How to Write a Purpose Statement (Templates, Examples)

By Editorial Team on September 30, 2023 — 15 minutes to read

  • Key Elements of a Purpose Statement Part 1
  • How to Write a Purpose Statement Step-by-Step Part 2
  • Identifying Your Goals Part 3
  • Defining Your Audience Part 4
  • Outlining Your Methods Part 5
  • Stating the Expected Outcomes Part 6
  • Purpose Statement Example for a Research Paper Part 7
  • Purpose Statement Example For Personal Goals Part 8
  • Purpose Statement Example For Business Objectives Part 9
  • Purpose Statement Example For an Essay Part 10
  • Purpose Statement Example For a Proposal Part 11
  • Purpose Statement Example For a Report Part 12
  • Purpose Statement Example For a Project Part 13
  • Purpose Statement Templates Part 14

A purpose statement is a vital component of any project, as it sets the tone for the entire piece of work. It tells the reader what the project is about, why it’s important, and what the writer hopes to achieve.

Part 1 Key Elements of a Purpose Statement

When writing a purpose statement, there are several key elements that you should keep in mind. These elements will help you to create a clear, concise, and effective statement that accurately reflects your goals and objectives.

1. The Problem or Opportunity

The first element of a purpose statement is the problem or opportunity that you are addressing. This should be a clear and specific description of the issue that you are trying to solve or the opportunity that you are pursuing.

2. The Target Audience

The second element is the target audience for your purpose statement. This should be a clear and specific description of the group of people who will benefit from your work.

3. The Solution

The third element is the solution that you are proposing. This should be a clear and specific description of the action that you will take to address the problem or pursue the opportunity.

4. The Benefits

The fourth element is the benefits that your solution will provide. This should be a clear and specific description of the positive outcomes that your work will achieve.

5. The Action Plan

The fifth element is the action plan that you will follow to implement your solution. This should be a clear and specific description of the steps that you will take to achieve your goals.

Part 2 How to Write a Purpose Statement Step-by-Step

Writing a purpose statement is an essential part of any research project. It helps to clarify the purpose of your study and provides direction for your research. Here are some steps to follow when writing a purpose statement:

  • Start with a clear research question: The first step in writing a purpose statement is to have a clear research question. This question should be specific and focused on the topic you want to research.
  • Identify the scope of your study: Once you have a clear research question, you need to identify the scope of your study. This involves determining what you will and will not include in your research.
  • Define your research objectives: Your research objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. They should also be aligned with your research question and the scope of your study.
  • Determine your research design: Your research design will depend on the nature of your research question and the scope of your study. You may choose to use a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods approach.
  • Write your purpose statement: Your purpose statement should be a clear and concise statement that summarizes the purpose of your study. It should include your research question, the scope of your study, your research objectives, and your research design.

Research question: What are the effects of social media on teenage mental health?

Scope of study: This study will focus on teenagers aged 13-18 in the United States.

Research objectives: To determine the prevalence of social media use among teenagers, to identify the types of social media used by teenagers, to explore the relationship between social media use and mental health, and to provide recommendations for parents, educators, and mental health professionals.

Research design: This study will use a mixed-methods approach, including a survey and interviews with teenagers and mental health professionals.

Purpose statement: The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of social media on teenage mental health among teenagers aged 13-18 in the United States. The study will use a mixed-methods approach, including a survey and interviews with teenagers and mental health professionals. The research objectives are to determine the prevalence of social media use among teenagers, to identify the types of social media used by teenagers, to explore the relationship between social media use and mental health, and to provide recommendations for parents, educators, and mental health professionals.

Part 3 Section 1: Identifying Your Goals

Before you start writing your purpose statement, it’s important to identify your goals. To do this, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want to achieve?
  • What problem do I want to solve?
  • What impact do I want to make?

Once you have a clear idea of your goals, you can start crafting your purpose statement. Your purpose statement should be a clear and concise statement that outlines the purpose of your work.

For example, if you’re writing a purpose statement for a business, your statement might look something like this:

“Our purpose is to provide high-quality products and services that improve the lives of our customers and contribute to the growth and success of our company.”

If you’re writing a purpose statement for a non-profit organization, your statement might look something like this:

“Our purpose is to improve the lives of underserved communities by providing access to education, healthcare, and other essential services.”

Remember, your purpose statement should be specific, measurable, and achievable. It should also be aligned with your values and goals, and it should inspire and motivate you to take action.

Part 4 Section 2: Defining Your Audience

Once you have established the purpose of your statement, it’s important to consider who your audience is. The audience for your purpose statement will depend on the context in which it will be used. For example, if you’re writing a purpose statement for a research paper, your audience will likely be your professor or academic peers. If you’re writing a purpose statement for a business proposal, your audience may be potential investors or clients.

Defining your audience is important because it will help you tailor your purpose statement to the specific needs and interests of your readers. You want to make sure that your statement is clear, concise, and relevant to your audience.

To define your audience, consider the following questions:

  • Who will be reading your purpose statement?
  • What is their level of knowledge or expertise on the topic?
  • What are their needs and interests?
  • What do they hope to gain from reading your purpose statement?

Once you have a clear understanding of your audience, you can begin to craft your purpose statement with their needs and interests in mind. This will help ensure that your statement is effective in communicating your goals and objectives to your readers.

For example, if you’re writing a purpose statement for a research paper on the effects of climate change on agriculture, your audience may be fellow researchers in the field of environmental science. In this case, you would want to make sure that your purpose statement is written in a way that is clear and concise, using technical language that is familiar to your audience.

Or, if you’re writing a purpose statement for a business proposal to potential investors, your audience may be less familiar with the technical aspects of your project. In this case, you would want to make sure that your purpose statement is written in a way that is easy to understand, using clear and concise language that highlights the benefits of your proposal.

The key to defining your audience is to put yourself in their shoes and consider what they need and want from your purpose statement.

Part 5 Section 3: Outlining Your Methods

After you have identified the purpose of your statement, it is time to outline your methods. This section should describe how you plan to achieve your goal and the steps you will take to get there. Here are a few tips to help you outline your methods effectively:

  • Start with a general overview: Begin by providing a brief overview of the methods you plan to use. This will give your readers a sense of what to expect in the following paragraphs.
  • Break down your methods: Break your methods down into smaller, more manageable steps. This will make it easier for you to stay organized and for your readers to follow along.
  • Use bullet points: Bullet points can help you organize your ideas and make your methods easier to read. Use them to list the steps you will take to achieve your goal.
  • Be specific: Make sure you are specific about the methods you plan to use. This will help your readers understand exactly what you are doing and why.
  • Provide examples: Use examples to illustrate your methods. This will make it easier for your readers to understand what you are trying to accomplish.

Part 6 Section 4: Stating the Expected Outcomes

After defining the problem and the purpose of your research, it’s time to state the expected outcomes. This is where you describe what you hope to achieve by conducting your research. The expected outcomes should be specific and measurable, so you can determine if you have achieved your goals.

It’s important to be realistic when stating your expected outcomes. Don’t make exaggerated or false claims, and don’t promise something that you can’t deliver. Your expected outcomes should be based on your research question and the purpose of your study.

Here are some examples of expected outcomes:

  • To identify the factors that contribute to employee turnover in the company.
  • To develop a new marketing strategy that will increase sales by 20% within the next year.
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of a new training program for improving customer service.
  • To determine the impact of social media on consumer behavior.

When stating your expected outcomes, make sure they align with your research question and purpose statement. This will help you stay focused on your goals and ensure that your research is relevant and meaningful.

In addition to stating your expected outcomes, you should also describe how you will measure them. This could involve collecting data through surveys, interviews, or experiments, or analyzing existing data from sources such as government reports or industry publications.

Part 7 Purpose Statement Example for a Research Paper

If you are writing a research paper, your purpose statement should clearly state the objective of your study. Here is an example of a purpose statement for a research paper:

The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of social media on the mental health of teenagers in the United States.

This purpose statement clearly states the objective of the study and provides a specific focus for the research.

Part 8 Purpose Statement Example For Personal Goals

When writing a purpose statement for your personal goals, it’s important to clearly define what you want to achieve and why. Here’s a template that can help you get started:

“I want to [goal] so that [reason]. I will achieve this by [action].”

Example: “I want to lose 10 pounds so that I can feel more confident in my body. I will achieve this by going to the gym three times a week and cutting out sugary snacks.”

Remember to be specific and realistic when setting your goals and actions, and to regularly review and adjust your purpose statement as needed.

Part 9 Purpose Statement Example For Business Objectives

If you’re writing a purpose statement for a business objective, this template can help you get started:

[Objective] [Action verb] [Target audience] [Outcome or benefit]

Here’s an example using this template:

Increase online sales by creating a more user-friendly website for millennial shoppers.

This purpose statement is clear and concise. It identifies the objective (increase online sales), the action verb (creating), the target audience (millennial shoppers), and the outcome or benefit (a more user-friendly website).

Part 10 Purpose Statement Example For an Essay

“The purpose of this essay is to examine the causes and consequences of climate change, with a focus on the role of human activities, and to propose solutions that can mitigate its impact on the environment and future generations.”

This purpose statement clearly states the subject of the essay (climate change), what aspects will be explored (causes, consequences, human activities), and the intended outcome (proposing solutions). It provides a clear roadmap for the reader and sets the direction for the essay.

Part 11 Purpose Statement Example For a Proposal

“The purpose of this proposal is to secure funding and support for the establishment of a community garden in [Location], aimed at promoting sustainable urban agriculture, fostering community engagement, and improving local access to fresh, healthy produce.”

Why this purpose statement is effective:

  • The subject of the proposal is clear: the establishment of a community garden.
  • The specific goals of the project are outlined: promoting sustainable urban agriculture, fostering community engagement, and improving local access to fresh produce.
  • The overall objective of the proposal is evident: securing funding and support.

Part 12 Purpose Statement Example For a Report

“The purpose of this report is to analyze current market trends in the electric vehicle (EV) industry, assess consumer preferences and buying behaviors, and provide strategic recommendations to guide [Company Name] in entering this growing market segment.”

  • The subject of the report is provided: market trends in the electric vehicle industry.
  • The specific goals of the report are analysis of market trends, assessment of consumer preferences, and strategic recommendations.
  • The overall objective of the report is clear: providing guidance for the company’s entry into the EV market.

