How to Write a Statement of Purpose for a Graduate Application

by Aminat Adejumo

Have you been planning to obtain a scholarship abroad for grad school, or has it even been your dream to study overseas? How about fellowships? Have you come across that as well? Are you aware that you need a statement of purpose to apply for these?

If this is your first time hearing about an SOP, you are in the right direction, trust me. You are not alone if you have heard about it but don’t know how to go about its writing.

This article will guide you on how to write an outstanding statement of purpose for a graduate application.

What is a Statement of Purpose? 

A statement of purpose is an essay written to the admission board of a school, usually, when applying to a graduate school, be it for your master’s or PhD. A statement of purpose(SOP) reflects your personality to the admission committee for securing admission to a foreign university. 

A statement of purpose talks about your career path, goals, professional contribution, interests, and the driving force you have for pursuing a particular course. With a statement of purpose, a personal or direct connection is formed between you and the admission committee.

What do I mean by this?

You can present your CGPA, work experience, and all, but your statement of purpose expresses your feeling, passion, and motivation in applying for a program. 

This makes a statement of purpose an essential document that needs your rapt attention and concentration if you truly want that admission. 

Statement of Purpose vs. Personal Statement

A statement of purpose and a personal statement are two different things that can sometimes be used interchangeably. Depending on your school’s requirements, it can sometimes mean the same thing. Some schools require two essays, i.e. an SOP and a personal statement, as part of the required documents. While in some schools only need a statement of purpose.

The major difference between the two is that a personal statement requires you to write about your experience and how you overcame it, stating how that experience has sparked your interest in pursuing the program. So a personal statement is only talking about you and you alone, while an SOP has it all, your academic achievement, your experience, and even a personal statement that will be to the point and attention-catching.

How long should your statement of purpose be?

A statement of purpose range can sometimes be according to the school’s specifications. SOP usually ranges between 500 to 1500 words in length.

Your SOP is expected to give your desired university a brief knowledge about your academic and professional career, motivation, and aspiration even after completing the course.

Essential Tips to Consider When Writing an SOP 

  1. Be original

Yes, if you want your statement of purpose to be outstanding, you need to be yourself. You don’t copy someone else’s work for an SOP. Everyone’s story is unique in their way. You can only follow an outline to have your writing. 

  1. Be intentional

When you want to write a statement of purpose, you need to write from your heart. Remember, you can only express a feeling you experience. Those experience you had is what can create that feeling you need to make your writing original.

  1. Don’t overdo it

Remember that you are writing for a purpose, and don’t get carried away with your stories. Only essential points are needed. And your story must corroborate with the admission /program you are applying for.

Important Goals You Should Work Towards

  • Explain why you should be considered for admission: Explain that you have the right academic background and the skills and skills essential for the program.
  • Describe how the qualities of the department will enable you to address public development: explaining that what you are going to learn at the school will make a long-term change; that the program will make you a change maker.
  • Show how you are likely to become a leader in your chosen field, contributing to societal development and becoming. Let it be known that you have a career aspiration, and this program in this prestigious institution will get you there. 

Writing Your Statement of Purpose 

Always have it at the back of your mind that thousands of applicants are applying for admission. Your first few lines and the coherence of your paragraph are opportunities to make use of to make your essay stand out. 

Do these first :

  • Brainstorm
  • Highlight the point you want to make 
  • Develop the points
  • Arrange those points accordingly into paragraphs
  • Keep your writing lively
  • Let it all flow and edit later
  • Ensure coherency 
  1. First paragraph: Introduction of SOP

The first paragraph should provide a brief introduction about you, your background story, relating it to your career objective and your life goal in general, and what you want to live to achieve. Here is an example;

“It has always been my biggest dream to study how the human body components work efficiently in some people and why others have to suffer from one disorder or another. Having to grow up in the company of a sick mother who always suffers from this or that is a huge driving force for me back then. My curiosity about why some people can live healthily and why others can’t, made me pursue my undergraduate degree in biochemistry. However, with my undergraduate studies, I can’t seem to have enough. The goal is to prevent many mothers from suffering in silence, and I haven’t gotten there yet.”

Looking at this, a brief introduction of the writer and background was indicated. You should have something captivating as well. 

