statement of purpose graduaet school
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Tips to Write Statement of Purpose from a Professor for Graduate School Admission

statement of purpose for graduate schoolStatement of Purpose for Graduate School admission is one of the important document that can help you get admission. But, very few students make it unique, customized and useful. Yes, I said useful.

I have reviewed several hundred statement of purpose for graduate school. Majority of them, have a common theme.  95% of the statement of purpose is about YOU. 5% (one last paragraph) is the university, research.  That’s what happens, if you are following examples statement of purpose  downloaded from the internet.

So, what can you do write SOP  that will actually improve your admission chances? Let’s hear some tips from a professor’s about writing high impact, outstanding and impressive statement of purpose for graduate school.

Ben Y. Zhao, Professor of Computer Science, UCSB gave this advice on this thread on how to write an outstanding A statement of purpose for graduate school admission.

Let me add a different point of view.  I’ve been a professor for 8 years, and have looked through hundreds of SOPs every year as part of grad admissions for our CS department.OK, this is going to be slightly disappointing to some of you, but at least my personal view is that, with the exception of a couple of points which I’ll mention below, in general, the SOP just doesn’t matter.  You have to realize we admissions committees look through hundreds of these.

So everyone will have some version of “I found my first PC when I was 4 years old and fell in love…” story.

It’s cool, and it means a lot to many of the applicants, but it doesn’t do much to help their case for why THEY should be admitted over the other hundreds of students in the pool.

So yes, do NOT make grammatical errors, do not say inane things that reflect *negatively*.  But beyond that, most SOPs will do little to hurt or help your application.

Now let me get to the exceptions.

Yes, there are ways to stand out amongst the piles and piles of applications and make a faculty member remember you.

How?  Simple: talk research.

The best way to convince the admissions committee you’re ready for a PhD is to talk research. Tell us your ideas, what’s your vision for your area, what big inevitable trends do you see in the future, and how do you capitalize on them? What are hard problems you’ve already tried to tackle, and how did you succeed/fail?

This is where an applicant can show that they have the clarity of thought to think hard about a real problem, and show the reasoning skills (and intuition for identifying tricky or interesting problems).

I’m always excited by the rare applicant who clearly has thought through a research area, and has some ideas and real thoughts about problems he/she wants to tackle.

It’s fine if the ideas are not likely to succeed, or if the thoughts are not realistic for current research. What matters is that the student showed their logical reasoning skills, and their passion for research at the same time.


Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

Now, you know exactly what can be done to that rare graduate school applicant with an impressive statement of purpose.  Now, there are two types of students.

  • Type A – Great this is awesome advice, I know what I have to do and going to get that done.
  • Type B – Great. But, I how to write about research? Can someone write this for me?

If you are Type B, then following tips should help you write better statement of purpose for graduate school (Masters and PhD).

  • Know your interest and research area.
  • Read research papers on your interest
  • Read more research papers ( follow conference, know about leading professors , etc)
  • Do you have an new idea after reading several papers? Then your statement of purpose should be about the new research idea.

Now, you know what should be done to write an impressive SOP.

As you can see writing SOP takes time and lot of effort. You can’t write one in 2 days after referring to few statement of purpose samples for graduate school.

If you don’t know have research experience, then it’s going to be a challenge come-up with a real problem to solve in Masters Thesis or PhD. Several  international students will have difficult time to write a statement of purpose based on research experience when you don’t have true exposure to research.

If you spend time in addition to your regular courses in college (non research) by following the steps listed above, then you could target top PhD programs right after your Bachelors degree.

Do you have any questions about writing statement of purpose or gaining research experience?

Next – 15 Questions Every Student Should Ask Before Doing PhD

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  1. Raghu:
    I have 15 years of experience en managing engineering projects, and due the challenges I have encountered I found myself researching but not for academic purposes.

    How would you suggest to leverage this experience and knowledge In a SOP?

  2. Hey can anyone help me out.
    I got a GRE total score of 312 verbal 144/170 and quant 168/170. What are the colleges where I can get an admissions. I have completed by B Tech from Electrical Engineering but would like to do my MS or PHD from computer Science. Can anyone please suggest me some good universities name.

  3. Hi,I’m studying mechanical engineering in Iran I want to get my M.S abroad,im interested In control field. How can I get a scholarship from a good university,which universities are best qualified in my field of interest ?

  4. Hey Raghu … I am planning to persue MS in engineering management . Would it prove beneficial if I talk about research . Coz engineering management is not more of a research degree . If so , then what would I need to specify as research

  5. Hello Raghu i want to do my Masters from abroad . Should i have to give both GRE and TOEFL or one of them. ? And i am planing to go Europe so which country is best in Europe for Biotechnology??

  6. Hello Raghu i want to do my Masters from abroad . Should i have to give both GRE and TOEFL or one of them. ? And i am planing to go Europe so which country is best in Europe for Biotechnology?

  7. I wouldn’t agree with the Prof. but that link has some other amazing guidelines from other ppl.

    Thanks Raghu! Gr8 job!

    1. He’s in the admission committee and he listed what impresses him. I have seen lot of SOP. Most of them have same theme and not impressive.

  8. Hi Raghu,
    Suppose if one doesn’t have real research experience, but relevant work experience, is it right to talk about the projects handled during that period? Will it help?
    I’ve two years work experience. This would help people like me

    Thanks in advance

    1. Good question.

      MS OR PHD : It’s good to talk about work experience in small section while applying. But majority should be about research. Even if you have 60/40 – about you and research is better than 95/5.

      MBA : talk about experience.

      Does this help?

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