Part 13 Purpose Statement Example For a Project

“The purpose of this project is to design and implement a new employee wellness program that promotes physical and mental wellbeing in the workplace.”

This purpose statement clearly outlines the objective of the project, which is to create a new employee wellness program. The program is designed to promote physical and mental wellbeing in the workplace, which is a key concern for many employers. By implementing this program, the company aims to improve employee health, reduce absenteeism, and increase productivity. The purpose statement is concise and specific, providing a clear direction for the project team to follow. It highlights the importance of the project and its potential benefits for the company and its employees.

Part 14 Purpose Statement Templates

When writing a purpose statement, it can be helpful to use a template to ensure that you cover all the necessary components:

Template 1: To [action] [target audience] in order to [outcome]

This template is a straightforward way to outline your purpose statement. Simply fill in the blanks with the appropriate information:

  • The purpose of […] is
  • To [action]: What action do you want to take?
  • [Target audience]: Who is your target audience?
  • In order to [outcome]: What outcome do you hope to achieve?

For example:

  • The purpose of our marketing campaign is to increase brand awareness among young adults in urban areas, in order to drive sales and revenue growth.
  • The purpose of our employee training program is to improve customer service skills among our frontline staff, in order to enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • The purpose of our new product launch is to expand our market share in the healthcare industry, by offering a unique solution to the needs of elderly patients with chronic conditions.

Template 2: This [project/product] is designed to [action] [target audience] by [method] in order to [outcome].

This template is useful for purpose statements that involve a specific project or product. Fill in the blanks with the appropriate information:

  • This [project/product]: What is your project or product?
  • Is designed to [action]: What action do you want to take?
  • By [method]: What method will you use to achieve your goal?
  • This app is designed to provide personalized nutrition advice to athletes by analyzing their training data in order to optimize performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key elements of a purpose statement.

A purpose statement should clearly communicate the main goal or objective of your writing. It should be concise and specific, providing a clear direction for your work. The key elements of a purpose statement include the topic or subject matter, the intended audience, and the overall goal or objective of your writing.

How can a purpose statement benefit your writing?

A purpose statement can help you stay focused and on track when writing. It can also help you to avoid going off-topic or getting bogged down in unnecessary details. By clearly identifying the main goal or objective of your writing, a purpose statement can help you to stay organized and ensure that your writing is effective and impactful.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing a purpose statement?

One common mistake is being too vague or general in your purpose statement. Another mistake is making your purpose statement too long or complex, which can make it difficult to understand. Additionally, it’s important to avoid including unnecessary information or details that are not directly relevant to your main goal or objective.

How can you tailor your purpose statement to your audience?

When writing a purpose statement, it’s important to consider your audience and their needs. You should tailor your purpose statement to your audience by using language and terminology that they will understand. You should also consider their level of knowledge or expertise on the subject matter and adjust your purpose statement accordingly.

What are some effective templates for writing a purpose statement?

There are many effective templates for writing a purpose statement, but one common approach is to use the following structure: “The purpose of this writing is to [insert goal or objective] for [insert audience] regarding [insert topic or subject matter].”

Can you provide examples of successful purpose statements?

  • “The purpose of this report is to provide an analysis of the current market trends and make recommendations for future growth strategies for our company.”
  • “The purpose of this essay is to explore the impact of social media on modern communication and its implications for society.”
  • “The purpose of this proposal is to secure funding for a new community center that will provide educational and recreational opportunities for local residents.”
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11.4 The Business Plan

Learning objectives.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the different purposes of a business plan
  • Describe and develop the components of a brief business plan
  • Describe and develop the components of a full business plan

Unlike the brief or lean formats introduced so far, the business plan is a formal document used for the long-range planning of a company’s operation. It typically includes background information, financial information, and a summary of the business. Investors nearly always request a formal business plan because it is an integral part of their evaluation of whether to invest in a company. Although nothing in business is permanent, a business plan typically has components that are more “set in stone” than a business model canvas , which is more commonly used as a first step in the planning process and throughout the early stages of a nascent business. A business plan is likely to describe the business and industry, market strategies, sales potential, and competitive analysis, as well as the company’s long-term goals and objectives. An in-depth formal business plan would follow at later stages after various iterations to business model canvases. The business plan usually projects financial data over a three-year period and is typically required by banks or other investors to secure funding. The business plan is a roadmap for the company to follow over multiple years.

Some entrepreneurs prefer to use the canvas process instead of the business plan, whereas others use a shorter version of the business plan, submitting it to investors after several iterations. There are also entrepreneurs who use the business plan earlier in the entrepreneurial process, either preceding or concurrently with a canvas. For instance, Chris Guillebeau has a one-page business plan template in his book The $100 Startup . 48 His version is basically an extension of a napkin sketch without the detail of a full business plan. As you progress, you can also consider a brief business plan (about two pages)—if you want to support a rapid business launch—and/or a standard business plan.

As with many aspects of entrepreneurship, there are no clear hard and fast rules to achieving entrepreneurial success. You may encounter different people who want different things (canvas, summary, full business plan), and you also have flexibility in following whatever tool works best for you. Like the canvas, the various versions of the business plan are tools that will aid you in your entrepreneurial endeavor.

Business Plan Overview

Most business plans have several distinct sections ( Figure 11.16 ). The business plan can range from a few pages to twenty-five pages or more, depending on the purpose and the intended audience. For our discussion, we’ll describe a brief business plan and a standard business plan. If you are able to successfully design a business model canvas, then you will have the structure for developing a clear business plan that you can submit for financial consideration.

Both types of business plans aim at providing a picture and roadmap to follow from conception to creation. If you opt for the brief business plan, you will focus primarily on articulating a big-picture overview of your business concept.

The full business plan is aimed at executing the vision concept, dealing with the proverbial devil in the details. Developing a full business plan will assist those of you who need a more detailed and structured roadmap, or those of you with little to no background in business. The business planning process includes the business model, a feasibility analysis, and a full business plan, which we will discuss later in this section. Next, we explore how a business plan can meet several different needs.

Purposes of a Business Plan

A business plan can serve many different purposes—some internal, others external. As we discussed previously, you can use a business plan as an internal early planning device, an extension of a napkin sketch, and as a follow-up to one of the canvas tools. A business plan can be an organizational roadmap , that is, an internal planning tool and working plan that you can apply to your business in order to reach your desired goals over the course of several years. The business plan should be written by the owners of the venture, since it forces a firsthand examination of the business operations and allows them to focus on areas that need improvement.

Refer to the business venture throughout the document. Generally speaking, a business plan should not be written in the first person.

A major external purpose for the business plan is as an investment tool that outlines financial projections, becoming a document designed to attract investors. In many instances, a business plan can complement a formal investor’s pitch. In this context, the business plan is a presentation plan, intended for an outside audience that may or may not be familiar with your industry, your business, and your competitors.

You can also use your business plan as a contingency plan by outlining some “what-if” scenarios and exploring how you might respond if these scenarios unfold. Pretty Young Professional launched in November 2010 as an online resource to guide an emerging generation of female leaders. The site focused on recent female college graduates and current students searching for professional roles and those in their first professional roles. It was founded by four friends who were coworkers at the global consultancy firm McKinsey. But after positions and equity were decided among them, fundamental differences of opinion about the direction of the business emerged between two factions, according to the cofounder and former CEO Kathryn Minshew . “I think, naively, we assumed that if we kicked the can down the road on some of those things, we’d be able to sort them out,” Minshew said. Minshew went on to found a different professional site, The Muse , and took much of the editorial team of Pretty Young Professional with her. 49 Whereas greater planning potentially could have prevented the early demise of Pretty Young Professional, a change in planning led to overnight success for Joshua Esnard and The Cut Buddy team. Esnard invented and patented the plastic hair template that he was selling online out of his Fort Lauderdale garage while working a full-time job at Broward College and running a side business. Esnard had hundreds of boxes of Cut Buddies sitting in his home when he changed his marketing plan to enlist companies specializing in making videos go viral. It worked so well that a promotional video for the product garnered 8 million views in hours. The Cut Buddy sold over 4,000 products in a few hours when Esnard only had hundreds remaining. Demand greatly exceeded his supply, so Esnard had to scramble to increase manufacturing and offered customers two-for-one deals to make up for delays. This led to selling 55,000 units, generating $700,000 in sales in 2017. 50 After appearing on Shark Tank and landing a deal with Daymond John that gave the “shark” a 20-percent equity stake in return for $300,000, The Cut Buddy has added new distribution channels to include retail sales along with online commerce. Changing one aspect of a business plan—the marketing plan—yielded success for The Cut Buddy.

Link to Learning

Watch this video of Cut Buddy’s founder, Joshua Esnard, telling his company’s story to learn more.

If you opt for the brief business plan, you will focus primarily on articulating a big-picture overview of your business concept. This version is used to interest potential investors, employees, and other stakeholders, and will include a financial summary “box,” but it must have a disclaimer, and the founder/entrepreneur may need to have the people who receive it sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) . The full business plan is aimed at executing the vision concept, providing supporting details, and would be required by financial institutions and others as they formally become stakeholders in the venture. Both are aimed at providing a picture and roadmap to go from conception to creation.

Types of Business Plans

The brief business plan is similar to an extended executive summary from the full business plan. This concise document provides a broad overview of your entrepreneurial concept, your team members, how and why you will execute on your plans, and why you are the ones to do so. You can think of a brief business plan as a scene setter or—since we began this chapter with a film reference—as a trailer to the full movie. The brief business plan is the commercial equivalent to a trailer for Field of Dreams , whereas the full plan is the full-length movie equivalent.

Brief Business Plan or Executive Summary

As the name implies, the brief business plan or executive summary summarizes key elements of the entire business plan, such as the business concept, financial features, and current business position. The executive summary version of the business plan is your opportunity to broadly articulate the overall concept and vision of the company for yourself, for prospective investors, and for current and future employees.

A typical executive summary is generally no longer than a page, but because the brief business plan is essentially an extended executive summary, the executive summary section is vital. This is the “ask” to an investor. You should begin by clearly stating what you are asking for in the summary.

In the business concept phase, you’ll describe the business, its product, and its markets. Describe the customer segment it serves and why your company will hold a competitive advantage. This section may align roughly with the customer segments and value-proposition segments of a canvas.

