This assignment asks you to really think about why you are passionate about the career you want to pursue or the major you are in.

Many of you have career plans that will necessitate advanced degrees and/or education beyond your B.A. or B.S. This means that at some point you will need to write a statement of purpose or personal statement. Admission to a graduate program of any kind is highly competitive–and is not based solely on G.P.A. When I applied to my Ph.D. program, almost 500 others did too, and we competed for 12 spots! Your application will include many things: transcripts, GRE/MCAT/other exam scores, letters of recommendation. The ONE part of your application that tells an admissions committee (and these are professors in the field) why you should be admitted is your statement of purpose.  In it, you need to address a number of things in a very limited space: what prompted your interest, what are your qualifications, how do you see yourself contributing to the graduate program and to the profession, why that specific program.

Even if you do not plan to go beyond your undergraduate degree, this is an opportunity for you to explore your career interest or, if you are still undecided, possible career interests. 

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I’ve served on numerous admissions committees and helped dozens of students over the years get into med school, dental school, PT programs, various Ph.D. programs, law school, etc. This assignment asks you to really think about why you are passionate about the career you want to pursue or the major you are in.

As with assignment two, you must meet the expectations of a specific audience–in this case, an admissions committee. As such, do some research. If you are interested in specific programs (say, UCLA med school), you should follow their requirements.

As I said, if you do not have specific goals, use this opportunity to think hard about what you like about your major and the classes you have taken or look forward to taking. Take a look at your major department’s web site. Look at course descriptions. Especially look at your professors’ bios and CVS. What kinds of research interest them. What have they published? Read some of their articles. Most of you are transfer students, so this is a great opportunity for you to get to know the professors and the work they do.

This pdf contains some information about personal statements that I found on the Ohio State University website. It also include a sample statement that my niece, Kate, wrote. Kate has kindly given permission for me to do so. She went to Minnesota, not Ohio State, but you will notice that her statement includes much of what the OSU handouts suggest. Kate probably wrote more than 50 drafts of her statement before sending it with her application to Minnesota’s Ph.D. program in mathematics. Note the order and type of details she includes–typical for any kind of program. The one thing I do not like about her statement is the mention of the boyfriend. Someone on an application committee could read this two ways: 1.) that she is would be committed to Minnesota and not to another university, and this is good OR 2.) that the ONLY reason she wants to come to Minnesota is because her boyfriend is there, and this isn’t in her favor as far as an admissions committee is concerned. Leave such personal info out. As far as length goes: Kate’s is about right. You don’t want yours to be longer than hers, but not much shorter either.

One of the major flaws in most people’s writing is wordiness. For this assignment, especially, every word, every phrase, every paragraph, must contribute to your purpose.

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