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How long should the Statement of Purpose be?

denizendenizen Posts: 380- Member
edited November 2013 in Graduate School
Ahh once again I seek the wise counsel of CC. What else is new...

My statement of purpose is about 2 1/4 pages long double spaced (~900 words) and structured like so:

~1 1/4 page for my "hook," segue to college education, and research experience (3 paragraphs)
~1 page describing my reason for grad school/research plans/why I want to attend XX. (3 paragraphs)

Many programs applications' have no word limit on the essay but I'm wondering if mine is still too long. I know there's never a guarantee that an adcom member will read my whole essay, but I don't want to give them any reason not to. I've been working on this essay for a couple of months now, had it final drafted a few different times and I feel like there's not much more I can cut out.

For those of you who were successful with statements of purpose, what was yours like? What do you think of mine?

Thanks!
Post edited by denizen on

Replies to: How long should the Statement of Purpose be?

  • cosmicfishcosmicfish Posts: 3,427Registered User Senior Member
    All of my applications had a limit of 750-1000 words. As long as it reads well and says what you need and want, I think you are fine.
  • bobbydinerobobbydinero Posts: 42User Awaiting Email Confirmation Junior Member
    Make sure you're following the prompts for each school. I'm writing my SOP's and each school has slight variation in their prompts. I think anywhere from 1-3 pages is fine. I took an SOP workshop last spring and that was the recommended limit. 2.25 pages sounds fine.
  • NoneNone Posts: 425Registered User Member
    Mine were 1000-1200 words (except for 1 school that limited it to 500 words), approximately 2/3 about my past experiences and 1/3 about my future in grad school and beyond. It was pretty successful; yours sound fine.

    However, mine was single spaced and took two pages. I would suggest keeping it to two pages even if it means reducing your margins.
  • denizendenizen Posts: 380- Member
    mine was single spaced and took two pages. I would suggest keeping it to two pages even if it means reducing your margins.

    Umm, probably a stupid question, but do you mean keeping it to 2 pages even if it's double spaced?? (If I use single spacing it'd be 1 1/4 page.) Are you saying its a visual thing and they don't like more than 2 pages regardless? I always thought I was doing readers a service by double spacing for easier reading...

    One other question about the personal statement: Do you guys think it's wise to list a few courses I took that related to my interests? Some websites seem to suggest doing that, others don't. I'm confused.
  • virionsvirions Posts: 185Registered User Junior Member
    I've been told to single-space the SoP. And I believe None's point was indeed to keep it under 2 pages altogether. I don't think 1 to 1.5 pages would be too short if it's well written. If it's just over a page I would either trim it to a page or expand it a bit so it's not at that "awkward" length, but that's just a personal thing :) . Don't continue worrying about hacking your essay down to a shorter length. You may have been reading directions intended for single-spaced statements. 900 words is certainly safe unless specific directions state otherwise.

    Mine is 1050 words or so in its current state. 1/4 to 1/3 school specific interests/goals and the bulk of it research experience and so on. A few schools I'm applying to mention 1000 word limits. One has 500 I think. I'll probably start from scratch for that. A couple have 2 to 3x 1000 word max essays, divided up into personal statement, research experience, and something else like diversity, etc.

    I wouldn't go into coursework if you think your research experience is satisfactory. You could briefly mention that a class in x subject resulted in your pursuit of research experience in that subject, etc. I don't think you should give a list of the classes that you found most interesting. They'll have your transcripts, and they're more interested in your research interests.
  • b@r!umb@r!um Posts: 9,518Registered User Senior Member
    Experiment with the formatting and see what's aesthetically pleasing.

    I personally find line spacing factors in the 1.1 to 1.2 range the most appealing. Single spacing is too crowded and double-spacing makes the page look empty. Wide margins can be attractive too!
  • juilletjuillet Posts: 5,987Super Moderator Senior Member
    Columbia required 500 words (which is about 1 page single-spaced), but my SoPs for other schools ran about 2 pages single-spaced (or about 1000 words). I would keep it under 2 pages. Perhaps do 1.5 spacing?
  • YanksDolphinsYanksDolphins Posts: 1,052Registered User Senior Member
    Not more than 2 pages single-spaced. I tried to keep mine to 1000 words.
  • b@r!umb@r!um Posts: 9,518Registered User Senior Member
    My favorite application was Georgia Tech's. It gave me 500 characters for a personal statement. That's in addition to an optional resume and a drop-down menu that let me select up to three faculty members who I might be interested in working with.
  • tenisghstenisghs Posts: 3,955Registered User Senior Member
    I think a safe rule is 2-3 pages double-spaced (1000 words maximum). Some schools have a max page limit of 5 pages. You can also tinker with the font size (10-12 pt font). I agree that single space can be very hard to read. Use 1.15 or 1.5 spacing font if possible.
  • CronusIXCronusIX Posts: 1Registered User New Member
    To go along with this question, what if one does not have research experience prior to their application to a master's program? Will your SOP be shorter? Mine measures in at about 500 characters? Every college I'm applying to thus far has said to keep it succinct, but I'm looking at University of Washington and they're saying the SOP should be approx. 2-3 pages. There just really isn't that much to say unless I go into striking detail on my education and professional career thus far. Thoughts?
  • BrownParentBrownParent Posts: 7,527Registered User Senior Member
    My daughter did a CV that was separate than the personal statement with a relevant coursework section, research, relevant work experience, conference/presentations, pubs. I have seen this elsewhere too, with the relevant coursework section.

    Here is Stanford CS Q&A

    Is a CV or resume required?

    A: Yes, please upload your CV or resume in the online application. Please be sure to list all your publications (if any) here as we
  • Blue4123Blue4123 Posts: 131Registered User Junior Member
    If you are planning on writing a paper, would that be something you could include in a CV?
  • baktraxbaktrax Posts: 1,776Registered User Senior Member
    To go along with this question, what if one does not have research experience prior to their application to a master's program? Will your SOP be shorter? Mine measures in at about 500 characters? Every college I'm applying to thus far has said to keep it succinct, but I'm looking at University of Washington and they're saying the SOP should be approx. 2-3 pages. There just really isn't that much to say unless I go into striking detail on my education and professional career thus far. Thoughts?

    If your SOP is well-written, under the maximum limit imposed by the school, and shows why you are a good candidate for their program, then it's fine. There's no reason to add in filler just to make it longer, if you have nothing else that's worthwhile to say.
    If you are planning on writing a paper, would that be something you could include in a CV?

    No, you really shouldn't. Sometimes, people will put that their paper has been submitted to a journal or is in review if they don't have any (or very few) publications, but even that is sort of iffy on CVs, depending on who you talk to. Saying that you're planning on writing a paper is even more meaningless and really doesn't have a place on your CV (which should be about past and present accomplishment, not intended or planned ones in the future).
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