Northeastern University Graduate Programs

How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

Congrats! You’ve chosen a graduate program , read up on tips for applying to grad school , and even wrote a focused grad school resumé . But if you’re like many students, you’ve left the most daunting part of the application process for last—writing a statement of purpose. The good news is, the task doesn’t have to feel so overwhelming, as long as you break the process down into simple, actionable steps. Below, learn how to write a strong, unique statement of purpose that will impress admissions committees and increase your chances of getting into your dream school.

What is a statement of purpose?

A statement of purpose (SOP), sometimes referred to as a personal statement, is a critical piece of a graduate school application that tells admissions committees who you are, what your academic and professional interests are, and how you’ll add value to the graduate program you’re applying to.

Jared Pierce, associate director of enrollment services at Northeastern University, says a strong statement of purpose can be the deciding factor in a graduate student’s admission.  

“Your statement of purpose is where you tell your story about who you are and why you deserve to be a part of the [university’s] community. It gives the admissions committee the chance to get to know you and understand how you’ll add value to the classroom,” he says.

How long is a statement of purpose?

“A statement of purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words,” Pierce says, noting that it should typically not exceed a single page. He advises that students use a traditional font at a readable size (11- or 12-pt) and leave enough whitespace in the margins to make the statement easy-to-read. Make sure to double-space the statement if the university has requested it, he adds. 

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How to Write a Statement of Purpose: A Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you understand how to format a statement of purpose, you can begin drafting your own. Getting started can feel daunting, but Pierce suggests making the process more manageable by breaking down the writing process into four easy steps.

1. Brainstorm your ideas.

First, he says, try to reframe the task at hand and get excited for the opportunity to write your statement of purpose. He explains:

“Throughout the application process, you’re afforded few opportunities to address the committee directly. Here is your chance to truly speak directly to them. Each student arrives at this process with a unique story, including prior jobs, volunteer experience, or undergraduate studies. Think about what makes you you and start outlining.”

When writing your statement of purpose, he suggests asking yourself these key questions:

  • Why do I want this degree?
  • What are my expectations for this degree?
  • What courses or program features excite me the most?
  • Where do I want this degree to take me, professionally and personally?
  • How will my unique professional and personal experiences add value to the program?

Jot these responses down to get your initial thoughts on paper. This will act as your starting point that you’ll use to create an outline and your first draft.

2. Develop an outline.

Next, you’ll want to take the ideas that you’ve identified during the brainstorming process and plug them into an outline that will guide your writing. 

An effective outline for your statement of purpose might look something like this:

  • An attention-grabbing hook
  • A brief introduction of yourself and your background as it relates to your motivation behind applying to graduate school
  • Your professional goals as they relate to the program you’re applying to
  • Why you’re interested in the specific school and what you can bring to the table
  • A brief summary of the information presented in the body that emphasizes your qualifications and compatibility with the school

An outline like the one above will give you a roadmap to follow so that your statement of purpose is well-organized and concise. 

3. Write the first draft.

Your statement of purpose should communicate who you are and why you are interested in a particular program, but it also needs to be positioned in a way that differentiates you from other applicants. 

Admissions professionals already have your transcripts, resumé, and test scores; the statement of purpose is your chance to tell your story in your own words.

When you begin drafting content, make sure to:

  • Provide insight into what drives you , whether that’s professional advancement, personal growth, or both.
  • Demonstrate your interest in the school by addressing the unique features of the program that interest you most. For Northeastern, he says, maybe it’s experiential learning; you’re excited to tackle real-world projects in your desired industry. Or perhaps it’s learning from faculty who are experts in your field of study.
  • Be yourself. It helps to keep your audience in mind while writing, but don’t forget to let your personality shine through. It’s important to be authentic when writing your statement to show the admissions committee who you are and why your unique perspective will add value to the program.

4. Edit and refine your work.

Before you submit your statement of purpose:

  • Make sure you’ve followed all directions thoroughly , including requirements about margins, spacing, and font size.
  • Proofread carefully for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Remember that a statement of purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words. If you’ve written far more than this, read through your statement again and edit for clarity and conciseness. Less is often more; articulate your main points strongly and get rid of any “clutter.”
  • Walk away and come back later with a fresh set of eyes. Sometimes your best ideas come when you’re not sitting and staring at your computer.
  • Ask someone you trust to read your statement before you submit it.

Making a Lasting Impression

Your statement of purpose can leave a lasting impression if done well, Pierce says. It provides you with the opportunity to highlight your unique background and skills so that admissions professionals understand why you’re the ideal candidate for the program that you’re applying to. If nothing else, stay focused on what you uniquely bring to the classroom, the program, and the campus community. If you do that, you’ll excel.

To learn more tricks and tips for submitting an impressive graduate school application, explore our related Grad School Success articles .

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in March 2017. It has since been updated for thoroughness and accuracy.

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Will you be successful as a graduate student? Your background, experience, passion for your field, and other factors help to answer this question during the application review process. 

Academic transcripts and resumes do not always tell a complete story. Your Statement of Professional Goals (or Personal Statement) will help to “fill in the blanks” and allow others to get a deeper understanding of you and your path.


Ask yourself the following questions and write down your thoughts:

  • Why am I interested in this field of study and degree?
  • What do I expect to learn or gain from this program?
  • What courses or experiences am I most looking forward to?
  • How will this program impact my personal and professional lives? 
  • How will I contribute to the learning environment within the program?

Create an outline to help keep your ideas organized. Your reflections (above) can be used throughout your Statement of Professional Goals.

  • Briefly introduce yourself and your background (as it relates to you applying for graduate school).
  • 1 to 3 examples of relevant experiences or accomplishments.  
  • Your professional and educational goals.
  • Why you are interested in the Morgridge College of Education (and what you can bring to the community!).
  • Summarize what you’ve already shared. Be sure to emphasize how your qualifications align with the program you are interested in.

3. Work on Your Draft

Give yourself time to work on your Statement. If you think your Statement is done after one sitting, there is a good chance that you’ve forgotten something important (or, worse yet, have significant grammatical or other errors).

4. Prepare Your Final Version

If you’re done editing and feel ready to submit your Statement, please make sure to adhere to MCE’s formatting guidelines.

  • Length : 2-3 pages
  • Font : 12-point Times New Roman
  • Spacing : Double
  • Citations : APA format 

What to Include

  • Your voice! Your Statement should demonstrate your passion for the program you’re interested in. It is also an opportunity for you to let your personality shine through. 
  • What you know (or don’t!). Whether you’re hoping to fill a knowledge gap or want to grow your expertise, let us know what you want to learn.
  • Faculty mentions. Is there a faculty member whose research areas align with your interests? Make sure to mention them!
  • Plans or context. If you are addressing issues, be sure to explain how you plan to overcome them. As an example, if you let us know why your GPA was lower than you had hoped, you should explain what you’ve done (or will do) to maintain a high level of academic performance.

Try Not to Include

  • Vague or generalized goals. Saying that you “have a passion for education” is helpful, but we’d much rather know how you hope that passion will translate into your program experience and future career.
  • Another college’s name. If you’re applying to multiple colleges, try to have a different Statement prepared for each one. Every program is unique. Your Statement(s) should be specific to each program that you’re applying to.
  • Find someone to help review your Statement. Parents, siblings, friends, and colleagues may be willing to look over your Statement to help spot issues or errors.
  • Microsoft Office Spelling & Grammar Checkers
  • Google Docs Spelling & Grammar Checkers
  • Writing Your Statement of Purpose from Inside Higher Ed. Get tips on introducing yourself and more.
  • Writing the Personal Statement from Purdue OWL. Get advice on reflecting, writing, and other important topics.  

/images/cornell/logo35pt_cornell_white.svg" alt="how to write a statement of goals and objectives for graduate school"> Cornell University --> Graduate School

Writing your academic statement of purpose.

Student typing on a laptop

What is it?

Each applicant must submit an academic statement of purpose (ASOP). The ASOP is one of your primary opportunities to help the admissions committee understand your academic objectives and determine if you are a good match for the program you are applying to. The goal of this document is to impress upon the admissions committee that you have a solid background and experience in your area of interest and that you have the potential to be successful in graduate study.

Why is it important?

The ASOP is one of the most important pieces of your graduate school application because it:

  • Gives the reviewers an understanding of your academic background and interests.
  • Allows you to illustrate in your own words what sets you apart from other applicants.
  • Helps them determine if you are a good match for the program to which you are applying.
  • Shows your communication style and ability.

Information to Include

Introduce yourself and your academic interests.

  • Provide simple background information on your area of interest and how it became of particular interest to you.
  • Here you can also share with them how and why you decided to pursue a graduate degree in this field.

Describe your academic background, preparation, and training

  • Skills you have learned from academic, lab, or research experiences (e.g., undergraduate coursework, research opportunities, scholarly writings, jobs in the field, presentations, etc.). Whenever possible, give specific examples and illustrate the points you are making, don’t just simply tell them.
  • Research you conducted – project title or focus, research mentor, your specific role, what you learned and the outcome. If there were challenges, don’t be afraid to mention what you learned from them. This shows persistence and resilience in the face of adversity– these are also things they are looking for!
  • Important papers or thesis project you completed, as well as anything scholarly beyond your academic degree requirements.
  • Relevant work or internship experience as related to the field you are applying to.

Show them you are making an informed decision

  • Indicate what you would like to study in graduate school in enough detail to convince the faculty that you understand the scope of research in the discipline and are aware of research trends.
  • Show them that you have thoroughly researched the program, its faculty, and research focus areas, and why you are applying to this program specifically. This will help you write a more informed essay that is relatable to the faculty who will be reviewing your application.
  • Describe why you are a good fit for the program and why the program is a good fit for you.
  • If there are specific faculty you are interested in working with, check the program’s ASOP instructions and determine how best to mention this in your essay. Some programs require you to name a professor(s) with whom you would like to work.
  • Are there any aspects of the program that are of particular interest to you (immersion program, opportunities for collaboration with others outside of the institution, research centers associated with the program, etc.)?
  • Include information that is important to you outside of the program – supportive environment for first-year students, access to amazing literary resources, opportunities to participate in professional/career development programming, etc.
  • Professional goals – you may wish to outline what you plan to do after you complete the program as a way of underscoring the importance of your choice to pursue graduate study.
  • Share any extracurricular opportunities you have had that show leadership, ability to work with a diverse group of people, teaching skills, etc.
  • Research degree applicants should identify specific faculty members whose research interests align with your own interests. 

Important Things to Remember

  • Pay attention and follow instructions very carefully – every program is different and some have specific items/topics they want you to address.
  • Unless otherwise noted, this is an academically focused essay, not necessarily a personal essay. You will likely add some personal details here and there, but be sure to keep the focus on your academic background and future potential.
  • Proofread and pay close attention to details – they really matter!
  • Have others from a variety of perspectives read your essay before you submit it – they should be looking at it in terms of content, style, and grammar. Remember, those outside of your field can provide you with valuable perspective and feedback.
  • Keep in mind that you can continue editing your ASOP after you have submitted it to programs with earlier deadlines.

Length, Format and Tone

  • Unless otherwise noted one to two pages in a standard font and size is typical.
  • Include your full name and proposed program of study at the top of each page – if faculty are not reading an electronic version of your essay, pages can become separated.
  • Write with confidence and in an active voice – doing this makes your sentences clear and less wordy/complicated.
  • Language should be positive and focused. Since faculty are the ones reviewing your application, it is fine to use discipline-specific terminology, tone, and style in your ASOP.

Final Checklist

  • Described your academic background in enough detail to show your experience and preparedness in the field?
  • Shown that you are a good fit for the program you are applying to?
  • Defined why you want a graduate degree in this field?
  • Demonstrated that you are self-motivated, persistent, competent, and have the skills necessary to be successful in graduate school?
  • Followed the ASOP instructions as defined by the program you are applying to?
  • Polished, proofread, and had others review your ASOP?

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How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

When writing your statement of purpose for graduate school, focus on your specific plans and how the graduate program and its faculty will help you meet these goals. Graduate study is not for slackers. It takes focus and determination to pursue an advanced degree. That's why admissions committees examine your statement of purpose (also called a letter of intent or research statement) very closely—they want to see whether you have the right stuff to succeed in grad school. Follow these tips to write an effective graduate school statement of purpose.

Grad School Statement of Purpose

1. Know what grad schools are really asking.

Different grad school programs have different prompts. Nonetheless, they're all asking for the same four pieces of information:

  • What you want to study at graduate school?
  • Why you want to study it?
  • What experience you have in your field?
  • What you plan to do with your degree once you have it?

Admissions committees look for candidates with clear, well-defined research interests that arise from experience. With that in mind, your statement of purpose should reveal that you care deeply about your chosen discipline and that you have the background to support your ideas and sentiments. It should also demonstrate that you're a diligent student who will remain committed for the long haul. Always answer the question asked of you. Being substantive and direct is much better than being creative or flashy.

2. Be selective about the details you include.

Grad schools don’t care that you make a great chicken casserole or play intramural bocce ball. They do care about those activities that speak to your suitability for graduate work. As a graduate student, you'll be called upon to do difficult coursework and research. You may have to teach undergraduate classes within your field and conceivably even design a course. And you'll have to get along with a diverse group of colleagues who will sometimes work very closely with you. Any experience in school, work, or your extracurricular life that speaks to those abilities is worth talking about.

Read More: 5 Tips for Choosing a Grad School

3. Make your statement of purpose unique.

While it's important to be focused, there's no need to be boring. To distinguish your essay, add unique (yet relevant) information. 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.

Remember, the idea you choose to talk about can tell an admissions committee a lot about you. And it demonstrates your interest in your field, rather than just describing it.

4. Ask for feedback.

Be sure to show your statement of purpose to someone you respect, preferably the professors who are writing your recommendations, and get some feedback on the content before you send it in. Have someone else proofread your essay for spelling and grammar. A fresh set of eyes often picks up something you missed.

Finally, don't just reuse the same statement of purpose for each school to which you apply. You can recycle the same information, but make sure you change the presentation to fit each individual program.

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Gre prep online guides and tips, 7 successful statement of purpose examples.

how to write a statement of goals and objectives for graduate school

Not sure what graduate schools are looking for in a statement of purpose? Looking at successful graduate school statement of purpose samples can help! In this guide, we’ll orient you to what makes a great statement of purpose or letter of intent for graduate school. Then we’ll provide you with four successful statement of purpose examples from our graduate school experts. We’ll also provide analysis of what makes them successful. Finally, we’ll direct you to even more helpful examples that you can find online!

The Graduate School Statement of Purpose: An Overview

A statement of purpose (also called a letter of intent or a research statement) introduces your interests and experience to the admissions committee. For research-focused programs, like most PhDs and many master’s degrees, your statement of purpose will focus primarily on your past research experience and plans. For more professionally-focused graduate programs, your statement of purpose will primarily discuss how your pursuit of this professional program relates to your past experiences, and how you will use the skills from the program in your future career.

A statement of purpose for grad school is also where you sell the admissions committee on why you belong in their program specifically. Why do you fit there, and how does what they offer fit your interests?


What’s in a Great Grad School Statement of Purpose?

Here are the essential elements of a strong graduate school statement of purpose:

Clear Articulation of Goals and Interests

A strong statement of purpose will clearly and specifically lay out your goals in undertaking the program and what you hope to accomplish with the degree. Again, for a research-focused program, this will focus primarily on the research project(s) you want to undertake while you are there. For a more professional program, discuss what interests you within the professional field and what skills/knowledge you hope to gain through the program.

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You should be as specific as possible in discussing what interests you. Use examples of particular phenomena, tools, or situations that you find exciting. If you are vague or say that everything in the field interests you, you run the risk of seeming unfocused or not actually that passionate.

Don’t worry that being too specific will box you into a particular research area or subfield during your entire tenure in graduate school. Your program understands that interests change—they won’t be pulling out your research statement to cross-reference with your dissertation proposal!

Evidence of Past Experience and Success

A great graduate school statement of purpose will also show programs that you have already been successful. They want applicants that will be able to follow through on their research/professional plans!

To this end, you’ll need to provide evidence of how your background qualifies you to pursue this program and your specific interests in the field. You’ll probably discuss your undergraduate studies and any professional experience you have. But be sure to draw on specific, vivid examples.  You might draw on your thesis, major projects you’ve worked on, papers you have written/published, presentations you’ve given, mentors you’ve worked with, and so on. This gives admissions committees concrete evidence that you are qualified to undertake graduate study!


Interest and Fit With the Program

The third essential ingredient to a great statement of purpose is to clearly lay out why you and the program are a good fit. You should be able to identify both specific reasons why your work fits with the program and why the program suits your work/interests! Are there particular professors you’d like to work with? Does the department have a strong tradition in a certain methodology or theory you’re interested in? Is there a particular facet to the curriculum that you’d like to experience?

