Crafting Compelling Statement of Purpose Workshop

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Workshop covers SOP essentials like genre, structure, style, and tips. Attendees learn to tailor their stories effectively for admissions. Access sample SOPs and valuable resources for a successful application journey.

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  1. Putting the Purpose into your Statement of Purpose Brandeis University Writing Center

  2. Questions? Anxieties? Where are you on your Statement of Purpose? What questions or anxieties do you have about the Statement of Purpose? (please feel free to paste in the chat)

  3. Workshop Agenda Read Sample SOPs Keyword Exercise Genre & Style of the SOP Structure of the SOP Professional Story Arc Freewrite Tailoring Researching Fit Exercise Additional Tips Additional Resources Brandeis/Non-Brandeis Writing Center appointments Printed Resources Q & A

  4. Examples: Read these samples Boston College Law School & Gillings School of Global Public Health at Chapel Hill University of Connecticut As you read, consider: How the writer opens What is the structure of the narrative? What is memorable about the statement/writer?

  5. Identity Keyword Exercise For each of the examples, what are a couple of keywords that describe the writer s role, identity, qualities or unique attributes? It can be a word used by the writer or an impression you got about the writer from their writing. Keyword Exercise - brainstorm 5-10 keywords you want an admissions committee to think of when they recall your Statement of Purpose. Your keywords should match qualities expected of strong graduate students and professionals in your chosen field, but also demonstrate their unique strengths, qualities, roles, identities. If you already have a draft, re-read it and see if any keywords arise. Examples: caregiver, history nut; social justice advocate, debater, creative writing; athlete, joyous scholar, first generation college student; student of zen mindfulness, analyst, biology major; former nurse, builder/creator, design; waitress, business major, loved chemistry in school; data nerd, artist, humanities major; parent of disabled child, equity advocate, swimming coach; philosophy major, IT desk staff, diehard baseball fan; etc.

  6. Genre & Style of the Statement of Purpose Genre: Style: The statement of purpose is a professional document but one that demonstrates the uniqueness and personality of the applicant. A formal style in between a cover letter for a job and a personal statement written by students applying to college. professional tone language that shows (doesn t tell) your passion for the field you are entering avoid being too experimental clarity is paramount Demonstrate knowledge of certain terminology relevant to your research interests, but use thoughtfully, and infrequently.

  7. Opening lines (no one correct way to open) We just want to be together during this hard time. She has cancer and she won t make it much longer. Is there anything we can do? As the client told me her story and I prepared an application for travel documents Quite frankly, I get it. I understand the pressure. I understand the need for your body to move both gracefully and fiercely across the stage. I have received the parise, I ve heard the criticisms, and I ve both struggled with and acknowledged my flaws. In so many ways, I get it.

  8. Structure 1. Initial interest experience or trait that generated the spark of interest for the field Experience paragraph(s): specific experiences that developed interest Research or Subfield paragraph: what specific projects, research, or subfield will you explore over the course of the program School paragraph(s): how the program fits your interests how you will further your studies there Conclusion/professional goals paragraph final expression of fit for program, who you will be after the program ends tie back to beginning 2. Structure of the Statement of Purpose 3. 4. Follows a story arc of professional and intellectual development demonstrating suitability to the field and the particular program. 5. A story of the pre-professional, a plan for the professional in training, and a vision for the professional to come.

  9. Professional Story Write out a sketch of your professional story: Who you were, who you are, who you want to be and how you will get there. Who is the pre-professional and who will be the professional? How will you move from one to the other? What is your plan for professional development during graduate school? If you already have a draft, re-read it. Can you identify the story arc? How can you make it more clear? Tips for crafting a compelling professional story in your Statement of Purpose: Doesn t have to be everything (slice of life) Tell a story with a clear vision of an ending Try out a couple of different types of stories For wrong paths and career changes - frame your background positively

  10. Tailoring Importance of fit: Great schools know how great they are. Most applicants are equally qualified. Hence you want to demonstrate that you and the school will be a perfect match. Don t just repeat the website language (readers know when you do this) Express your goals in the language of the program/school Show a genuine and practical interest in the institution s programs, coursework, structure, culture, people Identify what makes the program unique - not just what all grad programs have. How will you take advantage of the institution s unique resources to further your research plans. Don t just mention one person or thing - people retire, are unpopular, or find other jobs Careful with simply changing just one paragraph - make sure that the school paragraph(s) are still linked to the larger narrative

  11. Researching Fit Exercise Go to the website for one of the schools you are applying to, preferably look at both the school s site as well as the program site as well as related pages. Identify some keywords that they use to describe themselves What are they proud of? What are their priorities? What programs, people, curriculum, history, culture do they display? Look back at your keywords and your professional story arc How are your goals a match with the priorities of this program? Can you describe your strengths in their language? What resources/curriculum/goals will help you reach the denouement of your professional story?

  12. Additional Tips: Do: Do Not: Have an error free statement Use the statement to complement the rest of your application materials Create a memorable impression for the reader of who you are - your reader should be able to remember you out of hundreds of applicants. Be objective but self-revelatory, demonstrating a genuine interest in the field you are entering Be specific and show, don t tell. Use all of your allowed space. Demonstrate an understanding of the field and its language (relevant to your interests). Include a number of grammar issues or typos. Simply repeat your CV/Resume. Erase your uniqueness OR be excessively strange/take risks with the genre/style of the statement. I ve always wanted to be a I ve always loved Simply tell - I am passionate about Write over or significantly under the page/word limit. Give your entire life story. This is merely an important slice of life. Lecture the reader (you are speaking to experts!) or use excessive jargon.

  13. Use your resources Your letter writers Hiatt Career Center The Writing Center :) Your academic advisor Graduate Students here at Brandeis Contacts at the program if you have them (for general information about the program): The department administrator -- ask to introduce you to other people in the department Asher s rule: Thou shalt not call, nor write, nor visit any professor without having read some of his or her work first. Essentially, it is a faux pas to cultivate contacts without a knowledge of a professional s work or a genuine interest in what they do

  14. Making the most of a Writing Center appointment: Make multiple appointments (preferably with the same person). Revise in between appointments. Have specific questions (e.g., How can I make the connection between my past experience and my current interests more clear?) Direct tutor to the program s website and review its language and faculty profiles together Come in with two or even three versions to show the different structures or ideas that you ve developed (another option, bring in your core statement and different versions that have been tailored). Create a list of the core ideas and terms that are most important for you to convey in the statement (e.g., personal attributes, discipline-specific terms)

  15. Printed Resources Donald Asher, Graduate Admissions Essays: Write Your Way into the Graduate School of your Choice Colleen Reding, Grad s Guide to Graduate Admissions Essays Graduate Essays written by former and current Brandeis Grads (in WC) We have all three of these in the Writing Center. You can come by when we are open M-F 9am - 5pm and look through examples! You don t need an appointment for this. We can t borrow these materials but they are open for anyone wanting to look through them.


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