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Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
Statement of Purpose Workshop
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Statement of Purpose Workshop

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  1. Writing Your Statement of Purpose David Gard, Ph.D. Psychology Department SFSU
  2. Overview <ul><li>What is a Statement of Purpose? </li></ul><ul><li>How are they used in admissions? </li></ul><ul><li>Important things to know about statements </li></ul><ul><li>How to write a statement </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Important dos and don’ts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The process of writing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Readers’ pet peeves </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Some examples of how to ‘frame’ statements </li></ul><ul><li>Answers to your specific questions </li></ul>
  3. A note about my biases… <ul><li>My experience reading applications </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Background is in clinical programs (both research & clinically-oriented programs) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Suggestions about writing a statement are guidelines only </li></ul><ul><li>Different readers have different pet peeves (but many are the same) </li></ul><ul><li>Please feel free to interrupt me & ask questions at any time </li></ul>
  4. What is a Statement of Purpose? <ul><li>A written essay (usually 2-5 double spaced pages) that addresses a variety of topics: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Past experiences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Future goals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reponses to specific application questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A reflection of who you are and where you are headed </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Likely the most important part of your graduate application… so take your time </li></ul>
  5. How are they used in admissions? <ul><li>A narrative format for your experiences (but not simply a narrative of your CV) </li></ul><ul><li>Assessing whether you are a good fit </li></ul><ul><li>Assessing your excitement for their specific program </li></ul><ul><li>A place to (briefly) explain deficiencies </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluation of your writing skills </li></ul><ul><li>A note on the process of how universities often review applications … </li></ul>
  6. Important things to know about statements <ul><li>*Know your program* </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Masters versus doctoral </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>General versus mentorship programs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Clinically practice-oriented versus research-oriented </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Mentorship model </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Know your faculty member’s research (read their publications closely) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make sure he/she is accepting students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Email that faculty member (but do your homework on them first) </li></ul></ul>
  7. Important things to know about statements <ul><li>Mentorship model (continued) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Do I need to write separate statements for each university? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Only if you want to be accepted </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can I just change the last paragraph to say ‘University X and Professor Y is a great match for my interests because yada yada yada…’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>No  </li></ul></ul></ul>
  8. Important things to know about statements <ul><li>Mentorship model (continued) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Good statements tell a story, theme, or focus on an idea/concept throughout </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Excellent statements tie that theme to a specific mentor’s research </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>This, of course, means that those who write excellent statements write several different statements </li></ul></ul></ul>
  9. Important things to know about statements <ul><li>General model programs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Similar to mentorship programs although: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>OK to focus on ideas that may or may not relate to a specific faculty </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Very important to speak to interests and match with the goals of the overall program </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your goals should match with those of students who have recently graduated from that program </li></ul></ul>
  10. Important things to know about statements <ul><li>Clinical practice programs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Qualitatively different statement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus should be on practice experiences and how this shaped your future goals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Should speak to interests in therapeutic orientation & match of the program </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Research experience is not a bad thing at all, but should not be the emphasis </li></ul></ul>
  11. Important things to know about statements <ul><li>Clinical practice programs (cont.) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most of these schools would like to know about your life experiences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Balance between disclosure and not making the statement a therapy session </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Self-disclosure is generally a good thing in these statements </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Write several versions of your ‘story’ </li></ul></ul>
  12. Important things to know about statements <ul><li>Remember your reader! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reads dozens of these </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Probably overworked, tired </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wants you to excite them about you </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Good writing requires good editing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Stay within the requested limits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Editing does NOT include: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Changing the font size, margin or spacing (11-12pt TNR!) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If it is ‘a little long,’ something needs to be cut </li></ul></ul></ul>
  13. Important things to know about statements <ul><li>Balance is the key to good statements </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Excitement but professionalism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Detailed but not jargony </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unique/creative but not disturbing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be ‘humbly boastful’ (don’t minimize or overstate experiences) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Excitement … not hyperbole </li></ul></ul>