Showing that you and the program are a match shows that you chose the program thoughtfully and have genuine interest in it. Programs want to admit students who aren’t just passionate about the field. They want students who are genuinely enthused about their specific program and positioned to get the most out of what they have to offer.

Strong Writing

The final essential piece of a strong statement of purpose or letter of intent is strong writing. Writing skills are important for all graduate programs. You’ll need to demonstrate that you can clearly and effectively communicate your ideas in a way that flows logically. Additionally, you should show that you know how to write in a way that is descriptive but concise. A statement of purpose shouldn’t ever be longer than two pages, even without a hard word limit.

Admissions committees for humanities programs may be a little more focused on writing style than admissions officers for STEM programs. But even in quantitative and science-focused fields, written communication skills are an essential part of graduate school. So a strong statement of purpose will always be effectively written. You’ll see this in our statement of purpose for graduate school samples.


Real, Successful Statement of Purpose Samples

In this section, we’ll present four successful graduate school statement of purpose examples from our graduate school experts, along with a brief commentary on each statement. These statements come from a diverse selection of program types to show you how the core essentials of a statement of purpose can be implemented differently for different fields.

Note: identifying information for these statements have been changed—except for example four, which is my statement.

  • Statement of Purpose Sample One: Japanese Studies MA

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 7.31.42 PM

This statement of purpose is notable for its great use of space and its vivid descriptions. The author is able to cram a lot into about a page. She discusses how she came to her two primary research interests (and how they are connected). She integrates this discussion of her interests with information on her past experiences and qualifications for pursuing the course of study. Finally, she includes details on her goals in pursuing the program and components of the program that interest her. Her examples are specific and fleshed-out. There’s a lot very cleverly included in a small amount of page space!

Additionally, the language is very vivid. Phrases like “evocative and visceral” and “steadily unraveling,” are eye-catching and intriguing. They demonstrate that she has the writing skills necessary to pursue both graduate study and her interest in translation.

  • Statement of Purpose Sample Two: Music MM

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 7.32.01 PM

This sample is fairly long, although at 12 point Times New Roman it’s under two pages single-spaced. The length of this statement is partially due to the somewhat expansive nature of the prompt, which asks what role music has played in the applicant’s life “to date.” This invites applicants to speak more about experiences further in the past (in the childhood and teen years) than is typical for a statement of purpose. Given that this is for a master’s degree in music, this is logical; musical study is typically something that is undertaken at a fairly young age.

This statement does an excellent job describing the student’s past experiences with music in great detail. The descriptions of the student’s past compositions and experiences performing new music are particularly vivid and intriguing.

This statement also lays out and elaborates on specific goals the student hopes to pursue through the program, as well as features particular to the program that interest the student (like particular professors).


  • Statement of Purpose Sample Three: Economics PhD

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 7.32.25 PM

One of the first things you’ll likely notice about this statement is that it’s a little on the longer side. However, at 12 point Times New Roman font and single-spaced, it still comes in under 2 pages (excluding references). It makes sense for a PhD statement of purpose sample to be longer than a master’s degree statement of purpose—there’s more to lay out in terms of research interests!

The writing style is fairly straightforward—there’s definitely a stronger focus on delivering content than flashy writing style. As Economics is a more quantitative-focused field, this is fine. But the writing is still well-organized, clear, and error-free.

The writer also gives numerous examples of their past work and experience, and shows off their knowledge of the field through references, which is a nice touch.

  • Statement of Purpose Sample Four: History of the Book MA

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 7.32.39 PM

This is actually my statement of purpose. It was for a program that I got accepted to but did not end up attending, for a Master’s in the History of the Book. You’ll notice that the two essay prompts essentially asked us to split our statement of purpose into two parts: the first prompt asked about our research interests and goals, and the second prompt asked about our relevant experience and qualifications.

I’ll keep my comments on this graduate school statement of purpose sample brief because I’ll do a deep dive on it in the next section. But looking back at my statement of purpose, I do a good job outlining what within the field interests me and clearly laying out how my past experiences have qualified me for the program.

Obviously this statement did its job, since I was accepted to the program. However, if I were to improve this statement, I’d change the cliche beginning  (“since I was a child”) and provide more specificity in what about the program interested me.


Deep Dive Analysis of a Sample Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

Next, we’ll do a paragraph by paragraph analysis of my statement, statement of purpose sample four. I’ll analyze its strengths and suggest ways I could shore up any weaknesses to make it even stronger.

Essay 1: Academic Interests

To refresh, here’s the first prompt: Please give a short statement that describes your academic interests, purpose, objectives and motivation in undertaking this postgraduate study. (max 3500 chars – approx. 500 words)

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Paragraph 1

Since I was a child, my favorite thing has always been a book. Not just for the stories and information they contain, although that is a large part of it. Mostly, I have been fascinated by the concept of book as object—a tangible item whose purpose is to relate intangible ideas and images. Bookbindings and jackets, different editions, the marginalia in a used book—all of these things become part of the individual book and its significance, and are worth study and consideration. Books and their equivalent forms—perfect bound, scrolled, stone tablets, papyrus—have long been an essential part of material culture and are also one of our most significant sources of information about the human historical past. Through both the literal object of the book, the words contained thereon, and its relationship to other books—forms of context, text and intertext—we are able to learn and hopefully manage layers of information with which we would otherwise have no familiarity.

First, the good: this paragraph does a good job introducing my academic interest in the book-as-object, and shows off pre-existing knowledge both of the study of material culture and literary theory. Additionally, the language is engaging: the juxtaposition of “tangible” and “intangible” in the beginning and phrases like “perfect bound, scrolled, stone tablets, papyrus” lend life to the writing and keep the reader engaged.

If I were to go back and improve this paragraph, first, I would absolutely change the first sentence to something less cliche than talking about my childhood. I might try something like “My love of books is a multifaceted thing. I don’t only love them for the stories and….” Second, I would chill out on the em dashes a little bit. Three sets in one paragraph is a little excessive. Finally, I might actually cut this paragraph down slightly to make more room word-wise later in the statement to discuss what specific things about the program interest me.


Paragraph 2

Furthermore, blogs, webcomics, digital archives, e-readers, and even social media sites like tumblr and Facebook have revolutionized the concept of the book by changing how we share and transmit ideas and information, just as the Gutenberg printing press revolutionized the book all those years ago in the fifteenth century. Once again there has been an explosion both in who can send out information and who can receive it.

This paragraph briefly and effectively introduces my other main academic interest: how new technology has changed the concept of the book-as-object. The tie-back to the printing press is a nice touch; it’s a vivid example that shows that I’m aware of important historical moments in book history.

Paragraph 3

I am deeply interested in the preservation of the physical book, as I think it is an important part of human history (not to mention a satisfying sensory experience for the reader). However I am also very concerned with the digitization and organization of information for the modern world such that the book, in all of its forms, stays relevant and easy to access and use. Collections of books, archives, and information as stored in the world’s servers, libraries and museums are essential resources that need to be properly organized and administered to be fully taken advantage of by their audiences. My purpose in applying to the University of Edinburgh’s Material Culture and History of the Book is to gain the skills necessary to keep all forms of the book relevant and functional in an age when information can move more radically than ever before.

This paragraph actually has a focus problem. Since it covers two topics, I should split it into two paragraphs: one on the integration of my two interests, and one on my goals and interests in the program. I could also stand to expand on what features the program has that interest me: professors I’d like to work with, particular aspects of the curriculum, etc.

In spite of these things, however, this paragraph does a good job clearly integrating the two academic interests related to the book I introduced in the first two paragraphs. And the language is still strong —“satisfying sensory experience” is a great phrase. However, I’ve been using the word “information,” a lot; I might try to replace with appropriate synonyms (like “knowledge”) in a couple of places.

Paragraph 4

Additionally, I intend on pursuing a PhD in Library and Information Sciences upon completion of my master’s and I feel that this program while make me uniquely suited to approach library science from a highly academic and interdisciplinary perspective.

This final paragraph offers just quick touch on my future goals beyond the program. It’s typically fine for this to be relatively brief, as it is here, just so long as you can clearly identify some future goals.


Essay 2: Relevant Experience

The second prompt just asked me to describe my relevant knowledge, training, and skills.

As a folklore and mythology student, I have gained a robust understanding of material culture and how it relates to culture as a whole. I have also learned about the transmission of ideas, information, stories and pieces of lore among and between populations, which is an important component of book history. Folklore is also deeply concerned with questions of the literary vs. oral lore and the tendency for text to “canonize” folklore, and yet text can also question or invert canonized versions; along with this my studies in my focus field of religion and storytelling have been deeply concerned with intertextuality. One of my courses was specifically concerned with the Heian-period Japanese novel The Tale of Genji and questions of translation and representation in post-Heian picture scrolls and also modern translations and manga. In addition to broader cultural questions concerned with gender and spirituality both in historical Japan and now, we considered the relationships between different Genji texts and images.

This is a strong, focused paragraph. I relate my academic background in Folklore and Mythology to my interests in studying the book, as well as showing off some of my knowledge in the area. I also chose and elaborated on a strong example (my class on the Tale of Genji ) of my relevant coursework.

I also have work experience that lends itself to the study of the book. After my freshman year of college I interned at the Chicago History Museum. Though I was in the visitor services department I was exposed to the preservation and archival departments of the museum and worked closely with the education department, which sparked my interest in archival collections and how museums present collection information to the public. After my sophomore year of college and into my junior year, I worked at Harvard’s rare books library, Houghton. At Houghton I prepared curated collections for archival storage. These collections were mostly comprised of the personal papers of noteworthy individuals, categorized into alphabetical folders. This experience made me very process-oriented and helped me to understand how collections come together on a holistic basis.

This paragraph also has a clear focus: my past, relevant work experience. Discussing archival collections and presenting information to the public links the interests discussed in my first statement with my qualifications in my second statement. However, if I were to revise this paragraph, I would add some specific examples of the amazing things I worked on and handled at Houghton Library. In that job, I got to touch Oliver Cromwell’s death mask! An interesting example would make this paragraph really pop even more.

Finally, in my current capacity as an education mentor in Allston, a suburb of Boston, I have learned the value of book history and material culture from an educational perspective. As a mentor who designs curriculum for individual students and small groups, I have learned to highly value clearly organized and useful educational resources such as websites, iPad apps, and books as tools for learning. By managing and organizing collections in a way that makes sense we are making information accessible to those who need it.

This final paragraph discusses my current (at the time) work experience in education and how that ties into my interest in the history of the book. It’s an intriguing connection and also harkens back to my discussion of information availability in the paragraph three of the first statement. Again, if I were to amp up this statement even more, I might include a specific example of a book-based (or book technology-based) project I did with one of my students. I worked on things like bookbinding and making “illuminated manuscripts” with some of my students; those would be interesting examples here.

This statement is split into two parts by virtue of the two-prompt format. However, if I were to integrate all of this information into one unified statement of purpose, I would probably briefly introduce my research interests, go in-depth on my background, then circle back around to speak more about my personal interests and goals and what intrigues me about the program. There’s not really one correct way to structure a statement of purpose just so long as it flows well and paragraphs are structured in a logical way: one topic per paragraph, with a clear topic and concluding sentence.


More Statement of Purpose Examples

We’ve provided you with four great graduate school statement of purpose examples from our graduate school experts. However, if you’re looking for more, there are other sample letters of intent and statements of purpose for graduate school online. We’ve rounded up the best ones here, along with some strengths and weaknesses about each example.

Majortests Statement of Purpose Sample

This is a fairly straightforward, clearly written statement of purpose sample for a biology program. It includes useful commentary after each paragraph about what this statement of purpose is accomplishing.

  • This statement of purpose sample is well-organized, with clear topic sentences and points made in each paragraph.
  • The student clearly identifies what interests her about the program.
  • The student proactively addresses questions about why she hasn’t gone directly to graduate school, and frames her professional research experience as a positive thing.
  • She gives a tiny bit of color about her personality in a relevant way by discussing her involvement with the Natural History Society.
  • In general, discussing high school interests is too far back in time unless the anecdote is very interesting or unusual. The detail about The Theory of Evolution is intriguing; the information about the high school teacher seems irrelevant. The student should have condensed this paragraph into a sentence or two.
  • While this statement is cogently written and makes the candidate sound competent and well-qualified, it’s not exactly the most scintillating piece of writing out there. Some of the constructions are a little awkward or cliche. For example, the “many people have asked me” sentence followed by “the answer is” is a little bit clunky. This is probably fine for a STEM program. But just be aware that this statement is not a paragon of writing style.

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UC Berkeley History Statement of Purpose Sample

This is a graduate school statement of purpose example from the UC Berkeley History department’s PhD program, with annotations from a professor as to why it’s a successful statement.

  • The author is able to very clearly and articulately lay out her research interests and link them to past work she has successfully completed, namely, her thesis.
  • She is able to identify several things about the program and Berkeley that indicate why it is a good fit for her research interests.
  • She addresses the time she spent away from school and frames it as a positive, emphasizing that her use of time was well-considered and productive.
  • Her writing is very vivid, with excellent word choice and great imagery.

While very well-written and engaging, this sample statement of purpose for graduate school is a little bit on the long side! It’s a little over two single-spaced pages, which is definitely pushing the limits of acceptable length. Try to keep yours at 2 pages or less. Some of the information on the thesis (which comprises over half of the statement of purpose) could be condensed to bring it down to two pages.


Pharmacy Residency Letter of Intent Sample

This is not technically a sample letter of intent for graduate school because it’s actually for a pharmacy residency program. However, this example still provides illumination as to what makes a decent graduate school letter of intent sample.

  • This is a serviceable letter of intent: the writer clearly lays out their own goals within the field of pharmacy, what qualifications they have and how they’ve arrived at their interests, and how the program fits their needs.
  • The writing is clearly structured and well-organized.
  • The main weakness is that some of the writer’s statements come across as fairly generic. For example, “The PGY-1 Residency Program at UO Hospitals will provide me with the opportunity to further develop my clinical knowledge, critical thinking, teaching, research, and leadership skills” is a generic statement that could apply to any residency program. A punchier, more program-specific conclusion would have amped up this letter.
  • While the writer does a decent job providing examples of their activities, like working as a tutor and attending the APhA conference, more specificity and detail in these examples would make the statement more memorable.
  • There’s a typo in the last paragraph —a “to” that doesn’t belong! This is an unprofessional blip in an otherwise solid letter. Read you own letter of intent aloud to avoid this!

NIU Bad Statement of Purpose Example

This is an ineffective graduate school statement of purpose example, with annotations on why it doesn’t work.

As you might imagine, the main strength in this document is as an example of what not to do. Otherwise, there is little to recommend it.

  • The annotations quite clearly detail the weaknesses of this statement. So I won’t address them exhaustively except to point out that this statement of purpose fails at both content and style. The author includes irrelevant anecdotes and lists without offering a decisive picture of interests or any particular insight into the field. Additionally, the statement is riddled with grammatical mistakes, awkward sentence structures, and strange acronyms.
  • You’ll note that the commentary advises you to “never start with a quote.” I agree that you should never start with a freestanding quote as in this example. However, I do think starting with a quote is acceptable in cases like the Berkeley history example above, where the quote is brief and then directly linked to the research interest.


Graduate School Statement of Purpose Examples: 4 Key Points

Graduate programs ask for statement of purpose to hear about your interests and goals and why you think you and the program would be a good fit.

There are four key elements to a successful statement of purpose:

  • A clear articulation of your goals and interests
  • Evidence of past experiences and success
  • Interest and fit with the program
  • Strong writing

We’ve provided you with four successful statement of purpose samples from our graduate school experts!

We also provided additional statement of purpose samples (and a sample letter of intent) for graduate school from other sources on the internet. Now you have all kinds of guidance!

What’s Next?

If you’re looking for more information on graduate school , see our guide to what makes a good GPA for grad school .

Not sure if you need to take the GRE ? See if you can get into graduate school without GRE scores .

Want more information about the GRE? We can help you figure out when to take the GRE , how to make a GRE study plan , and how to improve your GRE score .

Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?

how to write a statement of goals and objectives for graduate school

Author: Ellen McCammon

Ellen is a public health graduate student and education expert. She has extensive experience mentoring students of all ages to reach their goals and in-depth knowledge on a variety of health topics. View all posts by Ellen McCammon

how to write a statement of goals and objectives for graduate school

How to Write a Strong Personal Statement for Graduate School

  • by Heidi Kerr and Paul David Terry
  • November 10, 2020

A student sits on his laptop at the Silo at UC Davis.

You’ve made the exciting decision to pursue a graduate degree. Congratulations! There are a wide range of graduate programs to explore , and once you’ve selected the right program for you, it’s time to begin the graduate application process. 

The statement of purpose and personal history statement are key components of the UC Davis graduate school application . With fewer than 4,000 characters allowed for each essay, these statements can seem particularly daunting. However, each one has a specific purpose for showcasing your academic journey and creating a holistic application.

