How To Write A Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

Applying for a PhD? Don’t know how to write a statement of purpose for graduate school? You’ll need it if you want to reach the interview rounds. Learn here how to prepare your statement of purpose for graduate school. And if you can’t wait you can get our statement of purpose template.

Before you start writing your statement of purpose for graduate school. Check these things you need to know before starting a PhD. Are you sure you want a career in science?

Do You Really Need A Statement Of Purpose for Graduate School?

Group leaders have several candidate CVs on the desk. They don’t want to hire a blooper. So they try to minimise risk.

Yes, they can check your CV to minimise risk. But after seeing many CVs several candidates can convey a similar amount of risk.

Now image you have to hire somebody, you have to spend your own money to pay somebody to do research in a project that is really important for your scientific career.

This is the message you get after reading the statement of purpose for graduate school of three similar candidates:

Candidate 1: I want to do research in your lab because it is in New York and I always wanted to live in New York.

Candidate 2: I want to do research on disease ### because a good friend of mine died of disease ###.

Candidate 3: I want to do research with you on topic %%% because I did an internship in %%%, I liked it, I am good at it and my learning curve won’t be so steep.

Which one of these candidates sounds more qualified for doing a good job? This is what your future boss wants to read in the statement of purpose.

A statement of purpose for graduate school shows why you are ready to do the research, why there is little risk in hiring you.

What Happens If You Don’t Write A Good Statement Of Purpose?

Well, you might have all the aptitudes and attitudes to become an A graduate student. But if you can’t write a proper statement of purpose for graduate school, trust me, you won’t be given a chance.

I am sure you have met one of those nerds that are extremely intelligent but when you want to talk with them, they start shaking in fear. What impression do you have now of their skills?

The same happens to a group leader when he gets an application of a supposedly capable student, who is not able of writing a letter that makes him look interested and interesting.

What Is Expected From A Statement Of Purpose?

Someone that reads your statement of purpose for graduate school wants to know, in the shortest time possible, why you should be offered a PhD.

If you want to captivate them, you need to show the reasons that make you the ideal candidate. Next to this, it’s good to mention how motivated you are and how well your background fits what they are looking for.

The goal of this statement of purpose for graduate school is that the person reading it wants to know more about you. You have to make him want to invite you for an interview. To think “hey, this guy has potential, let’s see if face to face is as good as he says in paper”.

But there is one caveat… this statement of purpose for graduate school is not for copy paste. You need to do some work yourself.

Learn to write a Statement Of Purpose For Graduate School

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The Key Feature Of A Statement Of Purpose For Graduate School That Gets You Invited

We all love attention. You also like it. Doesn’t it feel good when people listen to you? When people spend time on you?

Guess what? The scientist that will hire you also wants attention.

What can you do to show that person some love?

You should customise your statement of purpose.

You need to customise your statement of purpose for the person you are sending it to. Nothing turns down faster a candidate than a letter that has been copy-pasted. It’s a no go.

I’m not joking. Scientists get bombarded with solicitations from everywhere and 95% are immediately deleted because:

  • The name of the scientists is misspelled.
  • The candidate did not do a background survey on the research done at the lab.
  • The candidate did not describe how his skills fit the research done at the lab.

Do you think people can’t notice when you send the same statement of purpose to everybody?

If you do this you are not going to the interviews round.

Now, you need to spend some time reviewing the research of the group to which you are applying to.

Find their research interests and elaborate on how your background and interests are a good match for the group. You just need 3 paragraphs.

The 3 Paragraphs Of A Statement Of Purpose For Graduate School

You start with the typical “Dear Prof. Dr. Bal Bla” (don’t forget the titles, they worked hard to earn them). You close with “Sincerely, Your Name”.

Your statement of intent should not be longer than 4 paragraphs, that’s it. Fit them in one A4 page.

First paragraph is short, second is long, third and fourth short again.

First Paragraph

This is your elevator pitch. In 3 to 4 sentences you need to condense this:

  • The position or program you are applying to.
  • The skills, education and experience that make you a suitable candidate.

Second Paragraph

Here you present:

  • Your education.
  • Experience.
  • Achievements.

It should be clear that you are qualified for the PhD and that you know what you are talking about. Remember, reduce the risk of hiring you.

If you state something you should back it with facts. For example, if you say “I am hard working” don’t leave just like that, add “as doing voluntary summer internships in Lab A and Lab B demonstrates”.

If this paragraph gets too thick you can split in two for the sake of clarity.

Third Paragraph

In 3 to 4 sentences you describe: . You can also include one line with .

  • How the items in the previous paragraph make you a suitable candidate.
  • Your motivation for joining graduate school. Where does your interest in this topic come from?

Fourth Paragraph

Here you wrap everything up. You should state again in 2 or 3 sentences:

  • Your experience makes you interested in the PhD and a suitable candidate.
  • You want to do the PhD with him.
  • You look forward to his reply.

Finish with a classical “All the best,” or “Sincerely,” and your name.

Now it’s the time to get cracking. Get those writing juices flowing.

In case your creativity is still stuck, do you want to have a look at statement of purpose template? Keep reading if you want to get the statement of purpose for graduate school I was using when looking for a PhD.

Want A Template For A Statement Of Purpose For Graduate School?

What you get is a template of a statement of purpose for graduate school that you need to adapt. It’s a great letter that worked for me, and that if you adapt, it will work for you, promised.

It would be easier to tell you that you just need to resend my statement of purpose to get accepted in grad school. No effort involved, fail proof, bla bla bla. But I would be lying to you. 

What I can promise is that if you adapt this statement of purpose for your CV and experience, and if you customise it for the person that is going to read it, it will work.

This statement of purpose for graduate school will get you accepted because:

  • You provide all the information the recruiter wants to read.
  • You show why you are the right candidate.
  • You offer a neat presentation of your background.

Submitting a killer statement of purpose for graduate school can make the difference between being invited for an interview or not. But do you know how to write a killer statement of purpose for graduate school yourself?

If you need inspiration you can get this sample statement of purpose for graduate school that I used when applying for a PhD. You don’t need to squeeze your brains anymore.

This is the statement of purpose that I sent when I was looking for a PhD. It worked like a charm. I got invited for interviews in three different universities.

You can be very bright. You can have good grades. You might have a wonderful CV. Without an attractive statement of purpose for graduate school, they will not care to look at your CV.

Click to Get Your Statement Of Purpose For Graduate School


Do you need a recommendation letter?

A cover letter for a journal submission? Or a rebuttal letter?

Check also our other letters for PhD applicants and scientists below.

About Julio Peironcely

Julio Peironcely, PhD is the founder of Next Scientist and a PhD by Leiden University. He helps PhD students to stay motivated, be more productive and finish their PhDs. Follow him on Twitter (@peyron) or read more from him on