Personal Statement for Admission

Statement of Purpose Guidelines 

A written statement of purpose is a standard requirement for graduate school admission. It is a tool for the faculty on graduate school admissions committees to assess the knowledge, experience, motivation, intellectual maturity and readiness of applicants to pursue graduate education at their institution. The statement of purpose is a crucial component of the graduate school admissions process. It can determine whether an applicant is accepted or rejected, irrespective of their other qualifications.

This document outlines the 5 stages that a graduate school applicant should go through in order to write an impressive and successful statement of purpose.

Stage I: Do your Homework

  • 1. Browse through the websites of the schools/departments/programs of interest to you. Obtain brochures and booklets and read through them carefully. Highlight the aspects of the programs that appeal to you.
  • 2. Read up on the research interests and projects of the faculty in the schools/departments/programs. Read publications from a faculty of interest.
  • 3. Browse through recent articles from the research field of interest and try to get a general understanding of how the field developed and what are its current problems and challenges.

Stage II: Reflect and Brainstorm (on paper)

  • Reflect on your intellectual development.
    • What and when were the major moments in your life that have led you to your current research interest(s) and school/department/program?
    • What or who influenced your decision or interest (i.e. role models)? What quality about them appealed to you? 
  • Why did you choose your research topic(s)/field/school?
  • Why did you choose your undergraduate major?
  • What are your career goals?
    • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
    • What do you hope to accomplish?
    • What drives you? What motivates you?

Stage III: Outline your Statement of Purpose 

  • From the results of Stage II, determine a central theme/topic that stands out or dominates your reflections and brainstorm.
  • Using bullet points and brief comments/statements, organize your reflections and brainstorm ideas that strengthen the central theme/topic of your statement of purpose. • Concentrate on your life experiences and give specific examples.
    • Put down only those things that excite you.
    • Do not make things up!
  • Your outline should cover these areas and, preferably, in this order:
    • What aspects of the school/department/program appeals to you?
    • What are your research interest(s)?
    • How did you become interested in your current research topic/area?
    • How did you prepare or are preparing to address the issues in this research area/topic (i.e. research experiences, courses, etc.)?
    • What are your future goals for graduate school (i.e. Ph.D.)?
    • What are your career goals (i.e. professorship)?
    • What characteristics of the school/department/program can help you accomplish your goals?
    • What positive aspects do you bring to the school/department/program?

Stage IV: Write Draft of Statement of Purpose 

  • Always use positive language when referring to yourself.
  • Give detailed, but concise examples.
  • Use transition words, sentences and paragraphs. Your statement must read smoothly.
  • Skip a line after each paragraph.
  • Refrain from starting neighboring paragraphs the same way.
  • Avoid using vocabulary that you do not know.
  • Refrain from repeating yourself.
  • Have strong opening and closing paragraph.
  • Stay within the 2 – 3 page limit!
  • Thank the admissions committee for their time at the end of your statement of purpose.

Stage V: Ask for Critique, Revise and Edit

  • When you are finished with your draft statement of purpose, read it out loud to yourself and make corrections.
  • Ask friends, colleagues and professors to read your edited draft. Taking their comments into consideration, revise and edit your draft.

Created by Anthony O. Okobi

Educational Leadership Program: 

The Nine Essential Characteristics of Effective Leaders for NYS - Educational Leadership is to prepare leaders who exemplify the New York State Nine Essential Characteristics of Effective Leaders. Please respond to each characteristic in paragraph form. This is your statement of purpose and will help us become better acquainted.