Below, we’ve analyzed the differences between the statement of purpose and personal history statement and provided tips for writing these graduate school admissions essays. 

Statement of Purpose and Personal History: What’s the Difference?

A student examines chemicals through a beaker while wearing a lab coat and goggles.

The statement of purpose shares your academic objectives with the admissions committee and explains why you want to obtain a graduate degree. The personal history statement provides background about who you are and how your experiences have shaped your interests and ability to overcome challenges. Each essay has specific goals to showcase your experience, passion and story. 

How to Write a Strong Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose should highlight your academic preparation , motivation and interests, along with any specializations and career goals that contribute to your program of study. As you write your statement of purpose, it should encompass some of the following:

  • Academic and research experiences - Include any relevant academic studies or research pursuits, internships or employment, presentations, publications, teaching, and travel or study abroad experiences that prepare you for this graduate program. Explain your motivation or passion for these experiences and how they can enrich your graduate study.
  • Interests, specializations, and career goals - Highlight your research interests, disciplinary subfields, area(s) of specialization, and professional objectives.
  • Fit - Explain how your preparation, experiences, and interests match the specific resources and characteristics of your graduate program at UC Davis. Identify specific faculty within your desired graduate program with whom you would like to work and how their interests match your own.

The statement of purpose should also address why you want to pursue the particular graduate degree program at the university and what your goals are in pursuing a degree. Remember, the statement of purpose should explain exactly that, your purpose for becoming a graduate student. This is the primary way it stands apart from your personal history statement. 

What to Include in Your Personal History Statement

A student smiles as she inspects yellow liquid underneath a microscope, while her professor watches on.

The personal history statement helps the reader learn more about you as an individual and potential graduate student. Use this opportunity to describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Tell a story that  includes any experiences, challenges or opportunities relevant to your academic journey. Consider how your life experiences contribute to the social, intellectual, or cultural diversity within a campus community and your chosen field.

A strong personal history statement begins with an authentic voice and personal narrative. This can reflect your journey to graduate school, any obstacles you’ve encountered, and how you've overcome challenges. Talk about your personal goals and dreams. Explain what motivates and drives you toward this degree. The more your personal statement tells your school about you as an individual, the more it will stand out. Don't write something to impress someone else. This includes language, style and tone. Authenticity is important and resonates well. Tell the truth, in your voice, from your perspective. Use your story to connect.

More Tips and Resources for Applying to Graduate School

Applying to graduate school may be daunting to some, but UC Davis has a variety of resources to help you create a strong graduate school application. Check out the Applying to Graduate School: A Guide and Handbook for ideas and worksheets on how to construct your essays. Or visit our Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services website for more graduate school prep resources. 

Paul David Terry is the assistant director of special interest and affinity networks and alumni diversity lead at the Cal Aggie Alumni Association. He oversees the UC Davis Health Improving OUTcomes blog and enjoys cycling and brewing ginger beer.

Heidi Kerr works as the content and media manager at UC Davis’ Graduate Studies. She has worked as a communications professional at multiple higher education institutions and is passionate about promoting student success.

The authors acknowledge current and former leaders from Pre-Graduate/Law Advising in Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services, especially Annalisa Teixeira, Ph.D. and Cloe Le Gall-Scoville, Ph.D., who granted us permission to reference Applying to Graduate School: A Guide and Workbook .

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Four tips for writing outstanding goal statements

Four tips for writing an outstanding goal statement

We spoke to Nicole Lindsay, the Director of Online Admissions and asked her what makes a great goal statement for graduate school. We talked about what the admissions committee is looking for and how applicants can put their best foot forward. Here’s what she had to sa y…

Why does UNE Online have goal statements?

There are many different purposes for the goal statement, dependent on the program. In general, the goal statement is a way for the admissions committee to gauge an applicant’s writing ability . It’s also a way for us to understand the goals and background of the applicant, and what they are looking to do with their degree.

The goal statement is also a way to bring a little color and life to an otherwise black and white application. The admissions committee understands that simply reviewing transcripts does not give us a holistic view of the applicant. The goal statements are the applicant’s opportunity to highlight their strengths or address issues that may be aren’t otherwise reflected in other materials within their application.

Learn more about our online graduate programs

What type of applicants need to write a goal statement?

Every applicant across all of the matriculated graduate school programs at UNE Online will have some kind of goal statement to complete during the application process.

Every program has a different format for their required goal statement. One program requires a formal essay-style statement that addresses multiple topics and questions that is saved as a document and then uploaded as part of their application. Other programs have individual short-answer questions that can be completed directly within the application portal.

Tip #1: Critical thinking is key

Read the prompt. Really read it, and thoughtfully answer the questions and address the topics that are being asked of you. Be thorough. This is not the time to be first degree. Really dig into the prompts and think critically about what is really being asked of you. Think of your answers as an opportunity to provide a little more context to your application.

Your goal statements are a great way to help the admissions committee see how amazing you are, and what a great fit you would be for the program. UNE Online is a 100% online college and we don’t require an in-person interview, so the goal statement is your time to shine.

Think about your goal statement through the lens of the admissions committee. Review the prompts thoroughly. Some are very specific and are looking for a paragraph about a specific topic. Other questions are more open-ended and leave room for interpretation. Support your prompts as thoroughly as possible with information about why the admissions committee should choose to admit you as a student.

Tip #2: Pay attention to word count

Each program has its own criteria for length and content. Your goal statement may be 300-500 words or it may be 300 words per question. Regardless of circumstance, word count is clearly shown in each instance. If a prompt tells you 300-500 words, make sure your response is in that range.

It’s acceptable to go a little bit over the stated word count, but you should never under any circumstances go under the minimum word limit. One sentence is not going to help your case as much as it could, especially when this is all the admissions committee sees. When they get a one-sentence reply, it doesn’t inspire them to look at your application favorably.

Read more: 4 application mistakes to avoid – and what you should do instead

Tip #3: Spelling counts

Not only does spelling definitely count, so does good grammar and correct syntax. You’re applying for a master’s-level or a doctorate-level program and the admissions committee expects that level of writing. In the UNE Online application portal there are opportunities to compose your answer directly in the portal, but just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should.

We recommend that you use a word processing tool to compose your answer before you paste it into the application portal. Make full use of the spell check and grammar check tools. Use the word count function to make sure you’re within the prompt’s parameters. After you’ve proofread your answer (and ideally after you’ve had someone else take a look for errors and check for quality) then paste in your answer.

Using a word processing tool will help ensure that you have addressed any potential spelling mistakes or grammatical errors and will help you put your best foot forward.

Tip #4: Highlight your strengths

The goal statement is your chance to add your personality and highlight your strengths as a graduate school applicant. It is also an opportunity to show the admissions committee a reason to admit you into the program even though you may be a bit shy of the recommended admissions guidelines.

Even though the prompt might not explicitly state it, use your goal statement to address any of those potential gray areas or weaknesses that the committee might see in your transcript or application. Give an explanation of what’s changed, especially if your circumstances have to do with a specific situation.

It’s similar to applying for a job. You have your resume/CV and you have your cover letter. Your cover letter is where you tell your story and you highlight your skills that would be relevant to this particular job. Similarly, your goal statement is your chance within the application process to help the admissions committee see you more holistically, and highlight some additional strengths that the admissions committee wouldn’t otherwise see.

Have additional questions about the admissions process? Reach out! We have Enrollment Counselors for every program available Monday through Friday, 8am to 5 pm and they would be happy to speak with you. Via email [email protected] or over the phone: (855) 325-0896.

Want to learn more about our 100% online graduate programs?

Download our free guide

Ready to apply? Go to  to start your application today!

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how to write a statement of goals and objectives for graduate school

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Statements of Purpose: Drafting Your Statement

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The statement of purpose is perhaps the most important, and most challenging, element of your application packet. This letter needs to reflect who you are and why you would be an asset to the program you are applying to. It needs to make you stand out from the hundreds of other applicants and yet stay within the genre-based expectations for a statement of purpose. This resource provides information on writing statements of purpose specifically for graduate school applications.

Write one essay for each program. Although they may sound similar, each program’s statement prompts asks for slightly different pieces of information about who you are. You may be fortunate to have two or three similar prompts for a few programs, but even then, remember that you must meld your own interests with the opportunities available at each particular program--so, no two statements should read exactly alike. In essence, be prepared to draft (and continuously revise) dedicated statements for each program application. Don’t send out a boilerplate essay.

Attempt to create one unifying theme in your narrative. Some applications ask you to include the answers to broad prompts in your statement. For instance, the only instructions you get may be: describe your goals and preparation to pursue graduate study in no more than 1500 words. Conversely, others may ask you to answer a series of very specific questions such as your reasons for applying to their program in particular, how your background fits into your professional goals, how your past achievements would aid you during your time in graduate school, and what you have learned from your prior professional experience. Regardless of the particular kind of writing situation, attempt to fit your narrative into one unifying theme. For example, if your essay focuses on how family has played an important role in your decision to go to graduate school, do not throw in an experience from your trip to a foreign country as another factor in your decision making process unless it is strongly tied with the overall theme of family. Also, be sure to stick to the word limits.

Strong statements of purpose answer four important questions that inform admissions committees of who you are professionally and personally.

Professionally, statements of purpose answer two questions for the committee.

First: what kind of work are you interested in doing in graduate school?

Be specific, don’t make the mistake of thinking that being vague in your focus will reach a wider audience. For instance, if you mainly want to study business ethics with two prominent faculty members who focus on that topic, write that in your statement. Do not worry that you are pigeonholing yourself by being specific and instead list several other areas that you could be interested in. There will not be enough time to go into all of these areas and it will make your statement sound aimless and disconnected.

Second: why is the program you are applying to a good fit for you?

This is where your online research on each program comes into play. Be specific about what makes the program that you are applying to your ideal choice. Avoid general statements such as “your program is one of the best in the country.” Focus more on the specific things that you think make it great—for you and your research in particular. If it has a good instructor to student ratio, how will that benefit you? If what separates the program from the rest is that it provides excellent field training before you graduate, how will you take advantage of this? Be specific. You may also talk about your goals after grad school. Where do you see yourself? Does the program have a good history in helping other students get there? You don’t have to be one hundred percent certain about your future plans; no one will pull your application essay before you graduate and express shock and disappointment if your interests happen to change. But generally, going to graduate school is a huge commitment. Admission committees want to know that you understand this and that you envision some type of gain for your dedication.

A word of caution: Avoid changing your statement just to get into a program if it is a bad fit for you. You’ll save yourself time and money down the line.

Be aware that while it is generally a good idea to be as honest about your intentions as possible, avoid being too candid about your reasons for applying to a certain school if they are less than scholarly. For instance, admission committees do not want to hear that you are applying to their program primarily because of the school’s proximity to significant others, family, friends; because it is located in a place with a great college town feeling; or, because it offers a variety of funding opportunities (however, you could probably mention this last one in passing if their funding is outstanding among other programs, signaling a dedication to its students’ goals).

Personally, statements of purpose also answer two questions for the committee.

First: What matters to you—and why?

The committee will receive a lot of data about you. The statement of purpose allows you to give that data meaning. It is important that you not just rephrase whatever is on your CV or resume because this won’t get at the meaning behind your experiences. A job or a class may have lasted only a few months, but it may have been the impetus for you to go to graduate school because of a unique experience that occurred there. The statement of purpose should give the committee a sense of who you are and how you have personally interpreted events in your life.

Second: How are you unique from the other candidates?

Above all, avoid playing it safe with bland language. It can be tempting to resist making yourself stand out in your statement because you don’t want to ruin your chances by “sounding weird.” Ironically, this type of information may be what makes you the most compelling candidate. Graduate program committees receive dozens—sometimes hundreds—of applications each year. Make your voice stand out among the rest by showing that you are not only professional but that there’s a person behind the important decisions you have made. What was the human element that motivated you to get you to where you are?

Many people wonder whether they should mention their minority status. Generally, you should mention your minority status only if it pertains to your studies. For instance, did working with a minority group (that you belong to) motivate you to go to graduate school? How so? Are you interested in undertaking minority issues once you have earned your degree—and, if so, in what capacity? For example, once you earn your Masters in Social Work, are you hoping to help Hispanic individuals who suffer from serious and persistent mental illness? Tie this with your background to give this goal some context.

Remember to switch over between other graduate application tasks such as asking for letters of recommendation, ordering your transcripts, filling out the questionnaire for each school, and so forth. This will break up the writing task and help to re-energize you.

Works Consulted

Getting In: A Step-By-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 1997. Print.

Kaplan, Inc. Get into Graduate School: A Strategic Approach . New York: Simon & Schuster. 2003. Print.

Stelzer, Richard J. How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School . 3rd. ed. Lawrenceville, NJ: Peterson’s Publishing, 2002. Print.

Stewart, Mark Allen. Peterson's How to Write the Perfect Personal Statement . Lawrenceville, NJ: Peterson’s Publishing, 2009. Print.

  • Graduate School

Grad School Career Goals Statement: Your Guide

Including 2 sample statements.

Grad school career goals statement

A grad school career goals statement is often part of applying for graduate school programs. Students wondering how to get into grad school can push their application ahead with a great career goals statement. Many students state their future career ambitions without elaborating on their answers, and their career goals statement falls short. In this blog, our grad school essay tutors reveal why you need a career goals statement, what to include, what to leave out, and a step-by-step process to help you craft your own.

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 15 min read

Why do i need to include a career goals statement in my grad school application.

When applying to any graduate school program, the application process will more than likely include a career goals statement. These are sometimes called a grad school personal statement, statement of purpose or statement of intent . Not every school admissions application will ask you to write a career goals statement, but a variation of the career goals statement or personal statement is requested when applying for MBA programs. It’s a good idea to write a career goals statement anyway, because writing down your career ambitions can be a powerful personal tool as well. Putting your career goals in writing can help you to visualize the steps you’ll need to take to reach your goal, measure your progress and keep you accountable in pursuing your stated professional goals. Admissions committees ask for career goals statements to get an in-depth look at your personal and professional history, and what career aspirations you have. Committees are looking for key information in your career goals statement, including: what long and short-term career goals you have, how the program you’re applying to will help you achieve them and what you’ve already accomplished in your field. Bottom line, they want to know if you’re the type of student and working professional they want to add to their graduate program. Reading graduate school statement of purpose examples and tips for success can help inspire you as you draft your own career goals statement. Or, you can consider seeking extra help from a graduate school admissions consultant , who can teach you how to improve your statement writing skills, among other skills.

A well-written grad school career goals statement can help push your application to the top.

The important information you need to include in your career goals statement, regardless of what grad school program you’re applying to, is your short and long-term career goals, why you’re applying to study at the graduate level, how the chosen program will help you achieve your goals, and what you’ve already accomplished in your chosen professional field. All of this information will give your grad school admissions committee a detailed look at who you are, what you want to do in your career and why you’ve chosen a specific program to achieve it. The details you include with this information should convince the committee that you are worthy of a spot in a competitive graduate school program. Your career goals statement is also your chance to prove to the admissions board that you have not only a goal, but the drive and commitment to realize it.

Want help with other areas of your grad application as well? Check out this video:

Your grad school career goals statement should include the key information admissions committees want to know about you, as well as the qualities and format of a well-written personal statement. We’ll expand on these more below.

Short and long-term career goals

While you may have a primary reason for applying to a graduate school program, the admissions committee will want the details of your short and long-term career goals. Your short-term career goals would be what you want to accomplish in the months after graduation, or maybe even while you are studying. Are you looking to change career paths? Switch industries? Maybe your goal is to specialize your professional skillset, and your undergraduate degree is in too general a field of study. Regardless of your reasons, tell the admissions team what you want to accomplish following your graduation in the short-term, as well as the long-term goals you have for your career. If you want to enter a new professional field, what position do you want to reach in the long-term? What professional goals do you want to accomplish? What companies will you be looking to apply to?

Be as specific as you possibly can about your goals. Don’t just say you want to be a manager—write about why you want to be a manager in your professional field.

A good rule of thumb is to include SMART goals in your statement. SMART is an acronym which means specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Basically, be as specific about your goals as you can be, make them relevant and realistic to your field of study or work and your experience, and state when exactly you want to achieve them. Short term career goals might include earning a promotion you’ve had your eye on at your company, or getting a position at a particular company or in a specific field of interest to you after graduation. Long term career goals might be more vague, such as reaching a certain salary bracket or they may be ultra-specific, like starting your own business venture in your chosen field by 2025.

There are many reasons to study at the graduate level. Maybe you’re seeking to expand your professional skills or you’re looking at applying to a high-level position that requires a graduate degree. You might want to take more courses in a specific field of interest in your industry. Or you’re looking at an MBA, so you can hone your skills in management and business operations. In short, you need a better reason for applying than just earning another degree. Share the primary reason you’re applying for a rigorous graduate program, and why you feel further schooling will benefit you.

