Statement Of Purpose – Example And How To Write It

07.02.23 Graduate school Time to read: 5min

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This article revolves around what a statement of purpose is and its role and requirements in graduate school applications. Many seats of higher education now expect a statement of purpose to be written by the applicants who are looking to get into postgraduate courses. Some also require them of undergraduates, especially for mature student applications, but this is not universal. Learn more about what should be included in terms of a personal introduction in a statement of purpose, and find helpful tips for writing one when you scroll on.

Statement of Purpose – In a Nutshell

  • A statement of purpose is a writing that is sent with a course application to a grad school
  • It accounts for the reason the applicant is applying
  • It includes a personal statement about their background and personality
  • A description of what motivates them and why they think they’re a good fit for the course

Although statements of purpose may differ depending on the course, the applicant and the institution’s application guidelines where the course will run, most conform to certain expected standards at many grad schools around the world today.

Definition: Statement of purpose

Also, sometimes simply called an SOP, a statement of purpose is a written document from a course applicant that gives details about him or herself that tries to persuade the relevant admissions committee to accept the applicant outright or to call them for an in-person interview.

Typically, they are included with an application form, any letter of recommendation that might be relevant and a covering letter. Unlike a job application document, however, they are not a resume (CV). Most graduate programs that require a statement of purpose will expect the following.

Statement of purpose checklist

Part 1 An introduction to the applicant's interests and motivations
Part 2 A summary of academic accomplishments
Part 3 Information on recent relevant activities (professional or otherwise)
Part 4 Further insights into the applicant's wider academic interests
Statement of purpose sample

This example of a statement of purpose covers the motivations and interests of the applicant, along with an outline of her academic career thus far. Further, it deals with her more recent activities insofar as they may be relevant to the application while offering some wider insights into the applicant’s other interests. As such, along with other good examples of SOPs, it covers all of the expected ground succinctly.

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Requirements for a statement of purpose

Most grad schools and higher education establishments publish their requirements for a statement of purpose online. Only include the relevant material, as outlined above, or what the institution has specifically asked for. Leave everything else out. This will help you to avoid simply making a lengthy personal statement, something that won’t be so focused.

Instead, a statement of purpose must be centered on the particular requirements of the course. Tailor each statement for each course application you make. You can reuse some material but don’t copy it wholesale even if it is for a course at the same institution. Why? Because different application committees will have different entry requirements. Stick to the given guidelines.


Harvard University guidelines specify that a statement of purpose must be 1,000 words or under.

Personal introduction in a statement of purpose

Although instructions may vary, here’s what is generally expected of an SOP’s personal introduction.

Personal background

Outline the most relevant parts of your background story given the course. Hobbies and family backgrounds are unlikely to feature unless they have a direct bearing on the course subject. Organize your thoughts succinctly and include examples of any obstacles you may have overcome to get where you are.

Personality traits

Everyone is unique but conveying your personality should help you to come across as an individual. Try to make your application stand out by thinking about what your unique qualities are, whether it is your approach to work or your ability to interact well with other students. Cite examples to make your claims more credible.

Experience and accomplishments

Including experiences and accomplishments relevant to the course is important. Do this by writing them down authoritatively but openly. Don’t make exaggerated claims, for example, or anything that can’t be checked easily.

Academic experience

List your academic experience to include all the relevant information:

  • School and undergraduate qualifications
  • Other postgraduate qualifications you may have gained
  • Professional qualifications if they’re in a related field
  • List the institutions where your qualifications were gained and at what grade

Professional experience

Include your professional experiences, where they are relevant, such as:

  • Past examples of in-job research work
  • Professional experience that brought you into contact with the course’s subject matter
  • Work that required the sort of technical or academic skills that will be needed on the course

Goals and motivations

The role that goals and motivations play in a statement of purpose is to explain why you want to attend the course in the first place. Use this as an opportunity to show how keen you are to learn and see the course through.

Tips for a successful statement of purpose

When writing a statement of purpose, it is a good idea to take into account the following advice

Staying focused

Staying focused means creating a clear narrative in your statement of purpose. Don’t drift off and come back to a point made earlier. Keep everything flowing logically. Sometimes, a chronological approach can help to maintain focus.

Reviewing the structure

Consider the four steps outlined above. After having drafted your SOP, ask yourself whether or not you have addressed them all fully. If so, have you given equal weight to each? If not, you may need to consider redrafting.

Adding meaning

To add meaning to an SOP will be essential if your application is to stand out from others. For example, give examples of your motivations rather than simply claiming to be highly motivated. Show how your motivation has led to discernible results before. This will personalize your SOP, thereby giving it more meaning.

Revising, editing, and proofreading

Be prepared to revise your SOP. Read it the day after writing it and edit anything that doesn’t seem immediately clear. Run it through a spell-checker, proofread it and, even better, get someone else to proofread it for you, too.

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An SOP is a short document that describes why an applicant should be considered for a graduate school course.

Without a strong SOP, your application will not rise to the top and you could easily fail to win a place on your desired graduate course.

Have your name at the top in case the SOP goes missing from the application. After that, discuss your long-term aims and why they align with the course in question.

Some do and some don’t. At US grad schools, they are common as well as in many international institutions nowadays.