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How to Write a Statement of Purpose: Easy Guide With Examples

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Written by
Dr. Alex Freedman
  • Icon Calendar 18 May 2024
  • Icon Page 4819 words
  • Icon Clock 22 min read

A statement of purpose is an essential component in the process of application for college or university admission. Basically, the content of this essay focuses on creating an impression on an admission committee, granting a student’s application to a particular program. In this case, such an essay differs from other types of papers in that it has four main sections. For example, the first section is about the student’s personal information where students introduce themselves. Then, the second section deals with the purpose of writing, while the third explains why a particular student is the best among many applicants who apply for admission. In turn, the last section is where a student talks about his or her future career goals. Hence, students need to learn how to write a perfect statement of purpose.

General Guidelines of Writing a Statement of Purpose

A statement of purpose is one type of essay that students write in pursuit of their academic goals. By definition, a statement of purpose is an essay that students write to colleges and universities, seeking admission to a particular course. In this case, the essay’s primary audience is the admission committee, who expect applicants to state the purpose of their writing. Also, when writing a statement of purpose, applicants should be concise, meaning that they should be clear about significant reasons that make them choose a particular course. Regarding why students need this type of essay, colleges and universities require potential students to prove that they are the right candidates. About when a purpose essay is required, these learning institutions require prospective students to write and present it during their application for admission.

Writing Rules for a Statement of Purpose

When writing a statement of purpose essay, students must consider several aspects. For example, these components include the content, the length of a document, and formatting requirements. Basically, applicants should prioritize understanding academic expectations of their target higher learning institutions. In this case, every college and university sets guidelines that potential students should follow when writing a statement of purpose. Moreover, these guidelines concern the use of fonts and special treatments, text alignment and spacing, and paper margins. In turn, students should be careful to format a statement of purpose as per conventions of applicable formats – APA, MLA, Harvard, or Chicago/Turabian.

How to write a statement of purpose

1. Fonts

When writing academic texts, students use fonts that their instructors direct. Generally, there are two categories of fonts, namely serif and san serif. In this case, fonts that fall under the serif category include Times New Roman, Courier, and Georgia. Also, they all have embellishments at the tips and base of each letter, which appear like little hands and feet. Then, fonts that fall under the sans serif category include Arial, Century Gothic, and Verdana. Moreover, these fonts do not possess any additional trimmings or ornamentation. In turn, the word “sans” stands for “without.” Since the thing that matters the most when writing any essay is readability, sans serif fonts happen to be the most requested by instructors because they are legible. Therefore, when writing a statement of purpose, a student should use any sans serif font.

2. Special Treatments

The use of special treatments in essay writing means highlighting words and letters. Basically, bold, italicization, and underline features are the main special treatments in any document. When writing a statement of purpose, students should not use these features unless necessary, for instance, when they have to emphasize something. In essence, special treatments undermine text readability, and using them frequently throughout a text gives a specific impression if a writer is ignorant of the rules of writing. Therefore, applicants should avoid using special treatment when writing a statement of purpose to create a good impression on the admission committee.

3. Text Alignment

Text alignment is an essential feature in essay writing because it enhances the natural flow and readability of texts. By considering writing a statement of purpose, students should align their texts by using the flush-left feature. In this case, it is standard for all academic texts, including research essays, theses, and dissertations. Then, applicants should resist the temptation of using full justification, as it can cause unusual spacing and irregularities throughout papers. Also, such effects undermine the logical flow of essays and give texts a disjointed visage. In turn, the only instance that students should disregard the flush left alignment standard is when writing titles of their papers. Typically, this standard in almost all academic texts is to center topic titles.

4. Line Spacing

The standard spacing in academic writing, which a student should use when writing a statement of purpose, is 1.15. Moreover, applicants can use 1.0 or 2.0, which are referred to as single- and double-spacing, respectively.  However, if students use single-spacing when writing a statement of purpose, the admission committee may strain to read a paper, and this aspect may work against writers. On the other hand, if students cover double spacing, the admission committee may interpret that they use this spacing to compensate for the lack of or insufficient content. Therefore, since readability is key in any essay, students should use 1.15 spacing when writing a statement of purpose.

