Graduate education is focused on master’s and doctorate degrees, which can open many doors for you. Judges, business leaders, and inventors all go through graduate school at some point in their life. However, it’s not always about getting a degree because you can enter and receive training in only a few subjects. For example, accountants, teachers, or industry leaders may need certification showing they passed just a few courses to advance their careers or get funding for their projects.
It’s not only about the career ladder or the improvement of business processes. Learning is a goal for many people who wish to find meaning in their life or have a new start.
The path that led you to apply to a graduate school tells a lot about you. A statement of purpose, or just SOP, is your story written simply and concisely that shows the readers your goals based on your past. The way to write it is to show the path you have come through. SOP writing can be challenging if you’ve never done it before. Below are the key steps to prepare your statement of purpose.
Step 1: Don’t Ask Yourself “Why?” Ask “What?”
Everyone feels queasy when asked “why?” because they need to justify themselves as human beings, and you can always imagine dismissive statements to your every attempt to do it. More than that, when you justify yourself in front of someone, they feel awkward because they somehow imply you need to do so. Lastly, very few people enjoy it, and it’s usually your cue to thank your way out of the room.
Instead of trying to be the first person to successfully answer the question “why?” focus on “what?” What do you plan to achieve in the long run by applying to graduate school? This will add focus to your search for the grad school, the funding options, and what you will write about in your statement of purpose.
What are your goals for graduate school? How often is the outside world focused on us? Most of the time, it’s about others. Write about what you can do to improve the study process of your future fellow students. Don’t forget about how you can add to the learning, research, and extracurricular activities on campus. Tell the readers where you aim to be in the future, and they will see why you inspire them the most out of hundreds of applicants.
Step 2: Play to Your Strengths
There is always something you don’t know or cannot do. It’s a problem you want to solve, and graduate schools can help you. Look how they talk about their strengths when they promote their graduate programs. So when you advertise yourself in front of them, talk about your strengths. Statement of purpose is about looking at yourself from the side and seeing your strong points.
Step 3: Never Say Never
Make a list of graduate schools you would like to apply to. Research which schools have programs that suit the long-term and short-term goals you identified previously. Include schools like Harvard, but don’t forget about your local community college. All options should be at the table at this stage since you really cannot know what various schools look for in their prospective graduate students. Best-case and worst-case scenarios can help give you perspective on graduate education.
Step 4: Look at Your Graduate Degree as an Investment
Money is a significant factor for graduate school consideration, and advanced professional education is best considered an investment. Funding can come either from your own pocket or designated scholarships. It can even be an integral part of the program, in which case you are paid either a stipend for good performance or a small salary for teaching duties at the university. Schools almost always openly state available options, and scholarships can be researched online.
Step 5: Networking Is Simple
Networking can be as simple as having one phone call with a person from one of the graduate schools on your list. During the call, you can ask one or two questions you don’t understand about the application process, not only to that school but in general. In addition, it wouldn’t hurt anyone to write one email requesting clarifications on the application process or funding opportunities.
When it comes to PhD applications, making a preliminary contact is widely considered a must. In this case, it is best to do it via email and be very short. The letter should be boiled down to one central question, which is most often about the prospective research topic you would like to work on.
Step 6: You Have the Ingredients, It’s Time to Organize
After making all preliminary steps, you already have a statement of purpose for many graduate schools. You identified poor matches to your goals. The majority of the work has been done. The steps above form the outline of your statement of purpose. Next, you need to list all options.
Your outline is your first draft and a template for all your applications. Your SOP can be made easier by having a good template. You can use it as a view of yourself that you will need to rework and adapt to make it sufficiently personal and precise. Put together your long-term and short-term goals, abilities, expertise, strengths, and funding options, and bind them with the needs of graduate schools and campuses you wish to become part of.
Step 7: Edit, Send, Repeat
In short, make it simple. If you did the above steps, your statement of purpose would be full of specific details from which you could choose the most aligned with the needs of each graduate school on your list. The only thing left is to follow the style guidelines provided by the graduate schools and send applications to all of them. Even if admission to one of them seems a certainty and another seems a definite miss, the best choice is to apply to all the researched options because it’s only agreements in writing that count.