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Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

August 24, 2008


This is the second of two posts on writing statements of purpose by Steve Green. The first post is here. To learn more about Steve's graduate admission counseling services, please click here.

Below are some of my suggestions for writing a strong statement of purpose. Please read my previous post on SOPs before reading this one. The first four are based on my methods for reading client essays.

1. Make it believable: Do not exaggerate your claims or knowledge or try to make them sound “bigger” than what they are

2. Make it personal: Even someone who knows nothing about your field (which will include members of the adcom, as I’ll explain below) should be able to understand why it interests you and what you want to do in it. You should:

  • Select specific experiences from your own life and studies in order to…

  • Show how you came to wish to devote your career to a particular field

You should not:

  • Write a lecture about a particular topic in your field: this essay is first and foremost about YOU

3. Make it persuasive: The primary task of an essay is to convince the admissions committee to accept you. You should:

  • Demonstrate how you will be a successful graduate student

  • Show how you will achieve your post-graduation goals.

  • Illustrate your fit with a particular program

  1. Make it easy to understand: Some of the adcom members who read your essay will be people who are not in your field of study. Therefore, you must write for an audience of non-specialists, which, frankly speaking, you probably are yourself. You should:

  • Strive for clarity: Make sure your real intentions are clear

  • Avoid jargon from your field

  • Write like you speak in a classroom: avoid slang as well as rarely used “impressive-sounding” vocabulary

  • Avoid humor, unless it is gentle and obvious (and even in that case have someone you trust read it to make sure they find it obviously, and gently funny.)

  • Avoid sounding angry, bitter, or vengeful, etc.

  1. Make it unique: As discussed above, you should organize your essay around demonstrating your distinguishing characteristics.

  1. NO EXCUSES! It is best to avoid discussing any potential weaknesses in your essay, particularly if they are in our GPA and or test scores. After all, the adcom will see these facts as well as read your SOP and will draw their own conclusions. They certainly do not need or want you to tell them, “My excellent test score and not GPA is the best indicator of my ability,” and, besides, the opposite could also be true.

Advising clients on their SOPs is my primary responsibility as an admissions consultant. I recommend that you consider working with me, or any of my highly qualified peers beginning with myself, or Adam. The advice of an objective, but experienced reader is invaluable when working on drafts of your statement of purpose. If you do not choose to work with a professional admissions consultant, I hope you will find someone who can read and comment upon your essay drafts regularly and honestly.

Good luck and remember: This process really will help prepare you for graduate school.

For questions regarding this post, please contact me at h.steven.green@gmail.com. To learn more about my graduate admissions consulting services, please click here.
- H. Steven ("Steve") Green, グリーン・ハロルド・スティーブン

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