Next, highlight the important financial features, including sales, profits, cash flows, and return on investment. Like the financial portion of a feasibility analysis, the financial analysis component of a business plan may typically include items like a twelve-month profit and loss projection, a three- or four-year profit and loss projection, a cash-flow projection, a projected balance sheet, and a breakeven calculation. You can explore a feasibility study and financial projections in more depth in the formal business plan. Here, you want to focus on the big picture of your numbers and what they mean.

The current business position section can furnish relevant information about you and your team members and the company at large. This is your opportunity to tell the story of how you formed the company, to describe its legal status (form of operation), and to list the principal players. In one part of the extended executive summary, you can cover your reasons for starting the business: Here is an opportunity to clearly define the needs you think you can meet and perhaps get into the pains and gains of customers. You also can provide a summary of the overall strategic direction in which you intend to take the company. Describe the company’s mission, vision, goals and objectives, overall business model, and value proposition.

Rice University’s Student Business Plan Competition, one of the largest and overall best-regarded graduate school business-plan competitions (see Telling Your Entrepreneurial Story and Pitching the Idea ), requires an executive summary of up to five pages to apply. 51 , 52 Its suggested sections are shown in Table 11.2 .

Are You Ready?

Create a brief business plan.

Fill out a canvas of your choosing for a well-known startup: Uber, Netflix, Dropbox, Etsy, Airbnb, Bird/Lime, Warby Parker, or any of the companies featured throughout this chapter or one of your choice. Then create a brief business plan for that business. See if you can find a version of the company’s actual executive summary, business plan, or canvas. Compare and contrast your vision with what the company has articulated.

  • These companies are well established but is there a component of what you charted that you would advise the company to change to ensure future viability?
  • Map out a contingency plan for a “what-if” scenario if one key aspect of the company or the environment it operates in were drastically is altered?

Full Business Plan

Even full business plans can vary in length, scale, and scope. Rice University sets a ten-page cap on business plans submitted for the full competition. The IndUS Entrepreneurs , one of the largest global networks of entrepreneurs, also holds business plan competitions for students through its Tie Young Entrepreneurs program. In contrast, business plans submitted for that competition can usually be up to twenty-five pages. These are just two examples. Some components may differ slightly; common elements are typically found in a formal business plan outline. The next section will provide sample components of a full business plan for a fictional business.

Executive Summary

The executive summary should provide an overview of your business with key points and issues. Because the summary is intended to summarize the entire document, it is most helpful to write this section last, even though it comes first in sequence. The writing in this section should be especially concise. Readers should be able to understand your needs and capabilities at first glance. The section should tell the reader what you want and your “ask” should be explicitly stated in the summary.

Describe your business, its product or service, and the intended customers. Explain what will be sold, who it will be sold to, and what competitive advantages the business has. Table 11.3 shows a sample executive summary for the fictional company La Vida Lola.

Business Description

This section describes the industry, your product, and the business and success factors. It should provide a current outlook as well as future trends and developments. You also should address your company’s mission, vision, goals, and objectives. Summarize your overall strategic direction, your reasons for starting the business, a description of your products and services, your business model, and your company’s value proposition. Consider including the Standard Industrial Classification/North American Industry Classification System (SIC/NAICS) code to specify the industry and insure correct identification. The industry extends beyond where the business is located and operates, and should include national and global dynamics. Table 11.4 shows a sample business description for La Vida Lola.

Industry Analysis and Market Strategies

Here you should define your market in terms of size, structure, growth prospects, trends, and sales potential. You’ll want to include your TAM and forecast the SAM . (Both these terms are discussed in Conducting a Feasibility Analysis .) This is a place to address market segmentation strategies by geography, customer attributes, or product orientation. Describe your positioning relative to your competitors’ in terms of pricing, distribution, promotion plan, and sales potential. Table 11.5 shows an example industry analysis and market strategy for La Vida Lola.

Competitive Analysis

The competitive analysis is a statement of the business strategy as it relates to the competition. You want to be able to identify who are your major competitors and assess what are their market shares, markets served, strategies employed, and expected response to entry? You likely want to conduct a classic SWOT analysis (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) and complete a competitive-strength grid or competitive matrix. Outline your company’s competitive strengths relative to those of the competition in regard to product, distribution, pricing, promotion, and advertising. What are your company’s competitive advantages and their likely impacts on its success? The key is to construct it properly for the relevant features/benefits (by weight, according to customers) and how the startup compares to incumbents. The competitive matrix should show clearly how and why the startup has a clear (if not currently measurable) competitive advantage. Some common features in the example include price, benefits, quality, type of features, locations, and distribution/sales. Sample templates are shown in Figure 11.17 and Figure 11.18 . A competitive analysis helps you create a marketing strategy that will identify assets or skills that your competitors are lacking so you can plan to fill those gaps, giving you a distinct competitive advantage. When creating a competitor analysis, it is important to focus on the key features and elements that matter to customers, rather than focusing too heavily on the entrepreneur’s idea and desires.

Operations and Management Plan

In this section, outline how you will manage your company. Describe its organizational structure. Here you can address the form of ownership and, if warranted, include an organizational chart/structure. Highlight the backgrounds, experiences, qualifications, areas of expertise, and roles of members of the management team. This is also the place to mention any other stakeholders, such as a board of directors or advisory board(s), and their relevant relationship to the founder, experience and value to help make the venture successful, and professional service firms providing management support, such as accounting services and legal counsel.

Table 11.6 shows a sample operations and management plan for La Vida Lola.

Marketing Plan

Here you should outline and describe an effective overall marketing strategy for your venture, providing details regarding pricing, promotion, advertising, distribution, media usage, public relations, and a digital presence. Fully describe your sales management plan and the composition of your sales force, along with a comprehensive and detailed budget for the marketing plan. Table 11.7 shows a sample marketing plan for La Vida Lola.

Financial Plan

A financial plan seeks to forecast revenue and expenses; project a financial narrative; and estimate project costs, valuations, and cash flow projections. This section should present an accurate, realistic, and achievable financial plan for your venture (see Entrepreneurial Finance and Accounting for detailed discussions about conducting these projections). Include sales forecasts and income projections, pro forma financial statements ( Building the Entrepreneurial Dream Team , a breakeven analysis, and a capital budget. Identify your possible sources of financing (discussed in Conducting a Feasibility Analysis ). Figure 11.19 shows a template of cash-flow needs for La Vida Lola.

Entrepreneur In Action

Laughing man coffee.

Hugh Jackman ( Figure 11.20 ) may best be known for portraying a comic-book superhero who used his mutant abilities to protect the world from villains. But the Wolverine actor is also working to make the planet a better place for real, not through adamantium claws but through social entrepreneurship.

A love of java jolted Jackman into action in 2009, when he traveled to Ethiopia with a Christian humanitarian group to shoot a documentary about the impact of fair-trade certification on coffee growers there. He decided to launch a business and follow in the footsteps of the late Paul Newman, another famous actor turned philanthropist via food ventures.

Jackman launched Laughing Man Coffee two years later; he sold the line to Keurig in 2015. One Laughing Man Coffee café in New York continues to operate independently, investing its proceeds into charitable programs that support better housing, health, and educational initiatives within fair-trade farming communities. 55 Although the New York location is the only café, the coffee brand is still distributed, with Keurig donating an undisclosed portion of Laughing Man proceeds to those causes (whereas Jackman donates all his profits). The company initially donated its profits to World Vision, the Christian humanitarian group Jackman accompanied in 2009. In 2017, it created the Laughing Man Foundation to be more active with its money management and distribution.

  • You be the entrepreneur. If you were Jackman, would you have sold the company to Keurig? Why or why not?
  • Would you have started the Laughing Man Foundation?
  • What else can Jackman do to aid fair-trade practices for coffee growers?

What Can You Do?

Textbooks for change.

Founded in 2014, Textbooks for Change uses a cross-compensation model, in which one customer segment pays for a product or service, and the profit from that revenue is used to provide the same product or service to another, underserved segment. Textbooks for Change partners with student organizations to collect used college textbooks, some of which are re-sold while others are donated to students in need at underserved universities across the globe. The organization has reused or recycled 250,000 textbooks, providing 220,000 students with access through seven campus partners in East Africa. This B-corp social enterprise tackles a problem and offers a solution that is directly relevant to college students like yourself. Have you observed a problem on your college campus or other campuses that is not being served properly? Could it result in a social enterprise?

Work It Out

Franchisee set out.

A franchisee of East Coast Wings, a chain with dozens of restaurants in the United States, has decided to part ways with the chain. The new store will feature the same basic sports-bar-and-restaurant concept and serve the same basic foods: chicken wings, burgers, sandwiches, and the like. The new restaurant can’t rely on the same distributors and suppliers. A new business plan is needed.

  • What steps should the new restaurant take to create a new business plan?
  • Should it attempt to serve the same customers? Why or why not?

This New York Times video, “An Unlikely Business Plan,” describes entrepreneurial resurgence in Detroit, Michigan.

  • 48 Chris Guillebeau. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future . New York: Crown Business/Random House, 2012.
  • 49 Jonathan Chan. “What These 4 Startup Case Studies Can Teach You about Failure.” . July 12, 2015.
  • 50 Amy Feldman. “Inventor of the Cut Buddy Paid YouTubers to Spark Sales. He Wasn’t Ready for a Video to Go Viral.” Forbes. February 15, 2017.
  • 51 Jennifer Post. “National Business Plan Competitions for Entrepreneurs.” Business News Daily . August 30, 2018.
  • 52 “Rice Business Plan Competition, Eligibility Criteria and How to Apply.” Rice Business Plan Competition . March 2020.
  • 53 “Rice Business Plan Competition, Eligibility Criteria and How to Apply.” Rice Business Plan Competition. March 2020.; Based on 2019 RBPC Competition Rules and Format April 4–6, 2019.
  • 54 Foodstart.
  • 55 “Hugh Jackman Journey to Starting a Social Enterprise Coffee Company.” Giving Compass. April 8, 2018.

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How to Write a Business Plan: Step-by-Step Guide + Examples

Determined female African-American entrepreneur scaling a mountain while wearing a large backpack. Represents the journey to starting and growing a business and needing to write a business plan to get there.

Noah Parsons

24 min. read

Updated March 18, 2024

Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated. 

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to write a business plan that’s detailed enough to impress bankers and potential investors, while giving you the tools to start, run, and grow a successful business.