5. Paragraph Spacing and Indentions

Paragraphs not only enhance the natural flow of an essay but also exhibit the aspect of organized writing. For example, both of these scenarios are critical in enhancing the readability of texts, meaning that the audience has a high chance of understanding the content. When writing paragraphs in a statement of purpose, applicants can add a space after each paragraph, which they can do automatically in MS Word or manually by inserting a blank line. Alternatively, students can tab-indent the first line of each paragraph.  Also, both of these options allow writers to distinguish one paragraph from the next uniformly throughout an essay. However, they should choose one option and use it entirely to give a paper a professional look.

6. Spacing Between Sentences

Besides spacing paragraphs, students should also space sentences when writing a statement of purpose. Basically, one school of thought favors using two spaces between sentences, while others may argue for one space. Traditionally, the latter has been the standard. Also, the purpose of the additional space is to signal to readers that the next sentence begins with a new thought. As such, the additional space functions in the same way as punctuation. In this case, it lets readers pause before moving to the next item. In turn, the only context in which the two-space standard between sentences does not apply is digital communication, such as emails. Since students write a statement of purpose in MS Word, the use of the two-space standard between sentences enhances the text’s natural flow and readability.

7. Margins

The traditional and accepted standard margins in any essay are 1” on both sides of a page. Basically, this feature is the normal standard in MS Word. However, instructors may specify margins that students should apply when writing an academic text. Therefore, when it comes to writing a statement of purpose, it is critical for students to familiarize themselves with formatting requirements established by the admission committee of their college or university of choice. Where the committee does not specify any, students should go with the 1” margins.

Writing Structure of a Statement of Purpose

A statement of purpose and an application essay for college serve the same purpose – both documents are written by potential students who seek admission into a higher learning institution. However, a statement of purpose is a bit specific in several ways. In short, an essay structure of a statement of purpose allows applicants to provide accurate content to enhance their chances of admission. Also, this structure manifests through four sections. For example, the first part is where writers introduce themselves by highlighting critical details, such as academic credentials. In turn, the second part focuses on why students write such essays. Besides, they convince the admission committee about their choice of a specific course. Hence, applicants need to be familiar with the college application essay format.

Writing a Statement of Purpose: A Step-by-Step Guide

The secret to writing a powerful statement of purpose is to understand what to do right from the start. For example, if students know how to write a hook, they start their papers with an interesting sentence. Unlike other essays where this sentence can be a quote or statistic, a hook in a statement of purpose should be an interesting fact about a particular student. Then, the aim of writing such a hook is to demonstrate to the admission committee that an applicant is interesting, unique, or intelligent. Moreover, even if writers use a quote, statistics, or other information, they must relate it to themself. In other words, a hook sentence should exemplify the student’s standing before the audience, meaning that it should impress. Therefore, applicants should avoid writing dull, irrelevant, or pompous content and ensure that there are no grammatical mistakes in this first but critical part of a paper.

Step 1: How Much Detail to Provide?

Unlike standard essays that can be long, a statement of purpose is neither short nor long. In most cases, colleges and universities specify the length of a paper. Basically, if students hope to join an institution of higher learning, they need to familiarize themselves with some techniques for writing an effective statement of purpose. In turn, these components include keeping standard word limits, setting section word limits, being selective when it comes to content, using academic language, and thoroughly proofreading their works.

1. Keeping Word Limits

As indicated previously, colleges and universities, through their respective admission committees, do specify what students should observe when writing a statement of purpose. Among those specifications are details about word limits of entire essays and even for each page. Generally, members of the admission committee have to read many essays and may not be patient with papers that disregard simple and direct guidelines. Before writing an essay, what students should reflect on is whether failing to follow instructions for a two-page essay can build confidence in the admission committee that they can follow instructions when it comes to complicated texts, like theses and dissertations. As explained earlier, a statement of purpose’s goal is to impress, and applicants cannot do it if they ignore simple and clear guidelines.

2. Setting Section Word Limits

Sometimes, colleges and universities may not provide clear guidelines on word limits that students should observe in each section. In this case, the students’ prerogative is to determine how much words each section should have to satisfy the maximum word count for the entire essay. Also, applicants must concentrate much of their writing on what matters. Then, the introduction and conclusion sections should be minimal compared to 5 parts of an essay that bear crucial content. In turn, these elements include why students choose specific colleges and courses and why writers are the best among other potential candidates. Ultimately, students should ensure that their texts are well-balanced.

