• Grad School Applications | Statements of Purpose

  • What exactly is a Statement of Purpose?

    First and foremost, let's consider the differences between a SOP and a personal statement. These terms/genres are often used interchangeably, yet it can still be helpful to think about the unique goals for each essay type even if your applications asks for a SOP, a personal statement, OR a combination of both.

    Overall, a personal statement is about who you are as a person/applicant (i.e., looking backward at your life, relevant experiences, etc.); wheras a SOP is about what you want to do in the future (i.e., looking forward at your career goals). Despite the potential overlap in your application essay prompts, we think it can be helpful to consult resources for both the SOP and the personal statement!

  • Getting Started

    5-Minute Brainstorm/Free Writing Ideas:

    1. Your phone rings; it’s your dream graduate program. They’re offering you a full ride on the spot if you can tell them—right now—what your research agenda looks like. (You can change your mind later).

    • What specifically do you plan to study and research?
    • What questions do you have about this subject?
    • Why do you want to devote the next two, five, or eight years to this subject?

    2. Brainstorm possible lists

    • What is your “best” work? (e.g., your best grade, most innovative research, most thoughtful volunteer work)
    • What are your personal strengths?


  • Resources | SOPs


  • Resources | Personal Statements


  • Carnegie Mellon University | Writing a Graduate School Application Essay


  • Annotated Sample Essays


    Sample 1: Application essay for UC Berkeley's History Dept

    : https://ls.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/statement_of_purpose.pdf

    Sample 2: Application essay for Louisville's Curriculum & Instruction program:


    Sample 3: Application essay to Boston College's MA in Social Work program:



    Our Writing Center is part of the International Writing Centers Association; we are happy to share resources that other Writing Centers have developed in addition to creating our own. Found a resource that you'd like to recommend to others? Share it with us at wrc@du.edu!


  • Quick Tips


    1. Think of your SOP as an argument in which:
      • Your claims about your background experiences and/or accomplishments are supported with evidence.
      • Example: Instead of, "During my senior year, I expanded my research skills significantly in Dr. Smith's lab," try: "I joined a qualitative coding team in Dr. Smith's laboratory during my senior year, which allowed me to develop skills in grounded theory methodology and the manuscript preparation process."
    2. Consider using a 'hook' as your introductory sentence to spark your reader's interest:
      • A good hook will: a) be relatively short, clear, and snappy; b) be relevant to some overall theme or idea that you develop; and c) offer something relatively specific and unique
      • Avoid cliches like: "From a young age..."; and "I have always been interested in..."
      • Examples: Everyone, and I mean everyone, needs science.” OR "In sociology, it’s the small picture that matters."
    3. Think of your personal statement as a glimpse of you in the world:
      • Let your readers see you as a real person in a real place at a real time, not just as words on a page.
        • Relay an anecdote
        • Focus on a particular moment
        • Consider starting in media res
        • Name names!
        • The most specific can be the most universal
    4. Aim for depth and evaluation:
      • Depth, not breadth.....and evaluation, not description.
      • In other words:
        • Say more about less.
        • Make sure that each difference experience you share highlights a different value or characteristic
        • Push past "resume sentences"
      • Example: Instead of, "I assisted a professor in submitting four professional publications;" try this: "Assisting a professor in submitting four publications showed me the complexity of representing research to professional audiences."
    5. Vary your sentence structure to avoid the trap of beginning every sentence with "I..."
      • Focus on the work you’ve done and not your self as the subject of sentences helps to create texture and variety, which gives readers a better reading experience.


This portfolio last updated: 13-Apr-2021 10:15 PM