Sample Outline for the Statement of Purpose*
(and Statement of Reasons for Graduate Study)

Your Statement of Purpose should be clear, concise, and complete in sentence structure. However, try to be as informative as possible throughout the Statement. The statement should only be 1 to 2 1/2 pages long so you need to be concise. Before you submit your Statement of Purpose to the department of your chosen field of interest and/or to the graduate school, you should ask your advisor or a faculty member at your current institution to read and comment on your written work. Prior to this, drafts should be shared with your friends and family.

Opening Paragraph. Here you want to introduce yourself and give your general reasons for pursuing graduate study. Because the selection committee members will read many applications, make your statement relevant by stating your particular talents and individuality.

Qualifications. In this section, the aim is to build a foundation for your forthcoming work. You should discuss the following:

  1. Why you chose this field and what motivated you
  2. Your expertise and accomplishments in your major field, including any research you've performed, mentioning the project and the name of the professor you worked for or under the direction of
  3. Your undergraduate studies in general and how they relate to what you intend to do in graduate school
  4. Your specific experiences that demonstrate your motivation and inspiration for continued study
  5. Other relevant experiences (i.e., jobs, community activities, leadership in school organizations, awards, honors, etc.), including names of persons, organizations, and other important details
  6. Explain (briefly) any discrepancies on your transcript which would include having a lower GPA in a particular semester or year (no details are necessary)
  7. Mention specific faculty you are interested in working with.

Background. Here you want to tell the school about yourself. Also, describe your family and your community (or a community in which you once lived). You could include whether your family, a family member in particular, or someone in your community influenced your chosen field of interest. Also, you want to give examples of personal attributes or qualities that you know will help you successfully complete graduate study. For instance, describe your determination to achieve your goals, your initiative and ability to develop ideas, and your capacity to work through problems independently.

Closing Paragraph. Finally, leave the reader with a strong sense that you are qualified and will be successful in graduate or professional school.


*Thanks to the University of California System for their contribution in writing this sample outline for the Statement of Purpose.