Writing a statement of purpose for graduate school

A statement of purpose is one of the critical parts of your application for a postgraduate program as a science student. It is a statement about who you are, your motivation to pursue your program or career, your academic and career goals, your research interests, and how prepared you are for postgraduate studies. In this post we have provided a simple guideline that students can use to prepare a statement of purpose and a sample SOP.

Outline for writing a statement of purpose
(NB: there is no strict rule to follow exactly what is provided in this guideline but a good SOP should include the points identified in this guide)

  • Paragraph 1: Introduction to the subject/program, your academic interest or study plan, the aspects you are interested in and why (link to your long term career goals).
  • Paragraph 2: What is your motivation for applying for the program? For example, something practical and quantitative you have done related to the subject that has influenced you to pursue a career in the subject. OR At least 3 needs/challenges in the society, academia, industry etc… That has influenced you. (NB: Give a factual and known example to buttress your point)
  • Paragraph 3 & 4: How will the design of the program at the chosen university help you in your career choice? What skills will you gain and how will you apply them in solving key national issues.
  • Paragraph 5: Provide a statement of proof of your preparedness to undertake this program. For example, your academic background in chemistry, biochemistry, biology etc, internship and job experience. Don’t give too many details. Mention only measurable skills you have acquired if not captured in CV. (NB: Must be concise)
  • Paragraph 6: Provide a memorable conclusion expressing your hope to be admitted.

Sample SOP

Sample: Biochemistry student applying for MSc Medical Molecular Biology

“We used to think that our fate was in our stars, but now we know that, in large measure, our fate is in our genes,” states a quote by James Watson, which emphasizes the relevance of genetics in personalized medicine, forensics and drug design. One particular area of success is the application of gene therapy in the treatment of patients with diseases such as multiple myeloma and Parkinson’s disease. Another is the application of DNA profiling in analyzing medical evidence in criminal cases such as murder and rape. The assessment of genetic polymorphism of drug metabolizing enzymes has also contributed immensely to drug design and clinical trials.

Although the developed world has recorded great advancement in medical genetics, most African countries still lag behind in terms of human resource and technology to deal with endemic genetic disorders (such as sickle cell disease) and diseases such as malaria, HIV and cancer. Currently, biomedical researchers in Ghana, my home country, are focused on the effects of genetics on malaria resistance. This is to help scientists develop a potent vaccine to solve the ongoing malaria pandemic. The task of finding a lasting solution to infectious and chronic diseases through molecular biology resonates deeply with me, and it is for this reason that I am applying for admission into the MSc Medical Molecular Biology at the University of …..

Through this programme, I look forward to obtain the requisite skills and knowledge to work as a Clinical Scientist in the Ghana Health Service, focusing on developing potent vaccines for diseases such as malaria and HIV. In the long term, my career plan is to obtain a position as a Policy Development Officer, with the purpose of developing policies related to clinical governance, education, ethics and legislation in molecular therapeutics.

I have always loved to pursue a career in molecular biology and this passion led to my decision to undertake undergraduate studies in biochemistry at …. Through this programme, I have acquired a firm background in subjects such as immunology and molecular genetics including practical skills in molecular techniques such as DNA extraction, PCR and electrophoresis. Along with my studies, I volunteered as an assistant health screener and health educator on hepatitis B and sickle cell disease during the annual Trade and Technology Fair at …. Currently, I am working as a Teaching and Laboratory Assistant at …. This exposure has given me practical experience and led to my growing interest in medical molecular biology.

After a careful assessment of the website of the Faculty of Science and Technology, I find that the design of the MSc Medical Molecular Biology programme at the University of …. is uniquely suited to my academic and career goals. Through this study, I will develop skills in molecular therapeutics, biomedical research, immunotherapy and clinical governance. I thus look forward with much enthusiasm to join your esteemed Faculty.”

By: Aaron Amankwaa, Editor & Contributor (Forensic science & Biochemistry)

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