Statement of Purpose Examples for Graduate School in 2020

Including Sample Statements of Purpose That Got Multiple Acceptances!

Updated: October 21, 2020

Review these successful graduate school statement of purpose examples, expert tips, and strategies to help you create your own effective essay.

Here’s What We are Going To Show You:

Why a Statement of Purpose? 

  • The Statement of Purpose is a graduate school’s way of assessing your motivation and capacity to undertake a grueling course of study at their institution.
  • It allows you to paint a picture of you studying at their school.
  • The Statement allows the school to consider how you think about contemporary issues in the field and your relationship to the core problems of interest faced by the field’s community of practice.
  • The Statement also tells the story of how you got to the point of applying for this program at that school.

What should I include?

  • A Statement of Purpose is usually between 500 and 750 words.
  • The Statement of Purpose should have four sections, though they don’t need to be clearly defined as sections in the document and can take on the more natural feel of a letter:
  • Academic and/or professional preparation for a career in public health
  • Your focused interest in the degree program/department or MPH field of study to which you are applying
  • Career plans upon completion of the program
  • Note any relevant strengths or weaknesses in your background or in your ability to carry out your professional responsibilities.  

Want us to help you write a graduate school statement of purpose that gets you accepted into multiple schools?

For Top Marks:

  • Mention specific technical skills you bring to the graduate program.
  • Clarify how your focused interest relates to the work already being done by specific faculty members at the school.
  • Cite academic references that have helped shape your point of view.
  • Note relevant publications, presentations, or conferences you’ve led or been part of. 

Academic & Professional Preparation

  • Academic and/or professional preparation for a career in the chosen discipline.
  • Previous relevant degrees, courses, conferences.
  • Research engagement.
  • Previous jobs, internships.
  • Teaching assistantships and research assistantships
  • BUT it is NOT just a recitation of your CV for graduate school. It is more than “I did this…then I did this…” It goes beyond just listing accomplishments and into building a narrative of why you took the steps you did and how it brought you to graduate school. 

For example,

“After spending four years as an Arts & Science undergraduate and earning a Minor specialization in Economics, I have developed strong analytical research skills, a capacity for truly critical thought and an appreciation for the universal relevance of economic investigation. My interest in the social determinants of health, and how these interplay with policy and economics, was the impetus for my senior undergraduate research project entitled, “Health and behavior: Advancing a microeconomic framework for changing decision-making in people with obesity.” I was fortunate to work with economists Drs. Levi and Traut, with whom I interrogated the classical and contemporary theories around human behavior and health. In my role as a research assistant, I conducted three literature reviews, one of which was used to support the work of a senior graduate student and will be published in an upcoming issue of Health Economics and the abstract was accepted for a poster presentation at the Annual Health Economics Conference in Denver CO.”

Focused Interest in the Field

  • Your focused interest in the degree program/department or MPH field of study to which you are applying
  • Explain the most exciting problems of interest in the field for you.
  • Share your perspectives, and explain your intellectual influences around these perspectives.
  • Articulate an area of interest you would like to explore.
  • BUT this doesn’t need to be a full academic research proposal with methods, etc. It can allude to special interests you may have in some research techniques but this is NOT a technical paper.

 For example,

“My interest in the Health Economics specialization option is a testament to my conviction that health is one of the most interesting and complex determinants of social welfare. In my experiences as a traveler, researcher, and student, I understand health policy to be one of the most defining characteristics of a national identity as well as the locus of key clashes between equity and efficiency. Health economic policy is the most interesting because it juxtaposes health care, in which universality and equality are perceived as dominant principles, against the rationality and efficiency considerations of an increasingly liberal global economic reality. Graduate studies in health economic policy is the ideal corollary to my academic, personal and social background. I am most keen to explore the relationship between economic and psychological models of human behavior to hopefully advance a more holistic social sciences perspective on why people act against their own self-interest when it comes to their health.”

Career Plans

For example,

"It is the responsibility of economics researchers to offer sustainable and feasible alternatives and recommendations to experts in all other fields regarding their most pressing challenges such as climate change and regulation of illegal trade. Further, the intermediary between economics research and the implementation of its corresponding results is the policy process. Because analytical research and writing are my most well-developed academic strengths, as evidenced by my GPA, undergraduate thesis, reference letters, and writing samples, the MA Economic Policy (Health Specialization) program is an ideal launch point for a research career academia with branch points into policy work in the social determinants of health. Eventually, I want to complete a PhD. I want to build a focused academic practice at McMaster where I can help civil society, government and social enterprises understand and address ‘wicked problems’ at the intersection of economics and public health. The skills I aim to acquire through this graduate training are crucial to the evolution of my practice." 

Strengths & Weaknesses

  • Note any relevant strengths or weaknesses in your background or in your ability to carry out your professional responsibilities.
  • Strong statements of purpose include ones like, “Because analytical research and writing are my most well-developed academic strengths, as evidenced by my GPA, undergraduate thesis, reference letters, and writing samples, …”
  • This is where you would talk about special circumstances and situations that may have compromised your academic performance or led to delays. 

