257: Writing the Statement of Purpose (Replay)

257: Writing the Statement of Purpose (Replay)

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257: Writing the Statement of Purpose (Replay)


Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: [00:00:00] Welcome to the top global ranked and award nominated grad school femtoring podcast. The place for first gen BIPOCs to listen in on conversations about grad school, and growth. In this podcast, you'll learn about all things higher education, personal development, and sustainable productivity. This is Dr.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yvette Martinez Vu, and I will be serving as your femtor, providing you with tips and tricks and everything else you need to know to successfully navigate grad school. For over 14 years, I've been empowering first gen students of color along their personal and professional journeys, and I'm really excited to support you too.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Hola everyone. Today I am releasing a replay of our most [00:01:00] popular episode. The episode is titled Writing the Statement of Purpose. It originally aired on November 10, 2019. Yes, it's been a while and despite it being a while, the information in this episode continues to remain applicable today. So, if you are someone who is planning to apply to graduate school or you know someone who is planning to apply, feel free to direct them to this episode.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Thanks so much and I will talk to you all next time.

Hello, hello. Today I am going to be talking about the statement of purpose. What is a statement of purpose? This is an essay that you write for graduate school admission that highlights why you're applying to graduate school and you really want to focus on your academic and professional goals. What exactly goes into the [00:02:00] statement?

What are the requirements? Also, like, what are the essential components? I will go over every single element of the Statement of Purpose and then I'll give you some tips on how to get started. Alright, so there are essentially About six components that I would recommend you include in your statement of purpose.

You don't have to write about it in this order. This is just a suggestion in terms of the components that are crucial for your essay, but you can just include it in any order that you'd like. The first part is, of course, an introduction. What goes into your introduction? Well, you need to let us know who you are and where you're going.

So you let us know You know, what are some qualities about you that make you stand out? You probably want to name the degree program the department and school to which you're applying to. So you can say something along the lines of, I [00:03:00] want to enter the PhD program in X at University of California, Riverside.

And you tell us a little bit more about who you are, so. This is, um, I like to tell my students that the introduction can be almost like a mini personal statement. And it's especially a short version of your personal statement if you're submitting a statement of purpose for a university and program that aren't asking for anything else.

There are some schools that only ask for a statement of purpose and they don't ask you for a personal or a diversity statement. And if that's the case, you want them to get to know you a little bit more. You want them to know you. What motivated you to pursue this field? How did you get into it? Um, and give them something that will make you stand out.

So it, that could be an anecdote from the past. It could be a quote that's relevant. Um, it could be some sort of hook, but that's what [00:04:00] goes into your introduction. You're briefly telling them who you are and why you're interested in applying to the Program X at University of Y. Okay, so then the second part that goes into the Statement of Purpose is your Research Experience section.

This is where you're letting them know that you're competitive and that you're qualified and who you are. How do they determine that? Based on your previous experiences. This should actually be the lengthiest portion of your statement, or it can be in some cases. It doesn't just have to be one paragraph.

It could be two paragraphs. But this is where you talk about any research or other relevant experiences. You want to tell them about your academic goals. You want to tell them about You want to demonstrate that you are fluent in the discourse of the discipline. So if you are involved in any, um, research programs, mention that.

Have you completed any projects? Describe the project. Describe the results or the [00:05:00] outcomes of that project. Did you publish out of that project? Did you complete a certain, um, maybe you completed one or two research papers? Did you present, uh, the topic? So, after you write about your research experience, you also want to include another section, which is your current and future research interests.

So, you just talked about what you've done in the past, and now you're going to try to address what you want to do in graduate school. So, this could be an extension of what you have been currently working on as an undergraduate. So, if you completed a project and a senior thesis, your, um, dissertation project, your master's thesis, it could be an extension of what you're currently doing, but it could also be a completely different project.