3. Be Selective

The temptation to write a lot in a statement of purpose is high for students who hope to impress the admission committee. Basically, applicants should always remember that writing irrelevant content does more harm to their efforts to impress than writing a short but concise paper. By considering the length of a statement of purpose, it is clear that students cannot say everything that they may want to tell the admission committee. As such, authors have to be selective in what they say. Here, capturing all essential information is critical. In turn, students who hope to join colleges and universities need to familiarize themselves with academic requirements that these institutions specify concerning a statement of purpose.

4. Use of Academic Language

A statement of purpose is an academic text. As such, students should avoid the temptation of using jargon or slang. Basically, the content should demonstrate that applicants have a good command of the English language and understand conventions that guide academic writing. While the student’s focus should be to impress the admission committee, using pompous language would only achieve a contrary outcome. In turn, the secret is to use simple language concisely.

5. Proofread Content Thoroughly

Making grammatical and other mistakes, such as contradictory ideas and an illogical flow of content, in a statement of purpose can dim a student’s chances of admission into a university course. In order to avoid such an awful outcome, applicants should write their statements of Purpose by beginning with the draft document. In turn, this strategy allows them to make fewer mistakes and later to correct them before writing the final draft. Besides, the secret for students is to be clear and concise in expressing themselves, which does not imply engaging in unnecessary wordings.

Step 2: Addressing Expectations of the Audience When Writing a Statement of Purpose

In essay writing, students should always aim at satisfying reading expectations of the audience. Regarding a statement of purpose, the audience is the admission committee. Basically, its expectations include understanding why particular students are interested in chosen courses, why they are seeking admission, and why they believe that they are extraordinary compared to other applicants. In short, writers should address several questions that the admissions committee may ask for their writing. Moreover, colleges and universities make these questions known to students in their statement of purpose requirements or guidelines.

1. Interest in a Particular Course

Naturally, people do not engage in pursuits for their sake; there is always a driving force. This driving force manifests through an interest that makes people take the initiative. For students hoping to get admission to a particular course in a college or university, the initiative is writing the Statement of Purpose. As such, the admission committee may want to know why the student is interested in the course. Put differently, they may want to know what is it about the program that interests the student. Students should answer this question directly and convincingly. For example, they can say that they get motivated to pursue the course by their parent, mentor, or role model. They can also state that the course is a pathway to many career/professional opportunities. The response should be about the student, not the institution.

2. Reason(s) for Applying

Besides stating why students are interested in a particular course, they should also tell the admission committee why they chose to apply for this program in that specific college or university. Here, applicants can give legitimate reasons, such as near to their workplace, near to their home to cut down on accommodation costs, or near to a city for added advantages of exposure to urban life. In short, writers” reasons should be reasonable to give an impression that they thought seriously about a course and an institution. Also, mentioning an interesting fact, such as the college or city’s demographic diversity, can work magic. In turn, it would indicate that they conducted thorough research before writing a statement of purpose.

3. Uniqueness

Students should not assume that they are the only ones who write a statement of purpose, seeking admission to a course in a college or university. For example, admission committees receive thousands, if not tens of thousands, of these essays during every application period. In this case, vacancies are always limited, and each student must persuade the committee that this individual stands above rest applicants. Here, writers should provide details about themselves that place them on a higher pedestal than other applicants before the admission committee. In turn, the information that can help accomplish this goal includes academic credentials, talents, trophies, and internships. Also, they can describe personal experiences that exemplify their creativity, dependability, and independence. As a result, these components are essential personal attributes that a majority of colleges and universities value in their students.

3. Special Explanation

In some cases, admission committees may require students to explain special items that students are likely to mention in a statement of purpose. For example, these items include grades, transcripts, test scores, and recommendations. Then, there can be peculiarities that stand out in an essay, such as a gap in years of education. Sometimes, educational faculties may require students to explain these pieces of information before the admission committee can read a statement of purpose. For instance, in case of a gap in years of education, applicants may explain their reasons. Here, writers can indicate that they had to take an academic leave to take care of their ailing parents or give legitimate reasons. In turn, students should be honest in their explanations, as it demonstrates that they are humans and may not be in control of everything. Hence, trying to paint a picture of perfection amid glaring voids would be counterproductive for applicants.

4. Benefit(s) of Admission

Colleges and universities have mission and vision statements that give an impression of who they are and where they are going. When writing a statement of purpose, applicants should tailor their essays to missions and visions of their target institutions. For example, if a particular institution takes pride in diversity, writers should indicate that they would add to the institution’s or faculty’s diversity outlook. Also, this diversity can be in different forms, including racial, ethnic, nationality, intellectual ability, gender, sexual orientation, or talent. Since colleges and universities cannot ask many personal questions, writers should volunteer information to convince the admission committee that they have characteristics that make them a value to educational institutions.