Why you chose this graduate school program

Schools want to know the reason why you chose their program in particular. Point to the courses, school values or specialties that drew you to the program. If the school of your choice is known for its excellent MBA program, for example, mention this. If a school values innovative thinking like you, elaborate on this point. Pick a school that you feel fits you best, and research the curriculum of the program you hope to attend. If you can’t give an answer as to why you chose a program, it’s less likely that you’ll be chosen to attend. Examine the specific reasons why you’re applying. Did you take a business class as an undergrad that sparked an interest in the technology industry? Was there a professor or professional experience that inspired you to start your own business? As an intern, did you discover a love for the work done by your current company? These details will give the admissions board a clear picture of your motivations.

How this program will help you achieve your goals

Related to the above answer, admissions boards will ask why you chose their graduate program and how it will help you achieve your career goals in the short and long-term. Highlight your earlier points here, strengthening them by connecting your goals to your reasons for applying. If you’re applying to a graduate program because a second degree will give you the skills and experience to move up in your chosen career, write about how the school’s focus on management and leadership will help mold you into a business leader. Or how the program’s internship opportunities will open doors for you in a new industry you’re hoping to break into. It’s best to be as specific as possible, and point to the main benefits the graduate school program will have on your career prospects and future goals.

Consider also what you can contribute to the school’s graduate program. Research the graduate school’s recent work or accolades and draw a connection between the work and your own recent accomplishments. If the school publishes heavily in scientific journals or pursues cutting-edge research in technology, highlight any articles you’ve had published, or mention any positions you’ve held in advancing technology industries. 

Interested in some tips that can help get you into grad school? This infographic is for you:

When writing your grad school career goals statement, it’s important not only that the content be full of personal details, but that the structure and format be strong, too. Once you’re able to answer the career goals statement prompt and include all the above information, you want to structure it in the short essay format, make sure your writing is clear, detailed, and confident. You’ll also add in an intriguing personal narrative, which helps improve the ‘flow’ and carry your readers through your writing seamlessly. You can read samples of college essays for inspiration, but the admissions committee wants to hear about you, personally and professionally. They’re expecting a well-structured, well-written document that gives them an insightful look into a prospective future student: you.

These elements are the bones of your career goals statement, while your detailed content—your actual answers—is the meat.

Short essay format

For short essay format, you’ll need a clear introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion. Typically, these statements are one page long, and no more than two pages long. Some programs will specify a word count or ask for a statement of no more than a few sentences. Whatever the length, it’s important to include as much detailed information as you can.

For the introduction, grab your readers’ attention from the get-go with an intriguing topic sentence. For a career goals statement, this can be a challenge, so start with your answer to the question: what are your future career goals?

In your body paragraphs, expand on your goals. State how you will achieve them, and why you’ve chosen to study at the graduate level at your chosen school. Finally, state your timeline. Share when exactly you want to achieve your short and long-term goals. For example, your short-term goals might be 3-6 months. Your long-term goals might be 5, 10 or even 20 years from now. There is no hard rule about what is short-term and long-term, but be explicit in what these mean to you and your career goals.

In your conclusion, dive into how your chosen program will help you achieve your stated goals, and deliver your closing arguments for why you should be selected to attend the program.

Clarity and detail

Details will be the elements the admissions committee will remember best. They help set your career goals statement apart from the thousands of others they will receive each year. Details help make your statement more unique. But clear writing and well-structured sentences will make your details shine. So don’t forget the most important final step: proofreading. Read and re-read your statement to ensure it is clear, concise and free of errors. Reading aloud helps to be able to hear if your narrative flows smoothly and with clarity.

Use a confident tone of voice when writing your career goals statement. Don’t say you’d like to apply to hopefully be a manager. Say you will be a manager. You will be a leader. Write like your future career goals are a foregone conclusion if you obtain your graduate’s degree. If you are accepted—and you will be, as you are a perfect candidate—you will achieve your goals exactly as you’ve outlined in your career goals statement.

Personal narrative

Your grad school career goals statement is a detailed rundown of your professional ambitions, but it is also a look at you, personally. Tie your statement together with a compelling personal narrative to make it stand out, get noticed and connect your personal motivations to your professional goals. You want the reader to see the connection between your personal experiences and professional ambitions. So, if your goal is to enter a new professional field, share a personal anecdote about the passion you have for your field: when did it start? Where did your interest come from? If your aim is to improve your managerial skills, write about your personal or professional experiences where you demonstrated the qualities of a good leader or went above and beyond for your team.

Mistakes to avoid when drafting your grad school career goals statement

It goes without saying, but don\u2019t submit the first draft of your career goals statement with your graduate school application. Proofread your work after writing. Ask someone else to proofread it for you as well in case they catch something you missed. Revise your work in a second draft, and proofread it again, before you submit your statement. ","label":"Don\u2019t submit your first draft","title":"Don\u2019t submit your first draft"}]' code='tab1' template='BlogArticle'>

Step by step instructions on writing a career goals statement

When writing an effective grad school career goals statement, it can help to follow a step-by-step process, especially if writing is not your strength.

Start with brainstorming your ideas. Write them down or make a list. Outline your answers to the questions admissions committees want to know. Ask yourself questions about your career aspirations and why you’ve chosen to apply to a graduate program. Once you have the answers to these questions, write them down and keep them handy as a reference for yourself.

Next, research the schools and graduate programs you’ll be applying for, based on your interests, eligibility and personal needs. Have a look at the programs they offer and what kind of coursework they offer. Does the coursework fit with your stated career goals? What skills will you gain from them that will help you achieve your goals? Jot down some of your answers to include in your career goals statement.

Once you have your notes complete, draft the outline of your answers and structure them into the short essay format. Decide what you will include in your introduction, your body paragraphs and your conclusion. Using your outline as a guide, type out your first draft, checking your notes to make sure you’ve included all the details you need.

If you can, ask for feedback from another set of eyes or ask someone to review your first draft. Read it aloud a few times to see how it sounds, if it flows well and if all the information you need is included. Once you have your feedback, from yourself and others, revise and create your second draft. Repeat the revision process if you need and be sure to proofread your work. Ask a friend to proofread your statement as well to ensure your essay is free of errors and is as polished as it can be.

Sample graduate school career goals statements to inspire your own

Below are two samples of graduate school career goals statements to help guide you in crafting your own.

Statement 1

My future career goals are entrepreneurial in nature, as I want to combine my passion for cycling with my interest in business administration. I chose to further my studies at the graduate level because of my goal to pursue my own start-up venture. My aim is to start my own company providing affordable, durable carbon fibre mountain bikes to cycling enthusiasts. As a cycling enthusiast myself, I understand the benefits a carbon fibre bicycle can bring, and I want to make it a more attainable and affordable option for cyclists like me. To be a successful business owner, I know it is imperative that I develop my management and organizational skills at the graduate level.

[University] is well-known for its superb MBA program, and I decided to apply for this program because I believe it will instill in me the necessary skills to succeed in a highly competitive business realm. [University’s] focus on developing forward-thinking, innovative leaders who excel in their chosen fields appeals greatly to me. I consider myself a creative, innovative thinker, and I know my business requires individuals who can look to the future of cycling and provide solutions now.

My short-term goals include starting this business venture soon after graduation. Having this degree will check the box of having a business leader with well-developed skills and the tools and resources to launch this business idea. My long-term goal is to provide cyclists like myself with durable, affordable carbon fibre mountain bikes and to reinvigorate interest in the sport in my region. Developing and providing carbon fibre bicycles to mountain cyclists will make the sport more accessible to more people. Carbon fibre bicycles are more adaptable, lightweight, and maneuverable on rough terrain, and they are extremely hardy and durable, so they will last riders for years to come. Making them as affordable as possible will also ensure they are accessible to as many different people as possible. Interest in the sport has waned in my area, but there is a small group of dedicated and passionate fans, and one of my goals is to utilize this group and my growing business to reignite passion for this challenging and adventurous sport. The advancements in technology in recent years will help propel me towards this goal, but a business degree at the graduate level will provide me with the crucial professional skills and experience needed to succeed.

My professional experience working in a cycling shop will also complement my goals and my future as an entrepreneurial business leader. For the past 5 years, I’ve worked as a manager at Cranky Cycling, a retail bicycle and repair shop in my area. As a manager, I’ve been introduced to the operational side of the business and have earned plenty of customer service experience. As manager, I’ve been responsible not only for employee management, scheduling, customer order and financial statements, I’ve been able to get to know every aspect of the business operations. From the repair side of things, I’ve been responsible for overseeing all repairs and advising customers on the ins and outs of bicycle care and maintenance. I also keep up to date on the latest developments in the cycling world, and often implement the knowledge I gain in the day-to-day running of the business.

I know these are small aspects of being a business owner, but I believe my extensive experience and expertise in the field are an excellent foundation for my future career goals. The key missing piece will be furthering my education and complementing this foundation with the professional skill development I will need in the future. 

Since my undergraduate studies, I have developed a passion for environmental sciences, and sustainable energy policy-making especially. At [University] I studied environmental sciences with a minor in political science and government policy. A graduate degree in environmental sciences will provide me with the background, knowledge and essential skillset I need to succeed in my career in sustainable energy management. While my undergraduate degree in environmental sciences has given me a solid foundation to work from, I am eager to expand my learning in fields such as environmental technology and government policy. A background in these subjects is necessary for me to achieve my goal of working at a high level in my chosen company [Company].

[Company] provides sustainable solar energy systems to its customers, and frequently collaborates with municipal and regional government bodies, private corporations and organizations to provide alternative energy needs. [Company] is also at the forefront of exploring emerging technology in solar energy and is a huge advocate for the possibilities of what can be achieved using solar energy. The company’s values and goals align well with my own, as I believe the future of energy in our region lies in utilizing solar power and its emerging technology. I think if more of our local companies were able to make the switch to solar more efficiently, they would choose to do so. Part of [Company’s] mission is to make the switch to solar more comfortable, affordable and easy.

After graduation, it is my goal to be hired at this company for a full-time, permanent position. I have previously interned at this company for one year and have gained a good understanding of company operations. As an intern, I helped educate on the benefits of solar power, how our company helps organizations to make the switch and municipal bylaws and policies about installing and using solar power in the region. My hope is to grow with this company long-term, achieving a higher-ranking position within its corporate structure and eventually being promoted to VP of operations. I believe here I would be able to make the most impact and be a positive advocate for the adoption of renewable solar energy systems in my community.

With a graduate degree in environmental sciences from [University], I know I will be able to achieve a higher position at my chosen company, and be armed with the experience and professional skillset I need to truly transform my community. With the knowledge I will gain from this degree, and the passion and experience I will contribute, I can share my vision of a solar-powered future with my community and fellow businesses.

Want to learn some tips that can help you survive grad school once you get there? Take a look at this video:

While writing a career goals statement may be a challenge, a good one can greatly increase your chances of admission to your chosen grad school program. Reading grad school career goals statement samples, asking for someone to review your statement and proofreading will all help you in creating a great statement for your grad school application. You might also look for extra help from a grad school admissions consultant when crafting your career goals statement.

A grad school career goals statement is a document that tells a grad school admissions committee what your short and long-term career goals are, why you are applying to the program and how the program will help you achieve your career goals.

A grad school career goals statement is usually one page long, but no more than two pages.

A good grad school career goals statement includes your detailed short and long-term goals, your reason for studying at the graduate level, why you’ve chosen a specific grad school program, and how this program will contribute to you achieving your goals.

Graduate schools want to learn more about who you are and what you want to achieve in your career. More importantly, they want to know how the program will contribute to you achieving your goals. This information will help them determine if you are a good fit for their program.

A good grad school career goals statement will outline your career ambitions, your motivations for applying to grad school and convince the admissions committee that you are an ideal candidate for your chosen program.

Don’t use the same career goals statement for every program you apply to, don’t use cliches or information that isn’t relevant to your career goals and your purpose in applying for grad school, and don’t submit a draft you haven’t proofread.

Yes. A career goals statement is sometimes called a statement of purpose, personal statement or statement of intent, as the general purpose of all these are the same.

SMART is an acronym which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Your career goals should follow these criteria. Describe your goals in your statement as specifically as possible, make sure they are relevant, measurable and achievable in your chosen field of work, and state when exactly you want to achieve these goals by.

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how to write a statement of goals and objectives for graduate school

How to Write a Compelling Grad School Personal Statement

how to write a statement of goals and objectives for graduate school

Your graduate school personal statement is your opportunity to make a lasting impression on admissions committees. It is your chance to demonstrate why you are the perfect candidate for your desired program. But often, the task of writing a personal statement can be overwhelming.

To help guide you through this process, here are some valuable tips compiled by UK Online recruitment specialists.

Tips Before You Start Writing 

Be authentic and reflect.

Before you put pen to paper, take some time to reflect on your life experiences, academic journey, and career aspirations. Be authentic and true to yourself in your writing. Highlight the unique aspects of your life that have led you to this point. The admissions committee is interested in who you are as an individual.

Demonstrate Motivation 

Showcase your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree. Explain what drives you, why you are passionate about your chosen field, and how this program fits into your long-term goals. Admissions committees want to see that you have a clear sense of purpose and a genuine interest in the subject.

Highlight Experiences 

Your personal statement is the perfect place to highlight your academic and extracurricular experiences that have prepared you for this program. Discuss any research, internships, or projects that have influenced your decision to pursue graduate studies. Connect these experiences to your future academic and career goals.

Convey Writing Skills 

Effective communication is a crucial skill for graduate students. Your personal statement should showcase your writing abilities. Ensure your statement is well-structured, free of grammatical errors, and flows logically. Seek feedback from peers or writing centers to enhance its quality.

Make an Impression

Your opening paragraph is your chance to make a memorable first impression. Craft an engaging introduction that captivates the reader's attention. Use a powerful anecdote, a thought-provoking question, or a striking statement to draw them in. Admissions committees review numerous applications, so standing out from the beginning is vital.

Things You Should Include in Your Personal Statement


Your introduction should provide a glimpse of your personality and what motivates you. It sets the tone for the entire personal statement, so make it compelling.

Personal Background

Share your academic history and personal background. Discuss your achievements, academic journey, and relevant experiences. Explain how your background has led you to the point of applying for this specific program.

Motivation and Goals

Clearly articulate your reasons for pursuing this graduate program. What are your short-term and long-term goals? Explain how the program aligns with your aspirations. This section should convey your enthusiasm and commitment.

Relevance of Experience

Highlight the experiences, internships, or research projects that have contributed to your readiness for this program. Connect these experiences to the skills and knowledge you will bring to the graduate program. Show that you are well-prepared.

Unique Qualities

Discuss what makes you unique. Mention your unique qualities, skills, or attributes that set you apart from other applicants. This is your chance to stand out and show why you're a valuable addition to the program.

In your conclusion, summarize your key points and reiterate your passion for the program. Express your enthusiasm for the opportunity to join the institution. End on a positive note and leave the reader with a memorable impression.

Remember to be authentic, showcase your motivation, highlight your experiences, convey your writing skills, and make a lasting impression. Craft a personal statement that reflects your unique journey and demonstrates your readiness for graduate studies. Best of luck with your application!

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Mechanical Engineering Communication Lab

Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

Criteria for success.

  •   qualified for their program, and
  • a good fit for their program’s focus and goals.
  • You show a select group of skills and experiences that concisely convey your scientific accomplishments and interests.
  • Your experiences are concrete and quantitative .
  • Your personal statement is no more than 2 pages (less if you can, or if it is required by the school).

Structure Diagram

The graduate school Personal Statement (≈ Statement of Purpose ≈ Statement of Intent) is a document that complements your resume and application form, describing your profile in a narrative way and convincing the admission committee that you would be a good match for a particular department or program. Take into account that matching goes both ways: they should be interested in you, and you should be interested in them. Your personal statement should make this match clear.

Analyze Your Audience

Your personal statement will be read by a graduate committee – a handful of faculty from the program. They’re trying to determine if you will be a successful graduate student in their department and a successful scientist after you graduate. They are interested in your qualifications as a researcher, your career goals, and how your personality matches their labs and department.

The graduate committee probably reads hundreds of applications every year. To make it easy for them to figure out that you are a good fit, keep in mind the following suggestions:

  • Make direct, concrete statements about your accomplishments and qualifications.
  • Create a narrative that serves as a personal brand and helps them remember you.
  • Give them some unique examples that describe you and make you stand out, and which will make them remember you as “that candidate that was so passionate about…” or “who has a lot of experience in…”, although they might not remember your name.
  • Align your academic goals and motivations with specific research projects or research directions of the target department. 