Um, maybe you've completed this project and you're starting something else and it's related but it's not the exact same project, or perhaps you're [00:06:00] switching fields. If you're switching fields and disciplines, then we want to know what is it that you want to work on in graduate school. And, um, keep in mind that it's really important to be able to talk about a project that you're interested in for graduate school in a very focused manner.

Um, they want to know that you can actually, um, Propose something that is reasonable, that is measurable, uh, and at the end of the day, you may or may not end up writing a master's thesis or dissertation on that project, but they are going to admit you, um, under the basis that you're going to continue to have certain general research interests.

So that's the third section. The third section is what do you want to study in graduate school? Try to be as specific as possible. The next section, section number four, in my opinion, is the most important part of your statement of purpose. This is the statement [00:07:00] of fit with the program. This is where you're convincing them that they want you.

And why is it that they want you? They want you because your research interests mirror or match or complement the research interests of faculty in that department. This is where you're convincing them. You, um, identify two to three professors from that program that you'd like to work with. Especially two to three if this is for a, um, Ph.

D. program because these individuals are likely going to be, um, people that are part of your committee and one of those three will become your dissertation advisor. And so you want to tell them, these are two to three people I want to work with, describe their research interests, maybe you read an article or two about this person, you want to mention one of them.

Um, outside of that, there are other things you can mention as well. You can talk about what attracts you about the program. Is the program well known for something in particular? Maybe they have a certain lab. [00:08:00] Maybe they're known for being interdisciplinary. Um, perhaps you are interested in that university because there's a great center for the study of X that's related to what you want to do.

Maybe also that area is a really good area for you. Um, perhaps that that location is key for you to act. Have access to a certain population that you're studying. So you want to think outside of just, um, the professors. That's really important. And that's crucial. And you have to mention that, but also there are other reasons why you can convince them that this is the right, um, program for you.

This is the right university for you. And this is the right location for you. So if you try to think about those three things, program, university, location, and you can identify some valid reasons within those three, then you'll be set. After the statement of fit, then comes your conclusion. And in the conclusion, you don't want to just [00:09:00] rehash everything that you said in your earlier sections.

You um, you want to wrap it up by letting them know what your long term goals are. And so if your long term goal is to become a tenure track professor at a research one university, most likely they're going to really like hearing that. But perhaps your long term goals are to become a researcher in higher education.

That doesn't necessarily mean that you want to become a professor, or perhaps you want to become a director of a center. Perhaps you want to start a nonprofit. Perhaps you want to become a professor and start a nonprofit. These are all, um, legitimate reasons, uh, uh, to. to address why it is that you're pursuing a PhD.

And just make sure that it's in line with the types of careers that they prepare their, prepare their PhDs for. So if it's a more, um, praxis oriented PhD, then odds are they're going to have folks who don't just become professors. And you can see [00:10:00] what are the careers that they're preparing their students for.

And that's something you may want to mention, especially If, of course, if that's what you want to do. Um, but then what else can you do in the conclusion? Uh, something that I really like is when Students will have some sort of hook or antidote or something that they say about themselves in the beginning of their statement and then they bring it back at the end to try to tie it back and bring it all together.

Provides a really nice arc to your statement. That's something that you can do as well if you Brought up something in the beginning, you may want to bring it back up in the end. Um, that's completely fine, but in general, you want to keep the tone upbeat and positive. Let us know a little bit more about yourself, about why this program is great for you.

And those are essentially, I thought, I thought they were six sections, but those are the five sections of a statement of purpose. And now I also want to give [00:11:00] you some general tips to get started. And one thing to keep in mind is. Before even getting started, you want to make sure you pull up the prompts for each of the schools that you're applying to.

Why? Because at the end of the day, the most important thing you need to do when writing this statement is read the instructions and answer the prompt. If the prompt has very specific questions that they're asking you, you answer that prompt. If the prompt is vague Maybe it's one line and it just tells us describe your research and career goals, then great.

You can go ahead and write about, you know, the things that I mentioned, um, in this podcast episode. Uh, but if they have very specific questions, you want to answer those questions. Sometimes it can get confusing because they'll say, turn in a statement of purpose, but then the prompt sounds like a personal statement, no matter what.