Strategies on How to Write a Powerful and Convincing Statement of Purpose: Four Parts

Impressing the admission committee is the secret to winning admission to a college or university program. Basically, this information should be reflected in a statement of purpose, meaning that students should be intentional in what they write. In other words, applicants should not write their essays blindly, but they must do it from an informed point of view, familiarizing themselves with the admission committee’s expectations, as already explained in the preceding sections. For example, it is here when the structure of a statement of purpose becomes essential. As described previously, this structure has four parts. Collectively, all the sections should demonstrate a connection between the students’ desire to reach their academic goals and chosen courses. In turn, one part can have several paragraphs.

Section I: Information About Self

The first section of a statement of purpose should be about a student. Basically, the first paragraph of this section should provide critical information and clearly state the purpose of writing. In short, this paragraph should serve as the introduction part of a standard essay completed with a thesis statement. Also, this claim should be a reason as to why a student is writing a statement of purpose. Besides this statement, the introduction paragraph should capture the student’s long-term goal(s), which should underscore reasons for pursuing courses that they are applying for admission. Consequently, this part should capture the students’ understanding of the chosen field of study, explaining how they would make their contribution. Lastly, it should capture the basis for the applicants’ interest in a specific course, such as a personal anecdote that explains what led them to desire to pursue a program.

A. Academic Background

A statement of purpose essay should be about the student’s academic credentials and any professional experience. Basically, the information should capture what students have done so far in terms of education, what they are currently studying, any academic projects they have accomplished, and any industrial exposure. However, not all information is relevant to every potential student. For example, applicants transitioning from high school education to higher learning may not have much to write about academic projects or industrial exposure. Therefore, the secret for writers is to understand what information the admission committee may be keen on and focus on that. For those applying for master’s and doctoral programs, talking about their professional experience is necessary.

Section II: Purpose of Writing

The second paragraph in a statement of purpose should focus on why students are writing to the admission committee. In short, it is where applicants state the aim of writing a statement of purpose. Basically, the information they provide should answer the audience’s question of “why this course?” As such, writers should indicate their motivations for studying this course and what modules they would tap to facilitate these goals. As stated earlier, the motive can be that the course has tremendous career opportunities. In that case, students should identify specific modules that would increase their exposure in that particular career field. Also, applicants can highlight specific skills that they intend to acquire during the course’s duration, explaining that they are crucial in their pursuit of academic or professional goals.

A. The Essence of a Program

The second paragraph should explain why students are applying for chosen courses. Basically, they convince the admission committee that the program is fit for them. Here, applicants should not merely tell why they think the program is ideal. In turn, they should provide clear and direct answers as to why they think so. Then, students should avoid giving the impression that their application is a formality, maybe because of their parents’ coercion. Moreover, they should demonstrate an understanding of a program, such as its duration, modules involved, and other specific details. If applicants state that educational programs are crucial to their career goals, they should specify in what ways. As a result, they can explain what makes a specific program to be the best one out of others.

Section III: The Best Candidate

The third paragraph in a statement of purpose should indicate details about why students believe that they stand above the rest. In other words, applicants should provide information that convinces admission committees that they are the best among the thousands or tens of thousands of candidates who apply for admission into educational programs. Despite a temptation to write a lot, authors should be clear and concise. In turn, admission committees are never interested in high volumes of information, but they respect its quality. Unfortunately, students can write two pages and fail to provide details about why they are unique. Therefore, the goal of this section is to provide information that makes a lasting impression on the committee.

Section IV: Future Plans

The fourth paragraph in a statement of purpose essay provides details about students’ career goals. Here, applicants should make clear their long-term career goals. For example, writers can indicate where they intend to work right after completing learning courses. Also, students should be able to name a few companies in their field of interest, which would give the impression of their preparedness for the professional world. More importantly, authors should be clear about positions that they intend to occupy in those companies if they ever got their way. In turn, such information is critical in writing a statement of purpose to convince admission committees that applicants are thinking not only about present things but also future goals. To some extent, it demonstrates the student’s confidence and outlook in life.