  • The basics of business planning

If you’re reading this guide, then you already know why you need a business plan . 

You understand that planning helps you: 

  • Raise money
  • Grow strategically
  • Keep your business on the right track 

As you start to write your plan, it’s useful to zoom out and remember what a business plan is .

At its core, a business plan is an overview of the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy: how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. These set sales goals, budget for expenses, and predict profits and cash flow. 

A good business plan is much more than just a document that you write once and forget about. It’s also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. 

After completing your plan, you can use it as a management tool to track your progress toward your goals. Updating and adjusting your forecasts and budgets as you go is one of the most important steps you can take to run a healthier, smarter business. 

We’ll dive into how to use your plan later in this article.

There are many different types of plans , but we’ll go over the most common type here, which includes everything you need for an investor-ready plan. However, if you’re just starting out and are looking for something simpler—I recommend starting with a one-page business plan . It’s faster and easier to create. 

It’s also the perfect place to start if you’re just figuring out your idea, or need a simple strategic plan to use inside your business.

Dig deeper : How to write a one-page business plan

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  • What to include in your business plan

Executive summary

The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally just one to two pages. Most people write it last because it’s a summary of the complete business plan.

Ideally, the executive summary can act as a stand-alone document that covers the highlights of your detailed plan. 

In fact, it’s common for investors to ask only for the executive summary when evaluating your business. If they like what they see in the executive summary, they’ll often follow up with a request for a complete plan, a pitch presentation , or more in-depth financial forecasts .

Your executive summary should include:

  • A summary of the problem you are solving
  • A description of your product or service
  • An overview of your target market
  • A brief description of your team
  • A summary of your financials
  • Your funding requirements (if you are raising money)

Dig Deeper: How to write an effective executive summary

Products and services description

This is where you describe exactly what you’re selling, and how it solves a problem for your target market. The best way to organize this part of your plan is to start by describing the problem that exists for your customers. After that, you can describe how you plan to solve that problem with your product or service. 

This is usually called a problem and solution statement .

To truly showcase the value of your products and services, you need to craft a compelling narrative around your offerings. How will your product or service transform your customers’ lives or jobs? A strong narrative will draw in your readers.

This is also the part of the business plan to discuss any competitive advantages you may have, like specific intellectual property or patents that protect your product. If you have any initial sales, contracts, or other evidence that your product or service is likely to sell, include that information as well. It will show that your idea has traction , which can help convince readers that your plan has a high chance of success.

Market analysis

Your target market is a description of the type of people that you plan to sell to. You might even have multiple target markets, depending on your business. 

A market analysis is the part of your plan where you bring together all of the information you know about your target market. Basically, it’s a thorough description of who your customers are and why they need what you’re selling. You’ll also include information about the growth of your market and your industry .

Try to be as specific as possible when you describe your market. 

Include information such as age, income level, and location—these are what’s called “demographics.” If you can, also describe your market’s interests and habits as they relate to your business—these are “psychographics.” 

Related: Target market examples

Essentially, you want to include any knowledge you have about your customers that is relevant to how your product or service is right for them. With a solid target market, it will be easier to create a sales and marketing plan that will reach your customers. That’s because you know who they are, what they like to do, and the best ways to reach them.

Next, provide any additional information you have about your market. 

What is the size of your market ? Is the market growing or shrinking? Ideally, you’ll want to demonstrate that your market is growing over time, and also explain how your business is positioned to take advantage of any expected changes in your industry.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write a market analysis

Competitive analysis

Part of defining your business opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage is. To do this effectively, you need to know as much about your competitors as your target customers. 

Every business has some form of competition. If you don’t think you have competitors, then explore what alternatives there are in the market for your product or service. 

For example: In the early years of cars, their main competition was horses. For social media, the early competition was reading books, watching TV, and talking on the phone.

A good competitive analysis fully lays out the competitive landscape and then explains how your business is different. Maybe your products are better made, or cheaper, or your customer service is superior. Maybe your competitive advantage is your location – a wide variety of factors can ultimately give you an advantage.

Dig Deeper: How to write a competitive analysis for your business plan

Marketing and sales plan

The marketing and sales plan covers how you will position your product or service in the market, the marketing channels and messaging you will use, and your sales tactics. 

The best place to start with a marketing plan is with a positioning statement . 

This explains how your business fits into the overall market, and how you will explain the advantages of your product or service to customers. You’ll use the information from your competitive analysis to help you with your positioning. 

For example: You might position your company as the premium, most expensive but the highest quality option in the market. Or your positioning might focus on being locally owned and that shoppers support the local economy by buying your products.

Once you understand your positioning, you’ll bring this together with the information about your target market to create your marketing strategy . 

This is how you plan to communicate your message to potential customers. Depending on who your customers are and how they purchase products like yours, you might use many different strategies, from social media advertising to creating a podcast. Your marketing plan is all about how your customers discover who you are and why they should consider your products and services. 

While your marketing plan is about reaching your customers—your sales plan will describe the actual sales process once a customer has decided that they’re interested in what you have to offer. 

If your business requires salespeople and a long sales process, describe that in this section. If your customers can “self-serve” and just make purchases quickly on your website, describe that process. 

A good sales plan picks up where your marketing plan leaves off. The marketing plan brings customers in the door and the sales plan is how you close the deal.

Together, these specific plans paint a picture of how you will connect with your target audience, and how you will turn them into paying customers.

Dig deeper: What to include in your sales and marketing plan

Business operations

The operations section describes the necessary requirements for your business to run smoothly. It’s where you talk about how your business works and what day-to-day operations look like. 

Depending on how your business is structured, your operations plan may include elements of the business like:

  • Supply chain management
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Equipment and technology
  • Distribution

Some businesses distribute their products and reach their customers through large retailers like, Walmart, Target, and grocery store chains. 

These businesses should review how this part of their business works. The plan should discuss the logistics and costs of getting products onto store shelves and any potential hurdles the business may have to overcome.

If your business is much simpler than this, that’s OK. This section of your business plan can be either extremely short or more detailed, depending on the type of business you are building.

For businesses selling services, such as physical therapy or online software, you can use this section to describe the technology you’ll leverage, what goes into your service, and who you will partner with to deliver your services.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write the operations chapter of your plan

Key milestones and metrics

Although it’s not required to complete your business plan, mapping out key business milestones and the metrics can be incredibly useful for measuring your success.

Good milestones clearly lay out the parameters of the task and set expectations for their execution. You’ll want to include:

  • A description of each task
  • The proposed due date
  • Who is responsible for each task

If you have a budget, you can include projected costs to hit each milestone. You don’t need extensive project planning in this section—just list key milestones you want to hit and when you plan to hit them. This is your overall business roadmap. 

Possible milestones might be:

  • Website launch date
  • Store or office opening date
  • First significant sales
  • Break even date
  • Business licenses and approvals

You should also discuss the key numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common metrics worth tracking include:

  • Conversion rates
  • Customer acquisition costs
  • Profit per customer
  • Repeat purchases

It’s perfectly fine to start with just a few metrics and grow the number you are tracking over time. You also may find that some metrics simply aren’t relevant to your business and can narrow down what you’re tracking.

Dig Deeper: How to use milestones in your business plan

Organization and management team

Investors don’t just look for great ideas—they want to find great teams. Use this chapter to describe your current team and who you need to hire . You should also provide a quick overview of your location and history if you’re already up and running.

Briefly highlight the relevant experiences of each key team member in the company. It’s important to make the case for why yours is the right team to turn an idea into a reality. 

Do they have the right industry experience and background? Have members of the team had entrepreneurial successes before? 

If you still need to hire key team members, that’s OK. Just note those gaps in this section.

Your company overview should also include a summary of your company’s current business structure . The most common business structures include:

  • Sole proprietor
  • Partnership

Be sure to provide an overview of how the business is owned as well. Does each business partner own an equal portion of the business? How is ownership divided? 

Potential lenders and investors will want to know the structure of the business before they will consider a loan or investment.

Dig Deeper: How to write about your company structure and team

Financial plan

Last, but certainly not least, is your financial plan chapter. 

Entrepreneurs often find this section the most daunting. But, business financials for most startups are less complicated than you think, and a business degree is certainly not required to build a solid financial forecast. 

A typical financial forecast in a business plan includes the following:

  • Sales forecast : An estimate of the sales expected over a given period. You’ll break down your forecast into the key revenue streams that you expect to have.
  • Expense budget : Your planned spending such as personnel costs , marketing expenses, and taxes.
  • Profit & Loss : Brings together your sales and expenses and helps you calculate planned profits.
  • Cash Flow : Shows how cash moves into and out of your business. It can predict how much cash you’ll have on hand at any given point in the future.
  • Balance Sheet : A list of the assets, liabilities, and equity in your company. In short, it provides an overview of the financial health of your business. 

A strong business plan will include a description of assumptions about the future, and potential risks that could impact the financial plan. Including those will be especially important if you’re writing a business plan to pursue a loan or other investment.

Dig Deeper: How to create financial forecasts and budgets

This is the place for additional data, charts, or other information that supports your plan.

Including an appendix can significantly enhance the credibility of your plan by showing readers that you’ve thoroughly considered the details of your business idea, and are backing your ideas up with solid data.

Just remember that the information in the appendix is meant to be supplementary. Your business plan should stand on its own, even if the reader skips this section.

Dig Deeper : What to include in your business plan appendix

Optional: Business plan cover page

Adding a business plan cover page can make your plan, and by extension your business, seem more professional in the eyes of potential investors, lenders, and partners. It serves as the introduction to your document and provides necessary contact information for stakeholders to reference.

Your cover page should be simple and include:

  • Company logo
  • Business name
  • Value proposition (optional)
  • Business plan title
  • Completion and/or update date
  • Address and contact information
  • Confidentiality statement

Just remember, the cover page is optional. If you decide to include it, keep it very simple and only spend a short amount of time putting it together.

Dig Deeper: How to create a business plan cover page

How to use AI to help write your business plan

Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT can speed up the business plan writing process and help you think through concepts like market segmentation and competition. These tools are especially useful for taking ideas that you provide and converting them into polished text for your business plan.

The best way to use AI for your business plan is to leverage it as a collaborator , not a replacement for human creative thinking and ingenuity. 

AI can come up with lots of ideas and act as a brainstorming partner. It’s up to you to filter through those ideas and figure out which ones are realistic enough to resonate with your customers. 

