Congrats! You’ve chosen a graduate program and are ready to begin your application. An important piece of the graduate school application is your statement of purpose, also called a “personal statement” or “letter of intent.” Admissions committees will examine this to see if you’re a good fit for their school.
Your statement of purpose can help you stand out from the crowd and could be your ticket into the graduate program of your dreams. This guide explores how to write an impactful statement of purpose, including formatting, topics, and tips for success.
What is a Statement of Purpose?
A statement of purpose is an essay that tells the admissions board who you are, why you’re a good candidate for your chosen program, and how earning this degree would further your career aspirations. It is one of the most important aspects of your application. Your statement of purpose should answer questions like:
- In what ways are this school and program a good fit for you?
- What makes you unique?
- What obstacles have you overcome in your life to get to where you are now?
- What is your long-term career goal, and how would earning this degree support this goal?
How Long is a Statement of Purpose?
Length typically ranges between 500 and 1,000 words but be sure to follow the guidelines specified by the school. Use a standard font such as Times New Roman in a readable size (11 or 12 points). Double-space your essay and use normal margins.
9 Tips for Writing a Great Statement of Purpose
- Read the instructions: This may seem obvious, but after filling out several applications, some students begin to skip over vital information. Different programs have different prompts and requirements, so make sure to thoroughly read the instructions before you begin.
- Research the program: Learn everything you can about the particular program you’re applying to. Referencing unique attributes of the school and program will leave a more lasting impression and will show the admissions officer that you have done your homework.
- Know your audience: Remember that you’re writing to a university admissions officer—not judges in a creative writing contest. They are not looking for an extensive or artistically innovative story. They are expecting a clear, well-structured essay.
- Choose your angle: The purpose of your statement is to present your personal story to the admissions committees. It should not be generic or cliché. How have you overcome challenges in your life? What did you learn that could apply to succeeding in graduate school?
- Outline what you will bring to the program: Focus on the life experiences and personal qualities that make you unique. What talents and perspectives will you bring to their program and graduate student community? In which ways do you stand out from your peers? Which campus organizations do you plan to get involved in?
- Discuss what you studied in undergrad: Mention what you studied in your undergraduate program. What courses did you find most exciting? Discuss how you will build on that knowledge in graduate school.
- Mention valuable experiences outside of school: Discuss any research, paid, or volunteer experience you’ve done outside of school that relates to your degree and future goals.
- Add quantifiable details: It’s great to mention that you volunteered, but be sure to include quantifiable details such as how long, where, and any accolades you received (as space permits).
- Ask for feedback: Once you’re done with your first draft, ask people you respect to review your essay. Consider family members, professors, or other mentors who can provide a unique perspective on how your statement conveys your skills and passion.
Examples of Topics for Specific Programs
If you are applying to a graduate nursing program, your graduate school statement should provide insight into your passion for nursing, perhaps illustrated by an anecdote from your career. Highlight what attracts you to this particular program and why. Make sure to discuss which field of nursing you are currently working in and how earning your graduate degree in nursing would further your long-term career goal. List your academic background and accolades, any relevant paid or volunteer experience, and the individual characteristics that would make you a valuable addition to their program.
When writing a personal statement for an occupational therapy program, begin by showing your enthusiasm for the profession. Demonstrate your knowledge of what occupational therapy is and how it helps patients live to their fullest potential. Make sure to include any relevant work experience or volunteer experience as well as your educational background and academic interests, as these are common interview questions. You might explore the moment you realized you wanted to be an occupational therapist—or discuss why it’s so important for patients to improve their function in daily occupations.
To write a personal statement for a physical therapy program, make sure to write sincerely and passionately. You could start by choosing an experience that motivated you to pursue the profession. How did this experience shape you and your future goals as a physical therapist? Be sure to mention your academic background and work experience. Consider also discussing:
- An experience you had with a person who has an injury or disability
- The importance of quality of life and movement
- Which PT specialty you are most interested in
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) is a graduate institution that offers degree programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, nursing, education, health administration, and health science, as well as continuing education programs. Founded in 1979, USAHS has locations in San Marcos, California; St. Augustine, Florida; Austin, Texas; Dallas, Texas; and Miami, Florida. USAHS is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).