Assessing your match to the target program

A key point on writing your Personal Statement is to demonstrate that you have done previous research about the program to which you’re applying, that you understand its characteristics and objectives, and that you are really interested in joining it and willing to do your best to be successful in it. To do this:

  • Read the program’s website. Learn about its faculty members and the projects they are working on. Check what topics and high level goals the department is committed to. Identify the main research areas. 
  • Get in contact with faculty and students in your target program. Browse recent publications and presentations but remember lab websites can be outdated and a publication may lag a few years behind the active research in a lab so pay attention to the motivation, direction, and methods of the faculty member over specific results. If you have had a positive discussion with someone at the department, you can include in your essay how those interactions confirmed that you would be a good match for the program.

Reflect before you start

To convince a graduate committee that you are ready for and excited about graduate school, first you need to be able to articulate this to yourself. Earnestly reflect on the following types of questions. A lack of authenticity is easy to detect. 

  • Why do I want to go to graduate school? 
  • How am I sure?
  • Why will I be successful in graduate school?
  • What can I do with the help of this degree that I couldn’t do before?
  • Where do I want to be in a few years?
  • How am I going to get there?

Create a personal narrative

Graduate programs invest in the professional and scientific growth of their students. Get the committee excited about investing in you by opening your essay with a brief portrait of what drives you as a scientist. What research directions are you passionate about, and why? What do you picture yourself doing in 10 years?

  • E.g. “Graduate study is the first step towards my goal: I want to improve my ability as a researcher and gain more technical depth and breadth to maximize my impact. In the long term, I hope graduate school will better position me to be a leader in shaping the conversation about what problems can be addressed by mechanical engineers.”

Close your essay with a 2-3 sentence discussion of your long-term career interests. No one will hold you to this; this just helps your committee visualize your potential trajectory.

  • E.g. “Above all else, a MIT PhD would help me achieve my long term career goal of becoming a professor, the position in which I can best see myself accomplishing my mission to show others the hidden beauty in everyday life through science.”

Connect your personal narrative to whichever degree you are applying to (be it research-based or course-work-based, or a Master of Science, Master of Engineering, or PhD). Especially in mechanical engineering, each of these degrees will enable different career trajectories and provide different educational opportunities. Articulate clearly why the degree you are applying for helps you achieve your goals. In the same vein, consider mutual benefit: what will you contribute to the academic community over your time at your target school? Remember, it all comes back to “qualified match” , no matter what level of degree you are applying for. 

Describe your experiences

Experiences are the “what” of your essay. They are the most efficient and easiest way to prove your capabilities to the admissions committee.

  • What experiences led you to develop your skill set and passions ?
  • Where have you demonstrated accomplishment, leadership, and collaboration?
  • Show your depth with a range of experiences: research, teaching, relevant extracurriculars and leadership positions.
  • State concrete achievements and outcomes like awards, discoveries, or publications, or projects completed.

Achievements need not be limited to research projects or publications. Think about all the experiences that demonstrate your ability to conduct research and succeed within the structure of your target program. (Where have you demonstrated creativity? Self sufficiency? Perseverance? What open ended problems have you tackled? What enabled you to succeed at them?)

Quantify your experiences to show concrete impact. How many people were on your team? How many protocols did you develop? How many people were in competition for an award? As a TA, how often did you meet with your students?

For each experience you include, focus on how the experience affected you. Describe your actions, and always direct the message to highlighting your performance and growth (not how important the company was or how well-known the professor you TAed for is). Remember, it is not an essay about science, it is a personal essay—about you and how you have positioned yourself to succeed in graduate school.

Explain the meaning of your experiences

Meaning of Experiences

Your goal in sharing your experiences is to demonstrate that you have the qualifications, qualities, and drive needed to succeed in graduate school. Therefore, you will need to not only choose experiences wisely but also state specifically what they mean within the context of your application.

  • Why was this experience important to your growth as a scientist?
  • What did you gain from or demonstrate during that experience?
  • How will this make you a better grad student?

Even if it feels obvious to you, you need to explicitly answer these questions to your audience. Here are some examples experiences that have been expanded to contain meaning:

Contemplate how disparate activities can be unified into a common narrative about your motivations and achievements. Articulate this clearly to make your statement cohesive.

disparate activities example

Demonstrate your match to the target program

Using the research you did to assess your chosen programs, clearly articulate why you are a match . Consider both directions of the match: not only why you want to go to the school, but also why you would fit in well and contribute to the program.

State which professors in the program you would be interested in working with. Demonstrate that you have done your homework regarding the program. Show how their research areas align with your background and your goals. If you have had conversations with students or professors in the program, be sure to include that as well. 

Common Pitfalls

Write about you , not your role models. One of the most common pitfalls we see in the Comm Lab is students writing touching Personal Statements about family members or role models who have inspired them. There is nothing wrong with including personal stories about people who have helped you understand yourself better, or positioned you to succeed in graduate school, but it is important to tread very carefully. Don’t leave the reader wondering why they are reading about someone else in a document that is meant to be about you. If you take time to talk about someone who positively affected you, make sure to be very clear about how that experience with that person molded you into a strong graduate school candidate.

Be judicious with childhood stories. A brief mention of some childhood experience that shaped your interests in STEM is probably okay, but if you talk about it at length (more than ~2 sentences), you are taking up space that should probably be used to talk about who you are today, not who you were over a decade ago.

Don’t simply restate your resume. Your Personal Statement should be a technical document (having evidence, numbers, and supporting facts) with personal outcomes (talking about your motivations, ambitions, and ability to succeed as a graduate student). Of course, you will reiterate parts of your resume in your Personal Statement , but what uniquely makes it a “Personal Statement” is the discussion of how those professional experiences affected you , as a researcher and person well-suited to the graduate program at X University.  

Insufficient quantification of your experiences. We are all scientists and engineers; our line of work is inherently quantitative. Quantification is a quick and easy way to add context, lend credence to your experiences, and impress the reader. Even little quantifications can help: “I spent two semesters working on a project about…” is much better than “I spent some time working on a project about…”. See more examples in the section on Experiences, above.

Being a great student and having an impressive resume is only half the battle when it comes to graduate school applications. You need to be able to communicate and convince the committee that your personality and particular set of skills and experiences are well-suited to the graduate program you are applying for. This extends beyond graduate school applications: as scientists and engineers, we write papers and technical reports to communicate with our peers and convince them that our work is meaningful.

By reading this article, you have recognized the value of communication and are well on your way to crafting an effective and powerful Personal Statement. This is your opportunity to make yourself shine among all the other candidates, so make it count! You can do it!

Acknowledgements : This content was adapted from the NSE and CEE Communication Labs’ CommKits for graduate applications.

Resources and Annotated Examples

Annotated example 1, annotated example 2.

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  •       Resources       Writing a Successful Statement of Purpose

Writing a Successful Grad School Statement of Purpose Tips, Tricks and Expert Guidance for Top-Tier Statements of Purpose

In addition to previous academic records, research interests, GPAs and work experience, statements of purpose serve as an important tool in helping graduate admissions panels get to know prospective students. While these documents may seem straightforward initially, students can help themselves stand out from the pack by writing incisive, thoughtful statements that stay true to themselves but also demonstrate an understanding of the university and its mission. Use this guide to learn what academic departments look for, how to structure a winning statement, and what our expert has to say on the matter.

  • What is a Statement of Purpose?

What Do Grad Schools Want?

  • 12 Tips for Writing a Stellar Statement

Sample Statement of Purpose

  • Additional Resources

The Statement of Purpose Explained

The statement of purpose can seem like a vague concept when students are first introduced to it, and many may question whether they are fulfilling the requirements fully and adequately. Because confusion continues to swirl around statements of purpose, we asked Melinda Maxwell, director of graduate admissions at the University of North Georgia, to share answers to some of the most common questions students pose about this process.

“The statement of purpose gives an applicant the opportunity to express non-quantifiable characteristics for consideration to an admissions committee,” Maxwell notes. “This may include the applicant's personal or professional strengths and goals or passion for career fields related the academic program.” She goes on to explain that, for the admission committee, the statement provides great benefit. “Graduate school is rigorous, and admission is often competitive,” she says. “They want to select students who are not only academically qualified, but also show commitment to achieving success in the program from start to finish.”

Before ever sitting down to write or outline a statement of purpose, students need to ensure they thoroughly read any and all instructions or guidance provided by the school. If, after making sure they haven’t missed any details, they still need clarification, they can contact an admissions officer to receive specific answers to their questions.

“Expound upon why you want to achieve this degree and how you intend to use it, and include any personal, educational or professional experiences you have that would relate to the course content and research,” encourages Maxwell. “Answer the question: ‘Why should we choose you for admission to this program?’”

While schools like to see unique the unique skills, passions, talents and interests of prospective students, these learners must also be judicial in deciding which details may be interesting but ultimately unsuitable for the statement of purpose. While the summer you spent teaching English to adults in Slovakia is fascinating, your recipe for fail-proof chili isn’t.

“A personal statement is, well, more personal,” Maxwell says. “It's your voice telling who you are and why you are passionate about achieving the degree.” Most programs will ask for one or the other, she adds. “I encourage students to reflect their desire and propensity for success in either format. That being said, personal statements should include characteristics about you as an individual — separate from what they ascertain about how you perform as a student from your transcripts and recommendations.”

It’s imperative that students write their statements of purpose to guard against any type of plagiarism or ethical issues, but that doesn’t mean they can’t ask for help along the way. Schedule time to sit down with former professors, mentors or supervisors to help get a clearer sense of your strongest attributes. Once written, allow time for trusted friends or family to provide feedback on content, style and syntax.

As will be discussed thoroughly in this guide, one of the most important things students can do to write a winning statement of purpose is to stay focused on their story, interests and unique qualities. While this remains true, applicants must also consider how to structure and present their SOP in a way that appeals to the needs and values of the school to which they apply. The following section highlights what schools do and don’t want to see in a statement of purpose.

What Grad Schools Do Want to See

  • “We want to know why a student is pursuing admission to this particular program,” Maxwell explains. Students who apply to countless programs without giving much thought to the unique qualities of the school itself often fall short of the institution’s expectations.
  • “We look for wording and language showing evidence that the applicant thoroughly and carefully researched the program,” she says. It’s one thing to focus on the values and mission of the school itself, but many graduate departments also have independent personalities and methods of operating. Students who tap into these qualities and highlight why they want to be in such an environment often leave a more lasting impression on admissions experts.
  • “Applicants should strive to illustrate why it’s a mutually beneficial fit, including drawing clear connections between the degree and any of their future goals,” encourages Maxwell. Many students forget that statements of purpose need to be future-focused rather than dwelling too much on the past. Admissions experts want to know about the experiences that made you the person you are today, but they also need to see that you have a plan for the degree you gain from their institution.
  • “Many students forget the simple step of clearly outlining what they are willing to commit to the program,” Maxwell notes. In the same way that universities lay out their curriculum and list of steps for moving through the program, students should provide a clear sense of what they plan to bring to the degree and how they hope to be an asset to the department and their peers.

What They Don’t Want to See

  • “We do not want to see poor writing or grammar,” Maxwell says. Applications and statements of purpose offer prospective students the first chance to demonstrate their passion for academics and seriousness about graduate education. Those who make careless errors tell the admissions panel that they aren’t taking the process seriously.
  • “Similarly, lackadaisical statements of purpose will be dismissed,” she says. Having read thousands of statements of purpose during their time in higher education, admissions experts can easily spot one that hasn’t been properly thought out.
  • “We also want to see students who understand how to maximize character limits to reflect substance,” Maxwell adds. Because many SOP forms have word limits, students must know how to succinctly and clearly convey their interests and passions within a structured space.

12 Tips for Writing a Stellar SOP

After filling out numerous applications, some students start paying less attention to specific instructions and instead move into autopilot mode. It’s important to remember that individual schools seek different information, so pay close attention to the prompt at hand.

Admission panels read thousands of applications each year, so students must find innovative ways to uniquely share their story to stand out from the pack. Instead of simply talking about the importance of sports or travel in your life, share your distinctive recollections or accomplishments.

Many students believe simply stating their accomplishments or activities will impress readers, but far too often they forget to qualify or quantify what they’ve done to provide context. Rather than saying you worked at a summer camp, be sure to include information such as how long, how many children, how you spent your days and any commendations you received.

In the same way that colleges and universities want students to share matchless information about themselves, they also want to see that students recognize the unique qualities of the school. Spend time with the institution’s vision plan and statement of values before writing your statement of purpose.

While it’s important that readers get a sense of your personality and motivations, it’s equally important that they understand the academic side of you. Don’t shy away from talking about what you learned during your undergraduate degree and how you hope to build on that knowledge in graduate school.

If you didn’t move directly from your baccalaureate program into a graduate degree, make sure you talk about how you used that time off — especially if you continued working on the skills you hope to further hone while in school. Discuss how any jobs, volunteer experiences or research contributed to your future.

It’s not enough to say you want to study your given topic, you must go into the specifics of the degree. As an example, students hoping to pursue a history degree should discuss specific eras, methodologies or frameworks that serve as inspirations.

Many students leave their statement of purpose until the last minute, as they feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. Even though it can feel intimidating to condense your life into 500 words, get started with plenty of time to spare so you aren’t scrambling the day before the application deadline.

Perfection rarely takes place on the first attempt, so don’t be afraid to write several drafts of your SOP. If you’re unsure of what you want to focus on in the statement, write a few versions and then see what themes or information keeps appearing. Focus on that topic and cut anything that feels irrelevant.

A quick Google search provides hundreds of sample SOPs for students who learn best by seeing examples. Read through a few to get an idea of writing style, structure and tone before you begin the process.

After getting the SOP to a point where you feel reasonably good about the content, consider asking a few people who you trust and respect to review the document. Examples include family, previous professors, mentors or supervisors. These readers can often provide perspective on whether the statement adequately conveys your abilities and passions.

More than a few students have labored endlessly over their SOPs only to find a careless typo or grammatical error — after the document has already been submitted. Read over your SOP several times and ask multiple people to review the document for any mistakes.

Having reviewed the many tips and tricks for writing a stellar statement of purpose, many students may feel antsy to start the process. It’s important for students to keep an eye on the overarching requirements while also ensuring they provide specific examples throughout the statement, says University of North Georgia’s Melinda Maxwell. “To begin with, students need to make sure they answer any specific questions and stay within set character or page limits,” advises Maxwell. She also reminds students of the importance of starting strong with the first paragraph. “The first paragraph should make an impact, allowing the reader to get to know you,” she explains. “Use the next section to discuss goals, relevance, commitment or drive before closing with a summary of information presented.”

If you feel overwhelmed by the task, remember to tap your resources for help. “Lots of higher education institutions offer free services to students and alumni, including graduate school application prep,” she says. “Have a professional read your statement and provide feedback prior to submission; if this service isn’t readily available, reach out to a former professor or mentor from your undergraduate experience and ask if they will agree to a review.”

SOP Template

Within this first section, students need to clearly and concisely let readers know what they hope to accomplish by completing this degree. For historians, their goal may be to earn a Ph.D. that allows them to move into a postsecondary teaching role upon graduation. For biologists, they may want to use the degree as a springboard for a meaningful research position. Whatever the reason, panels need to understand what you hope to do both generally and specifically. While the goal of the historian may be a teaching role, they need to provide specific examples such as time periods, methodologies or frameworks they hope to study to prepare them for specific teaching roles.

This is the space where students need to clearly define their experiences up until this point in their life and connect those experiences with their desire to pursue a graduate degree. Schools want to see that you have a strong, grounded reason for pursuing advanced education, as those who don’t often find that they aren’t prepared for the rigors of graduate school. Individuals working within business may find themselves hitting a ceiling and discover that the next logical step for them involves an MBA. Meanwhile, those working in political science may discover that a master’s in public policy helps them get to the next rung on the latter. Regardless of your field, use this paragraph to passionately express your intense focus on meeting goals.

Not all schools require this section in their statements of purpose, but those that do want to see that students possess a good command of the discipline before admitting them. Students can use this section to highlight any books or studies that motivated them to pursue higher education. They can also discuss specific frameworks and/or methodologies they hope to study while enrolled.

As discussed by Maxwell earlier in this guide, admissions panels want to see that students understand how their goals and interests align with the department’s vision and values. Some students decide to highlight a few professors in the department with whom they would like to study under, while others discuss the accomplishments of alumni they respect and want to emulate. Many paths exist to highlight individualized programmatic interest, and students can use this space to creatively demonstrate their knowledge of the school and department to impress the admissions officers — so long as they connect it back to their goals.

Having laid out your case from various angles and made sure to hit all the points required by the school, the final paragraph provides you the space to succinctly cover all the high points once more and wrap up the statement with a neat finish. While it’s important to restate the most important aspects of yourself and your goals, be sure to keep this section short since it contains no new information.

More on Grad School SOPs

7 Successful Statement of Purpose Examples: PrepScholar shares a sampling of winning statements of purpose from grad students who aced this portion of the application.

10 Tips on How to Write a Statement of Purpose: The University of Southern California provides an institutional perspective on what it looks for in the best SOPs.

