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Statement of purpose

Écrit par Dr. Damaris Foping


Almost all graduate programs ask applicants to submit a personal statement, or statement of purpose, as part of the application process. The personal statement gives universities a chance to get a glimpse of you as an individual, an insight that is not possible in the grades and numbers that make up the rest of your application. The goal is to write a clear, concise, and persuasive statement that sincerely reflects your views and aspirations. The admissions committee that reviews applications wants to see if there is a good match between you and the department or school and whether the degree program can meet your needs.

The statement of purpose is an important part of the application, and it is essential that you write the best statement possible. It is an opportunity for you to distinguish yourself from other applicants. The personal statement is not meant to be an autobiography in chronological order; instead, use your imagination to come up with an interesting format and content that will maintain the reader's interest.

Four important questions should be answered in the statement of purpose:

  • Why do you wish to pursue a graduate degree, and why now? The university will often ask about your career goals and how they relate to your past experiences and your decision to apply for graduate study.
  • What are your academic or research interests? The admissions committee will be looking for a good match between you and the department to ensure that they can satisfy your interests. They are also looking for a demonstration of intellectual maturity and understanding of your field.
  • Why are you applying to this particular institution and degree program? Tailor each statement of purpose to the specific program and institution, including, if possible, references to professors you wish to work with, courses you wish to take, and unique facilities available at the institution. Admissions officers want to see that you have done careful research about their program and that you are a serious candidate.
  • What can you contribute to the department or program in terms of your background, abilities, or other special qualities and interests? Discuss any relevant past experiences and achievements, as well as any special qualities you feel you can bring to the program, such as your international perspective.

Some general tips:

  • Make sure you address all the questions asked. Once you have done an outline for a statement, go back and check that it answers the question, then do the same with each draft of your essay.
  • Stick to the word limit given. If a limit is not given, keep the statement to two or three sides of paper, typed or word processed, and double-spaced.
  • Make sure that your statement is a true representation of yourself and your abilities — it is important that the essay be genuine and honest.
  • Admissions officers read many essays. Since some programs are extremely competitive, try to have an interesting first sentence that grabs the reader's attention and makes the essay more memorable.
  • Address any obvious gaps or weak points in your application either in a separate cover note or in the application essay, but always keep the explanation positive. For example, state what you learned from a difficult experience and how it has made you a better student.
  • Get someone you trust to proofread each statement of purpose for grammatical and spelling errors. Make sure statements are clear, interesting, and logically organized. The personal statement is an important demonstration of your written communication skills.

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