Friday, November 30, 2012

The Application Process: The Statement of Purpose

This is the last installment of our series on application materials.  If you look at the application, the instructions, or the website, the statement of purpose is always the first item on the list, but I saved if for the last in the series.  Why?
Here’s the skinny: you can’t write your statement of purpose until you’ve given some serious thought about all your other application materials.
To re-cap, so far I’ve discussed: recommendation lettersstandardized teststranscripts, therésumé, and the analytical essay.
It takes a lot of effort to get all these materials together, and to get them just right, and it might make a pretty impressive packet.  But without your statement of purpose, it’s all just a random collection of documents.  Think of your statement of purpose as the keystone of your application: it holds the rest of the arch together.
Your statement of purpose draws connections between your otherwise unrelated documents; it tells your story in a personal way; it shows us who you are at the core.  Use your statement of purpose to make the best argument for why you should be admitted to SAIS, and refer to the components of you application to back up your argument.  You don’t have to literally refer to the app materials; but you should show how your academics, professional preparation, and other life experiences have prepared you for a career in international affairs, what you envision that future career in international affairs to be, and how SAIS fits into the whole picture.  How exactly will SAIS help you get from point A to point B, and what exactly attracts you to SAIS?
If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly encourage you to read the post on the analytical essay; many of the points made there also apply to the statement of purpose (stick to the word limit, proofread, etc.).
A final note on the statement of purpose - this is a chance for the admissions committee to get to know you.  Everything else in the application is pretty impersonal; but this isn’t (this is why some schools refer to this essay as the personal statement).  The SAIS Bologna Admissions Journal posted a good entry on Wednesday about the statement of purpose and staying try to yourself, and I think it’s a nice complement to our blog post today.  That’s the recommended reading for the day.
Thanks for reading!
–Erin Skelly Cameron, Associate Director of Admissions