I'm a first-generation college student and have worked for years as an admissions reader for the University of Washington. I also had a past job as a writing consultant, where I worked with college students at every level, helping them craft essays and research papers from multiple academic disciplines. In my job as a writing consultant, I’d wager to say 50-60% of the students I saw, wanted help with personal statements, resumes, or cover letters, so I’ve developed a keen sense of what the average college admissions essay looks like and I know how to make it stand out amongst the thousands of others an admissions officer will read during a typical admissions cycle. My goal - to help you take the guesswork out of the college application process and get you into the college of your choice. For more college admissions tips on everything from writing your statement of purpose to prepping for your college interview, check out my blog at here or at koodooslearning.com/blog.
I think of myself as a lifelong learner, but deciding to go back to grad school wasn't a light decision. When I decided to take the leap in 2016, I was six years into a career as an officer in the U.S. Army and was hesitant to disrupt a steady paying job and what I consider purposeful work. Still, I had a list of reasons in my head for wanting and needing to leave the Army and return to grad school that are probably similar to what most people consider when they're making the potentially life-changing decision to go back to school.
My reasons (don't laugh) - I hated getting up early for my job in the military (I had to be at work by 6am most mornings), I kinda hated wearing a uniform every day, and I wanted more control over where I lived (you don't really get to pick in the military). Basically, I just needed a change of pace and a different career. I also just like being in class and learning new stuff. College campuses have always felt like a magical place to me. I've told myself I have no reason to ever need to get a PhD, but I kinda want to just so I can be in the classroom again? Maybe it's because my parents didn't go to college and growing up I never really heard about what it was like to be a college student. Speaking of, one of my other reasons for going back to school and getting a Master's Degree was to make my family proud and bring knowledge back into my community in an effort to impact change. These are just a few of my reasons.
So, I’m curious --what are your reasons for deciding to go to grad school? Comment below to reveal all.
I wanted to start my blog off with a basic intro to the statement of purpose and the steps you can take to start your first draft. I'm an admissions reader and former writing consultant and love helping folks write better essays. By no means am I a writing expert, but I've read 1000s of personal statements/ SOPs and worked with dozens, if not hundreds, of clients on their college essays and applications and I just like helping folks craft better essays for their college applications. So, here we go!
The statement of purpose, or what I like to refer to as the cover letter essay because of its similar structure, is generally used for graduate school applications and focuses much more on describing the skills, experiences and education that has prepared you for the program you’re applying to than a personal statement for undergrad would--mostly because when entering grad school you usually have a much better grasp on what your career path will be. Its main purpose concentrates less on developing a story-like narrative about your personal attributes and more on explicitly communicating the qualities that make you a perfect candidate for the particular field of study you're applying to. Ideally, the statement of purpose should convey your genuine interest in and enthusiasm for the program of study you’re pursuing, and what you have done in the past to nurture that passion.
There are many topics you can choose for your SOP, but ultimately colleges want to see you answer 3 questions: why you, why us, and why now. Here are 4 steps to get you started on answering those questions and drafting your statement of purpose.
1. Start off your statement of purpose by describing your motivations for applying to the particular grad school program and how earning a grad degree fits in with your broader academic and personal goals.
2. Next, you should communicate the subjects you’ve studied, previous jobs you’ve held, and relevant skills and certifications you’ve obtained that prepare you for the curriculum or program of study. This is the part where you really get to brag on yourself in discussing your relevant qualifications and unique skill set that ideally prepare you for success in the field you’ve chosen.
3. Follow that up by communicating your interest in attending the particular university you’re applying to. It’s important to articulate why you’re choosing X school or Y program at every level of education. As an example, you might state your interest in working with Prof. Baker, who is an expert in 18th-century archeological preservation techniques - the only one in the field. Admissions officers and committee members want to know that you did your research and have a compelling and personal reason for wanting to attend their institution. In this section, be sure to also include statements about what you can bring to the university’s campus and how you will contribute to the prevailing culture of the college.
4. Lastly, don’t forget to include in your statement what attributes and traits make you special because, yes, it matters to admissions committees what kind of person you are and student you will be. As an example, you could focus on describing the parts of your personality that demonstrate your ability to learn and think as well as your desire to collaborate and communicate effectively as a student-scholar. Colleges want to know that you possess the traits that will contribute to both your growth and the betterment of the university community. One of the important things to remember is that the best way to communicate your traits is to use an anecdote or experience from your past, that shows rather than tells what makes you a top candidate.
No matter what, remember to be authentic and your uniqueness will shine through in your statement of purpose. Otherwise, follow these 4 steps and you’ll be on your way to writing an effective statement of purpose.