Difference between Personal statement and Statement of Purpose
2015-04-23
Tom

The difference between a Personal Statement and a Statement of Purpose is vast and should be carefully noted. Candidates for graduate degree programs in particular should be fully aware of the differences and their implications. A broad way of distinguishing the Statement of Purpose from the Personal Statement is to note that the former is ‘forward-looking,’ with more emphasis on detailed delineation of future plans and their origins in the candidate’s prior experiences… Hence, ‘what is your purpose in applying for graduate study at our school?’ Personal Statements are more reflective and backward looking in nature. As ever—and as with all important documents one prepares—it is critical to base one’s work on a careful appraisal of the intentions and expectations of the audience (or reader) in asking for the document. This pertains to conventions of form and style, but it also points to a deeper expectation altogether: Undergraduate applicants are not expected to have fine-tuned their goals and ambitions; the vast majority will not have had enough experience of the world yet to make a concrete or compelling case for why they want to study X or Y aspect of a subject in detail. Conversely, at graduate level, the admissions committee will expect you to have a clear and convincing set of goals, rooted in experiences during undergraduate study. Undergraduate study is the time for you to explore. Graduate study is the time for you to focus. Make sure you prepare a document that takes account of this fundamentally different premise.

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