Writing and submitting an Ivy League grad school statement of purpose is one of the many steps you need to enter a graduate level programa near-universal requirement. Regardless of whether you decide to pursue a Master’s or PhD, a statement of purpose is often the first piece of written work that many programs ask for along with a graduate school resume or a graduate school cover letter. This article will look at specific graduate programs offered by Ivy League schools, such as Harvard University, Stanford University and Princeton University, and give you Ivy League statement of purpose examples written specifically for that program, along with other tips to help your application stand out. 

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Harvard University Graduate School Statement of Purpose Example Yale University Graduate School Statement of Purpose Example Princeton University Graduate School Statement of Purpose Example FAQs

1. Harvard University Graduate School Statement of Purpose Example

Department of Anthropology

The Department of Anthropology at the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) offers three graduate degrees (two PhDs; one Masters) to graduates who want to pursue a specialization in the cultural and intellectual significance of various eras of human existence, while also imparting graduates with various opportunities to apply their considerable research and analytical skills. Applicants do not have to have a background in anthropology, and this program also does not require graduates take the GRE or GMAT tests, which is usually one of the required steps of how to get into Ivy League colleges.

The Master’s degree is in Medical Anthropology so graduates will have full access to all of Harvard’s many schools and resources, such as Harvard Medical School, and the School of Public Health. The other degree programs have available to them all of the school’s various research centers from the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies to the Korea Institute and even Harvard Law School.

The Department of Anthropology is also clear about what it is looking for in applicant’s statement of purpose saying the letter must, “demonstrate a geographic, cultural region and/or a particular topical or theoretical interest in anthropology”. It also emphasizes the importance of an applicant’s facility with any language associated with that region or area. Students do not have to write or submit a Harvard graduate school personal statement either; only a maximum 20-page long academic work, along with the statement of purpose.

Ivy League Statement of Purpose Example #1

"Ñamku tukul, ñamku ülmen; ñamku wiñol, ñamku pu lamngen."

Translation: "A wise man, a wise leader; a wise woman, a wise community."

The above statement is a Mapuche proverb highlighting their culture’s reverence for collective wisdom and knowledge, which is integral to how they maintain their culture, but also key to making it thrive. I think this proverb is related to the Harvard motto - “veritas” or truth – in that it recognizes the importance of truth or knowledge in the creation and flourishing of any individual or peoples.

In applying to the Harvard Graduate School Department of Anthropology for a PhD, I am driven by a deep connection with the Mapuche people of Chile, as my ancestry is based in their territorial homeland in Southern Chile and the Patagonia. I have witnessed firsthand their resilience, cultural richness, and the urgency of their struggles. It is through these immersive experiences that I have come to recognize the essential role of language in fostering meaningful connections and understanding.

Chile's history is deeply intertwined with the experiences of its Indigenous populations, particularly the Mapuche people. For generations, they have endured colonization, marginalization, and cultural assimilation. However, recent years have witnessed a remarkable shift in the political landscape, presenting a glimmer of hope for Indigenous communities seeking justice and agency. The failed attempt to accept a new constitution in Chile stands as a pivotal moment in this ongoing struggle.

The inclusion of a dedicated section for Indigenous peoples signifies a recognition of their historical grievances and the urgent need for restorative justice. By scrutinizing this event and the ensuing discourse, my research aims to unravel the intricacies of power dynamics, negotiations, and identity politics involved in this critical constitutional process. The Mapuche, and other Indigenous people's journey in securing their rightful place within Chile's constitutional framework serves as a powerful precursor to the broader global movement for Indigenous rights.

The recognition of Indigenous peoples' rights by national governments represents a fundamental step towards remedying generations of colonization, cultural erosion, and genocide. Through my PhD research, I aspire to contribute to this discourse by providing nuanced insights into the strategies employed, challenges faced, and the transformative potential of this process. Harvard's esteemed Department of Anthropology is an ideal academic environment for pursuing this research. Its commitment to rigorous interdisciplinary scholarship and engagement with pressing social issues aligns perfectly with the interdisciplinary nature of my proposed study.

