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10 Tips for Writing a Statement of Purpose Writing Your Way Into Grad School
10 Tips for Writing a Statement of Purpose Writing Your Way Into Grad School

A statement of purpose gives you an opportunity that other application materials don’t — a chance to write from your heart. Aside from test scores, grades and other requirements, admission committees want to know who you are. The committees weigh data and personal information to determine if you and the school are a winning match. Help them out. Reveal the experiences, talents and passions that led you to the program and inspired you to apply.

To help you do just that, writing coach Debby Bacharach shares life-tested strategies and techniques for creating an impeccable essay. 

  1. Grab the spotlight.

    Let your personality shine and show what is unique about you through your statement of purpose.

  2. Share your experiences.

    As a nontraditional student, you can enrich your academic studies and those of others by sharing your life experiences and wisdom. Talk about your journey — the hurdles, triumphs and lessons learned.

  3. Express your passion.

    Describe why the program inspires you. Explain what you’re interested in learning and how you think the program will help you achieve your ambitions.

  4. Show instead of tell.

    Use sensory details, concrete nouns, active verbs and small moments that symbolize larger personal truths. Suddenly, your description of objects, actions and feelings spring to life.

  5. Demonstrate your knowledge of the program.

    Identify particular paths of study that appeal to you. Characterize your fascination with a professor’s research or your interest in a particular theory or school of thought.

  6. Follow the rules.

    Evaluators who sift through thousands of applications are easily frustrated by an applicant that didn’t read or observe instructions. If they want 500 words, that's what you give them. Perfect your grammar and punctuation. Eliminate typos, misspellings or other inaccuracies.

  7. Seek feedback.

    t's not cheating to have friends, coworkers and writing consultants review your essay and provide suggestions.

  8. Conquer the blank page.

    If you freeze before a blank page, shelve your inner-critic and mute your inner editor. Set a timer for 10 minutes or more and write without stopping. Let your ideas out. Write about your achievements, failures, hobbies, volunteer work, likes and dislikes. Anything about you is fodder for your first draft.

  9. Give yourself the time to write.

    Creating a powerful essay that reflects who you are takes a lot of time. You need to develop ideas, create a first draft, produce multiple revisions by critiquing and editing. And when you’re finally satisfied, you need to proof your work several times.

  10. Tap into free resources.

    Polish your prose with the UW’s excellent writing resources which are open to students, faculty and staff. Start with this list of writing resources for students, teachers and departments.   

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