How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

Ready to apply for grad school?

One of the typical steps you will be asked to complete during the application process is to write a statement of purpose. 

Sometimes referred to as a personal statement, a statement of purpose is required by many graduate programs as a way for them to understand who you are, what your personal and professional goals are, and why you are the right fit for their program.

Of course, every school is different and may have different formatting and requirements. But, there are some universalities that hold true for almost all statements of purpose and institutions.

Here are some best practices to follow to make sure that your statement of purpose is clear, compelling, well-written, and well-received by Admissions departments.

What is a Statement of Purpose?

First, let us take a step back. What exactly is a statement of purpose and why are they an important part of the graduate admissions process?

When colleges and universities are reading through their graduate applications, they are looking for prospective students who are not only the best candidates for the program, but also the right fit for the program in terms of character, intention, and goals.

The statement of purpose is your opportunity to show them who you are, use your own unique voice, and illustrate your clarity of purpose. You know what you want and why you are applying for the program—the statement of purpose helps schools understand that as well.

The process is likely to vary from school to school. If you apply to three graduate programs, for example, you could expect the directions will look different from one statement to another in terms of length, format, and topic.

To give you an idea, here is an example of directions given by the MS in Professional Counseling at Southern:

The statement of purpose is an essay clarifying the candidate's expectations from graduate work, which also serves as an evaluation of the candidate's ability to communicate effectively in written form.

We mentioned already that sometimes a “statement of purpose” is referred to as a “personal statement.” These often get used interchangeably, though specifically speaking, a statement of purpose covers more about what you want to do with your degree, whereas a personal statement is more about your background and prior experience. You will typically be asked to complete one or the other, depending on the degree and the program.

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How to Write a Statement of Purpose

Now that you are ready to write your statement of purpose, here are some guidelines to follow. Remember, every program is different so it is really important that you follow directions and stick to the prompt you are given (which is why that is the final tip on our list below)!

When you are writing your statement of purpose for graduate school, here is what you need to do:

  • Introduce yourself and summarize your undergraduate and professional experience
  • Explain why you are interested in that particular program
  • Show that you have thoroughly researched and understood the mission, values, and requirements of the program
  • Illustrate why you are a good fit for the program
  • Explain your academic interests and how you intend to use your graduate degree
  • Write with an active voice, use proper grammar and punctuation
  • Write about the future, not the past
  • Focus as much as possible on unique experiences and why you stand out among prospective students
  • Follow the given instructions for length, format, and direction
  • Always be sure to proofread for correct spelling

Pursue Your Passion with a Graduate Degree

To learn more about the graduate programs offered at Southern Adventist University and how Southern can help you accomplish your personal and professional goals, visit our graduate program page.

You can also access our Financing guide to get a deeper understanding of how financial aid works for grad school, sample tuition costs, and how to think about cost vs. ROI.

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About the Author

Southern Adventist University

Southern Adventist University

Southern Adventist University is a private Seventh-day Adventist college in Collegedale, Tennessee. Our practical graduate programs equip you with in-demand skills and experience that transfer directly into your career path. We hope to help you accomplish your dreams!

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