An essay should be memorable. One of the worst things you can do with your statement of purpose is to bore the admissions committee of the universities in the USA, yet that is exactly what most applicants do. Tell a story. Be truthful and stick to the facts; yet, think of the statement of purpose in the terms of writing a story. You want to write as fresh, lively, different – not to mention articulate – to put yourself ahead of the other applicants.
Find an Angle
If you are like most people, however, your life story might well lack significant drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle is vital. Brainstorm for ideas which emphasize your exceptional qualities, goals, past performances.
Concentrate on Your Opening Paragraph
The OPENING PARAGRAPH is generally the MOST IMPORTANT. Here you either GRAB the readers attention or lose it. If you are telling a story you will use this first paragraph to introduce the elements most relevant to that story – and the ones that will hold greatest interest for the reader.
Tell Who You Are
The committee needs to get a sense of who you are, what makes you tick, and how you are different from other applicants. They should be interested in you by now, eager to hear more, impressed that what you’re saying to them — the story you’re relating – is not simply what they’ve read a thousand times before. Sometimes a SOP can be perfectly well written in terms of language and grammar, but disastrous in lacking punch or impact and in being totally off the mark concerning what it chooses to present about the applicant. Remember, what is most important about your SOP is what you say and how you say it! Be selective about what you tell the admissions committee.
What you choose to say in your statement is, again, very much a reflection of you because it shows the committees what you priorities are, what you consider to be important. The personal statement is often an indication, too, of your judgement, so be careful and give a great deal of thought to what you write. Think about yourself, you background, experiences and abilities – as well as what you know about the profession— and develop a strategy (Is it interesting, relevant, different, memorable?) Review your life very carefully (get help from family or friends if necessary) for facets or experiences that reveal an unusual dimension, related to your professional goals, or could serve as evidence of your suitability for a certain career. Try to maintain a positive and upbeat tone. While it is often useful to deal candidly with aspects of your history that might be perceived negatively, overall you still want to project confidence and enthusiasm.
What NOT to Include
Be Selective. Do not provide something more than a recitation of information available elsewhere in the application. Sometimes there will be things you want to mention because you are proud of those achievements and experiences; however, they may not belong in your statement. The information you give must support your story and/or case. You will not want to talk about every achievement.
References to experiences or accomplishments during your high school years or earlier are not a good idea. There are exceptions, extraordinary achievements or traumatic event that had a significant impact on your development or career plans. You sound very young and immature if this information does not have a big impact on your life.
Finally, do not mention subjects that are potentially controversial; it is impossible for you to know the biases of members of various admissions committees. Religion and politics normally don’t belong in these statements, although, again, there may be exceptions. Any views that might be interpreted as strange or highly unconventional should also be omitted because you want to avoid them.