A Statement of Purpose (or personal statement) is an essay that provides you with the opportunity to express qualities about yourself that is not apparent in the rest of your application. You should dedicate quality time to choosing a topic that is compelling and will draw the reader’s attention. 

Please understand that graduate schools admissions committees are not looking for your whole life story in the Statement of Purpose.  They are looking for cues that indicate you will make great student and practitioner.

Make sure to read and fully understand each school’s Statement of Purpose requirement and follow each school’s formatting guidelines exactly.  You want to speak directly to what each school is looking for in a successful candidate. 

Please do not plan on using the same exact personal statement for each school– this approach will not benefit you in the long run.  

  • Writing an outline of what you would like to share in your  statement is an efficient way to ensure you are meeting all the points you want to in your statement.

    • Take a step back and reflect on your life’s challenges and how these contribute to where you are today in your life.
    • Explore what led to your decision to pursue an advanced degree
    • Articulate how the degree will help you achieve individual or professional goals.  Reflect on why are you prepared for, passionate about, and a fit for this program/field.
    • What specifically do you like about this program? What are your future career interests/goals? How will this program help you attain your goals?

    NOTE: Resist the temptation of mention your GPA or test scores – you are much more than your grades and test scores! Admissions reps can access that information elsewhere- spend the space in your Statement of Purpose sharing deeper insights regarding your personal characteristics and perspectives.

  • For tips on what makes a great Statement of Purpose, please review this handout and use it as a checklist to self-critique your writing.

    • Start writing without worrying about page length.  You can edit down later in future drafts- it is important to get your ideas out on paper
    • Be clear and vibrant
    • Tailor your statement to each school’s audience
    • Do not reiterate information found in other areas of your application
    • Follow the graduate school’s format and page requirement(usually a 2-page max)
    • Edit down.  Omit or edit content to make your statement succinct
  • Having a number of different people read your statement and provide constructive feedback is critical.  We suggest asking people who know you well review your statement and share their insights regarding how you portrayed yourself in relation to the graduate program you are applying to.  Ask them if they have a clear sense of why you would be a great student for the program you are applying to, ask if they see any gaps in what you shared, what could be be developed a little more, etc.

    For extra writing support, the USC Writing Center is available: Taper Hall 216, 213-740-3691. 

    After personally proofreading for grammar and content using the Statement of Purpose guidelines handout as a checklist, feel free to submit the final draft for review.  The graduate school advising team will return the draft to you within 5 days with constructive feedback