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Guidelines to Statements of Purpose

Academic Writing Centre

What is a Statement of Purpose?

Who you are what has influenced your career path so far your professional interests where you plan to go from here. It is the only part of your application where you still have FULL CONTROL


creativity curiosity pride in your work an enthusiasm for learning a capacity for teamwork (depending on your career plan) the ability to think independently

your SoP is not a repetition of the information in the resume. It should instead, use the resume as a reference and highlight the learnings you have received during some key points in your career.

Research the universities you are considering applying to. Find out the strengths and weaknesses of each. university and department web sites and brochures home pages of students your seniors or friends who are studying at that university or in the same field elsewhere your college professors friends in the same field. find out which professors work in areas that interest you and write to them about your plans. gain a better idea about the areas of research emphasized upon by that particular department.

Reflect on the essay content

ask yourself why you want to study further. list down events that have made a significant impression on you. (everyday or out-of-the-way) make a list of people you admire or who have influenced you - this could be a friend, a family member, a teacher, etc. and need not necessarily be a famous person. go through your resume and reflect on what you have learned from your various experiences. How have they molded your interests and led you to this point? Pick one or two cases that you can talk about in-depth. For graduate school, it is best to take at least one professional situation and show what you did and learned. Make a list of schools you plan to apply to. ask yourself why you wish to study at each of the schools you have listed. For graduate study, it is important to ensure that your interests are compatible with the research interests of the department you are applying to.

Keep it truthful
your deep desire to make society a better place? your application should reflect it. Have you done anything about this desire? Can you talk about your actions and experiences? A small example of something you did, not necessarily spectacular, can do more towards boosting your chances than the noblest platitude can. Dont try to be something you are not. Don. t try to tell the admissions committee what you think they want to hear. Be honest, look inside yourself and do your best.

think long and hard about who you are what are the things you appreciate what inspires you What you want out of life where you are going from here. It is not necessary to have all the answers. It is necessary to show that you have thought about this. And that these life experiences have taught you something.

the DOs
Decide the order in which you want to discuss it. Make sure that the underlying logic of this order is there. BE INDIVIDUAL! Use concrete examples from your life experience to support your thesis and distinguish yourself from other applicants. Write about what interests you, excites you. Start your essay with an attention-grabbing lead -- an anecdote, quote, question, or engaging description of a scene. End your essay with a conclusion that refers back to the lead and restates your thesis.

Flow While each paragraph should make a complete statement on its own, the essay should logically progress from paragraph to paragraph. Structure This follows naturally from flow. Do all the paragraphs mesh together to form a cogent whole? Does the essay, through a logical progression of ideas, demonstrate your interest, enthusiasm, and fit in the department you have applied to? Language Avoid slang and abbreviations. For acronyms, use the full form the first time and show the acronym in parentheses. Use grammatically correct English and ALWAYS read your essay carefully for spelling mistakes before you send it off - your computer's spellcheck may not flush out all the errors. Concise Try to make your essay crisp, cutting out unnecessary adverbs, articles and pronouns (for instance, a careful reading may yield several "the's" that are superfluous). Tone Use a consistent tone throughout the essay - it will only confuse the admissions officers if you alternately sound like Ernest Hemingway and Shakespeare, and is hardly likely to endear you to them! While you should avoid flowery language and cliches, there is no harm in looking for the most apt phrase or sentence. Humour Be careful while using humor - it can misfire and harm your chances.

The Donts
Don't include information that doesn't support your thesis. Don't start your essay with "I was born in...," or "My parents came from..." Don't write an autobiography, itinerary, or resume in prose. Don't try to be a clown (but gentle humor is OK). Don't be afraid to start over if the essay just isn't working or doesn't answer the essay question. Don't try to impress your reader with your vocabulary. Don't rely exclusively on your computer to check your spelling. Don't provide a collection of generic statements and platitudes. Don't give mealy-mouthed, weak excuses for your GPA or test scores. Don't make things up.

Revise your essay at least three times. In addition to your editing, ask someone else to critique your statement of purpose for you. Write clearly, succinctly.


The statement of purpose is divided into 2 parts: Study/work objectives Personal statement (that doesnt mean the study objectives essays has to be impersonal. All it means is that you get extra space to talk about your wider interests and what has shaped your character in a separate section. )

Study/Work Objectives
The first essay is the STATEMENT OF PROPOSED STUDY or project essay : "Describe your study or research plans and your reasons for wishing to undertake them in the country of your choice. Outline a plan that realistically can be completed in one academic year abroad. ... Applicants in the creative or performing arts, are not expected to formulate detailed research projects. ... Graduating seniors should describe the study programs they wish to follow in terms as specific as possible." "All candidates should submit projects indicating in detail their reasons for choosing a particular country, the form their work will take, the results they hope to obtain, and the contribution that a foreign experience will have on their future development." The project essay might follow this format: 1) Begin by specifying the university or institution (museum school, etc.) you want to attend, the course of study you want to pursue there (also indicating the specific creative issue you might focus on) and explain why that course of study is especially suited to that institution in that country. 2) Explain why this course is worth pursuing and the "results you hope to obtain." 3) Explain why on the basis of your prior experience you are qualified to do it. 4) Say what steps you have taken or will take to investigate the program of study and to secure an affiliation with the institution of your choice. (Have you written for or received information regarding faculty, courses, library or other facilities? Do you have an application?) Include in your application any letter indicating that you will be welcome to the institution. 5) Explain how the program of studies relates to your future career interests.

Personal Statement
The second essay is the personal essay. This statement should be a narrative giving a picture of yourself as an individual. It should deal with your personal history, family background, influences on your intellectual development, the educational and cultural opportunities (or lack of them) to which you have been exposed, and the ways in which these experiences have affected you. Also include your special interests and abilities, career plans, and life goals, etc. It should not be a recording of facts already listed on the application or an elaboration of your statement of proposed study. This essay gives you the chance to present yourself as intellectually alive and culturally aware, a tactful person of goodwill who will make an excellent ambassador in the Fulbright year. Explain how your proposed program of studies or teaching assignment relates to your personal intellectual growth at the close of your undergraduate years. Stress any special intellectual interests, avocations, artistic or musical abilities that you could develop or contribute during your Fulbright year. Coordinate this personal essay with the project statement and with the portfolio of your work, so that they complement and do not repeat each other. Finally, your essay must display a graceful and concise command of your native language, so plan to revise, revise and revise. Both Fulbright essays are only a page long, single-spaced.

Helpful links
Comprehensive guidelines for the Fulbright essays (if applying for the Masters prog, dont worry about the detailed proposal guidelines since those are meant more for the PhD and post-PhD level) http://www.jhfc.duke.edu/ducis/fulbright/process/app_process4.html How to put together a competitive application http://www.apu.edu/fulbright/pdfs/fulbright_competitive_app.pdf An brief and useful exercise to polish your study objectives http://irn.uit.tufts.edu/research_planner/documents/11/fulbright_project _essay.pdf Sample Fulbright personal statement