What is a statement of purposeNote: these tips are intended for students applying to CS/ECE programs.
- Statement of purpose
- Be specific, persuasive, clear. Tips from http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/
- It’s misleading that the personal statement is called a “personal” statement, since what admission committees are really looking for is a research statement. What admission committees want is a statement about what research you have done, what research you hope to do, and why you like research. Structure
- First paragraph – Describe the general areas of research that interest you and why. (This is helpful for a committee to determine which professors should read your application.) Second paragraph and Third paragraph – Descibe some research projects that you worked on. Tell us what you found, what you learned, what approaches you tried. It’s fine to say that you were unable to prove what you wanted or to solve your problem. Fourth paragraph – Tell us why you feel you need a Ph.D. Look back to section what in there appealed to you. Fifth paragraph – Tell us why you want to come to CMU. Whom might you like to work with? What papers have you looked at from CMU that you enjoyed reading? What will CMU teach you?
- Your purpose in graduate study. This means you must have thought this through before you try to answer the question. The area of study in which you wish to specialize. This requires that you know the field well enough to make such decision. Your future use of your graduate study. This will include your career goals and plans for your future. Your special preparation and fitness for study in the field. This is the opportunity to relate your academic background with your extracurricular experience to show how they unite to make you a special candidate. Any problems or inconsistencies in your records or scores such as a bad semester. Be sure to explain in a positive manner and justify the explanation. Since this is a rebuttal argument, it should be followed by a positive statement of your abilities. Any special conditions that are not revealed elsewhere in the application such as a large (35 hour a week) work load outside of school. This too should be followed with a positive statement about yourself and your future. You may be asked, "Why do you wish to attend this school?" This requires that you have done your research about the school and know what its special appeal is to you. Career goals. write two short paragraphs:
- What career have you chosen? What factors formed this decision? What evidence shows that this is a correct choice? That is, how can you show that this choice is realistic? (Personal experience in the field is a good place to begin.)
- Demonstrate motivation in-between the lines. Emphasize everything from a positive perspective Recommended writing structure:
- This is where you tell them what you want to study. For example, M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis in dynamics and controls.
- Important class or classes you took which stimulated your desire for graduate study; specific project or class? Research you might have done. Indicate with whom, the title of the project and what your responsibilities were. Write technically; it's professors, not secretaries, reading this. Work experience, especially if you had any kind of responsibility for testing, designing, or researching a product or apparatus.
- Indicate area of interest, then state questions you might have which are associated; i.e. what you might be interested in studying. You should have an area selected before you write the statement. If you can, contact the department for information and find out what the professors are doing for research. Are there people whose interests match yours? If so, indicate this as it shows a sign that the student has done his or her homework and is highly motivated. (Be sincere, however. Don't make up something bogus just to impress people.)
- Academic background
- How have you prepared yourself to succeed in graduate school? What body of relevant knowledge will you take with you? Significant study or lab skills Research or publications completed to date
- Has great opening lines or paragraphs Conveys at least a glimpse of the applicant's personality Substantiates specific academic preparation and knowledge of subject matter Demonstrates an understanding of the challenges as well as the rewards of a chosen career Gives a sense of maturity, compassion, stamina, teamwork skills, leadership potential and general likability, usually without addressing these issues directly (tells a story rather than gives a list) Says what you really mean by describing an event or emotions and thoughts in detail Gives specifics, with DETAILS. It's far better to give your essay a complete description of one incident than to cram it full of activities and accomplishments without any hint of what they meant to you, your motivations for doing them, what you learned, or emotions evoked. Shows how you will use the graduate education in your planned career and establishes that you understand your place in the "big picture" Demonstrate that you've read the catalog carefully, researched the program, and considered
your reasons for applying to the particular school.
- Direct your focus at that specific program; refer to faculty with whom you have been in contact. Get the name of the program you are applying to into the statement. Know the exact name.
- Don't attempt to guess at what you think people want to hear. Sincerity and truthfulness should be clearly evident.
- You must demonstrate to the committee how your goals coincide with what the program has to offer as well as how you will fit in and how your qualifications will benefit the program. The applicant should not use the same essay for each program. A generic personal statement is easy to detect.
- To distinguish your essay, add something unique to it without throwing in irrelevant information that will annoy your readers. One of the best ways to do this is to discuss, briefly, an idea in your field that turns you on intellectually. It's an effective essay-opener, and it lets you write about something besides yourself for a bit. There are other benefits as well. The idea you choose to talk about, and your comments on it, often tell an admissions committee more about you than your own self-descriptions can. Finally, don't just reuse the same statement of purpose for each school you apply to. You can recycle the same information, but make sure you tweak it for every school. Your statement will sound stale and the admissions committee will notice if you don't do this.
- Things which all college admissions officers want to see in the application:
- A Picture of Your Overall Personality
How will you give a picture of your personality? I would suggest that you imply rather than state the facts. For instance, don’t say ‘I am a smart person.’ Demonstrate it, imply it. Don’t say ‘I am energetic.’ Give evidence by the fact that you worked after school for six hours every day and still had time to play on the volleyball team. Academic Background and Work Experience
It would be a mistake to talk about your high school. Start with your undergraduate career. School records may be worth mentioning if there is something extraordinary about them. Continuity
Admissions officers are looking for some continuity in what you have done, what you want to do in the near future and what you hope to do in the distant future. So, connect them. Commitment and Motivation
Rather than simply saying ‘I am committed’, find a way of inferring that you are indeed highly committed and motivated to your proposed field of study. Communication SkillsThey will be looking at your writing skills - how well you can present yourself clearly and intelligently when writing, hence the importance of spending considerable time on the statement.
- Write simply, not in a flowery and complicated manner. Write in a straightforward way.
In other words don’t be subtle or cute. Write in a clear and logical manner. If you have to be creative, that is fine, but do so in a straightforward way. These people are really interested in your vocation. They don’t want to read something that is in the form of one act plays nor do they want to read three adjectives per noun. They want you to be direct and straightforward. Be clear in what you are saying.Make sure you are logical. Explain yourself with great clarity. Finally, most important of all, be specific, not vague. Don’t say - ‘My grades were quite good’ but say ‘I belonged to the top 5% of my class’. Don’t say - ‘I am interested in sports’. Say ‘I was captain of my hockey team’. Don’t say ‘I like poetry’. Say ‘I did a study of Shakespeare’s sonnets and wrote a twelve-page bachelor’s degree dissertation on Imagery’. Don’t say - ‘I want to be a Supreme Court Judge, that is why I want to go to law school’. Say things like ‘I was an apprentice in a court’ or ‘I often went with my father to the courts to listen to cases’ or ‘I wrote a legal column for a school newspaper’. That is being specific.
Think of the statement of purpose as a composition in three different parts. The first part is a brief summary of the program you want to study and what particular area of research you want to focus on. The second part should be a summary of your college experiences. What brought about your interest in engineering (perhaps a bit of pertinent background information), any work experience you might have had, if you put yourself through school, co-op or summer job experiences and research experiences--here you can elucidate what design or job responsibilities you had. You may be as specific as possible, as it is engineering professors who are reading this statement. The third part is composed of why you want to go to graduate school, what you would like to study (research), and ideally, with whom you would like to study. Write the department or consult the web for information concerning the professor's research interests, then consult your library for recent publications. When you can mention what you would like to study, and whom you would like to study with, it often indicates to a department that you've done your homework and have serious intentions about the pursuit of graduate study. At all times, be sincere and honest