There are pros and cons of using AI to help with your business plan . So, spend some time understanding how it can be most helpful before just outsourcing the job to AI.

Learn more: 10 AI prompts you need to write a business plan

  • Writing tips and strategies

To help streamline the business plan writing process, here are a few tips and key questions to answer to make sure you get the most out of your plan and avoid common mistakes .  

Determine why you are writing a business plan

Knowing why you are writing a business plan will determine your approach to your planning project. 

For example: If you are writing a business plan for yourself, or just to use inside your own business , you can probably skip the section about your team and organizational structure. 

If you’re raising money, you’ll want to spend more time explaining why you’re looking to raise the funds and exactly how you will use them.

Regardless of how you intend to use your business plan , think about why you are writing and what you’re trying to get out of the process before you begin.

Keep things concise

Probably the most important tip is to keep your business plan short and simple. There are no prizes for long business plans . The longer your plan is, the less likely people are to read it. 

So focus on trimming things down to the essentials your readers need to know. Skip the extended, wordy descriptions and instead focus on creating a plan that is easy to read —using bullets and short sentences whenever possible.

Have someone review your business plan

Writing a business plan in a vacuum is never a good idea. Sometimes it’s helpful to zoom out and check if your plan makes sense to someone else. You also want to make sure that it’s easy to read and understand.

Don’t wait until your plan is “done” to get a second look. Start sharing your plan early, and find out from readers what questions your plan leaves unanswered. This early review cycle will help you spot shortcomings in your plan and address them quickly, rather than finding out about them right before you present your plan to a lender or investor.

If you need a more detailed review, you may want to explore hiring a professional plan writer to thoroughly examine it.

Use a free business plan template and business plan examples to get started

Knowing what information you need to cover in a business plan sometimes isn’t quite enough. If you’re struggling to get started or need additional guidance, it may be worth using a business plan template. 

If you’re looking for a free downloadable business plan template to get you started, download the template used by more than 1 million businesses. 

Or, if you just want to see what a completed business plan looks like, check out our library of over 550 free business plan examples . 

We even have a growing list of industry business planning guides with tips for what to focus on depending on your business type.

Common pitfalls and how to avoid them

It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re writing your business plan. Some entrepreneurs get sucked into the writing and research process, and don’t focus enough on actually getting their business started. 

Here are a few common mistakes and how to avoid them:

Not talking to your customers : This is one of the most common mistakes. It’s easy to assume that your product or service is something that people want. Before you invest too much in your business and too much in the planning process, make sure you talk to your prospective customers and have a good understanding of their needs.

  • Overly optimistic sales and profit forecasts: By nature, entrepreneurs are optimistic about the future. But it’s good to temper that optimism a little when you’re planning, and make sure your forecasts are grounded in reality. 
  • Spending too much time planning: Yes, planning is crucial. But you also need to get out and talk to customers, build prototypes of your product and figure out if there’s a market for your idea. Make sure to balance planning with building.
  • Not revising the plan: Planning is useful, but nothing ever goes exactly as planned. As you learn more about what’s working and what’s not—revise your plan, your budgets, and your revenue forecast. Doing so will provide a more realistic picture of where your business is going, and what your financial needs will be moving forward.
  • Not using the plan to manage your business: A good business plan is a management tool. Don’t just write it and put it on the shelf to collect dust – use it to track your progress and help you reach your goals.
  • Presenting your business plan

The planning process forces you to think through every aspect of your business and answer questions that you may not have thought of. That’s the real benefit of writing a business plan – the knowledge you gain about your business that you may not have been able to discover otherwise.

With all of this knowledge, you’re well prepared to convert your business plan into a pitch presentation to present your ideas. 

A pitch presentation is a summary of your plan, just hitting the highlights and key points. It’s the best way to present your business plan to investors and team members.

Dig Deeper: Learn what key slides should be included in your pitch deck

Use your business plan to manage your business

One of the biggest benefits of planning is that it gives you a tool to manage your business better. With a revenue forecast, expense budget, and projected cash flow, you know your targets and where you are headed.

And yet, nothing ever goes exactly as planned – it’s the nature of business.

That’s where using your plan as a management tool comes in. The key to leveraging it for your business is to review it periodically and compare your forecasts and projections to your actual results.

Start by setting up a regular time to review the plan – a monthly review is a good starting point. During this review, answer questions like:

  • Did you meet your sales goals?
  • Is spending following your budget?
  • Has anything gone differently than what you expected?

Now that you see whether you’re meeting your goals or are off track, you can make adjustments and set new targets. 

Maybe you’re exceeding your sales goals and should set new, more aggressive goals. In that case, maybe you should also explore more spending or hiring more employees. 

Or maybe expenses are rising faster than you projected. If that’s the case, you would need to look at where you can cut costs.

A plan, and a method for comparing your plan to your actual results , is the tool you need to steer your business toward success.

Learn More: How to run a regular plan review

Free business plan templates and examples

Kickstart your business plan writing with one of our free business plan templates or recommended tools.

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

Free business plan template

Download a free SBA-approved business plan template built for small businesses and startups.

Download Template

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

One-page plan template

Download a free one-page plan template to write a useful business plan in as little as 30-minutes.

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

Sample business plan library

Explore over 500 real-world business plan examples from a wide variety of industries.

View Sample Plans

How to write a business plan FAQ

What is a business plan?

A document that describes your business , the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy, how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

What are the benefits of a business plan?

A business plan helps you understand where you want to go with your business and what it will take to get there. It reduces your overall risk, helps you uncover your business’s potential, attracts investors, and identifies areas for growth.

Having a business plan ultimately makes you more confident as a business owner and more likely to succeed for a longer period of time.

What are the 7 steps of a business plan?

The seven steps to writing a business plan include:

  • Write a brief executive summary
  • Describe your products and services.
  • Conduct market research and compile data into a cohesive market analysis.
  • Describe your marketing and sales strategy.
  • Outline your organizational structure and management team.
  • Develop financial projections for sales, revenue, and cash flow.
  • Add any additional documents to your appendix.

What are the 5 most common business plan mistakes?

There are plenty of mistakes that can be made when writing a business plan. However, these are the 5 most common that you should do your best to avoid:

  • 1. Not taking the planning process seriously.
  • Having unrealistic financial projections or incomplete financial information.
  • Inconsistent information or simple mistakes.
  • Failing to establish a sound business model.
  • Not having a defined purpose for your business plan.

What questions should be answered in a business plan?

Writing a business plan is all about asking yourself questions about your business and being able to answer them through the planning process. You’ll likely be asking dozens and dozens of questions for each section of your plan.

However, these are the key questions you should ask and answer with your business plan:

  • How will your business make money?
  • Is there a need for your product or service?
  • Who are your customers?
  • How are you different from the competition?
  • How will you reach your customers?
  • How will you measure success?

How long should a business plan be?

The length of your business plan fully depends on what you intend to do with it. From the SBA and traditional lender point of view, a business plan needs to be whatever length necessary to fully explain your business. This means that you prove the viability of your business, show that you understand the market, and have a detailed strategy in place.

If you intend to use your business plan for internal management purposes, you don’t necessarily need a full 25-50 page business plan. Instead, you can start with a one-page plan to get all of the necessary information in place.

What are the different types of business plans?

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering.

Traditional business plan: The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used when applying for funding or pitching to investors. This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix.

Business model canvas: The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.

One-page business plan: This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences. It’s most useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.

Lean Plan: The Lean Plan is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance. It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

What’s the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?

A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of your business. It explains what your business is doing right now and how it functions. The strategic plan explores long-term goals and explains “how” the business will get there. It encourages you to look more intently toward the future and how you will achieve your vision.

However, when approached correctly, your business plan can actually function as a strategic plan as well. If kept lean, you can define your business, outline strategic steps, and track ongoing operations all with a single plan.

See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan

Content Author: Noah Parsons

Noah is the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. He started his career at Yahoo! and then helped start the user review site From there he started a software distribution business in the UK before coming to Palo Alto Software to run the marketing and product teams.

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

Table of Contents

  • Use AI to help write your plan
  • Common planning mistakes
  • Manage with your business plan
  • Templates and examples

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1.5: Chapter 5 – Business Planning

  • Last updated
  • Save as PDF
  • Page ID 21257

  • Lee A. Swanson
  • University of Saskatchewan

Business planning is an important precursor to action in new ventures. By helping firm founders to make decisions, to balance resource supply and demand, and to turn abstract goals into concrete operational steps, business planning reduces the likelihood of venture disbanding and accelerates product development and venture organizing activity. – Delmar and Shane (2003, p. 1165)

We always plan too much and always think too little. We resent a call to thinking and hate unfamiliar argument that does not tally with what we already believe or would like to believe. – Joseph Schumpeter

Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window. – Peter Drucker

Learning Objectives

After completing this chapter you will be able to

  • Describe the purposes of business planning
  • Describe common business planning principles
  • List and explain the elements of the business plan development process outlined in this book
  • Explain the purposes of each of the elements of the business plan development process outlined in this book
  • Explain how applying the business plan development process outlined in this book can aid in developing a business plan that will meet entrepreneurs’ goals
  • Describe general business planning guidelines and format

This chapter describes the purposes of business planning, the general concepts related to business planning, and guidelines and a format for a comprehensive business plan.

Business Planning Purposes

Business plans are developed for both internal and external purposes. Internally, entrepreneurs develop business plans to help put the pieces of their business together. The most common external purpose for a business plan is to raise capital.

Internal Purposes

  • defines the vision for the company
  • establishes the company’s strategy
  • describes how the strategy will be implemented
  • provides a framework for analysis of key issues
  • provides a plan for the development of the business
  • is a measurement and control tool
  • helps the entrepreneur to be realistic and to put theories to the test

External Purposes

The business plan is often the main method of describing a company to external audiences such as potential sources for financing and key personnel being recruited. It should assist outside parties to understand the current status of the company, its opportunities, and its needs for resources such as capital and personnel. It also provides the most complete source of information for valuation of the business.

Business Planning Principles

Business plan communication principles.

