The keyword in the Statement of Purpose is the word PURPOSE. What is your purpose? What is your intention in applying for a master's or Ph.D. degree in that program and in that particular university? That’s why the Statement of Purpose has many other names like Statement of Intent, Motivational Statement, and so forth. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter what name is used, but rather the reason behind such requirement is very crucial.

I have read thousands of statements of purposes from many applicants, when they ask me to review and provide critique on them. There are many people nowadays who understand the logic behind these statements, but there are some still this is the place to express their personal problems, childhood upbringing, extreme poverty they experienced growing up – overall begging and asking for messy and looking for sympathy. I always remind people, this is not a therapy session to come up with your personal sad stories and thinking people will feel sorry and guilty to just give you the opportunity. In case you forgot, remember you are in the capitalist world as I explained the competitive nature of capitalism – and no free lunch on a silver plate.

If it is not instructed in the application on whether you are supposed to use single space or double space – it’s up to you. But when you use a single space, make sure your statement of purpose does not exceed one page. And when you use double space, obviously not exceeding two pages, unless otherwise in extreme cases.

One of the biggest misconceptions of the statement of purpose is the confusion it has with a resume. It has to be clearly noted that, these are two things differently. I have seen many people try to copy and paste the whole resume here thinking that’s the right way. Yes, there are parts of the resume that will be incorporated here but not on its entirely. There are parts of your academic and professional experience from the resume that will be included here but in an essay format, not like how you put some bullets or other ways of indicating points in your competitive resume.
     Just treat the resume like the interview - where you are invited to the panelists. Write while thinking you are answering questions from the panelists or employers. Obviously, there will be the first question to introduce yourself as always. Then followed by other questions to find out your qualifications, why you want that particular job or scholarship, what makes you unique from the rest of the applicants, and so forth. If you have that in your mind, it will be a very easy guide to go through the writing process. 

Be very direct in this part. When you introduce yourself, again they panelists or committee members are not interested with your religion (unless you are applying to be Sheikh or Priest), tribe, marital status, hobbies, number of children, your national identification numbers or passport numbers. They want to know you in a professional setting. In this way, few things will be included:  Your full name, education (level, programs, universities etc. no GPA), overall work experience (current title, company, etc) and any major professional milestone or scholarships received in previous degrees. In addition to that, you will state specifically what degree program and the university you are applying to. All these in just one paragraph. Let me share a very simple example below.

     My name is Ernest Boniface Makulilo. I am a graduate of the University of San Diego in California with a Master’s degree in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution. I also possess Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Language Studies from the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. I am currently the Founder and CEO of the EBM SCHOLARS, a scholarship consulting organization. The organization provides free consultation and guidance to thousands of applicants from Developing Countries to find and get scholarships to study overseas. I am applying for Ph.D. in Conflict Resolution at Nova Southeastern University in Florida for the academic year 2019/2020. 

    I 100% agree with Hemingway about the use of short sentences. It’s the perfect technique. You will be able to have powerful sentences and an overall message. You will be in a position to avoid so many grammatical mistakes.

     Again, I have seen so many people who like to use longer sentences. Most of them make several grammatical mistakes. I try to understand why they prefer longer sentences, and I found for many people write English sentences while thinking in other languages. Just go to the basics, use simple grammatical rules like SVO (Subject, Verb, and Object), SVC (Subject, Verb, and Compliment), then add adverbs and modifiers to the sentences. Unfortunately, many people make a paragraph of over 10 lines but all those constitute just two sentences. In that way, no matter how careful you are, it is easy to get caught on grammatical mistakes

The Content

In your introduction, you mentioned the degree program you are applying for. In this section, you need to justify so many things with regard to your program selected. Example of key questions to have in your mind include:

  • How are your education and/or professional experience prepare you to understand studies at the degree level and program you have selected?
  • Why is the program you are applying is a good fit for you?
  • How are you unique from other candidates?
  • What contributions are you going to bring to the department or university or program if enrolled?
  • What kind of work are you interested in doing after graduating from that program? And how does that program will help you to succeed in your work after completion of your studies?

     For international students, returning to your home country is very crucial. There are scholarships that indicate in their requirements that all recipients should agree to return to their home countries after completion of studies. But there are so many scholarships that don’t have such requirements. But even though such requirements are not indicated in the application process, it is obviously implied and you are expected to receive a scholarship and after studies to go back to your home country to help bring development and positive changes to your community. Just think and ask yourself: why the United States gives you a scholarship and not U.S citizens? What’s the expectation even though not indicated in the scholarship requirements?

     I agree with Mwalimu Nyerere that, you are expected to use your knowledge to help the development of the country, otherwise you will be betraying your country. Therefore, in the statement of purpose, you have to clearly state your intentions after completing your studies and return.

- Firstly, you will be coming home upon completion of your studies
- Secondly, explain how you will be using the education and experience you got to help your community and country.
- Thirdly, how the university and even classmates will benefit from your presence there, and even after your studies.

If you are able to articulate most of those raised questions in your statement of purpose, you will end up with a very convincing and competitive statement of purpose. You will make the admission committee review your package.

     I would like to share with you some resources. If you go to this website www.statementofpurpose.com , you will get some useful information and samples of the statement of purpose. Some of the tips are specific to the discipline you are applying.

Ernest B. Makulilo (EBM)



Missouri, USA

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