By leveraging the department's intellectual resources, mentoring, and collaboration opportunities, I aim to develop a comprehensive understanding of the historical, cultural, and political dimensions of Indigenous struggles for rights and self-determination. Ultimately, my goal is to contribute to the advancement of Indigenous rights globally.

Through rigorous research, critical analysis, and the amplification of marginalized voices, I seek to generate knowledge that can inform policies, advocacy efforts, and public discourse on Indigenous issues. By illuminating the transformative potential of recognizing Indigenous rights within national constitutions, I hope to play a part in the collective journey toward decolonization, justice, and a more inclusive world.

2. Yale University Graduate School Statement of Purpose Example

Department of Classics – PhD

Yale University has a different approach to the statement of purpose. The school has close to 75 different graduate programs (Master’s and PhD), along with the various programs offered by the professional schools such as Yale Law School and Yale Medical School, but it uses a centralized application system, and its graduate application requirements and process are nearly the same for every program (there are exceptions).

The first thing that Yale mentions about applying to the Yale graduate school is the statement of purpose. It also has a universal prompt that all applicants to any graduate program at Yale must answer with an essay between 500 and 1000 words. The prompt is the same for all programs, except biology and biomedical sciences, which have their own prompt. However, depending on your chosen program, this statement of purpose may not be the only written piece you need, so it is possible that you may need to write a Yale graduate school personal statement, or some other kind of Yale supplemental essay for your particular program.

The Yale graduate school statement of academic purpose prompt is:

Please upload a statement of 500-1,000 words explaining why you are applying to Yale for graduate study. Describe your research interests and preparation for your intended field(s) of study, including prior research and other relevant experiences. Explain how the faculty, research, and resources at Yale would contribute to your future goals.

Ivy League Statement of Purpose Example #2

My introduction to Herakles was a Disney cartoon. I imagine many people were first introduced to him in a similar way, but this character, this myth has been introducing himself to a variety of disparate audiences over the millennia since he first entered the canon. In the vast tapestry of world mythology, few figures have traversed cultural boundaries as significantly as Herakles. From his origins in Greek mythology to his unexpected transformations as the protector of the Buddha in Eastern religions and eventually as the Shukongoshin in Japan, the evolution of Herakles serves as a testament to the enduring power of cross-cultural influences.

I am deeply fascinated by this interplay between Greek and Eastern mythologies, and it is my desire to explore this captivating phenomenon during my graduate studies. Yale, renowned for its storied Classics department, is the ideal institution for me to investigate and unravel the intricate connections between these diverse cultural narratives. During my undergraduate and graduate studies at Harvard, I pursued a multidisciplinary academic path that laid a solid foundation for my intended field of study.

Aside from my course work and academic pursuits, I also pursued extracurricular experiences to enrich my overall knowledge of the period. Before entering the Master’s program, I undertook a summer research internship at the Harvard Art Museums, where I assisted in curating an exhibition on the artistic representations of Herakles across different cultures and time periods. This experience exposed me to a wide range of artistic mediums and iconographic variations of Herakles, providing valuable insights into the ways in which ancient mythological figures were adapted and reinterpreted in diverse cultural contexts.

Moreover, during my Master’s I took advantage of Harvard's extensive language programs to enhance my linguistic abilities. I studied Ancient Greek and Sanskrit, as well as modern languages such as Mandarin and Japanese. These language studies not only facilitated my engagement with primary sources but also strengthened my ability to analyze and interpret cultural texts within their original linguistic frameworks.

I also actively sought research opportunities to further explore my academic interests. Under the guidance of Professor Rachel Schmidt, a renowned expert in comparative mythology, I conducted an independent research project on the cross-cultural transmission of mythological motifs between ancient Greece and India. This project allowed me to examine the similarities and divergences in the narratives of gods, heroes, and mythical creatures, tracing the enduring legacies of Greek mythology in the East.