  1. Second paragraph: Why this course?

You can use this paragraph to explain what inspires you and what interests you to take the program. Take a look at this: 

“My industrial training program at a membrane biochemistry and biophysics laboratory during my undergraduate study in biochemistry opened my eyes to many research projects. We conducted research using mitochondria, a weapon for treating various diseases. My supervisor is an alumnus of this prestigious institution. It gives me confidence back then that I can also work to impart in this field.”

  1. Third paragraph: Academic background and personal experience

These paragraphs must describe your academic background, including what you’ve accomplished to date (projects, experience, etc.), what you’re currently pursuing, etc.

“Fortunately, my past experiences are highly relevant to this program. I was among the best student in my class. During my undergraduate studies, I was privileged to participate in a research project on mitochondrial membrane permeability transition pores as a tool for 21st-century researchers. I was also opportune to have an internship at a laboratory in a hospital where I worked on researching the aetiology of diseases.”

Read Also: How to Gain Work Experience as a Nigerian Student

  1. Fourth paragraph: More about personal experience

You can use this paragraph to briefly explain some other experiences that help you make up your mind to pursue graduate studies in your chosen field. 

“After graduation, as a research assistant, I have worked on certain projects on medicinal plants with the ability to trigger the opening of membrane permeability transition pores and associated diseases. I realize I want to work painstakingly to find a cure for various diseases affecting humans. I want to conduct research repeatedly until it leads to something beneficial.”

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  1. Fifth paragraph: Career goal

Here, you can show how you can be impactful upon completing the program and contributing to society. This is the most crucial paragraph, in which you should describe your short and long-term objectives. Your immediate goal is where you intend to work immediately after completing this course.

“My main objective during this period of the graduate program is to acquire excellent research skills through coursework and laboratory practical. I’m willing to give my all, be tenacious, and engage in a lot of volunteer work that can build my research prowess. At the same time, I want to also ensure the development of this great institution by being the best that I can be in my chosen field. I also wish to open a research lab where many students can have this privilege. With this, we can have many hands on deck.”

  1. Sixth Paragraph: Why the university?

Here, you should attempt to persuade the University of its suitability for your goals and compatibility with its vision and mission. You may discuss course content, research projects, faculty members, and university-specific activities. Also, review the University’s vision and mission statements.


“My choice of studying at Columbia University and New York is in no quest of undermining the Nigerian educational system but to have access to a more advanced, improved and modernized infrastructure including seasoned tutors, enviable learning syllabuses and hands-on practical experiences, that will empower me with the knowledge of creating an impact in the Nigerian technology sector. New York has a strong science community which will offer many opportunities to work on solutions for diseases.”

Read Also: A Guide to Study Abroad: How To Prepare for International Opportunities As A Nigerian Student

  1. Conclusion

This can be used to describe your long-term goals. Since this is the concluding paragraph, you should sound focused and prepared for any potential challenges. It should also demonstrate that you can succeed and that, with the assistance of your chosen course and university, you will undoubtedly make an impact in your chosen industry.


“My goal is to become a medical research scientist who will bring people out of distress they are suffering from through the cure I provide for certain ailments that affect people. I chose to believe that there is a cure for every ailment, only that it might not have been discovered yet. Having the privilege to be part of this program in this noble institution will get me there.”

Mistakes to Avoid When Writing SOP

If you want to compose a striking statement of purpose, you should avoid the following common mistakes:

  • Writing without any planning.
  • Writing an intro and conclusion that lack clarity.
  • Using abbreviations, slang, and informal writing.
  • Exceeding or falling short of the word limit.

Read Also: How to Write a Term Paper for Yourself or Other Students


When considering admission to a graduate school, a statement of purpose or a personal statement is inevitable. Even for undergraduates, when applying for some scholarship, among the required documents is sometimes a statement of purpose. Everyone has a story, a motivation, or a driving force to do things.

Discover your purpose! Why do you want to go to grad school? Why do you want to apply for that program? Make your statement of purpose by answering these questions. 

Writing an SOP can be simple and easy if you can be original? I will also advise you to polish your originality but don’t overdo it. 

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About Author

Avatar of Aminat Adejumo
Aminat Adejumo
She is a passionate writer and orator who believes in writing to make right. She writes blog posts, articles, and poetry. Her interests are majorly in personal development, education, and health.

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