How to Write a Strong Statement of Intent

As part of the application process to graduate school, most universities will ask you to write a personal statement or essay.  At Carleton, we refer to this essay or personal statement as a Statement of Intent.

This statement is typically an intellectual and experiential autobiography that summarizes the personal and academic experiences that would make you an ideal candidate for the specific graduate program(s) to which you are applying. As these statements are often used instead of a face-to-face interview, this is your chance to really stand out and capture the admission committee’s attention.

In some cases, a program will have specific topics or questions which you must cover in your Statement of Intent. For a Carleton application, it is important to read the instructions document under the Supplementary Forms section of your online application thoroughly to ensure you are meeting any specific requirements before beginning to write your Statement of Intent. If there are no specific requirements, the following information provides a guideline when writing your statement.

Before you write your Statement of Intent, make sure you have researched the program(s) to which you are applying. You can then show how your personal objectives and unique attributes are a great fit for the specific program. An admissions committee will often look for distinct content in a Statement of Intent and so you will want to ensure that each statement (if you are applying to more than one program) is unique and tailored for that specific program.

So how should you begin?

A great way  to begin is to create a list of your major experiences, academic achievements and other relevant accomplishments that will give a sense of what has led you to apply for graduate school. Look for patterns and themes in your story. When you’re ready to begin writing, use a unique and interesting introduction that includes the name of the program and the degree to which you are applying. Avoid a typical introductory paragraph that refers back to an earlier time in your life such as: “I have always known that I wanted to be a …”

Next, describe how you, personally, are compatible with the specific program and also describe your goals in pursuing that particular program. You should provide concrete examples. Avoid a step-by-step chronology of events in your life. If you are applying to a research-based program, include information about your research areas of interests and potential faculty you might want to work with. Ensure you are stating clearly that  you can take on in-depth research projects. For course-based programs explain why you have chosen this specific stream and what your future goals are – how can the program help you achieve those goals?

Finally, write a conclusion that briefly summarizes the information above and reiterate not only what your interest in the program and what the program can give you, but what you can bring to the program.

Other Tips:

  • Start early as writing a good Statement of Intent takes time.
  • Carefully read the requirements for each school/program to which you are applying in order to ensure you have the necessary prerequisites and are following any specific instructions.
  • Use an active voice as this conveys certainty.
  • Be enthusiastic, genuine and honest.
  • Make sure your Statement of Intent is succinct and clear (avoid jargon and clichés).
  • Get many people to proofread your personal statement. Typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors will decrease your graduate school application assessment
  • Review your Statement of Intent to see if you have answered these general questions (if applicable):
    • Why do I want to pursue this field?
    • Why am I a good fit for this field?
    • How have I grown professionally from my education and experience?
    • Why do I want to attend this school or program?
    • What can I bring to the program?

To learn more about Carleton’s Statement of Intent and other required documents, visit our website.

Application Insider provides prospective students with a series of tips on how to apply to graduate school. The series is based on Carleton’s application policies, but the information can be useful in all graduate school applications. You can view the complete series here.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020 in ,
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