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Writing a Strong Statement of Purpose for Graduate School Application

The success of a graduate school application mainly depends on the quality of the Statement of Purpose (SOP) submitted. As a result, it is important to submit a strong Personal Statement for the graduate studies application. Before I discuss the steps, I want you to first know what a Statement of Purpose is. That is, I want to answer the question: what is a Statement of Purpose? 

What is a Statement of Purpose?

A Statement of Purpose, sometimes referred to as Personal Statement or Statement of Intent, is a crucial facet of a graduate school application that informs the admission committee about who you are, what your current academic interests and future professional interests are, how you developed those interests, and explains the ways you will add value to the graduate program you intend applying to.

One critical aspect of the Statement of Purpose that many applicants often omit is the research interest they intend to explore during their studies. This is crucial to the success of your application, given that the graduate program is more research work than coursework. Hence, failure to clearly discuss your research interest will only result in a negative impression about your application. Your research interest – the research puzzle, a brief theoretical description, research questions, a thesis statement and research significance – is important to the success of your application, if you are applying to a research-based program.

The Steps: How to Write a Statement of Purpose

The Statement of Purpose can be divided into three (3) main parts: (1) the introduction, which discusses who you are, your academic and professional interests, and reason for applying to the program; (2) the development of academic interests;(3) finally, the research interest.

The Introduction: Who you are and what are your interests?

The introductory paragraph discusses who you are and your interests as a person. In this paragraph, you should discuss your academic background, rather than your interests such as favorite food or sports. This section is your chance to talk about yourself as an individual. Briefly discuss your academic background -achievements and awards, programs studied during your previous studies, and anything relating to your previous studies. Discuss your academic interests and how they shape your future goals and aspirations. 

Here, you need to mention the general interests you want to explore in the graduate program and how that will define your future career paths in the stated profession. Finally, discuss why this particular program from the school is the best place to pursue your interests. 

The Development of Interests and Fascinations

This paragraph should detail your motivations and fascinations pertaining to the research and professional interests in the first paragraph. That is, the factors that heightened your interest and fascinations for the program, the course and the general research area. How your previous education and experiences have shaped your fascinations for the course, research interest and future career aspirations. And above all, how your past education and experiences have further prepared you to succeed in the graduate program at the chosen institution, as well as, what you hope to achieve in the graduate program. 

Research Interest: Proposal

The final section should be about your research interest. The research interest is crucial for the research-based graduate studies, as a decision to admit a student partly depends on the availability of a faculty member to supervise the research. There must be a clear and focused area of academic interest. That is, the proposed research topic you want to explore during your graduate studies. 

 In this part of your Statement of Purpose, you will be writing a brief proposal that states your research puzzle, discusses the theories and presents an answer (thesis statement) to your research question. Identify how the proposed research work connects to works being done in the department by the faculty. Here, you will identify how your research area connects to a potential supervisor’s research. Mention the specific faculty members and projects they have done (if possible). This point highlights the significance of contacting and securing a potential supervisor before you apply.

Checklist: Useful Tips for a Strong Statement of Purpose

  • Ensure that you have carefully read the program-specific instructions – such as the information required in the SOP and formatting (the font, number of words and spacing).
  • State any works or projects you have done in this research area, and discuss any specific abilities/expertise gathered from the work that could heighten your success in the program.
  • Establish a connection between your research area and works being done by the faculty. 
  • Allude to academic works that have heightened your interest in the specific area. Ensure that you properly cite them in a footnote. 
  • State any publications, presentations or conferences you have been part of during your undergraduate studies or professional career.


The Statement of Purpose (SOP) gives you the chance to make a case that you are fit for the graduate program; you possess the necessary skills and techniques required and on top of it, you are focused, enthusiastic and self-disciplined. Therefore, take the time to try to answer the following questions about your Statement of Purpose: Who are you and what are your interests? What motivations have heightened those interests? What are your future goals and how do they connect to the program? Why are you applying to graduate school, and why this institution? Why should the admissions committee choose you? Ensure that you answer all these questions in your SOP. Finally, express your gratitude to the admissions committee for taking the time to review your application.

See the post on Starting your Graduate Studies Application for information on how to submit an overall strong application.


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