is also sometimes called a personal statement.

Should I put my name on my statement of purpose? ›

No need to mention your name, your application is bundled together.

How long is a typical statement of purpose? ›

How long is a statement of purpose? “A statement of purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words,” Pierce says, noting that it should typically not exceed a single page.

What is a strong statement of purpose? ›

A strong statement of purpose communicates to an admissions committee your preparedness for graduate studies. You need to introduce yourself, explain what sparked your interested in graduate study in History, describe your academic background, and elaborate on your academic interests going forward.

What do you say at the end of a statement of purpose? ›

The ending of the statement of purpose should summarize key points discussed in the essay. It's also possible to restate the thesis statement in conclusion and highlight your strong motivation one more time. Finally, you can sum up the arguments on why you are the best candidate for this position.

What is an example of a bad statement of purpose? ›

A bad statement of purpose says "I've loved area X since I was a child and have always dreamt of contributing to this field. Admission to the University of Y will help me achieve my dreams." That's nothing but a fancy way of saying you'd like to do X, without giving much of a reason.

What questions should I answer in a statement of purpose? ›

"As a general rule, the two generic questions that need answering, at least inferentially, in most Statements of Purpose are: "Why are you interested in this program?", and "What makes you special?". This allows applicants the opportunity to provide Faculty substantive information about themselves.

Can I copy someone else's SOP? ›

Can my statement of purpose be a copy? You should tailor your SOP for the course and university you are applying to. It should be succinct and relatable to what you want to study. You should not copy it, and definitely not copy it from another person.

What is best avoided while writing your SOP? ›

Avoid Exaggeration

Keep your SOP honest and to the point without lying about your achievements. Write about your academic and professional achievements but remember to not boast about them. Over exaggeration of your essay will create a bad impression about you.

What is standard statement of purpose format? ›

Unless otherwise specified, a standard statement of purpose is ideally two pages long, uses a maximum of 12-point font, and is double spaced in normal margins. Hence, depending on the font type, a standard SOP would be about 800 to 1000 words. There should be no use of colourful text or images anywhere.

What should you not start a personal statement with? ›

  • Don't waste time trying to think of a catchy opening.
  • Don't waffle – simply explain what you find interesting about the subject and show that you know what you are applying for.
  • Don't rely on someone else's words. It's your statement after all – they want to know what you think.

How do you introduce yourself in a personal statement? ›

Start with why you chose it, then try and summarise this in one or two sentences. Be original and refer to personal experiences as a way to draw attention. Avoid overused opening sentences, quotes and clichés like 'when I was young…' They want to know about you now, not your childhood or Shakespeare!

What are the three things to remember when writing SOP? ›

Points to remember for Implementing Successful SOP's
  • Step 1 – Ensure Purpose of the SOP is understood. ...
  • Step 2 – Consider your Audience. ...
  • Step 3 – Ensure effective format and layout. ...
  • Step 4 – Appropriate authors need to be engaged. ...
  • Step 5 – Provide relevant structure and content. ...
  • Step 6 – Use a suitable writing style.
Dec 1, 2018

What are the three points of a purpose statement? ›

A purpose statement announces the purpose, scope, and direction of the paper. It tells the reader what to expect in a paper and what the specific focus will be.

How many paragraphs is a SOP? ›

Ideally, a Statement of Purpose should have about 5-7 paragraphs of about 150 to 250 words each. Given below is a simple SOP template with a paragraph-wise explanation on SOP Format.

What is an example of a purpose statement in research? ›

For example, let's say your Problem Statement is this: “The problem to be explored in this study is the lack of understanding of teacher perceptions on student discipline.” The purpose statement might go like this: “The purpose of this study is to explore teacher perceptions on student discipline”.

What are 5 questions to ask about your specific purpose? ›

5 Questions to Help You Find Your Purpose in Life
  • What Are You Willing to Struggle for? ...
  • What Did Your 8-Year-Old Self Love Doing? ...
  • What Makes You Forget to Eat? ...
  • How Are You Going to Save the World? ...
  • If You Knew You Were Going to Die One Year from Today, What Would You Do and How Would You Want to be Remembered?

What is a core purpose statement? ›

Those are where you want to go, while a core purpose statement is who you are. These are the set of values that instill your company's purpose and how you hold the company and its team members to a high standard on a day to day basis. Understanding and developing the right Core Purpose is well worth the time invested.

What are the three parts of a purpose statement? ›

The purpose statement is made up of three major components: (1) the motivation driving your dissertation; (2) the significance of the research you plan to carry out; and (3) the research questions you are going to address.

How to start a personal statement? ›

Start with why you chose it, then try and summarise this in one or two sentences. Be original and refer to personal experiences as a way to draw attention. Avoid overused opening sentences, quotes and clichés like 'when I was young…' They want to know about you now, not your childhood or Shakespeare!

Should a statement of purpose have a title? ›

No title is necessary for a statement of purpose. Graduate school applications expect an applicant to submit one and the document itself should speak itself for its contents. Avoid using titles altogether and certainly do not label it "Personal Statement" unless the application process directs you to.

How long should a statement of purpose be? ›

How long should a Statement of Purpose be? Generally, a Statement of Purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words long and should not exceed a single page.


(Barbara Aboagye)
2. How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Grad School
(College Essay Advisors)
3. THE BEST PERSONAL STATEMENT I'VE EVER READ (Cambridge University Example)
(Doctor Shaene)
4. How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Grad School Applications (Masters/PhD Advice)
5. How to Write a Winning Statement of Purpose (SOP)
(Wordvice Editing Service)
6. How To Write A Perfect Admissions Essay (Statement of Purpose)


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