Technical Aspects of Writing a Statement of Purpose

There are many aspects of writing a statement of purpose that exhibit an understanding of academic writing. Basically, the first aspect is preparation, where students take time to generate ideas that align with the admission committee’s expectations. Then, the second aspect is the stage set up, where applicants make notes about what they would write in each of the four sections of an essay. Further on, the third aspect is a wrap-up, where writers take time to perfect their texts. As explained earlier, students should start with the first draft, which usually is full of grammatical and other mistakes. As such, proofreading, which involves revision and edition, is essential. In turn, doing so means that authors are perfecting first drafts to become final drafts, which they present to admission committees. To enhance a natural flow and readability of texts, applicants should utilize transitions, which are words, like “consequently,” “hence,” and “most importantly.”

Altering a Statement of Purpose

Since a statement of purpose is a critical component of the application process, students need to know how to alter their papers to fit different scenarios. Since the structure is the same, what students should change is the content, namely the college or university’s name and the program. Additionally, applicants should alter the content related to the course, specifically, the section that deals with the student’s future aspirations. In short, when modifying a statement of purpose, all students need to tailor essays to programs they are applying, which means a different college or university. Moreover, applicants should ensure to add information that an admission committee asks specifically. In turn, it means that students “do their homework” about their target institution and program.

Example of Writing a Statement of Purpose

I. Information About Self

My profound interest in world affairs informs my interest in pursuing a post-graduate degree in Political Science. Majoring in the Structure of Governments during my final year as an undergraduate student made me interested in the sphere of Political Science. Moreover, my several trips to Washington, D.C., have served to intensity my motivation to take this course. In particular, a visit to Capitol Hill gave me the impression that it is men and women who take courage to join politics that, ultimately, shape the destinies of communities and countries. In this sense, my application for admission into the Political Science program is part of my journey into the world of politics.

II. Purpose of Writing

My reason for applying for admission into the Master’s Degree in Political Science is that my background in International Relations, despite its theoretical strength, has minimal implications on my desire to join politics. Indeed, the program has exposed me to politically intense fields, such as conflict resolution and peacekeeping. However, it does not provide a direct platform for engaging with political affairs at the grassroots. I believe such involvement requires a keen understanding of the dynamics that shape political persuasions in local communities. I understand that the Political Science program has modules that involve exposing students to legislative caucuses to provide them with real-life experiences in the political sphere.

III. The Essence of a Program

I firmly believe that I am the student that the university and the faculty wish to see admitted to the Political Science program. Besides having a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations, I have also completed a two-year internship with the Office of the US Senator for Illinois. I must admit this experience was tremendous in influencing my desire to pursue a political career. In my undergraduate thesis, I focused on the dynamics that inhibit the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea. I reflected on the history of hostility between these two countries and how domestic politics have played a significant role in informing political chest-thumping in any process intended to create normalcy in diplomacy between the two states. My paper, “Empty Rhetoric as Political Propaganda,” which I published on my blog during my internship, has received broad readership and made me a guest in several gatherings by political lobby groups. This is to say that I have managed to build a strong presence in the state political environment, which has motivated me to pursue further education, this time in Political Science. The Senator for Illinois, whom I served diligently, has become an influential voice in my life and stands out as one of my mentors and role models. Based on my outstanding service during my internship, his office has written a recommendation letter for me, which is available at the faculty’s request.

IV. Future Plans

Looking into the future, I intend to be a key figure in state politics, and I believe the Political Science program will elevate me to that pedestal. My long-term career goal is to be the Senator of Illinois, my home state. In this position, I will be able to practically influence public policy in Washington, D.C., for the positive outcome of my constituents and the country at large. I believe this intention exemplifies the American Dream.

Summing Up on How to Write a Good Statement of Purpose

Writing a statement of purpose allows students to introduce themselves personally to a group of intelligent people, who then decide whether to recommend their admission to a college or university program. In turn, applicants should learn the following tips when writing this essay:

  • Provide information that impresses the admission committee. Basically, this information should capture the student’s self-motivation, competence, and potential as a graduate or post-graduate student.
  • Emphasize experiences that indicate a particular student is the best candidate among thousands or tens of thousands of applicants.
  • Ensure continuity and focus among all the sections and paragraphs.
  • Be concise and avoid unnecessary details.
  • Stick to the word count.
  • Format a statement of purpose essay as per conventions of applicable writing format, such as APA, MLA, Harvard, or Chicago/Turabian.

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