Listen to the prompt. No matter what, make sure that you follow the [00:12:00] instructions. If it says that it's two pages double spaced, it's two pages double spaced. If it says it's two pages single spaced, Um, single space, double space. If it's 500 words, it doesn't matter. Listen to what they say. Some institutions, some programs don't provide a page limit.

And I get this question all the time. What do I do if there's no page limit? One thing you can do is you can always email the graduate advisor in that department and ask them to verify that if there is a page limit, if again, they say there is no page limit, you can ask, well, what is the average page limit?

They don't want to answer. We, or I, tend to advise students to stick to the two page rule. Two page, single, or double space is typically okay for most programs. What else should you do in terms of preparing for writing the statement? Um, you want to, you know, start to list what you've done to prepare for a [00:13:00] PhD.

What is your preparation? What is your background? What are your ambitions? Why, what are your reasons for even wanting to pursue graduate school? What are your reasons for wanting to apply to this school in particular? Uh, what are your future career goals? Make sure that, um, You know, when you write, I like to say, you know, first you make a mess and then you clean it up.

So, write as much as you can so that you have plenty of material to cut and make more concise. But then once you get to the revision stage, after you have your first draft, you want to make sure that you have someone else that can, um, provide a second set of eyes that can be a professor that you know, that could be a mentor that you may have, perhaps a TA that you've worked with.

Anyone else who can provide insight and expertise on this statement to make it, to help make it, um, a very clean, organized, [00:14:00] relevant statement that speaks to the admissions committee and establishes your unique voice. You want to make sure that your statement sets you apart from other applicants. You don't want to have vague language that can apply to any applicant.

You, um, Want to convey that you're a good fit, that you're suitable, that you're collegial, and essentially, so long as you share your research experience, you convey your research, future research interests and aspirations, you tell us why you're a good fit, and you share a little bit more about your career goals, you'll have, you should have all the components to, to provide or to, um, give them a solid statement.

Those are some of my recommendations. Start brainstorming based on what I said. Go ahead and, um, Get some words on a paper, have someone take a look at it. [00:15:00] It's never too soon to have someone take a look at what you're doing. I have had students who have, um, struggled with some, um, writer's block. Um, also there's the, you know, big emotional side to the writing process of, you know, feeling like they're good enough.

And when that happens, I tell them, go on and schedule an appointment. Come see me. We'll talk about it. Um, What another tip in terms of getting started is if you're struggling to get words on a page, record yourself talking about this. Record yourself asking the question, what are my research experiences?

What are my future research interests? Why am I a good fit for this program? If you can start to articulate that, Um, in a conversational manner. Uh, you can then transcribe that and put that on paper, and then eventually put that into sentences, form it into readable paragraphs, and before you know it, you'll have a draft.

And, I [00:16:00] think that's all I have to say about the Statement of Purpose, at least for now. I know that It's not always the easiest statement to write. It's slightly easier to write, I would say, than the personal statement because at least it can be more formulaic than the personal statement, but it's still, um, it's still not the greatest thing to do to draft a statement of purpose, but I trust that you can do it so long as you answer the following questions, you, uh, provide all of the necessary components, you'll be well on your way to writing a strong draft.

Thank you so much for listening.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Thanks so much for joining me in the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. If you like what you heard, here are four ways you can support the show. The first is to make sure you're subscribed and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. If you email me a screenshot, I'll send you a surprise freebie. The second way is to get your copy [00:17:00] of my free Grad School Femtoring Resource Kit.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: which includes essential information to prepare for and navigate grad school. You can access it at the link in today's show notes. The third way to support my show is to follow me on social media. You can find me on Instagram with the handle at grad school, femtoring and on LinkedIn by searching my name.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: The last way to show your love is to order a copy of is grad school for me. My graduate school admissions book for first gen BIPOCs. Thanks again for listening and until next time.

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