Building on my previous graduate experiences, my research interests have solidified around the evolution of Herakles and the cross-cultural influences between Greek and Eastern mythologies. I am particularly intrigued by the ways in which mythological narratives adapt, transform, and find resonance in new cultural and religious contexts. My intended field of study at the graduate level will focus on examining the intricate connections and cultural interactions that shaped the evolution of Herakles and exploring the broader implications of cross-cultural mythological transmissions.

At Yale, I aim to further develop my research skills and theoretical understanding through advanced coursework and the investigative foundation laid by scholars such as Professor Mark Unno, whose seminal scholarly article "Hercules in East Asia: The Buddhist-Shinto Symbiosis and the Development of Shukongoshin" examines the transformation of Herakles into the Shukogoshin and explores the religious syncretism and cultural exchange involved in this process. Building upon Professor Unno's research, I intend to delve deeper into the cross-cultural influences and implications of the Herakles myth, expanding the discourse on the intersections of Greek and Eastern mythologies.

One faculty member at Yale who aligns closely with my research interests is Professor Milette Gaifman, an esteemed classicist and art historian. Her expertise in ancient visual culture, iconography, and the intersection of mythology and art makes her a valuable mentor for my intended field of study. Professor Gaifman's work on the visual representation of mythological narratives in ancient art provides critical insights into the cultural transmission and adaptation of mythological figures.

Her book, "Aniconism in Greek Antiquity," delves into the absence of certain divine figures in ancient Greek art and the role of aniconism in shaping religious and cultural practices. This resonates with my research focus on the evolution of Herakles and the ways in which the hero's image and symbolism were transformed across different cultures and artistic traditions. My passion for understanding the interplay between Greek and Eastern mythologies, exemplified by the evolution of Herakles, fuels my academic aspirations. Yale's distinguished Classics department, with its rich scholarly tradition and comprehensive study of ancient cultures, offers an ideal environment for me to undertake this interdisciplinary investigation.

3. Princeton University Graduate School Statement of Purpose Example

Economics – PhD

Princeton follows a similar path to Yale when it comes to graduate school applications. The school makes all applicants to its graduate school write a maximum 1000-word Ivy League statement of purpose examining their reasons for applying, but also answering questions such as “why do you want to do a PhD?” and any future goals they may have. The statement of interest is a required part of how to get into grad school at Princeton along with submitting a research resume, transcripts, three grad school letters of recommendation, and any other written work required by an applicant’s specific program.

However, one difference is that Princeton does not have a standard prompt for all applicants. But it does provide points on what an applicant should strive to mention in their statement of purpose, which are:

  • Plans: Highlight current academic and future career plans as they relate to the Princeton degree program to which you are applying
  • Experience: Include relevant academic, professional, and personal experiences that influenced the decision to apply for graduate admission and obtain a graduate degree.
  • Goals: Outline the goals for graduate study.

Ivy League Statement of Purpose Example #3

Witnessing the hardships the financial crisis inflicted on my family, and other individuals and communities fueled my determination to study economics and contribute to preventing such crises in the future. In my pursuit of knowledge and understanding, I am compelled to explore the potential of a universal, centralized currency as a means to prevent future financial crises and promote economic stability, given that the other front of my investigative journey is the emergence and impact of cryptocurrencies, which have challenged traditional notions of currency and monetary systems.

Drawing on the works of Princeton faculty members such as Professor Alan S. Blinder, whose expertise lies in monetary policy and financial institutions, and Professor Markus K. Brunnermeier, renowned for his research on financial stability and systemic risk, I aim to explore the concept of a centralized global currency as a potential solution to these challenges.

