Remember last week when I shared tips you need to know before applying to Grad school? I also promised to return with more practical information on how to navigate these opportunities. I thought about where to start from, because sis!, there are quite a number of things to consider. But let’s start with the Statement of Purpose. If you had your undergraduate degree in Nigeria, there’s a huge chance you’ve not had the opportunity to write a statement of purpose in any admission process.
However, many foreign schools require you to write one. In fact, these statements is one of the more prominent factors that determines your admission. The only problem is, many folks in Science, Engineering, even in the Arts, do not like writing or are not sure how to approach it. The first thing you need to know is that your statement of purpose is sort of like an elevator pitch, or marketing material. It’s like meeting your professional mentor for the first time in a dinner party and trying to get them interested in your work. Below are a few tips to help you clearly outline your statement of purpose.
Are you even writing anything serious if you don’t struggle with where to start? Beginning any paper is hard, and many of us have been there. However, with your statement of purpose, a good place to begin is to literally state your purpose. That is, the work you plan to do in grad school. Naturally, this means that you should have some clarity about what your potential interests are. It can read something along the lines of: “Dear Selection Committee, during my time at XYZ University, I intend to explore the intersections of race and gender in precolonial African settlements.” This is just a random example. But when you state this, it’s important to also explore why you think this research should be done, why it matters, etc.
A Little Background
After you talk about your research as specifically as you can, you want to then prove capability—that is, demonstrate that you are someone who will not squander research opportunities. One way to do this is by giving a little background of yourself to explain your research interests. Here, you want to talk about previous research experience, even if it is at a very low scale. It could be your final year project in your undergraduate studies, or a course that you took that piqued your interests. You want to show that you have done previous work before or that the idea has stayed with you and grown over the years. After this, you should talk about the skill-based experience you have. It could be some volunteer work you’ve done, your professional job, attention to details etc. Any skill that shows you as a valuable research resource.
Why The University
Of course, to cap it on the head, you want to mention why you have chosen that institution. One hack of getting this right is to avoid generic statements like saying it’s a great school or that you have always wanted to go there. Instead, look for specific things they do differently. Do they have an interdisciplinary approach to your research focus? Do they have any alumni who is an informal mentor, and most importantly, is there any member of the faculty whose research interest is vaguely similar to yours? That last point is always a deal sealer. Mention specific faculty whose work you admire and how that work connects to the work you are doing. Remember that you want the institution/department to feel like you have chosen them deliberately even though you are applying to ten other schools. Lol.
This list is not exhaustive. But the points emphasize the most important things you need to think about in your statement of purpose. If you are still playing with the idea of applying to Grad school, I recommend you take the shot. Especially if it’s something you believe will benefit your career.
Do you have any questions about Grad school application that you want answered? Let us know in the comments.