Top Tips

Before we jump into some sample statements of purposes below, here are some more tips and strategies for you:


 Statement of Purpose Examples for Graduate School

Statement of Purpose for Graduate School Example #1:

During the first year of my undergraduate degree, I took a small course entitled “Third World Development” taught by three rather radical and lively professors from Trinidad, Chile, and Lebanon, respectively. This course, despite its passé title, existed to deconstruct our notions of ‘otherness’ by illustrating the deep connectedness of issues, people, and nations. This theme of ‘connectedness’ is threaded through my research and work history under various labels and theories. My undergraduate research was dedicated to understanding the ways and means of political participation for women in remote Northeast India. I became curious about the role of women as informal politicians within their small collectives where survival literally hinges on connectivity. My time in observation of these women opened me to the idea that health and wellness can emerge from places facing serious food insecurity, poor shelter, corruption, and long distances from the center of national power. The extent to which women could draw upon their collective power and roles as givers of care in order to lobby local governments and participate legitimately in the polity was the very definition of their empowerment.  

During my graduate work at [x] University, public health approaches to vulnerable populations were of particular interest to me. It became clear, during my fieldwork with care providers for women who sell sex and do high-risk drugs in downtown eastside, that vulnerable populations around the world often have more in common with each other than with the ‘dominant’ or non-excluded populations. My research led to my questions about the role of social capital, defined in this case as a public good comprised of relationships and networks, in leading to better health outcomes amongst highly-marginalized urban women. The mechanisms through which both groups of women, in Northeast India and downtown Vancouver, became able to rely on or reject peers, givers of aid or care, and the social and political systems in which they were enmeshed, are very similar. I have witnessed how health outcomes can be a partial function of connectedness for women on the periphery.

Public health has proven the best venue through which I can search for explicit, concrete evidence that individual and population welfare can be socially determined, by access to and power to make choices regarding housing, education, employment, income, political participation, nutrition, and transportation. I see the centrality of connectedness, to institutions and peers, to the processes that enable an individual to access, choose, and influence. My current work as a policy analyst with the Public Health Agency within the Strategic Initiatives and Innovations Directorate is focused largely on reducing health inequalities by mobilizing action on particular social determinants of health. While this work is important and generally on point, I suspect that the United States and Canada may benefit from exploring the micro-level ‘enablers’ of change with respect to the social determinants of health. These enablers, including social networks as a form of social capital, are sometimes lumped, and incorrectly so, with the more tangible determinants, such as housing and nutrition. I see these enablers as characteristics of favorable environments in which health can be positively affected: in families, neighborhoods, schools, communities, etc.

My proposed dissertation research would fall into the broader goals of studying the social mechanisms by which parental social connections impact the eating behavior of their children as well as the way in which these mechanisms may vary across local neighborhoods. My particular interest is the potentially causal nexus between maternal social networks, neighborhood environments, and the transmission of eating behaviors to children. In effect, my role would be to help operationalize maternal adversity and identify potential moderators on the effects of maternal adversity on obesity and eating behaviors of children.

I am drawn to [x] University School of Kinesiology and Health Studies specifically due to Dr. Spencer Moore’s background in medical anthropology and current work with social network analytic techniques. The application of network theory analytical techniques will be a new endeavor for me, but I am attracted to the study of populations that are not necessarily bound by their geography but by common circumstances, such as maternal adversity, and, potentially, common health effects related to obesity and food behaviors. I want to understand the links between the nature and degree of ties between low-income women and how these ties affect norms related to obesity and food.

The School of Kinesiology and Health Studies is an excellent institution that is well-equipped to support new graduate students interested in innovative ways to explore social challenges. It is here that Dr. Moore is developing an important critical mass surrounding this particular way of examining social networks as enablers of obesity and food behavior outcomes among marginalized women and their young children.

My prior individual research experiences were qualitative in nature, relying on grounded theory and warranted assertion analysis techniques common to sociological research. I have experience as a research assistant on a larger project studying large, linked quantitative databases of provincial health and corrections data in my home state. Also, I have a sufficient course work history in statistics and epidemiology to be able to make the leap to more advanced quantitative techniques, given access to graduate courses on the subject. Social network analysis is a fascinating way of quantifying social capital and social networks and I am very enthusiastic about the opportunity to study these methods and methodologies under Dr. Moore.

Prefer to watch a video instead? Check it out below:

Statement of Purpose for Graduate School Example #2:

Note how the following personal statement is truly personal and after reading this statement you feel like you know this applicant already. They also leave you feeling a lot of emotions. Both warm and sad. And that's good. You want to create some sort of emotion in the admissions committee members that read your personal statement.

Click here to read this statement of purpose example.

Statement of Purpose for Graduate School Example #3:

Statement of purpose is a chance to tell the story of your life. Your statement is not only a celebration of your triumphs, but also a true reflection on the challenges and struggles you have faced. Remember, you cannot victimize yourself in the essay. Rather than simply talking about your difficulties, make sure to emphasize how you overcame them. Create a captivating narrative of how events in your life led to this moment - your decision to apply to grad school.

Click here to read this statement of purpose example.

As Usual:

  • Do not plagiarize.
  • Do not rely on clichés and tired phrasing.
  • Do not speak in the third person.
  • Do not use overly fancy language when clear, simple language works just as well.
  • Do not use excessive technical jargon that is unique to a small sub-specialized field, unless its appropriate and well-explained.
  • Do not submit your first draft. You need to write, write again and rewrite. 

Make your graduate school application stand out FAST with the help of our experienced admissions experts now!


About the Author:

Dr. Sarah Lynn Kleeb is an admissions expert at BeMo. Dr. Kleeb holds a doctorate degree (Ph.D.) from the University of Toronto where she examined the connections between Critical Theory and Liberation Theology. She brings 10 years of experience teaching, advising, and mentoring undergraduate students to her role as an admissions expert, having taught extensively at UofT. 

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