13 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Personal Statement: Writing a sound statement of purpose becomes much easier when you know what not to do in the process. Check out Magoosh’s article for advice.

The Definitive Guide to Unbox Statement of Purpose Writing: This exhaustive article by Edusson offers a step-by-step plan for writing a top-tier statement of purpose.

Kisses of Death in the Graduate School Application Process: This academic paper written by professors at Indiana University and Idaho State University highlights five categories of mistakes commonly seen on grad school applications.

Statement of Purpose Guidelines: MIT’s graduate school provides a comprehensive list of steps students can take when creating their statement of purpose.

Things to Avoid in Your Grad School Statement of Purpose: EssayEdge discusses some of the errors students usually make during this process and provides tips on avoiding them.

What to Cover in Your Graduate Statement of Purpose: Students feeling overwhelmed by their options when it comes to what can they include in the SOP can get help narrowing their options by reading this article.

Write a Graduate School Essay that Will Knock Their Socks Off: Peterson’s reviews some of the best approaches students can take if they want to provide a truly memorable statement of purpose.

Writing a Winning Statement of Purpose: The psychology department at San Jose State University shares its tips for creating a statement of purpose that results in an acceptance letter.

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How to Write a Statement of Purpose | Example

Published on February 13, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on June 1, 2023.

When you apply for graduate programs or scholarships, the admissions committee is looking for more than just a list of grades. The statement of purpose (also known as a statement of intent or motivation letter) is your chance to stand out from the crowd and showcase your motivation, skills and potential. It should:

  • Outline your academic or professional interests and goals
  • Discuss relevant skills, experience and achievements
  • Demonstrate why you’d be a good fit for the program

Table of contents

Successful statement of purpose example, requirements and prompts, personal introduction, experience and achievements, goals and motivations, fit with the program, tips for an effective statement of purpose, other interesting articles.

The torment of the Founding Fathers is responsible for my interest in Classics. My desire to learn Latin stemmed from reading American Revolutionary-era history during junior high and high school, and particularly from the countless Latin quotations I found in John Adams’ writings. Always eager for a challenge, I was intrigued by the American founders’ accounts of the torture of learning such a difficult language. In my first semester at university, I started learning Latin and thoroughly loved it. As I learned more and more about classical civilization through the language, I realized that I was passionately interested in many aspects of the field of Classics. I have since taken courses on mythology, art and archaeology, and religion, on ancient history, and on the classical tradition. I have also learned Greek, of course, starting with an intensive two-semester course at the university’s summer school. My experience studying abroad in Florence and traveling through Italy and Greece intensified my zeal for the field and, in particular, fueled my ambition to specialize in classical archaeology.

My personal philosophy of life is that everything is connected, and this conviction drives my desire to study Classics. The most rewarding moments for me are discovering and investigating connections – both broad ones, between fields and disciplines, and more specific ones, like the relationship between a piece of literature and an object of material culture. My liberal arts education has equipped me with a broad base of knowledge in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts, and in the honors program I pursued independent projects exploring academic and personal connections, including a paper on ancient Mayan astronomy, a self-observation study on the effects of nutrition and hydration on exercise performance, and a paper on the influence of political context on the changing artistic representations of John Adams. By seeking out connections between seemingly unrelated areas of academia, I have acquired a well-rounded outlook which helps me approach new ideas with both a range of prior experiences and a mind always open to different interpretations.

In accordance with my personal philosophy, I have also continued to explore connections within Classics and between Classics and other fields. In 2007, I published an article in my university’s undergraduate humanities journal; inspired by my studies in Florence, I compared representations of the birth of Venus in ancient and Renaissance literature and art. My major academic achievement to date, however, has been my senior honor thesis on John Adams’ connection to the Classics. Funded by a Hilldale Research Fellowship, I conducted research in the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society and in John Adams’ personal library at the Boston Public Library on the influence of the classical tradition on Adams’ worldview and how he consciously modeled himself on classical ideals. It was particularly fulfilling to connect historical and classical research in writing about the figure most responsible for instigating my study of the Classics.

As well as my research skills, I have demonstrated proficiency in the classical languages, winning prizes for both Latin and Greek translation from the Classics Department, as well as receiving an enthusiastic nomination from the department for the Pearson Fellowship from the American Philological Association. I am also the president of the undergraduate Classics Society, which allows me to share my enthusiasm for Classics with other students and the larger community.

One of the most appealing aspects of studying Classics is the vast range of topics encompassed by the field. Because my interests are broad and I value an interdisciplinary approach, I would like to pursue graduate study ultimately leading to a PhD in Classical Archaeology. Archaeology in itself is, of course, a multi-faceted field, requiring knowledge of history, language, anthropology, and various scientific and technological methods. I have already started building my skills in this area: I participated in a microartifact analysis from the excavation of a Maya site in Belize as part of an honors project, and this summer I will take part in two archaeological projects in Turkey after working as a research assistant on related material in the spring semester. This PhD program includes many other opportunities I am eager to explore, such as palaeography and papyrology courses, and especially the variety of fieldwork and museum experiences available. I believe that my strong background in the classical languages and wide range of courses on classical civilization and archaeological methods have prepared me well for this program, and I am convinced that, guided by my philosophy of interconnectedness, I will flourish in this program.

The first step is to read the application instructions. These should include the length of the document (usually 1-2 pages), any formatting requirements, and often a question or prompt that indicates what you should focus on.

In some cases, you might also be asked to submit a personal statement . Similar advice applies to both of these documents—both should give a sense of who you are, what you’ve done and what you want to do. But a statement of purpose is often more formal, tightly focused on your academic background and your suitability for the program.

If you are working on multiple applications, don’t try to write a one-size-fits-all text—tailor your statement of purpose to each program. Make sure to respond to the prompt and include all the information you’re asked for. A typical statement of purpose prompt looks like this:

Your focus will be slightly different depending on whether you’re applying for research-based academic programs (such as a PhD ) or professional qualifications (such as an MBA). But all statements of purpose should contain the following elements.

This is your chance to introduce yourself to the admissions committee and let them hear your voice. The statement of purpose shouldn’t tell your life story, but it should give a glimpse into who you are.

Academic and personal background

Give an overview of your academic background, and show what drives your interest in this field or profession. You might want to include some personal background too—your family history, social circumstances, personal relationships and life experiences have all shaped your trajectory and perspective. What unique insights will you bring with you?

Characteristics and personality

Think about aspects of your character that make you well-suited for graduate school. Don’t just list generic adjectives—give examples that demonstrate your strengths and show why they’re relevant.

  • Are you organized enough to handle a high-pressure workload?
  • Do you have the creativity needed to develop original ideas, or a systematic mindset perfect for problem-solving?
  • Do you have strong leadership skills, or are you great at working collaboratively?

Avoid including irrelevant autobiographical detail in the statement of purpose. Everything you include should be aimed at showing why you’d be a strong candidate for the program.

Your experience shows that you have the necessary skills to succeed in graduate school. Don’t just summarize everything you’ve done—pick out some highlights to build a clear picture of your strengths and priorities, illustrating how you’ve learned and developed along the way.

Academic experience

If you’re applying for a research-focused program, such as a PhD, show your knowledge of the field and outline your research experience. This might include:

  • A brief summary of your thesis or final project
  • Courses that you found particularly valuable
  • Projects you contributed to
  • Publications
  • Presentations
  • Extracurriculars that gave you relevant skills or experience

Professional experience

If you’re applying for a professional program, such as an MBA, outline your experience so far and show how it relates to your career plans. This might include:

  • Past or current job roles
  • Projects you led or participated in
  • Internships
  • Voluntary work
  • Training courses

In all cases, give specific examples with details of what you worked on, what you achieved, and what you got out of the experience.

As well as showing that you’re prepared for the program, explain what you expect to get out of it. What are your motivations for applying? How do you plan to make the most of its opportunities, and how will it help you achieve your goals?

Academic motivations

For academic programs, indicate your research interests, showing how they follow from and build upon what you have studied so far. This might include:

  • A subfield that you want to strengthen your expertise in
  • A specific problem or question that you’d like to address
  • An initial idea for a research project
  • A theoretical or methodological approach that you want to develop

This isn’t the place for an in-depth research plan, but it’s a chance to show your enthusiasm and knowledge of your field.

Professional motivations

For professional programs, outline your career aspirations and show how your experience informs your goals. This might include:

  • The next step you want to take in your career. What position are you aiming for and how will the program help you achieve it?
  • Your motivations for a career change. Can you make a link between your previous experience and your new direction?
  • Your long-term goals. Where do you want to be in five or ten years, and how do you see yourself getting there?

The admissions committee wants to know that you’re genuinely motivated to complete the program, and the clearer your plans, the more convincing your commitment.

It’s important to show not only why you want to study this subject, but also why you want to do it in this particular institution and department.

  • Do your research, and mention particular classes, specialisms or faculty that attracted you.
  • Show why you’re a good fit. Do your priorities align with the values and culture of the institution? What will you contribute to the department?
  • Discuss the specific skills, knowledge and experience you expect to get from the program.

The statement of purpose isn’t only about selling yourself—it’s about illustrating an ideal match between you and the program.

Once you’ve made sure to cover all the key elements, you can work on strengthening and polishing the text. Follow these tips to make your application the best it can be.

Stay focused

It can be tempting to try to cram in everything you’ve done, but a good statement of purpose requires careful selection to craft a focused narrative. One way to do this is by building your text around a central theme—for example, a character trait, an intellectual interest, or a career goal.

This strategy helps structure your text and puts your priorities centre stage. Link each paragraph back to the central idea, making it clear how everything fits together.

Think about your structure

The structure of a statement of purpose is somewhat flexible, as long as you include all the relevant information in an order that makes sense.

For example, you might start with a chronological story of where your interests began, or you might open with your goals and then select a series of examples that show your capacity to achieve them. If you’re desperate to study in this specific program, you could lead with a summary of why it’s your ideal choice, and then elaborate on each aspect to show why you’re a perfect fit.

The important thing is that the text showcases your strengths and motivations in a compelling, coherent way. As in any other piece of academic writing, make sure each paragraph communicates one main idea, and that each sentence flows smoothly and logically from the last. Use transition words and topic sentences to move between paragraphs.

Add meaning to your resume

The bare facts of your achievements—grades, prizes, work experience—are already included in your graduate school resume and transcripts. Use the statement of purpose not to repeat yourself, but to add personal meaning and texture to these facts.

If you got top marks for your thesis, describe the research process and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the topic. If you completed an internship or participated in a project, explain what new skills you learned and which aspects you found most valuable. If you already have lots of experience in the field, show how each step developed your skills and shaped your current plans.

Revise, edit, proofread

Your statement of purpose isn’t only about the content—it’s also a chance to show that you can express yourself fluently, confidently and coherently in writing. Spend plenty of time revising, editing and proofreading your text before you submit.

Make sure you stay within the recommended length, and check if there are any specific formatting requirements. If not, use a standard 12pt font, 1-inch margins and 1.5 line spacing.

When you have a final draft, our professional statement of purpose proofreading service can offer an extra pair of eyes to make sure every sentence is perfect.

Proofread my statement of purpose

Checklist: Statement of purpose

My statement of purpose clearly responds to the prompt.

I have introduced my academic, professional and/or personal background.

I have described any relevant experience and shown my development over time.

I have highlighted key achievements that demonstrate my talents.

There is a clear connection between my previous experience and my future plans.

I have explained how the program will help me achieve my goals.

I have mentioned specific aspects of the program, department and institution that appeal to me.

Every paragraph focuses on one central idea.

The paragraphs are organized in a logical order and tell a clear, coherent story.

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How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Grad School (Examples)

how to write a statement of goals and objectives for graduate school

What is a Statement of Purpose for Grad School?

The Statement of Purpose (or “SOP letter”) is a key component of your application materials for most graduate schools, MBA programs, and Ph.D. programs in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and other countries around the world with an English-language curriculum. The most important thing about the statement of purpose (or personal statement) is that it ties together grades, test scores, and application and expands upon it, giving admissions officers a much more expansive window into who you are as a student and a person.

Although the graduate school application and academic CV provide a lot of information about you as a candidate, the letter will tell them “who you are” and “what you want to be” in a much more detailed and personal way than the other components in the application package.

What to Include in a Statement of Purpose

Before entering a graduate program, the graduate faculty need to know why you are interested in coming to this institution or program and how it will help you achieve your larger academic and professional goals in life. They also need to see that you are a person capable of high academic achievement in their given program. This means an extended history of your academic achievements during your undergraduate career (and graduate career if you have attended grad school), as well as the goals and objectives you have set out for yourself.

Ultimately, you need to stand out as a candidate from the field, showing why the admissions officers should accept you over the many other strong graduate candidates. The Statement of Purpose should highlight the reasons why you are more than just your test scores and grades—it could even help you overcome a less-than-perfect score in a class and account for any missing years in education. Therefore, keep in mind that your grad school SOP letter should be honest, candid, and most importantly, complete.

How long should a Statement of Purpose be? 

For most grad school programs, your Statement of Purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words, depending on the level of your program and your academic history and achievements. A grad school SOP usually does not exceed two pages when written in a traditional font at a readable size of 11-point or 12-point. Leave enough whitespace in the margins to make the statement easy for admissions committees to read. Your SOP letter should also be double-spaced and follow standard formatting rules for university essays. Visit your program’s admissions website for specific Statement of Purpose formatting details.

Specific SOP Letter Questions to Answer

The following questions should be clearly answered in your SOP (in relatively this order):

  • WHO are you (as a person and a student)?
  • HOW did you become interested in this topic/field of study?
  • WHAT have you done so far in the field of your choice?
  • WHY/HOW do you want to study this field?
  • WHY do you want to study at this university/program and WHY are you a good fit?

What style of writing is needed in a Statement of Purpose?

Although the SOP letter is more informal than a research paper, make sure that your language is not only free of grammatical and mechanics errors but that it is of an academic level that reflects your educational level and qualifications. Apply the following standards to the writing and the essay-drafting process:

  • Compose using “graduate-level” academic writing.
  • Make your language more personal in tone than research writing.
  • Use the active voice and first-person point of view more often.
  • Write chronologically, starting from your most important actions and achievements during your undergraduate years.
  • Use lots of details—list course names, professors, methods, and specific schools and programs.
  • Write several drafts of your SOP letter, giving yourself time to edit, revise, and edit again before submitting your essay to the graduate admissions faculty.

Statement of Purpose Organization

A well-structured Statement of Purpose allows readers to see your growth and development as an individual and as a researcher and student. You can think of the SOP letter as a story where all parts are in sequential, chronological order. The following is the most standard structure of a Statement of Purpose. For each “section,” you should write at least one paragraph but no more than two paragraphs, depending on the word-count limit indicated by your graduate program:

  • A  “hook”  that demonstrates your passion for the field
  • Segue  (transition) to your background in the field
  • Specific  classes  you have taken, given by name
  • Specific  professors  you have had, especially if well-known
  • Extracurricular activities  in the field
  • Publications  and other  professional accomplishments  in the field
  • Explanations about  problems in your background  (if applicable)
  • Mention  one or two professors  whose work you appreciate
  • Specific features  of the grad program which attract you
  • A  brief conclusion  repeating your purpose for applying to this program

Statement of Purpose Brainstorming Questions

As we mentioned above, it is critical that you answer all the questions expected in your Statement of Purpose. While graduate programs almost always provide specific prompts and instructions on their university/program website, the list below gives much more in-depth questions that you can answer to ensure impressing the graduate admissions faculty at your program. Use these as prompts to answer and brainstorm your more complete answers in each section (see the examples in the images below).

Academic/Professional Interests and Motivations

  • What most interests you about this area of study?
  • Why are you interested in this area and topic?
  • When did you first start to show an interest? How did you exhibit this interest?

Academic Background

  • What majors, classes, or other academic experiences have you had in this field?
  • Which of your work, research, and/or extracurricular experiences are related to this field?

Publications/Professional Accomplishments/Awards

  • What work have you published or written (thesis, dissertation, etc.) related to this field?
  • Which awards have you received that show my ability?

What are your short-term and long-term goals?

  • What do you hope to accomplish academically?
  • What sort of research or professional work do you want to do in the future with your graduate degree or Ph.D.?

Recent Research/Professional Activities and Preparation

  • What work have you been involved in recently that has prepared you for this program?
  • What have you been involved in recently to show your interest in this field?

Why are you interested in this university and graduate program?

  • What does this university/program offer you that other schools don’t?
  • Which courses and professors most interest you?
  • What makes you a “good fit” for this institution?
  • What will you bring to this program?

What makes you stand out as a graduate school candidate?

  • What other information about you should the school know that will attract them to you?
  • Do you have any unique abilities or circumstances?

Do you have any weaknesses or missing elements you need to explain?

  • Do you have any semesters of low grades that you may need to account for?
  • Any inconsistencies or big changes in your academic or professional direction?