  14. How to write a statement <ul><li>Tell your story </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Grab the reader in the intro – you have only a few sentences to do this </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is unique about you & your interests? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What got you interested in this field? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Create a theme or story that weaves in: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Unique aspects of yourself </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your experiences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your goal in their program & your career direction (e.g., academia) </li></ul></ul>
  15. How to write a statement <ul><li>It is OK to write a linear narrative but: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This is not a place to re-write your CV </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Keep it interesting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make the narrative a theme – focused around unique aspects of your experience and interests </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Write about IDEAS & concepts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consider cutting anything that diverges from this theme, except: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Frame ‘tangential’ experiences (clinical or research) as creating a foundation </li></ul></ul>
  16. How to write a statement: General format <ul><li>Introduction – opening paragraph </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Grab the reader’s attention </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Begin the main theme of your statement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Program & career goals </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Middle section </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Experiences, how the program fits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mentor fit (for mentorship programs) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Concluding paragraph – wrap up themes </li></ul><ul><li>Note: This is just a guideline – It’s OK to be creative! </li></ul>
  17. How to write a statement – Other important points <ul><li>Be specific – Depth over breadth </li></ul><ul><li>All research (& clinical) experience is good experience (even if it doesn’t fit your theme) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g., “This research helped lay the foundation for my understanding of…” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g., “This clinical experience broadened my understanding of …” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Express your excitement about all of your research (and clinical) experiences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>OK to express excitement about what you learned in a course (especially about ideas) </li></ul></ul>
  18. How to write a statement – Other important points <ul><li>Self-disclosure – Do I do it? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Generally not a good idea in research oriented programs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>May be necessary for practice-oriented programs that ask for an autobiography or for some form of self-reflection </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>But, be: judicious, thoughtful, and insightful… </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Should reflect growth (not an endpoint of enlightenment) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Have others read this closely! </li></ul></ul></ul>
  19. How to write a statement – The process of writing <ul><li>Good writing is difficult </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Remember this is a statement about you. It is not you. Let it go. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ask as many people (professors, friends, family) to read it as possible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ask someone to read it who does not know you well </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Read other successful statements (people will be flattered that you asked) </li></ul></ul>
  20. How to write a statement – The process of writing <ul><li>Good writing is difficult (continued) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reward yourself (internally & externally) for even a little progress </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Put it away for a week or two and come back to it later </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t be afraid to ‘start over’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In fact, good statements require several completely different versions </li></ul></ul>
  21. Statement readers’ pet peeves <ul><li>10 point font or less, small margins </li></ul><ul><li>Rambling, directionless statements </li></ul><ul><li>Statements that are vague and/or filled with undefined jargon </li></ul><ul><li>Mentorship model programs: No real interest or statement about working with a specific faculty member </li></ul><ul><li>Not responding to specific questions </li></ul><ul><li>Typoes </li></ul>Typos
  22. Some examples <ul><li>‘ Karen’ is interested in getting into a clinical research Ph.D. program where she can do research in depression. Her goal is to teach & do research. Her experiences: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Honors program at her undergrad </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>RA experience in developmental lab & a social psych lab </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Internship with children and adolescents </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How to frame this, especially with no real experience working with depression? </li></ul><ul><li>Theme focused on ideas (e.g., self-fulfilling prophecy – perhaps with a clinical example), excitement, research experience & how these match with faculty </li></ul>
  23. Some examples (continued) <ul><li>‘ Steven’ is interested in getting into a developmental Ph.D. program (mentorship-model) where he can do research on emotion regulation in children. His goal is also academia. His experiences: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>RA in I/O lab, RA in social psych lab </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wrote a senior thesis focusing on infant cognition </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some work in preschools </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How to frame this, especially with no research experience working with children? </li></ul><ul><li>Theme focused on ideas (e.g., delay of gratification), work with children, research experience & how these match with faculty </li></ul>
  24. Some examples (continued) <ul><li>‘ Maria’ is interested in getting into a practice oriented Ph.D./Masters program where she can be trained as a clinician. Her goal is to work in the community. Her experiences: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some traumatic experiences in childhood </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Honors research at her undergrad </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>RA experience in a social psych lab </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Internship in community mental health </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How to frame this, especially with limited clinical experience? Self-disclosure? </li></ul><ul><li>Theme focused on clinical experiences & clinical ideas, research is OK, but don’t make this the only focus. Judicious self-disclosure in moderation if fits interest and theme </li></ul>

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