Why a Statement of Purpose and Objectives is Important
Statement of Purpose and Objectives are used as part of the application process for many Ph.D. programs, medical schools, fellowship programs, and even, in some cases, hiring new employees. They help assess an individual’s commitment to their chosen area of study or work. In addition to strong writing skills, the admissions committee is also looking for something that standardized tests and GPAs cannot quantify — the writer’s personal story or sense of purpose as it relates to the program or position he or she is seeking (hence the name “Statement of Purpose and Objectives”). While the weight of the statement in terms of the overall application may vary from place to place, it is undoubtedly a key factor in the decision-making process.
The more you can engage your reader with a personal story of why your chosen field is important to you, as well as your long-range career goals and purpose for pursuing further study or work in that field, the more compelling your statement will be. In writing your essay it is important to keep two goals in mind: 1) To persuade the admissions or hiring committee that they want to admit you to their program or to hire you; and 2) That you are far more than a GPA or test score. You are a real person who would be an asset to the school or to the organization.
The Three-Step Process to Writing a Statement of Purpose and Objectives:
- In this step you engage in self-reflection, research and the development of ideas for your Statement of Purpose and Objectives. Allow yourself plenty of time to perform this step, and consider the following questions:
- What events, personal experiences, or difficult situations shaped my character?
- What experiences were most influential in choosing my career path?
- What skills, knowledge, and experiences distinguish me from other candidates?
- What do I find meaningful or purposeful (passion)?
- What are my goals or hopes for my future career?
- What are my hobbies?
2. Selecting Your Statement Topic
As you begin Step Two, ask yourself: “What impression do I hope to create through my statement?” Select a topic that will allow you to synthesize the information from Step One into a well written document that will leave a positive and memorable impression. Consider some of the following tips as you make your selection:
- Avoid using gimmicks, but select a topic that grabs the readers’ attention in the first paragraph
- Provide vivid supporting experiences to your topic
- Avoid repeating information that can be found elsewhere in your application (such as GPA)
- Seek feedback from your professors, advisors, and career counselor about the topic
3. Tips for Writing Your Statement of Purpose and Objectives
- As you write your statement, keep in mind that your goal is to convince admissions or the hiring committee that you are the candidate they want.
- Start by creating an outline and journaling your first draft of your statement
- Be original – make it interesting
- Be yourself – your readers want to learn about who you are as a person
Tips for Writing Your Statement of Purpose and Objectives
- Less is more – don’t try to impress the readers with your vocabulary and “big words”
- Use imagery and clear, vivid prose – describe your life experiences using graphic images
- Determine if there is a theme to your statement – a common thread.
- Spend the most time on your introduction—it is essential that you grab the reader’s attention immediately. Often experts recommend that you rewrite your introduction after you have the body of the essay written.
- Don’t summarize in your introduction—the reader may not continue reading
- Create curiosity or intrigue in the reader’s mind by raising questions
- If there is a theme to your statement, introduce your theme at the beginning
- Relate all paragraphs in the body of essay to the introduction; or to your theme
- Make smooth transitions to preserve the flow of your essay
- Conclusions are crucial; this is your last chance to convince the reader of your qualifications. Do not use phrases such as “in conclusion” “in summary.” Consider the following suggestions:
- Link your conclusion to you introduction to create a sense of balance by restating the introduction’s phrases
- Focus on your career goals – where do you see yourself in 5/10 years
- Discuss the broader implications of your discussion
- Redefine a term previously used in the body of your essay
- End with a famous quote that is relevant to your argument (caution: quotes are overused, so be certain it really fits)
- It may be appropriate to leave the reader with unanswered questions or ambiguity rather than to try to answer large philosophical questions
- Take a break from a draft of your statement – then come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes
- Ask someone else to read a draft of your statement and request feedback. In addition to reading for content and flow, others may spot grammatical errors or typos that you overlooked.
- Research the organization or institution where you are applying. Learn as much as you can about it and integrate that information into your essay as appropriate
- Read examples of Statement of Purpose and Objectives (online and in books); contact Career & Professional Development Services
- Talk to other professionals in your field, alumni, friends and family who know you well, to generate thoughts and ideas for the topic matter
- Remember – if there are specific questions asked on the application or by the admissions or hiring committee.
References & Resources:
One year ago, in the midst of studying for exams and gearing up for my summer internship, I was also thinking ahead on how I wanted to spend my last year of graduate school. I served as the Communications Chair for the HPSA Executive Board and knew that sharing my passion for health policy with my peers was among my goals for finishing my graduate experience. With that excitement, I was elected as the President of HPSA. Now, just weeks away from graduation, I wanted to share some of my reflections:
In planning for the year, many of our events revolved around the election, from baking First Lady cookies on the Presidential Election night to lining up the Second Annual #HealthPolicyMatters week with Inauguration Day. However, I was not as prepared as I thought I would be in regards to the election outcome, and HPSA was helped me to process those feelings. We quickly prepared a Post-Election Panel, inviting five faculty to share initial thoughts on what health policy would look like under the Trump Administration. The room was filled with students and community members seeking answers and the panelists did a great job of framing the issues. We were recently honored by the Public Health Student Assembly naming this as the Event of the Year! At a General Body Meeting in early 2017 we invited HPSA members for a facilitated dialogue on the implications of the new administration and concluded the meeting with the opportunity to write postcards to Senators advocating on behalf of the Affordable Care Act and other policies. And despite feeling uneasy about what was to come, we still went bowling on the eve of inauguration.
As the HPSA programming was amplified by the election results, our bond was simultaneously strengthened. We cultivated community through ice breaker activities at one of our first General Body Meetings and treated our committee members to an appreciation dinner. We also hosted a tailgate, inviting alumni and faculty attend, in collaboration with our sister student organizations, the Michigan Healthcare Executive Student Association (MHESA) and Women in Health Leadership (WiHL).
I am excited to share that we provided the opportunity for students to meet with more than nine industry leaders to join us for events throughout the year. These included speakers from academia, population health, and various levels of government for both our General Body Meetings and a Population Health coffee chat series. Additionally, we funded three students to attend the AcademyHealth National Health Policy Conference in January. These students represented the University of Michigan while networking with an array of alumni.
Please know that all of these accomplishments are not mine alone. You may have noticed that throughout this reflection, I have using the pronoun “we.” The “we” is referring to my Executive Board: Hayatt Ali, Liz Kelman, Janelle Papin, Kim Pham, and Pat Oungpasuk. I would like to share a tradition of ours and how we begin every Board meeting. Before jumping into business, everyone around the table shares something positive. We call it our rosebud. It actually began as rosebud/thorn, but we dropped the end to focus simply on the good. This tradition has been important to me as even at the most stressful points of the year, when I was dealing with a loss in my personal life or when I just had a long day, sitting down with my HPSA Board meant shifting toward positivity. Thank you to my team and phenomenal friends for your dedication to HPSA and for making this a great year. In closing out this note and this year, I will share a final rosebud with you all, a quote from one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut:
"Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'"
To my HPSA Executive Boards (past, present and future), the HPSA community, and all of the health policy nerds out there: continue caring, be persistent and remember that we are in this together. It has been an honor to serve represent HPSA and I look forward to continuing sharing why #HealthPolicyMatters in a new capacity.
Haley Haddad, HPSA President