As Hindle and Mainprize (2006) note, business plan writers must strive to communicate their expectations about the nature of an uncertain future. However, the liabilities of newness make communicating the expected future of new ventures difficult (more so than for existing businesses). They outline five communications principles:

  • Translation of your vision of the venture and how it will perform into a format compatible with the expectations of the readers
  • you have identified and understood the key success factors and risks
  • the projected market is large and you expect good market penetration
  • you have a strategy for commercialization, profitability, and market domination
  • you can establish and protect a proprietary and competitive position
  • Anchoring key events in the plan with specific financial and quantitative values
  • your major plan objectives are in the form of financial targets
  • you have addressed the dual need for planning and flexibility
  • you understand the hazards of neglecting linkages between certain events
  • you understand the importance of quantitative values (rather than just chronological dates)
  • Nothing lasts forever—things can change to impact the opportunity: tastes, preferences, technological innovation, competitive landscape
  • the new combination upon which venture is built
  • magnitude of the opportunity or market size
  • market growth trends
  • venture’s value from the market (% of market share proposed or market share value in dollars)
  • Four key aspects describing context within which new venture is intended to function (internal and external environment)
  • how the context will help or hinder the proposal
  • how the context may change & affect the business & the range of flexibility or response that is built into the venture
  • what management can or will do in the event the context turns unfavourable
  • what management can do to affect the context in a positive way
  • Brief and clear statement of how an idea actually becomes a business that creates value
  • Who pays, how much, and how often?
  • The activities the company must perform to produce its product, deliver it to its customers and earn revenue
  • And be able to defend assertions that the venture is attractive and sustainable and has a competitive edge

Business Plan Credibility Principles

Business plan writers must strive to project credibility (Hindle & Mainprize, 2006), so t here must be a match between what the entrepreneurship team (resource seekers) needs and what the investors (resource providers) expect based on their criteria. A take it or leave it approach (i.e. financial forecasts set in concrete) by the entrepreneurship team has a high likelihood of failure in terms of securing resources. Hindle and Mainprize (2006) outline five principles to help entrepreneurs project credibility:

  • Without the right team, nothing else matters.
  • What do they know?
  • Who do they know?
  • How well are they known?
  • sub-strategies
  • ad-hoc programs
  • specific tactical action plans
  • Claiming an insuperable lead or a proprietary market position is naïve.
  • Anticipate several moves in advance
  • View the future as a movie vs. snapshot
  • Key assumptions related to market size, penetration rates, and timing issues of market context outlined in the business plan should link directly to the financial statements.
  • Income and cash flow statements must be preceded by operational statements setting forth the primary planning assumptions about market sizes, sales, productivity, and basis for the revenue estimate.
  • If the main purpose is to enact a harvest, then the business plan must create a value-adding deal structure to attract investors.
  • Common things: viability, profit potential, downside risk, likely life-cycle time, potential areas for dispute or improvement

General Business Plan Guidelines

Many businesses must have a business plan to achieve their goals. The following are some basic guidelines for business plan development.

  • A standard format helps the reader understand that the entrepreneur has thought everything through, and that the returns justify the risk.
  • Binding the document ensures that readers can easily go through it without it falling apart.
  • everything is completely integrated: the written part must say exactly the same thing as the financial part
  • all financial statements are completely linked and valid (make sure all balance sheets validly balance)
  • the document is well formatted (layout makes document easy to read and comprehend—including all diagrams, charts, statements, and other additions)
  • everything is correct (there are NO spelling, grammar, sentence structure, referencing, or calculation errors)
  • It is usually unnecessary—and even damaging—to state the same thing more than once. To avoid unnecessarily duplicating information, you should combine sections and reduce or eliminate duplication as much as possible.
  • all the necessary information is included to enable readers to understand everything in your document
  • For example, if your plan says something like “there is a shortage of 100,000 units with competitors currently producing 25,000. We can help fill this huge gap in demand with our capacity to produce 5,000 units,” a reader is left completely confused. Does this mean there is a total shortage of 100,000 units, but competitors are filling this gap by producing 25,000 per year (in which case there will only be a shortage for four years)? Or, is there an annual shortage of 100,000 units with only 25,000 being produced each year, in which case the total shortage is very high and is growing each year? You must always provide the complete perspective by indicating the appropriate time frame, currency, size, or another measurement.
  • if you use a percentage figure, you indicate to what it refers, otherwise the figure is completely useless to a reader.
  • This can be solved by indicating up-front in the document the currency in which all values will be quoted. Another option is to indicate each time which currency is being used, and sometimes you might want to indicate the value in more than one currency. Of course, you will need to assess the exchange rate risk to which you will be exposed and describe this in your document.
  • If a statement is included that presents something as a fact when this fact is not generally known, always indicate the source. Unsupported statements damage credibility
  • Be specific. A business plan is simply not of value if it uses vague references to high demand, carefully set prices, and other weak phrasing. It must show hard numbers (properly referenced, of course), actual prices, and real data acquired through proper research. This is the only way to ensure your plan is considered credible.

Developing a High Power Business Plan

The business plan development process described next has been extensively tested with entrepreneurship students and has proven to provide the guidance entrepreneurs need to develop a business plan appropriate for their needs; a high power business plan .

The Stages of Development

There are six stages involved with developing a high power business plan . These stages can be compared to a process for hosting a dinner for a few friends. A host hoping to make a good impression with their anticipated guests might analyze the situation at multiple levels to collect data on new alternatives for healthy ingredients, what ingredients have the best prices and are most readily available at certain times of year, the new trends in party appetizers, what food allergies the expected guests might have, possible party themes to consider, and so on. This analysis is the Essential Initial Research stage.

In the Business Model stage, the host might construct a menu of items to include with the meal along with a list of decorations to order, music to play, and costume themes to suggest to the guests. The mix of these kinds of elements chosen by the host will play a role in the success of the party.

The Initial Business Plan Draft stage is where the host rolls up his or her sleeves and begins to assemble make some of the food items, put up some of the decorations, send invitations, and generally get everything started for the party.

During this stage, the host will begin to realize that some plans are not feasible and that changes are needed. The required changes might be substantial, like the need to postpone the entire party and ultimately start over in a few months, or less drastic, like the need to change the menu when an invited guest indicates that they can’t eat food containing gluten. These changes are incorporated into the plan to make it realistic and feasible in the Making the Business Plan Realistic stage.

Making A Plan to Appeal to Stakeholders stage involves further changes to the party plan to make it more appealing to both the invited guests and to make it a fun experience for the host. For example, the host might learn that some of the single guests would like to bring dates and others might need to be able to bring their children to be able to attend. The host might be able to accommodate those desires or needs in ways that will also make the party more fun for them—maybe by accepting some guests’ offers to bring food or games, or maybe even hiring a babysitter to entertain and look after the children.

The final stage— Finishing the Business Plan— involves the host putting all of the final touches in place for the party in preparation for the arrival of the guests.


Figure 5 – Business Plan Development Process (Illustration by Lee A. Swanson)

Essential Initial Research

A business plan writer should analyze the environment in which they anticipate operating at each of the s ocietal , i ndustry , m arket , and f irm levels of analysis (see pages 51–60). This stage of planning, the e ssential initial research , is a necessary first step to better understand the trends that will affect their business and the decisions they must make to lay the groundwork for, and to improve their potential for success.

In some cases, much of the e ssential initial research should be included in the developing business plan as its own separate section to help build the case for readers that there is a market need for the business being considered and that it stands a good chance of being successful.

In other cases, a business plan will be stronger when the components of the e ssential initial research are distributed throughout the business plan as a way to provide support for the plans and strategies outlined in the business plan. For example, the industry or market part of the e ssential initial research might outline the pricing strategies used by identified competitors and might be best placed in the pricing strategy part of the business plan to support the decision made to employ a particular pricing strategy.

Business Model

Inherent in any business plan is a description of the business model chosen by the entrepreneur as the one that they feel will best ensure success. Based upon their essential initial research of the setting in which they anticipate starting their business (their analysis from stage one) an entrepreneur should determine how each element of their business model—including their revenue streams, cost structure, customer segments, value propositions, key activities, key partners, and so on—might fit together to improve the potential success of their business venture (see Chapter 4 – Business Models).

For some types of ventures, at this stage an entrepreneur might launch a lean start-up (see page 68) and grow their business by continually pivoting, or constantly adjusting their business model in response to the real-time signals they get from the markets’ reactions to their business operations. In many cases, however, an entrepreneur will require a business plan. In those cases, their initial business model will provide the basis for that plan.

Of course, throughout this and all of the rounds in this process, the entrepreneur should seek to continually gather information and adjust the plans in response to the new knowledge they gather. As shown in Figure 8 by its enclosure in the progressive research box, the business plan developer might need conduct further research before finishing the business model and moving on to the initial business plan draft.

Initial Business Plan Draft

The Business Plan Draft stage involves taking the knowledge and ideas developed during the first two stages and organizing them into a business plan format. An approach preferred by many is to create a full draft of the business plan with all of the sections, including the front part with the business description, vision, mission, values, value proposition statement, preliminary set of goals, and possibly even a table of contents and lists of tables and figures all set up using the software features enabling their automatic generation. Writing all of the operations, human resources, marketing, and financial plans as part of the first draft ensures that all of these parts can be appropriately and necessarily integrated. The business plan will tell the story of a planned business startup in two ways by using primarily words along with some charts and graphs in the operations, human resources, and marketing plans and in a second way through the financial plan. Both ways must tell the same story.

The feedback loop shown in Figure 8 demonstrates that the business developer may need to review the business model. Additionally, as shown by its enclosure in the progressive research box, the business plan developer might need conduct further research before finishing the Initial Business Plan Draft stage and moving on to the Making Business Plan Realisticstage.

Making Business Plan Realistic

The first draft of a business plan will almost never be realistic. As the entrepreneur writes the plan, it will necessarily change as new information is gathered. Another factor that usually renders the first draft unrealistic is the difficulty in making certain that the written part—in the front part of the plan along with the operations, human resources, and marketing plans—tells the exact same story as the financial part does. This stage of work involves making the necessary adjustments to the plan to make it as realistic as possible.

The Making Business Plan Realistic stage has two possible feedback loops. The first goes back to the Initial Business Plan Draft stage in case the initial business plan needs to be significantly changed before it is possible to adjust it so that it is realistic. The second feedback loop circles back to the Business Model stage if the business developer need to rethink the business model. As shown in Figure 8 by its enclosure in the progressive research box, the business plan developer might need conduct further research before finishing the Making Business Plan Realistic stage and moving on to the Making Plan Appeal to Stakeholders stage.

