Do's and Don'ts for Your Statement of Purpose

Published On: 22 Jun 2009

 | Last Updated On: 30 Jan 2014

It is your chance to demonstrate your unique qualifications for and commitment to your chosen field. How? By discussing those experiences, people, and events that inspire you to pursue it. That's a lot to accomplish--especially within the typical two-to-three page limit. The key to success lies in a few illustrative incidents. Detail, specificity, and concrete examples make your essay distinctive and interesting.

Following " Do's and Don'ts for Your Statement of Purpose " will help you write a persuasive, focused essay.

The Do's  

  • Unite your essay and give it direction with a theme or thesis. The thesis is the main point you want to communicate.
  • Before you begin writing, choose what you want to discuss and the order in which you want to discuss it.
  • Use concrete examples from your life experience to support your thesis and distinguish yourself from other applicants.
  • Write about what interests you, excites you. That's what the admissions staff wants to read.
  • 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.
  • In addition to your editing, ask someone else to critique your statement of purpose for you.
  • Write clearly, succinctly.
  • Be honest, consistent and straightforward.
  • Be specific, not general.
  • Be Unique.
  • Be comfortable with the image of your self that you're presenting.
  • Pay attention to detail - absolutely no spelling or grammatical errors.
  • Your statement must be neat and error free.
  • Let your personality and individuality come through. Give insight on your hopes, goals, motivations and dedication. Be interesting and unique. Do not be afraid to let your passion and commitment to a career come through.
  • Make the essay look good. This makes it easier and more enjoyable to read. Follow the guidelines for length, margins, and do not use too small a font. You can squeeze more on a page that way, but readers see hundreds of statements and don't have time to deal with small font. Keep a photocopy of each essay you write. You need to keep a copy of every single piece of your application. It is imperative you have copies of everything, both for your own reference before you go to an interview and as documentation in case someone else loses or misplaces your application. This has happened to students, and you do not want to have to recreate anything. Keep paper copies in addition to disc copies.
  • Read your essay before an interview. Make sure you know what you wrote.
  • Give reasons. Provide enough reasons why you wish to pursue higher studies in that particular field you have applied for.

The Don'ts

  • 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 weak excuses for your GPA or test scores.
  • Don't make things up.
  • Don't off-track with excessive unnecessary information on your hobby
  • Don't repeat things.
  • Don't get desparate

Do or don't ?

There is mixed opinion about whether to call attention to and explain any of your obvious weaknesses in your essay. Some recommend clarifying any weaknesses on your transcripts or your GRE scores in your essay. Others believe one should only be positive-that if you feel you need to explain something, that you should attach an addendum to your application, make note of it in a cover letter, or ask one of your letter writers who knows you well to discuss it.

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