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Statement of Purpose

  1. Dec 3, 2009 #1
    I'm applying for graduate programs in pure math. I'm not too sure what to write for a statement of purpose. I am very interested in functional analysis and I have done an REU work that involved with that subject and is being submitted for publication. I figure I should include those, but I'm not sure how long to make it or what to actually put in the essay. Do I talk about what classes I have taken? Future goals? Research interests? Should I mention specific faculty members? Thanks for any advice!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 3, 2009 #2
    Be as specific as possible about your research experience. Don't talk too much about classes unless you want to highlight something specific. As far as future goals, you need to tailor that to the school. Come up with a reason why you are looking at that school.
  4. Dec 3, 2009 #3
    You're basically answering three questions in a statement of purpose-block it this way if you're lost on organization:

    Are you interested in the material?
    Influence, course work, (as in, "when we covered topic j, I knew this was the field for me because"), job experience, and the like go here.

    Are you competent?
    this is the "I researched x, and learned y" paragraph. Talk about your REU in enough detail that it's clear you did something more than just showing up. "I faced problem a, and resolved it doing b [because of concept I learned in class c]" is a great way to do this.

    Why do you want to go to this school?
    Specific faculty and research groups are fine, but also talk about the department as whole and how it fits your research interests. (This is so that it's clear you want to go there even if that professor you want won't take you.)

    Most schools give you limits on the length of the statement of purpose-usually it's only a page or two.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2009
  5. Dec 3, 2009 #4
    In addition to what's above, you'll definitely want to concentrate on the style of your statement. Can Joe B Student sitting next to you in class write the same sentence you just wrote in his application? If he can, it's a wasted sentence. At best your reader glosses over it and becomes more bored and less interested in you. At worst you look like you just are Joe B Student.

    The best written statements (and most effective interviews) will tell a "story" about how your (recent) life has been perfectly leading up to your contributing specifically to this one school or research group or whatever. It will also capture the reader with something interesting starting with the first sentence, and then will continue to hold their attention with new content in every successive sentence. No fluff :smile:! And remember, you're not showing off how good you are, you're selling yourself as the best fit to further their goals (of research, placing students, teaching well, or whatever their focus is).

    I'd also recommend having as many people as you can look over your statement. You should probably have quite a few drafts. Use your best judgment on how to synthesize the conflicting advice you'll receive.
  6. Dec 4, 2009 #5


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    I just finished writing my statement of purposes to grad school a month ago (I spent about 4 months writing it). I can't say how effective it is yet, but from what I hear - which is what I tried my best to do - you want to make your essay unique. With just your grades, GRE scores, etc, you're just a number, and no matter who you are, someone will have better MARKS and NUMBERS than you. The SOP is there so you can actually stand out as a person. Don't just make it a page saying "I want to go to graduate school. I have such and such experience. The end," because chances are, someone else has already done that. Make it a statement of HOW you became interested, and WHY.

    Just remember, you have to stand out as a motivated PERSON, not just a list of experiences and good grades. Good luck!
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