Making Plan Appeal to Stakeholders and Desirable to the Entrepreneur

A business plan can be realistic without appealing to potential investors and other external stakeholders, like employees, suppliers, and needed business partners. It might also be realistic (and possibly appealing to stakeholders) without being desirable to the entrepreneur. During this stage the entrepreneur will keep the business plan realistic as they adjust plans to appeal to potential investors and to themselves.

If, for example, investors will be required to finance the business start, some adjustments might need to be relatively extensive to appeal to potential investors’ needs for an exit strategy from the business, to accommodate the rate of return they expect from their investments, and to convince them that the entrepreneur can accomplish all that is promised in the plan. In this case, and in others, the entrepreneur will also need to get what they want out of the business to make it worthwhile for them to start and run it. So, this stage of adjustments to the developing business plan might be fairly extensive, and they must be informed by a superior knowledge of what targeted investors need from a business proposal before they will invest. They also need to be informed by a clear set of goals that will make the venture worthwhile for the entrepreneur to pursue.

The caution with this stage is to balance the need to make realistic plans with the desire to meet the entrepreneur’s goals while avoiding becoming discouraged enough to drop the idea of pursuing the business idea. If an entrepreneur is convinced that the proposed venture will satisfy a valid market need, there is often a way to assemble the financing required to start and operate the business while also meeting the entrepreneur’s most important goals. To do so, however, might require significant changes to the business model.

One of the feedback loops shown in Figure 8 indicates that the business plan writer might need to adjust the draft business plan while ensuring that it is still realistic before it can be made appealing to the targeted stakeholders and desirable to the entrepreneur. The second feedback loop indicates that it might be necessary to go all the way back to the Business Model stage to re-establish the framework and plans needed to develop a realistic, appealing, and desirable business plan. Additionally, this stage’s enclosure in the progressive research box suggests that the business plan developer might need conduct further research.

Finishing the Business Plan

The final stage involves putting all of the important finishing touches on the business plan so that it will present well to potential investors and others. This involves making sure that the math and links between the written and financial parts are accurate. It also involves ensuring that all the needed corrections are made to the spelling, grammar, and formatting. The final set of goals should be written to appeal to the target readers and to reflect what the business plan says. An executive summary should be written and included as a final step.

General Business Plan Format

Include nice, catchy, professional, appropriate graphics to make it appealing for targeted readers

Executive summary

  • Can be longer than normal executive summaries, up to three pages
  • Write after remainder of plan is complete
  • Includes information relevant to targeted readers as this is the place where they are most likely to form their first impressions of the business idea and decide whether they wish to read the rest of the plan

Table of Con t ents

List of tables.

Each table, figure, and appendix included in the plan must be referenced within the text of the plan so the relevance of each of these elements is clear.

List of Figures


  • Describes the business concept
  • Indicates the purpose of the plan
  • Appeals to targeted readers

Business Idea

  • May include description of history behind the idea and the evolution of the business concept if relevant
  • Generally outlines what the owner intends for the venture to be
  • Should inspire all members of the organization
  • Should help stakeholders aspire to achieve greater things through the venture because of the general direction provided through the vision statement
  • Should be very brief—a few sentences or a short paragraph
  • Indicates what your organization does and why it exists—may describe the business strategy and philosophy
  • Indicates the important values that will guide everything the business will do
  • Outlines the personal commitments members of the organization must make, and what they should consider to be important
  • Defines how people behave and interact with each other.
  • Should help the reader understand the type of culture and operating environment this business intends to develop

Major Goals

  • Describes the major organizational goals
  • Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Timely [SMART]
  • Realistic, Understandable, Measurable, Believable, and Achievable [RUMBA]
  • Perfectly aligns with everything in plan

Operating Environment

Trend analysis.

  • Consider whether this is the right place for this analysis: it may be better positioned in, for example, the Financial Plan section to provide context to the analysis of the critical success factors, or in the Marketing Plan to help the reader understand the basis for the sales projections.

Industry Analysis

  • Includes an analysis of the industry in which this business will operate
  • consider whether this is the right place for this analysis: it may be better placed in, for example, the Marketing Plan to enhance the competitor analysis, or in the Financial Plan to provide context to the industry standard ratios in the Investment Analysis section

Operations Plan

  • expressed as a set physical location
  • expressed as a set of requirements and characteristics
  • How large will your facility be and why must it be this size?
  • How much will it cost to buy or lease your facility?
  • What utility, parking, and other costs must you pay for this facility?
  • What expansion plans must be factored into the facility requirements?
  • What transportation and storage issues must be addressed by facility decisions?
  • What zoning and other legal issues must you deal with?
  • What will be the layout for your facility and how will this best accommodate customer and employee requirements?
  • Given these constraints, what is your operating capacity (in terms of production, sales, etc.)?
  • What is the workflow plan for your operation?
  • What work will your company do and what work will you outsource?

Operations Timeline

  • When will you make the preparations, such as registering the business name and purchasing equipment, to start the venture?
  • When will you begin operations and make your first sales?
  • When will other milestone events occur such as moving operations to a larger facility, offering a new product line, hiring new key employees, and beginning to sell products internationally?
  • May include a graphical timeline showing when these milestone events have occurred and are expected to occur

Business Structure and other Set-up Elements

Somewhere in your business plan you must indicate what legal structure your venture will take. Your financial statements, risk management strategy, and other elements of your plan are affected by the type of legal structure you choose for your business:

  • Sole Proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Limited Partnership
  • Corporation
  • Cooperative

As part of your business set-up, you need to determine what kinds of control systems you should have in place, establish necessary relationships with suppliers and prior to your start-up, and generally deal with a list of issues like the following. Many of your decisions related to the following should be described somewhere in your business plan:

  • Zoning, equipment prices, suppliers, etc.
  • Lease terms, leasehold improvements, signage, pay deposits, etc.
  • Getting business license, permits, etc.
  • Setting up banking arrangements
  • Setting up legal and accounting systems (or professionals)
  • Ordering equipment, locks and keys, furniture, etc.
  • Recruiting employees, set up payroll system, benefit programs, etc.
  • Training employees
  • Testing the products/services that will be offered
  • Testing the systems for supply, sales, delivery, and other functions
  • Deciding on graphics, logos, promotional methods, etc.
  • Ordering business cards, letter head, etc.
  • Setting up supplier agreements
  • Buying inventory, insurance, etc.
  • Revising business plan
  • And many more things, including, when possible, attracting purchased orders in advance of start-up through personal selling (by the owner, a paid sales force, independent representatives, or by selling through brokers wholesalers, catalog houses, retailers), a promotional campaign, or other means
  • What is required to start up your business, including the purchases and activities that must occur before you make your first sale?
  • When identifying capital requirements for start-up, a distinction should be made between fixed capital requirements and working capital requirements.

Fixed Capital Requirements

  • What fixed assets, including equipment and machinery, must be purchased so your venture can conduct its business?
  • This section may include a start-up budget showing the machinery, equipment, furnishings, renovations, and other capital expenditures required prior to operations commencing.
  • If relevant you might include information showing the financing required; fixed capital is usually financed using longer-term loans.

Working Capital Requirements

  • What money is needed to operate the business (separately from the money needed to purchase fixed assets) including the money needed to purchase inventory and pay initial expenses?
  • This section may include a start-up budget showing the cash required to purchase starting inventories, recruit employees, conduct market research, acquire licenses, hire lawyers, and other operating expenditures required prior to starting operations.
  • If relevant you might include information showing the financing required … working capital is usually financed with operating loans, trade credit, credit card debt, or other forms of shorter-term loans.

Risk Management Strategies

  • enterprise – liability exposure for things like when someone accuses your employees or products you sell of injuring them.
  • financial – securing loans when needed and otherwise having the right amount of money when you need it
  • operational – securing needed inventories, recruiting needed employees in tight labour markets, customers you counted on not purchasing product as you had anticipated, theft, arson, natural disasters like fires and floods, etc.
  • avoid – choose to avoid doing something, outsource, etc.
  • reduce – through training, assuming specific operational strategies, etc.
  • transfer – insure against, outsource, etc.
  • assume – self-insure, accept, etc.

Operating Processes

  • What operating processes will you apply?
  • How will you ensure your cash is managed effectively?
  • How will you schedule your employees?
  • How will you manage your inventories?
  • If you will have a workforce, how will you manage them?
  • How will you bill out your employee time?
  • How will you schedule work on your contracts?
  • How you will manufacture your product (process flow, job shop, etc.?)
  • How will you maintain quality?
  • How will you institute and manage effective financial monitoring and control systems that provide needed information in a timely manner?
  • How will you manage expansion?
  • May include planned layouts for facilities

Organizational Structure

  • May include information on Advisory Boards or Board of Directors from which the company will seek advice or guidance or direction
  • May include an organizational chart
  • Can nicely lead into the Human Resources Plan

Human Resources Plan

  • How do you describe your desired corporate culture?
  • What are the key positions within your organization?
  • How many employees will you have?
  • What characteristics define your desired employees?
  • What is your recruitment strategy? What processes will you apply to hire the employees you require?
  • What is your leadership strategy and why have you chosen this approach?
  • What performance appraisal and employee development methods will you use?
  • What is your organizational structure and why is this the best way for your company to be organized?
  • How will you pay each employee (wage, salary, commission, etc.)? How much will you pay each employee?
  • What are your payroll costs, including benefits?
  • What work will be outsourced and what work will be completed in-house?
  • Have you shown and described an organizational chart?

Recruitment and Retention Strategies

  • Includes how many employees are required at what times
  • Estimates time required to recruit needed employees
  • employment advertisements
  • contracts with employment agency or search firms
  • travel and accommodations for potential employees to come for interviews
  • travel and accommodations for interviewers
  • facility, food, lost time, and other interviewing costs
  • relocation allowances for those hired including flights, moving companies, housing allowances, spousal employment assistance, etc.
  • may include a schedule showing the costs of initial recruitment that then flows into your start-up expense schedules

Leadership and Management Strategies

  • What is your leadership philosophy?
  • Why is it the most appropriate leadership approach for this venture?
  • What training is required because of existing rules and regulations?
  • How will you ensure your employees are as capable as required?
  • Health and safety (legislation, WHMIS, first aid, defibulators, etc.)
  • Initial workplace orientation
  • Financial systems
  • Product features

Performance Appraisals

  • How will you manage your performance appraisal systems?