1. Leaders know and understand what it means and what it takes to be a leader.

2. Leaders have a vision for schools that they constantly share and promote.

3. Leaders communicate clearly and effectively.

4. Leaders collaborate and cooperate with others.

5. Leaders persevere and take the “long view.”

6. Leaders support, develop and nurture staff.

7. Leaders hold themselves and others responsible and accountable.

8. Leaders never stop learning and honing their skills.

9. Leaders have the courage to take informed risks.

Counseling & Human Development Program:

One of the more challenging tasks in admissions has been our ability to learn the values, experiences and interests of the candidate as well as the candidate's understanding of the program at St. Lawrence University.  The following question-statements are only suggestive. They give you a chance to react and serve as a focus on the processes and values you will encounter in the program. As you respond you may discover that there are value assumptions with which you do not agree and knowing this beforehand seems crucial.  You may find that you do not have the knowledge, awareness or experience to answer some of the questions. It is the attempt to reflect on these issues that is most important.

Please respond to each in paragraph form. This is your own personal statement and will help us become better acquainted.

1.    Personal initiative, self-discipline, responsibility…the ability to create a plan, follow through to attainment of goals with a minimum of external motivation.  Probably much of the significant learning in this program will come from you.  You may wish to reflect on your life when you felt good about your own self-discipline and self-responsibility. You might describe independent studies or projects, experiences in work-educational settings or other situations in which you were proud of your own initiative and internal motivation.

2.    Self-awareness and commitment to continued personal growth and development.  It is hoped that one of the principle outcomes of the program would be that you become more aware of yourself, your values, beliefs, and your effect on others. It is our belief that helpers are aware and growing individuals in their own lives.  You might wish to consider this criterion by examining changes in your own life. Your ability to identify critical junctures, decision points and personal reactions to these life issues may also serve to demonstrate self-awareness and commitment to continued development.

3.    Intellectual-academic ability.  Traditionally courses, years of schooling, grades and test scores have been the major criteria for measuring this characteristic.  We choose to broaden this definition to include many alternative learning possibilities or experiences that clarify your unique learning ability.  To demonstrate this you might include samples from extra-curricular activities, travel, particular school-college experiences, as well as work experiences.

4.    Willingness to accept an ever-changing world of uncertainty.  Sometimes our particular need for predictability and certainty gets in the way of our willingness to risk and to grow.  This criterion is possibly best dealt with by asking the following questions. How aware you of change? How comfortable with it? Do you have tolerance for ambiguity? How do you deal with uncertainty? By drawing upon your past experiences, answer these questions and give examples of how you've dealt with those situations in the past and how you would like to continue this process in the future

5.    Ability to work with, accept and appreciate people with different cultural, ethnic, religious backgrounds as well as differing values and beliefs.  A person centered approach is by definition involved with these questions, i.e., a new awareness of the richness that results when differences among people are prized.  This commitment may be exemplified by your work with, or experiences with, people different from you. You might include any experiences or interactions that show your own ability and/or desire to become more aware of and accepting of differences.

6.    Ability and commitment to work with issues involving sex discrimination in our society.  A person centered approach assumes values and attitudes regarding people as people, rather than male and female roles.  Could you respond to this issue by describing personal experiences that illustrate your behavior and thinking regarding this subtle form of oppression of both sexes?

7.    A fundamental respect and caring for people and a belief in their potential for growth and a trust in their autonomy.  Here, you might take the time to reflect on your view of the human condition relating to and how you interact with people.  Some questions worth considering might be: How ready are you to develop this basic positive belief toward human potentially? How willing are you to work, experience, and learn in a program which has as its center this value?

8.    Empathy: the ability to understand and respond to another's deeper feelings and perceptions.  This is a critical attitude and skill in a person centered approach.  This criterion might be examined by examining your own beliefs regarding empathy; when and from whom you most recently experienced it? How did you feel? How was it helpful?

9.    A commitment to choice and responsibility.  These are concepts which are all pervasive in a humane approach to understanding people.  You may wish to explore your meaning of choice and being responsible for yourself, describing your own choices and times when you have or have not responsibility and the difference that makes.

10.  Further Perspectives.  Here you might choose to explain those thoughts, feelings, values, and beliefs that have not been included.  This may be the place for you to describe your own "way of being" as well as your hopes and goals in the helping professions.