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Five tips for writing your statement of purpose for grad school

May 07, 2021
icons and steps five tips for writing your statement of purpose

Your statement of purpose is the most unique and personal element of your graduate school application. It is your opportunity to showcase your skills, your experience and everything that has made you the person you are today. By clearly outlining your goals and professional journey up to this point, you can make it a no-brainer for any graduate admissions program to say an emphatic “Yes!” to your application.

While the term “statement of purpose” often refers to an outline of a research plan for a Ph.D. program, when used for a master’s degree program, it can mean something much more like what you would call a “personal statement.” Here, we focus on the latter of these with five tips for crafting an essay that will help you stand out from any group of applicants. Follow this guide to apply to the online MS in Computer and Information Sciences at Marquette University or any other master’s degree program.

Follow the prompt

Generally speaking, when a graduate school application asks you to write a statement of purpose or personal statement, they will provide some guidance as to what they want to see you include. You could be given a numbered list with a detailed set of questions to answer in order, a loose set of general topics to discuss or an even broader request to simply compose a personal essay. The application for the online MS in Computer and Information Sciences at Marquette, for instance, asks you to write a “statement of purpose outlining relevant work experience or education, career goals, possible areas of interest, and reasons for seeking admission to this program.”

The most important thing you can do in addressing an instruction like this is to be sure you respond to each part of it. This prompt can help guide you as you create your initial outline for your essay. Take each of the topics mentioned in the prompt and use them as headers in your outline, then list supporting details beneath each one. These can quickly grow into entire paragraphs, giving your statement of purpose a ready-made structure.

Use plenty of personal details

As you address your statement of purpose prompt, always keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to create an essay that is clearly your own, that could not have been produced by anyone else. In answering each question, be sure to include precise, personal details to bring your narrative to life. Avoid cliches and bland phrases that could describe any generic professional, and write with a positive energy that conveys both your passion for your chosen career path and your earnest desire to pursue graduate-level education in your field.

Specific examples from your life and career that highlight the major points in your essay are a great way to ensure your written statement is truly personal. Admissions committees love when you show them exactly how you have overcome obstacles or demonstrated leadership rather than simply telling them.

Be clear about your goals

While it is certainly important to frame yourself as a candidate who will contribute positively to your graduate school of choice, it is equally crucial to be clear and articulate about exactly what it is you want to get out of the program. Admissions committees want to see that you’re serious about using your degree so that you represent the university well as an alum and enhance your program’s reputation through your own career success.

To make this apparent in your statement of purpose, write in detail about your professional goal. Take the online MS in Computer and Information Sciences as an example. Are you seeking to pivot into a career in this field, or are you already an IT professional who is looking for a path toward advancement? Is there a specific job title you would like to earn when your education is complete, or a subset of the field in which you would like to specialize? State each of these goals and draw a connection for your reader between pursuing graduate education and achieving them.

Write for your audience

It’s not enough just to point out how continuing your education will help you reach your professional goals; you need to specify for your reader how their university in particular is the only place that can take you where you want to go. In preparing your statement of purpose, be sure to research your graduate program and university of choice in depth so you can articulate exactly how they are the right match for you.

Does the program to which you’re applying offer a flexible curriculum with electives you can tailor to your specific goals? Do they offer a concentration or specialization in a field you want to work in? Does the faculty’s research interests and professional experience line up with what excites you about the field in which you want to work? Do they have a record of placing alumni at great jobs in companies you’d love to work for? Mention any and all of these things to show how perfect the fit would be for you in this program.

Proofread, revise, repeat

The most compelling personal narrative in the world is useless if presented sloppily. The admissions committee wants to see that you are a polished professional who exhibits strong attention to detail. In order to demonstrate this for them, carefully proofread your essay for any typos or grammatical errors. As you’re doing this, think about whether your word choices throughout are professional, clear and confident, and revise if necessary to achieve the proper tone.

After you feel like your statement of purpose is in a good place, it can be extremely helpful to enlist the assistance of a friend or colleague to go over it with a second set of eyes. Additional editors often catch errors you may have missed, and they can bring unexpected insights from their own experience that can help you ensure your writing connects with any potential reader.

Include your standout personal statement in your online MS in Computer and Information Sciences application

Now that you know how to wow the admissions committee, put your new skills to use in the statement of purpose you include with your application to the online MS in Computer and Information Sciences at Marquette University. Read about how the online curriculum at Marquette is perfect for career changers and experienced professionals, and explore the rest of the program’s streamlined application requirements.