Statement of Purpose Structure in Detail

Think of the following questions and their answers as topic sentences or “mini-theses” that will guide the information and details in the rest of the paragraph. Answer each question during the brainstorming process and write it in a simple sentence or two. After answering these important questions, you will have a complete working outline (nearly a first draft!) in which you can later fill in the details, edit, and revise.

Grad School Statement of Purpose Example

University/Program:  NYU Anthropology Department

Major:  East African Studies

Paragraph 1: Introduction and Intended Program (“hook”)

statement of purpose example introduction paragraph

Paragraph 2: Background, Interests, and Motivations (“segue”)

statement of purpose example paragraph

Paragraph 3: Elaborate on your academic background

statement of purpose example paragraph

Paragraph 4: Extracurricular Activities

SOP example text

Paragraphs 5-6: Publications and More Recent Activity

graduate SOP example fifth paragraph

Paragraph 7: Why are you a good fit for this program and school?

graduate SOP example seventh paragraph

Paragraph 8: SOP Conclusion/Commitment Statement

statement of purpose example final paragraph

More Statement of Purpose Samples

Here are several examples of successful graduate school statements of purpose. Both candidates were applying to top-15 graduate and MBA programs. Notice how each essay incorporates their personal experience with their future goals, both academic and career.

Note: These are actual sample essays edited by professional editors . Personal info is redacted for privacy. This is not a reusable template.

Statement of Purpose Example 1

Computer science (CS) studies require abstract thinking and practical problem-solving skills. Hence, CS students usually need strong theoretical and technical abilities, which I have gained through my undergraduate education. For example, I am well-trained in mathematics, and the courses I have taken in the field have laid a solid theoretical foundation for understanding abstract computational propositions and designing complex algorithms. I am also skilled at computational thinking: I can connect theories with real-life problems and create computer programs to provide innovative solutions. Additionally, I am very passionate about studying CS because I know that CS will significantly impact my career and future life. Therefore, I feel confident that I will succeed in the _________ Program. I am looking forward to studying at ______, where I can learn how to create web scrapers, manage databases, contribute to open-source projects, and research various advanced topics.

The introduction immediately states the academic program and field of study. It adeptly defines what “success” is in the field of CS and connects that with his/her history, skills, and passions.

During my undergraduate career, I took many pure math courses, including Linear Algebra, Probability Theory, and Mathematical Statistics. These courses have prepared me well for studying advanced computer science because a wide range of methods used in modern computational research is based on mathematics. For example, in machine learning, knowledge from linear algebra and mathematical statistics is the basis for two key research methods: algebraic and statistical methods. Thanks to my proficiency in both areas, I will be able to find statistical explanations for the algebraic approach as well as perform algebraic calculations for statistical models. Therefore, I am confident in my ability to solve various theoretical problems during hands-on machine learning research. 

This part talks about academic history and skills. This applicant has the academic background and course history to be prepared for graduate-level study.

Furthermore, the computational thinking skills I gained from my undergraduate education enable me to formulate a problem, express the solution, and evaluate the results. In my Mathematical Modeling class, my professor introduced a mathematical model for describing the stock market. However, I soon realized that the model was too simple to illustrate real scenarios due to the lack of time variables. Therefore, I supplemented his original model with an iterative formula to measure time, programmed equations into a MATLAB editor, and generated solution graphs. I was surprised by the results, which implied a potential contradiction with the professor’s proposed solution. When I explained my findings to the professor, he was very impressed by my work. I plan to continue to capitalize on the strength of my computational thinking skills at Columbia to manage complex databases, practice classic algorithms, and apply my computer science expertise to solve real-life problems.

The applicant moves on to give an academic experience that demonstrates how he/she learns. How does the student handle barriers? How does the student interact with professors and mentors? How did he/she solve a problem? Graduate programs are looking for students who take control of their learning. 

One of the primary reasons that I want to study computer science is my internship experience. During the winter break of my junior year, I worked as an investment research intern at a private equity firm, where I was responsible for collecting financial data and writing industry reports. I enjoyed this work and continued finding methods to improve my efficiency—I wanted to spend more time on data analysis and less on manual data collection. After visiting another private equity firm with my manager, I realized that I needed to learn computer science. At that firm, all of the data collection and analyses were done automatically by its data mining and machine learning system. Using this approach, the firm could spend more time communicating with investors to raise more capital. Although I later switched my career goal to economics research, I am still motivated by what I learned from my internship experience: in the 21st century, computer science will fundamentally change every industry and every one of us. As such, we must embrace computer science to gain advantageous positions for our careers.

The applicant next explains why he/she wants to study at this program. The applicant writes about a professional high-performing experience that informed why studying CS could be beneficial. The applicant only learned this while “on the job .”

Outside of the classroom, I enjoy hiking. During my three years in _____, I climbed many mountains in the area. Hiking can be challenging on steep trails because I am sometimes exhausted, only halfway to the top. However, I never give up. In these moments, I will take a rest, have some energy bars, and continue walking until I reach the apex and discover the beautiful scenery there. Studying computer science is similar to hiking in some ways: as a non-CS major, I may find some CS courses challenging. However, with the patience and perseverance I have learned through hiking, I am able to overcome these challenges and master advanced computational techniques. As an international student, I will maintain full-time enrollment at my current university in order to attend the program if I am admitted. I hope to apply the computer science skills I will acquire at Columbia to boost my career development and achieve a better future.

Here, the student shows how well-rounded she/he is. Challenges are to be expected and not avoided. The applicant shows that balance is key to her/his way of learning.

Statement of Purpose Example 2

Life is short, but it is enjoyable to pursue and commit to something you love. My interest in information systems arose from my internship. Previously, I just wanted to start my career as a business analyst, more focused on the business side. But after the internship, this changed. At ____ , I gained exposure to SaaS and FinTech, which piqued my interest in programming, machine learning, and technology. Learning about these two fields afforded me opportunities to research technology and information science methods, and the process of actually handling data for analysis taught me that data is more useful in today’s business world than it was in the past, and I need to improve my data processing and forecasting skills to better serve my data-related work. My current master’s program focuses more on statistics than machine learning and technology, so I am eager to enroll in ____ ’s Master of Science in Information Systems program to follow my passion. I am confident that my strong academic background and relevant experience will allow me to succeed in this program.

The applicant immediately demonstrates his/her professional background. If your professional background is your best selling point, start with it. The applicant is a mature candidate and is applying because she/he knows what they want and what they need from the program.

After my undergraduate study in finance, I wanted to improve my statistical and technical skills along with business knowledge in order to meet my future job needs. In 2019, having achieved outstanding grades, I enrolled in ____ University’s master’s degree program in Applied Statistics and Decision Making. But based on my previous internships and projects, I want to take more courses in information systems and programming. Upon entering my current degree program, I selected courses on statistics, regression analysis and modeling, Python, R, sentiment analysis, and similar topics. These statistical and data science courses resolved some of the challenges I faced during my internship and helped determine my career goal in technology.

The second paragraph most often recalls the candidate’s academic or undergraduate history. The goal is to demonstrate you have taken the proper coursework to be prepared and you are aware of the skills needed.

This past summer, I interned at Visa in financial data analytics, a business-technology combined role. Compared to my previous internship at ____ , I learned more about data and technology foundations by gaining a comprehensive knowledge of the data analysis process. We use customer reporting and company network data to analyze customers’ credit status and make adjustments accordingly. Specifically, I used Python and SQL to conduct EDA and ETL processes. Then, I wrote a filter function to realize data extraction automation. After that, I compared and analyzed the internal business data. I marked the flagging value with the binary standard, using simple classification models, like logistic regression and random forest, to understand changes in the data. Finally, I designed dashboards using Tableau to show the investment and management team the flagging data of customers and their overall credit statuses. Through this internship, I was able to apply my theoretical knowledge to a specific extent, but it was still relatively simple data analysis and machine learning, as I did not optimize my model or made predictions. In order to conduct more in-depth research and make predictions, I decided to learn more about modeling and technical methods.

Next is professional experiences. The applicant details real, professional projects she/he has completed. The applicant shows why and how each tool is important in a business context (this candidate was applying to a top business school in NYC).

Therefore, I have decided to pursue graduate study in information systems at ____ . Several features of your program make it the perfect place for my future studies. First, the opportunity to pursue a summer internship to enhance my future job prospects appeals to me. Second, I am drawn to the comprehensive structure of the curriculum. I will have the chance to study in both the ____ School of Business and Computer Science and conduct an information technology project, which will enable me to achieve my goal of mastering business methods as well as algorithms relevant to technology management. Furthermore, I believe I am a great fit for your program and can both succeed and contribute a unique perspective. I have the requisite knowledge of business, statistics, mathematics, and programming required by the program. My previous internships and projects have provided me with substantial experience in both business and technology, and I have a clear understanding of what I hope to achieve in the program. Ideally, I want to consolidate my prior knowledge, focus on algorithms and systems, and deepen my study of machine learning and algorithms to be able to use various models flexibly and fluently. Finally, because I have studied in _____’s summer program, building a strong network with my professors and classmates, and earned my first graduate degree in New York, there is no question of my being able to adapt and assimilate to a new culture or environment. 

This section explains why the student is applying, what he/she hopes to gain, and what she/he can contribute. They cite the program’s strong network as a selling point.

Within one year of graduation, I hope to find a satisfying job related to technology and business, such as a technology consultant or product manager position in a technology or finance company. In the long run, I am eager to grow my network, make critical contributions to my team at work, and hope to become successful in the field of technology. Continuing my studies in your distinguished program would be a worthwhile journey for me and an integral step to achieving my goals.

Further Tips for Writing the Graduate Statement of Purpose

  • Highlight your self-motivation, competence, and potential in this essay
  • Emphasize everything from a positive perspective and write in the active voice.
  • Demonstrate through examples; don’t just write that you are a “persistent person”—show it!
  • Approach every topic with continuity and focus.
  • Start at least 2-3 months in advance and write several drafts of your SOP letter before finalizing your essay.

The Final Step: Editing Your SOP Letter

As any good writer knows, it takes more than one draft to create a strong and compelling work of writing. After you have brainstormed for your grad school SOP letter, answered key questions, created a working outline, and written your first draft, there is still a lot of room for revision. Share your work with a friend or peer whose opinion you trust.

Even better, let a professional proofreading service like Wordvice (including personal statement editing and statement of purpose editing services ) revise and proofread your essay so that it lives up to its full potential and helps ensure that you will be admitted to the graduate or doctoral program of your choice. Our Essay Editing Services also include recommendation letter editing and cv editing , covering all kinds of application documents for college, university, MBA programs, and other advanced degrees and programs.

For more academic resources on writing the statement of purpose for grad school and editing your essays and academic work, check out the following articles and videos.

Wordvice Admissions Resources

  • All You Need to Know About the Letter of Recommendation
  • Tips for Writing a Strong Personal Statement 
  • Write a Strong MBA Admissions Essay
  • Writing a Strong Recommendation Letter
  • Sample Academic CV for Graduate Programs

The Classroom | Empowering Students in Their College Journey

How to Write a Career Goal Statement for Grad School

Fiona Tapp

Personal Statement for Reasons Seeking Graduate Degree in Nursing

Grad school applicants have already shown that they have the discipline, work ethic and intellect to succeed in a further education program. But your previous experience and achievements certainly don't mean that this next step will be easy.

Admissions committees only want the very best students in their programs. They're looking for applicants that can bring something new to the college and who will produce important research which will help to advance the colleges academic reputation. They also want to make sure that prospective students will be able to cope with the demands of a post-graduate workload and will add to the dialogue during seminar sessions and group working situations.

When applying to grad school, your career goal statement which is also known as a "statement of purpose," a "personal statement" or a "letter of intent" is the single most important part of your application, and the main way you have to reach or influence the decision making process of the admissions committee.

Remember that the members of the admission selection panel will have to read many personal statements and will be looking for interesting and special letters which stand out from the pile that they receive.

What Information Should You Include in Your Career Goal Statement?

Your career goal statement is a written part of your application where you're able to explain why you should be accepted into a post-graduate course of study. Some institutions will ask you to include specific information such as any work you have already completed on the topic, what your field of study will be or how you propose to conduct your research.

They might also want to know about work experiences you have had that will benefit your course of study. Other colleges accept less structured statements which allow students to shine while discussing a range of topics and research interests.

Your prospective college will provide you with information about exactly what it wants to see in your application package, including what to include in your goal statement for college admission. Read this information, including any examples sent, very carefully. Then, take your time and make sure that you submit your application ahead of the deadline, allowing yourself plenty of time to edit, review and rewrite your personal statement.

The Princeton Review advises prospective research students to carefully consider exactly what the admissions committee wants to see. They say that regardless of the field of study all admissions departments will want to find out the following information from students:

  • What you want to study at the graduate level and why.
  • Why you want to study it at the chosen institution.
  • What you intend to add to the existing research.
  • What experiences you already have in the industry or field of knowledge.
  • Your career plans and goals for the future, and how your postgraduate degree will help you to achieve your career goals.
  • Personal information about you, and why the admission committee should choose you.

This information will help them to decide which applicants will benefit the most from the program and which students can bring fresh insight and new findings to the topic or industry. They're also looking for evidence that you'll be able to cope with the demands of postgraduate study and that you're ready for the challenge of an advanced degree.

Things to Avoid in Your Goal Statement for College

University admission committees have to wade through an awful lot of applications and read hundreds of goal statements for college packages. They can be forgiven for becoming jaded at seeing the same cliched sentences repeated time and time again. So stand out from the crowd by avoiding overused language.

The Career Center at Berkeley produces a list of words to avoid when crafting your goal statement for college. They include overused adjectives like "significant," "interesting," "challenging," "satisfying" and "exciting," or cliches like "I want to make a difference," or "I like to help people."

You'll also want to make sure that any facts or figures that you include are accurate and that you do not introduce any controversial information or unfounded arguments.

Read over your statement and ensure that it is personalized. It must contain stories, insight and reflections from your unique point of view and life experiences. As you read it through, it should be impossible to imagine that anyone but you could have written it.

Although you are advised to make your statement as personal as possible, you don't need to include personal details unrelated to your field of studies, such as your interests or hobbies. You should avoid including unnecessary information that doesn't add to your argument.

What Is the Correct Goal Statement Format?

It's important to carefully plan an outline to ensure that you don't miss out any important information that should be included.

Try to clarify the main points that you want to get across and consider exactly which words you want to come to mind when the admissions team discusses your application. When you're editing your statement, take a highlighter marker and find your key themes or words to make sure they are repeated strategically throughout your statement. This will help bring your ideas together and ensure you have written a compelling argument for why you should be chosen for your selected program.

Your goal statement format should include your key themes brought to life with interesting narratives and compelling anecdotes. Sometimes people find it difficult to write about themselves and worry that they may come across as self-absorbed. However, this is your personal statement and needs to focus on your success, your views, your goals and why you are the best choice for the program.

If you are drawing a blank when trying to think of stories or experiences that exemplify your key points, think carefully about why you want to continue your studies. Why do you want to learn more? What do you want to discover? And how have these topics manifested themselves over the course of your life? Answering these questions will help you clarify your message and plan out your personal statement.

You should begin with a catchy personal introduction that grabs the readers attention and quickly injects your personality into what will be one of many many personal statements the admissions team has to read. You should describe what you intend to study, how your interests have been shaped by your previous education and life experiences and any challenges you have experienced along the way in your life and academic career.

Explain carefully why you are applying to this particular school and why you want to undertake study in this particular topic. Refer to any studies published by the university or any unusual or interesting research work they have produced recently. Show that you are up to date on the University's mission and research interests and accomplishments. Don't be afraid to praise any recent work, awards or initiatives which you found particularly impressive or noteworthy. After all, a little flattery can go a long way.

The usual length of a personal statement is about two pages, but you should carefully observe your college's instructions sent along with the application packet to ensure that you meet the required word count.

Include a comprehensive conclusion that sums up all your ideas and arguments and gives a clear answer to why you should be chosen and accepted to this college at this time.

Examples of Career Goal Statements

The California State University Channel Islands has shared a collection of goal statement format examples showcasing those that caught the eye of admissions officers.

They suggest that prospective graduate students include enough personal information to stand out from the crowd. They also suggest that they should mention by name any professors who have had an impact on their education and that they detail the work they hope to focus on during their research and studies.

When discussing the impact you wish to have, use specific examples from the particular school and program course to which you are applying. When you apply to grad school you may well be applying to many different institutions, but the admissions panel should feel that your application is specifically tailored to their college.

Although it can feel laborious, you will greatly improve your chances of acceptance if you write individual personal statements for every grad school that you apply to.

