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Statement of Purpose FAQ

Tips and Advice About Your Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement

Here are a few words to the wise that anyone writing a statement of purpose or personal statement should keep in mind.

For some detailed advice, don't miss our article on
How To Write a Winning Statement of Purpose.

  • Give your statement some "drawer time."
    What's "drawer time"? It's a period of at least a couple days during which you leave your statement in a drawer and do not look at it or think about it. Why should you do this? Because, when you return to work on your statement, you will be able to read it with fresh eyes, and may spot gaps, errors, or weak spots that might otherwise have glided right past you.
  • Don't procrastinate - you can do that after you're in school.
    Start early, make as many revision as you can - give as much time as you can to the project of making your statement shine. The next few years of your life are worth a few extra hours of re-writing, aren't they?
  • Software is fallible.
    Do not uncritically trust the spell-check or grammar-check on your computer (if any), but do use them. Always double-check any questionable cases against a dictionary or grammar reference, and always have a few qualified human beings check your writing for errors. (And yes, people make mistakes, too!)
  • Don't repeat yourself - it's boring.
    Also, be sure not to express yourself redundantly. It doesn't help to just reword the same idea in different words, so be sure not to repeat yourself using varying expressions.
  • You're not perfect, and everyone knows it, so don't fake it.
    It's easy to get carried away when writing about your virtues in your statement. Don't.
  • Look out for the big, obvious blunders.
    Sometimes, the silliest mistakes are the easiest ones to miss, since we usually don't expect that we will make them. But simple things like leaving your name off the application, getting the school's name wrong, or misspelling it, can and do happen to nearly everyone. As long as you catch them, they can't do you any harm. So keep your eyes open!
  • Who cares how many big words you know?
    The answer is "No one." Everyone appreciates good writing, and the right word in the right place can make your writing better. But showing off your vocabulary for no reason demonstrates the inferiority of your education.
  • Be honest.
    Dishonesty in a statement is surprisingly easy to spot, and even when it is not, the possible consequences if it is dicovered later are bad enough to ruin a significant part of your life. Yes, you can be kicked out of school for this, and, yes, it can be placed on your transcript. Forever.
  • Five heads are better than one.
    Don't mail anything without having someone else read it! From typos, to poor organization, to bad style, your eyes will never see your own writing's weaknesses the way other people's eyes can. This doesn't mean that you should accept everything your friends tell you uncritically, (unless they are admissions officers at a U.S. college). Of course, you ultimately must trust your own judgement - but cautiously! No matter what, you will always make more intelligent decisions about your writing when you have input from others. And the more input you get, the better the results.

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Statement of Purpose FAQ

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