The idea of a centralized global currency, akin to the Euro, holds promise for fostering economic integration, facilitating international trade, and mitigating currency-related risks. By leveraging advancements in technology, such as blockchain and distributed ledger systems, a centralized global currency could provide a secure and efficient medium of exchange across borders. This novel approach would seek to address the shortcomings of existing cryptocurrencies while retaining the benefits of transparency, immutability, and transactional speed.

Building on the strong foundation laid during my undergraduate years, and with the seed of this research only germinating in my mind, I pursued a Master's degree in Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At MIT, I had the privilege of learning from distinguished economists and researchers, including Professor Janet Yellen and Professor Esther Duflo. Their expertise in monetary economics and development economics inspired me to delve deeper into these areas and explore their implications for real-world challenges.

While at MIT, I realized I needed more exposure to the machinations of global-level policymaking, so I applied for and secured an internship at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during my graduate studies. At the IMF, I worked alongside esteemed economists and researchers, delving into policy analysis and gaining a deeper understanding of the global financial landscape. Specifically, I focused on studying currency markets and their implications for financial stability and economic development.

During my time at the IMF, I had the opportunity to contribute to a policy paper titled "Digital Currencies and Financial Stability: A Comparative Analysis." This paper examined the potential risks and benefits of digital currencies and their impact on financial markets and stability. By conducting in-depth research, analyzing data, and collaborating with experts in the field, I gained valuable insights into the complexities surrounding decentralized cryptocurrencies and their implications for the global financial system.

Now, as I contemplate pursuing my doctoral studies at Princeton University, I am drawn to the institution's exceptional reputation in the field of economics and its commitment to interdisciplinary research. The opportunity to work alongside distinguished faculty members such as Professor Mark Watson and Professor Christina Paxson, whose expertise aligns closely with my research interests, is truly inspiring. Additionally, Princeton is renowned for its comprehensive research infrastructure and interdisciplinary approach, offers the ideal platform to undertake this critical research.


1. What is the goal of an Ivy League statement of purpose?

The goal of an Ivy League statement of purpose is to demonstrate to the admissions committee of your particular program how you have prepared for undertaking this research and how you plan to use the resources of the particular school to help you. It is also a way for admissions committee to measure your writing and communication skills. 

2. How long should an Ivy League statement of purpose be?

You should stick to the particular word count stated by the school or program. If they do not give you a word count, try to keep your statement to a maximum of 500 words. 

3. What steps should I take before writing an Ivy League statement of purpose?

You should write out multiple drafts of your Ivy League statement of purpose, and brainstorm various ideas. Then you can cut down your statement and organize it in a way that tells a coherent narrative. But even before you begin brainstorming, read over the individual requirements of each program to make sure you answer the question or cover the areas they require. 

4. How should my Ivy League statement of purpose be structured?

You can follow the above samples for an example of how to structure your Ivy League statement of purpose, but some of the above samples were responses to specific prompts. The order and structure of your statement of purpose is something you can decide on your own, but make sure to review and rewrite, if necessary, especially if the narrative is disjointed and confusing. 

5. What should my Ivy League statement of purpose include?

Thankfully, many of the above prompts are clear about what to include in your Ivy League statement of purpose, such as your academic background, why you are interested in your subject, what you have done to demonstrate this commitment, and, most importantly, how the school can aid you in your pursuits. 

6. What are the do’s and don’ts of an Ivy League statement of purpose?

You should always adhere to the guidelines given by your specific school. But, in general, you do not want to go over the stated word limit or mention anything that is unrelated to your studies and research interests. 

7. What do I need to do before submitting my Ivy League statement of purpose?

You should read and re-read your Ivy League statement of purpose before submitting it and let colleagues or professors review it to make sure that it is outstanding. 

8. How can I make sure my Ivy League school statement of purpose is as impactful as possible?

Make sure to stick to the prompt or question given by the school, and stick to the word count. But also make sure to tell a good story. Meaning, if you want to mention failures and setbacks, do so, but within the context of showing how you overcame these obstacles and emerged a more passionate learner. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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