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How to Structure and Write a great Statement of Purpose for Graduate School?

Hi, I am a mechanical engineering senior interested in applying for grad school for next fall. I understand that schools want a statement of purpose/essay detailing why I want to apply for the program, my interests, my experience, etc. I'm interested in design and manufacturing engineering and I have research experience from my current school, but I'm just not sure how to put it all together.

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Kim’s Answer


Start with the understanding that nobody truly "reads" anymore. Since it is an essay, you probably don't want to use bullet points, but, dang near! Make it easy for them to scan it and get the key points. How?

Begin with your conclusion: pack a punch (I learned this in legal writing!) Example: " I think the death penalty should be abolished because too many innocent people are executed, it disproportionately impacts the poor and minorities, it is costly for society to prosecute and defend the accused, and it does nothing to deter others from committing crimes." You would then have a paragraph on each point, with the first sentence of each paragraph also packing a punch, and end with a conclusion which is a restatement of your main points.

If you cannot think at a keyboard, please use paper and pen! Scribble down your thoughts. Don't worry about getting the wording right, getting them in order, or anything like that, just capture them before they slip away. You can always clean it up later. Make sure you read and re-read what the school wants the statement to say. Remember it is not all about you. Don't get too mushy with it, but, you have a gift, and you want to contribute to society - however you want to say that! You may want to hit on your ability to meet your goals, how you have planned to be able to do that, you have nothing else standing in your way of completing the program, etc etc.

Might not hurt to run it by a professor!

Hope this helps!

Good luck!


Thanks for the feedback Kim! I'll definitely try this! Melvin S.

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G. Mark’s Answer

First thing you should do it put an outline together. And how to do that if you've never written a statement of purpose before? You research the task just as you would any other task. And with the internet, you have vast amounts of info available, so look around for other statements of purpose examples. Then you look these over and see what the commonality of the best ones is. Categorize each section into a heading -- for example, "overall purpose", "My eventual goal," "What I want out of a career," and so on. These general headings are your outline and give you your organization. This will give you the kick to get started on each section because you'll already be focused on the subsection content when you begin writing. A further help is taking these sections to as many other people as you can. Get their reaction. Hear their questions. Hear their criticisms. So instead of just winging this on your own, take advantage of all these resources. And you'll end up with an organized and focused version of exactly what's in your heart and your head and you'll be more confident of its being able to convey that to your chosen graduate school. When I've got a task to do, especially one I haven't tackled before, I don't like to take chances. I want to see what my target audience expects and wants first. So do that. Sound good? Takes a lot of the anxiety away, I think.

Awesome! Thanks for the advice Mark! Melvin S.

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