If you have any unusual or unexpected choices throughout your academic history carefully explain them. If you changed your major, abandoned a particular study or relocated to a different university it may not be seen as a negative by the admissions panel as long as you can explain what happened and how your choices have benefited your studies or furthered your understanding of the topic and how they have lead you to where you are today. Ensure, however, that your delivery is upbeat and that it doesn't sound like a list of excuses or an exercise in self-pity.

You can also choose personal events or circumstances, such as your work history, family or even challenges you encountered to illustrate your key achievements and traits that make you an ideal candidate for the program of study and the demands of a post-graduate course in general.

When to Ask for Help

Writing a career goal statement for grad school is difficult and that's one of the reasons why selection committees ask you to complete one. It gives them an excellent idea of your personal interests and research focus, but it also ensures applicants are serious about the process.

If you have no idea where to start at all and internet searches are not making it any easier for you, then you should consider booking an appointment with a career advisor at your college and asking for some assistance in crafting your personal statement. You can also ask for help from previous grad school graduates or from your tutor. You'll be expected to include references from your professors, so it's a good idea to ask them for any relevant advice or tips as well.

Once you have finished writing your career goal statement for grad school, check it for spelling and grammar mistakes, and then re-read it after a day or two. Be sure to print it out before proofreading as mistakes can be overlooked when only reading from a computer screen.

Read the statement aloud to check for flow and meaning, and then read it to a friend or relative and get their honest opinion. You may also want to ask a teacher or professor to look it over and ask a proofreader to do a final check before submission.

Take your time to complete your personal statement, a rushed submission will not impress anyone and this is the best opportunity you have to impress the selection committee and improve your chances of being selected to join the grad school of your choice.

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  • UC: Graduate School - Statement
  • Princeton Review: How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

Fiona Tapp is a freelance writer and educator. Her work has been featured on The Washington Post, HuffPost, The Toronto Star, Readers Digest, and others. She writes about a variety of topics including Homes, Parenting, Education, and Travel. Fiona is a former teacher and masters degree holder. ᐧ

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how to write a statement of goals and objectives for graduate school

February 8, 2023

  • Writing Your Career Goals Essay

Writing Your Career Goals Essay | Accepted

Check out all of the blog posts in this series:

  • Identifying the Ingredients of a Winning Essay
  • Finding a Theme for Your Statement of Purpose
  • How to Start Your First Draft of an Application Essay
  • Revise and Polish Your Application Essays

The career goals essay demands a laser-like focus. Unlike personal statements that can cover one’s career goals but also allow for more flexibility in content, the career goals essay has a specific and packed agenda. In fact, a career goals essay prompt could actually involve multiple questions, and in such cases, you want to make sure to address each of them.

For example, in 2022, Kellogg asked applicants to its one-year program, “Please discuss your post-MBA career goal, the current experience you will leverage to support the transition, and the Kellogg 1Y opportunities that will help you reach this goal.” 

This prompt has three parts: (1)  What do you want to do post-MBA ? (2) Why is the 1Y program appropriate for you? In other words, what in the 1Y program will enable you to achieve your professional goal? And (3) what experience has so far prepared you to succeed in your target role? 

Drill down to ensure that you are answering all the questions within a school’s question. 

Three ingredients of a successful career goals essay

In addition to having a theme, your essay should do the following:

  • Highlight specific career achievements. Choose among your most notable or defining experiences, either at work or through a community or extracurricular activity. These should  showcase your leadership skills , creative thinking, collaborative abilities, and self-reflections.
  • Explain why your career goal makes sense in light of your experiences and influences so far.
  • Demonstrate why you are suited to a particular field as a result of your education, experience, abilities, and enthusiasm. Ideally, the material you choose to include will also allow you to prove your level of knowledge about industry trends and point to how your particular abilities can help you contribute to that field.

That is a very tall order.

Putting these ingredients together to create your goals essay

Let’s see how this was achieved in a sample  MBA Goals Essay . 

You should be able to easily recognize why the writer’s opening is attention-getting for all the right reasons. The writer introduces herself as the supremely busy executive she visualizes she will become in the future. She trades large amounts of stock, dashes to a Zoom conference, rushes downstairs, hails a taxi, then catches a plane. As she describes this rush of activity, we can practically feel her heart pumping.

After establishing her theme in this opening, she offers context for her MBA goal. Notice that in writing about her work as an accountant for a major firm, she provides relevant details, including how many years she has been in the field, her bilingualism, and her specialty area as an auditor. This information is her springboard to explain why she is pursuing an MBA – she’s bursting out of her limited role as an accountant. Her eyes and ambition are set on a larger playing field as a money manager.

[Click Here to Read the Full Essay]

A career goals essay, not a list or CV

Outstanding career goals essays  go beyond listing an applicant’s roles and achievements. They convey the candidate’s real, palpable excitement about their career choice. This writer’s enthusiastic, dreamy first paragraph achieved this, and she returned to that image at the end, where she painted her idealized (if frantically busy) future. She also proved her seriousness by registering for the CFA exam.

Connecting your career goals to your “why this school” reasons in your essay

Many essay questions, especially those for  MBA programs , will ask why you have chosen the particular school you’re applying to. Be prepared to respond knowledgeably and enthusiastically. This will be easier if you have made in-person or virtual campus visits, attended student recruitment meetings, participated in forums, read student blogs, watched videos of students speaking about their experiences, communicated directly with students and/or recent alumni, and otherwise done your homework. And make sure you have familiarized yourself with the courses and specializations that are relevant to your goals.

Summary Tips:

  • Focus on answering each and every question asked in a career goals essay prompt; usually, there is more than one.
  • Write about your experiences vividly, so that your achievements and motivations are clear and compelling.
  • Learn  why the school is a good fit for you  so you can write about it with genuine enthusiasm.

In the next post in this series , we’ll show you how to take all this advice and apply it to create an exemplary first draft.

Work one-on-one with an expert who will walk you through the process of creating a slam-dunk application. Check out our full catalog of application services . Our admissions consultants have read thousands of essays and know the exact ingredients of an outstanding essay.

how to write a statement of goals and objectives for graduate school

By Judy Gruen, former Accepted admissions consultant. Judy holds a Master’s in Journalism from Northwestern University. She is the co-author of Accepted’s first full-length book,  MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools .  Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!

Related resources:

  • Why MBA , a free guide to help you determine your MBA goals
  • How to Write a Goal Statement for Graduate School
  • Focus on Fit , a podcast episode

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Finding Your School’s Mission and Vision

A former principal explains how mission and vision statements differ and why creating them is crucial to a school’s success.

Photo of two teachers talking

Most first-year or veteran principals who are newly assigned to their school eventually must affirm the school’s existing mission and vision statements or engage stakeholders in a process of revising them. Sometimes, those statements incorporate and reflect district-wide beliefs, values, ideals, and goals.

When I was a new principal, I struggled with mission and vision statements. I didn’t understand the difference or how to utilize them. Regardless of what I might have learned about them in my preparatory classes, I was overwhelmed by day-to-day challenges. So as a result, any of the existing statements developed by the previous administration and posted throughout the school meant little to me.

That changed, however, when the parent of one of our school’s students with a disability, Billy (not his real name), stumped me one day with this question: “Why does this school exist?” Her son had intense needs. I had spoken with her numerous times but now wondered what had prompted the question. As we talked about why our school existed and what we hoped to achieve—for her son and everyone else—our discussion suddenly helped both of us form a much more meaningful concept of mission and vision. 

Our school’s mission (why we existed) was to teach.

Our vision, reflecting shared beliefs, values, and specific, purposeful goals, was the summation of desired outcomes we wanted, along with strategic plans to achieve them.

Billy’s mother eloquently stated, “I just want three things from this school. First, I want my son to learn the basic skills that he will need to get a job someday.” (As I listened, I was thinking to myself that I certainly wanted the same for my daughters.) “Two, I want him to develop good, appropriate social skills so that when he grows up and buys the house next to yours, you won’t want to move.” (I was really listening now.) “And third, I want him to learn to appreciate the finer things in life so that he doesn’t grow up to be a couch potato.” (Wow, she had clarified a vision for her son that any parent should want for their child.)

Missions and visions

The more I thought about it—then and since—the universal mission of every school is to teach. Academics, social skills, creative thinking, healthy living, good choices, and much more. We can embellish the concept of teaching with fancy words that signify academic achievement, physical growth, personal development, wisdom, virtues, transformations, etc., but it all boils down to this: The reason that schools exist is for teaching. Everyone is free to choose their own descriptive words of purpose, but I preferred succinct, easy-to-remember, and personalized wording. And Billy’s mom had helped me shape our mission and vision. 

As I discussed the mission with my staff, we rallied around the ideal that our primary focus was to teach—academics, behaviors, social skills, and aspirations in ways that were most timely, appropriate, individualized, and effective for every child. I helped my staff reflect on their practice and question themselves—if what they were doing didn’t teach, why were they doing it?

My advice for principals—regardless of the wording of your mission statement—is to understand these two basic concepts:

  • Your mission is why you exist.
  • Your vision is how you accomplish goals. 

Many vision and mission statements are closely related and often used interchangeably. When both are well conceived and meaningful, they can drive your school community’s focus. However, many are often not as effective as they could be. 

At my school, once we agreed that our purpose was to teach (mission), we turned our attention to fulfilling the beliefs, values, and goals embedded in what Billy’s mom had asked for her son (vision). The three visionary targets remained the same, regardless of where each child started.

Academics became more individualized with rigor while teaching the concept of grit. The development of a schoolwide code of conduct (focused on quality work, respect, safety, and kindness) resulted in more effective, personalized ways of teaching social skills and positive behaviors. And so that no student would become a couch potato, we infused the arts and extracurricular activities into every aspect of school that we could think of, teaching and coaching their meaning and value. 

I’m forever indebted to Billy’s mom. She helped me and my staff conceptualize, personalize, and solidify our thinking, define our “why” (mission), and teach to meet the needs of every student. Parents rallied together with me and my teachers around those three stated expectations (vision) from our school—so concise and clear that we have never forgotten them, and never will.

I hope every principal encounters someone like Billy’s mom. When you do, listen, collaborate closely, and learn. Together, you’ll develop the most meaningful awareness of why you do what you do.

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How to Write an Objective for a Resume or CV (+ Templates)

There may be times during your job search when it’s useful to include an objective on your resume or CV. This brief explanation of your professional goals helps explain what you're looking for.

[Featured image] A pair of glasses, a pencil, and a pen sit on top of a stack of resumes on a wooden desk.

In India, resumes and CVs are often used interchangeably, although the more concise resumes are typically used when applying for jobs in the private sector. Longer-form, more detailed CVs are typically used when applying for a job in the public sector. 

Both documents can benefit from including an objective—a one- or two-sentence summary of your most immediate career goals. Though you don't always need to include an objective, it may help a recruiter or hiring manager understand who you are, what you’re looking for, and why you’d be a worthwhile candidate.   

In this article, we’ll go over specific scenarios where it may be worthwhile to include an objective on your resume or CV, along with templates you can follow to help you capture your unique story and aspirations. 

Objectives on resumes and CVs: Key facts 

When you apply for jobs, an objective offers a concise, tailored synopsis that helps explain what you're looking for. It's a way to answer the question, 'Why this job?'

Strong objectives tend to include the following information: 

Who you are

What you want to achieve with your next career move 

The value you’ll add to a position or company 

Resume and CV objective templates + how to adjust

Objectives follow certain conventions. For example, many applicants write in the third-person emphasis, but you can also write in the first person or explain your career goals. 

Let’s take a look at a few examples that employ the information mentioned above:  

Third-person emphasis: Social media coordinator [who you are] with agency experience [value add] looking for a position managing social media strategy, planning, and execution for a major health care brand [what you want] .  

First-person emphasis: I am an agency-trained social media coordinator [who you are] seeking a social media manager position [what you want] where I can apply my health care brand knowledge to grow audience awareness and engagement [value add] . 

Position emphasis: Seeking a social media manager position at a health care start-up [what you want] , where I can apply my three years of social media experience using tools like Hootsuite and Buffer [value add + who you are].  

Adjust your CV or resume objective by determining which format—third-person, first-person, or position emphasis—best fits your particular needs and changing how you present the three key pieces of information. 

For example, to create a more concise description of who you are, use an adjective that grabs a recruiter’s attention, like 'savvy [job title]' or 'organised [job title]'. You can also summarise your experience instead, like '[job title] with X years of experience'. 

When should you use an objective? 

You don’t always need an objective. It can take up valuable space better served in another way, such as clarifying your impact in your most recent role or listing out extra technical skills you have.  

However, including one may help you catch recruiters’ attention. Additionally, several scenarios exist where it can be more helpful to use an objective than others, including:  

If you don’t have any experience

If you recently graduated college 

If you’ve held many different types of roles

If you’re interested in changing careers or industries 

If you’re interested in career advancement

If you’d like to relocate 

Each scenario listed above might benefit from explaining what you hope to achieve in your next role, and providing recruiters with valuable information to help frame the information on your CV or resume. 

Where should an objective go on your resume or CV? 

Depending on how you format your resume, it’s best to put a resume objective near the top, either underneath your header or to the right. Look at this resume template for freshers as an example: 

An example of a resume.

5 CV and resume objective tips 

In two sentences at most, an objective needs to say a lot about who you are and what you want. To make your objective as effective as possible, consider the following tips: 

1. Research keywords. 

As part of your job search, note any keywords in various job descriptions and see if you can integrate a few of them into your objective. For example, if a job description mentions attention to detail, mention that quality when you describe yourself or your experience, 'Successful UX designer with strong attention to detail.'   

2. Tailor your objective for each role. 

You’ll want to tailor your objective for each role by updating the job title you’re looking for, the goal you aim to achieve, or your desire to work specifically for that company. 

3. Be specific about your experience.

After you draft your objective, go back and look for opportunities to replace words with action verbs and powerful adjectives, and identify places where you can specify your experience.  

For example, instead of ' Professional and talented financial advisor with several years of experience ,' get specific while remaining succinct, ' Skilled financial advisor with significant experience guiding clients on major product decisions.'  

4. Make your value clear. 

An objective states what you want, but it’s essential to also convey what you offer a company. Try connecting your objective—career advancement or relocation—with unique skills that will clarify your value to a recruiter or hiring manager. 

5. Highlight your needs. 

Beyond the type of role you’re seeking, include any specifications, such as part-time work, remote work, or relocation, so recruiters understand what you’re looking for right away. 

Objective examples: By scenario

Below, we’ve drafted several objective templates based on the scenarios noted earlier and included tips to help you shape your story.  

No experience

Since you may have no title to add to the description you craft about yourself, describe some of your greatest strengths. Use the first-person or third-person format to showcase some of your most vital transferable skills : 

'Organised, detail-oriented individual seeking an entry-level customer service representative role at [Company Name] to sharpen my communication and sales skills.' 

'I am a collaborative team member with excellent people skills. I’m looking for a part-time barista role where I can learn more about customer service and share my passion for coffee.'

Recent graduate

Highlight your secondary school diploma or college degree in your objective and connect what you learned with the position you’d like to hold: 

'Recent graduate with a computer science degree seeking a web designer position at an innovative start-up. Experienced in HTML/CSS, graphic design, and major CMS platforms.'

'To obtain a position on [Company’s Name] product team, where I can apply my MBA and contribute my strategy, consumer research, and user experience (UX) design knowledge.'

Different roles

Call attention to the transferable skills you’ve developed along the way and how that experience will serve the direction you’re interested in moving next: 

'Collaborative, quick learner who is skilled in communications, research, and design, and would like to apply that multidimensional experience to a role in sales for a luxury retail brand.'

'I’m a seasoned communicator with experience in data analysis and design looking to apply that varied training to a marketing manager position at [Company Name].'

Career advancement

Advancing in your career sometimes means applying for bigger roles and explaining why you’re interested in taking on additional responsibility:

'Successful project coordinator with five years of experience overseeing eight direct reports seeking to become a project manager for an industry-leading fintech company.'

'Established cybersecurity analyst with experience in multiple frameworks and intrusion detection looking to become a security architect for a global company where I can implement key design features to safeguard critical data.'

Career change

It’s important to explain the reason behind your desire to change careers and the skills you believe will help you make the change: 

'Savvy data analyst with experience growing customer insight and retention in the education tech sector. I am now interested in finding a role as a financial analyst for a major banking institution, where I can strengthen my knowledge of trend spotting and forecasting.'

'Driven social media manager with over seven years experience in consumer research, audience engagement, and market strategy. Interested in  a marketing manager position and leading the broader marketing efforts of [Company Name].'


Whether you're about to relocate or already have, a company may want to understand your larger plans. 

'I am an experienced graphic designer relocating to Mumbai in February, and I’m eager to find a position at [Company Name]. I have over four years of experience in website design, and I’m trained in Adobe Creative Suite.'

'Innovative business intelligence analyst with experience contributing data-backed insight to three Fortune 500 companies. Seeking a position at a leading product engineering firm in Bangalore, where I’ll be relocating in April.'

Explore further

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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