Health and Safety

  • Any legal requirements should be noted in this section (and also legal requirements for other issues that may be included in other parts of the plan)


  • Always completely justifies your planned employee compensation methods and amounts
  • Always includes all components of the compensation (CPP, EI, holiday pay, etc.)
  • Outlines how will you ensure both internal and external equity in your pay systems
  • Describes any incentive-based pay or profit sharing systems planned
  • May include a schedule here that shows the financial implications of your compensation strategy and supports the cash flow and income statements shown later

Key Personnel

  • May include brief biographies of the key organizational people

Marketing Plan

  • You must show evidence of having done proper research, both primary and secondary. If you make a statement of fact, you must back it up with properly referenced supporting evidence. If you indicate a claim is based on your own assumptions, you must back this up with a description as to how you came to the conclusion.
  • It is a given that you must provide some assessment of the economic situation as it relates to your business. For example, you might conclude that the current economic crisis will reduce the potential to export your product and it may make it more difficult to acquire credit with which to operate your business. Of course, conclusions such as these should be matched with your assessment as to how your business will make the necessary adjustments to ensure it will thrive despite these challenges, or how it will take advantage of any opportunities your assessment uncovers.
  • If you apply the Five Forces Model, do so in the way in which it was meant to be used to avoid significantly reducing its usefulness while also harming the viability of your industry analysis. This model is meant to be used to consider the entire industry—not a subcomponent of it (and it usually cannot be used to analyze a single organization).
  • Your competitor analysis might fit within your assessment of the industry or it might be best as a section within your marketing plan. Usually a fairly detailed description of your competitors is required, including an analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. In some cases, your business may have direct and indirect competitors to consider. Be certain to maintain credibility by demonstrating that you fully understand the competitive environment.
  • Assessments of the economic conditions and the state of the industry appear incomplete without accompanying appraisals outlining the strategies the organization can/should employ to take advantage of these economic and industry situations. So, depending upon how you have organized your work, it is usually important to couple your appraisal of the economic and industry conditions with accompanying strategies for your venture. This shows the reader that you not only understand the operating environment, but that you have figured out how best to operate your business within that situation.
  • Have you done an effective analysis of your venture? (See the Organizational Analysis section below.)

Market Analysis

  • Usually contains customer profiles, constructed through primary and secondary research, for each market targeted
  • Contains detailed information on the major product benefits you will deliver to the markets targeted
  • Describes the methodology used and the relevant results from the primary market research done
  • If there was little primary research completed, justifies why it is acceptable to have done little of this kind of research and/or indicate what will be done and by when
  • Includes a complete description of the secondary research conducted and the conclusions reached
  • Define your target market in terms of identifiable entities sharing common characteristics. For example, it is not meaningful to indicate you are targeting Canadian universities. It is, however, useful to define your target market as Canadian university students between the ages of 18 and 25, or as information technology managers at Canadian universities, or as student leaders at Canadian universities. Your targeted customer should generally be able to make or significantly influence the buying decision.
  • You must usually define your target market prior to describing your marketing mix, including your proposed product line. Sometimes the product descriptions in business plans seem to be at odds with the described target market characteristics. Ensure your defined target market aligns completely with your marketing mix (including product/service description, distribution channels, promotional methods, and pricing). For example, if the target market is defined as Canadian university students between the ages of 18 and 25, the product component of the marketing mix should clearly be something that appeals to this target market.
  • Carefully choose how you will target potential customers. Should you target them based on their demographic characteristics, psychographic characteristics, or geographic location?
  • You will need to access research to answer this question. Based on what you discover, you will need to figure out the optimum mix of pricing, distribution, promotions, and product decisions to best appeal to how your targeted customers make their buying decisions.


  • However, this information might fit instead under the market analysis section.
  • Describes all your direct competitors
  • Describes all your indirect competitors
  • If you can, includes a competitor positioning map to show where your product will be positioned relative to competitors’ products


Figure 6 – Competitor Positioning Map (Illustration by Lee A. Swanson)

  • What distinguishes your business from that of your competitors in a way that will ensure your sales forecasts will be met?
  • You must clearly communicate the answers to these questions in your business plan to attract the needed support for your business. One caution is that it may sound appealing to claim you will provide a superior service to the existing competitors, but the only meaningful judge of your success in this regard will be customers. Although it is possible some of your competitors might be complacent in their current way of doing things, it is very unlikely that all your competitors provide an inferior service to that which you will be able to provide.

Marketing Strategy

  • Covers all aspects of the marketing mix including the promotional decisions you have made, product decisions, distribution decisions related to how you will deliver your product to the markets targeted, and pricing decisions
  • Outlines how you plan to influence your targeted customers to buy from you (what is the optimum marketing mix, and why is this one better than the alternatives)

Organizational Analysis

  • Leads in to your marketing strategy or is positioned elsewhere depending upon how your business plan is best structured
  • If doing so, always ensure this analysis results in more than a simple list of internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats. A SWOT analysis should always prove to the reader that there are organizational strategies in place to address each of the weaknesses and threats identified and to leverage each of the strengths and opportunities identified.
  • An effective way to ensure an effective outcome to your SWOT Analysis is to apply a TOWS Matrix approach to develop strategies to take advantage of the identified strengths and opportunities while mitigating the weaknesses and threats. A TOWS Matrix evaluates each of the identified threats along with each of the weaknesses and then each of the strengths. It does the same with each of the identified opportunities. In this way strategies are developed by considering pairs of factors
  • The TOWS Matrix is a framework with which to help you organize your thoughts into strategies. Most often you would not label a section of your business plan as a TOWS Matrix. This would not normally add value for the reader. Instead, you should describe the resultant strategies—perhaps while indicating how they were derived from your assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. For example, you could indicate that certain strategies were developed by considering how internal strengths could be employed toward mitigating external threats faced by the business.

Product Strategy

  • If your product or service is standardized, you will need to compete on the basis of something else – like a more appealing price, having a superior location, better branding, or improved service. If you can differentiate your product or service you might be able to compete on the basis of better quality, more features, appealing style, or something else. When describing your product, you should demonstrate that you understand this.

Pricing Strategy

  • If you intend to accept payment by credit card (which is probably a necessity for most companies), you should be aware of the fee you are charged as a percentage of the value of each transaction. If you don’t account for this you risk overstating your actual revenues by perhaps one percent or more.
  • Sales forecasts must be done on at least a monthly basis if you are using a projected cash flow statement. These must be accompanied by explanations designed to establish their credibility for readers of your business plan. Remember that many readers will initially assume that your planned time frames are too long, your revenues are overstated, and you have underestimated your expenses. Well crafted explanations for all of these numbers will help establish credibility.

Distribution Strategy

  • If you plan to use e-commerce, you should include all the costs associated with maintaining a website and accepting payments over the Internet.

Promotions Strategy

  • If you are attracting customers away from competitors, how will these rivals respond to the threat you pose to them?
  • If you intend to create new customers, how will you convince them to reallocate their dollars toward your product or service (and away from other things they want to purchase)?
  • In what ways will you communicate with your targeted customers? When will you communicate with them? What specific messages do you plan to convey to them? How much will this promotions plan cost?
  • If your entry into the market will not be a threat to direct competitors, it is likely you must convince potential customers to spend their money with you rather than on what they had previously earmarked those dollars toward. In your business plan you must demonstrate an awareness of these issues.
  • Consider listing the promotional methods in rows on a spreadsheet with the columns representing weeks or months over probably about 18 months from the time of your first promotional expenditure. This can end up being a schedule that feeds the costs into your projected cash flow statement and from there into your projected income statements.
  • If you phone or visit newspapers, radio stations, or television stations seeking advertising costs, you must go only after you have figured out details like on which days you would like to advertise, at what times on those days, whether you want your print advertisements in color, and what size of print advertisements you want.
  • Carefully consider which promotional methods you will use. While using a medium like television may initially sound appealing, it is very expensive unless your ad runs during the non-prime times. If you think this type of medium might work for you, do a serious cost-benefit analysis to be sure.
  • Some promotional plans are developed around newspaper ads, promotional pamphlets, printing business cards, and other more obvious mediums of promotion. Be certain to, include the costs of advertising in telephone directories, sponsoring a little league soccer team, producing personalized pens and other promotional client give-always, donating items to charity auctions, printing and mailing client Christmas cards, and doing the many things businesses find they do on-the-fly. Many businesses find it to be useful to join the local chamber of commerce and relevant trade organizations with which to network. Some find that setting a booth up at a trade fair helps launch their business.
  • If you are concerned you might have missed some of these promotional expenses, or if you want to have a buffer in place in case you feel some of these opportunities are worthwhile when they arise, you should add some discretionary money to your promotional budget. A problem some companies get into is planning out their promotions in advance only to reallocate some of their newspaper advertisement money, for example, toward some of these other surprise purposes resulting in less newspaper advertising than had been intended.

Financial Plan

  • It is nearly certain you will need to make monthly cash flow projections from business inception to possibly three years out. Your projections will show the months in which the activities shown on your fixed capital and working capital schedules will occur. This is nearly the only way to clearly estimate your working capital needs and, specifically, important things like the times when you will need to draw on or can pay down your operating loans and the months when you will need to take out longer-term loans with which to purchase your fixed assets. Without a tool like this you will be severely handicapped when talking with bankers about your expected needs. They will want to know how large of a line of credit you will need and when you anticipate needing to borrow longer-term money. It is only through doing cash flow projections will you be able to answer these questions. This information is also needed to determine things like the changes to your required loan payments and when you can take owner draws or pay dividends.
  • Your projected cash flows are also used to develop your projected income statements and balance sheets.

Pro forma Cash Flow Statements

Pro forma income statements, pro forma balance sheets, investment analysis, projected financial ratios and industry standard ratios, critical success factors (sensitivity analysis).

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How to Develop Your Company’s Purpose Statement

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the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

If you aspire to lead or start a company, you’ll play a crucial role in driving its vision, goals, and plan for success. A purpose statement establishes the foundation you need to do that effectively.

While some degree programs touch on the topic of purpose statements, you might not realize how this concept can apply to your future career . 

Here’s how you can take the skills you’ve learned from your business degree and use them while writing an effective company purpose statement. 

What is a Purpose Statement?

The first step to understanding a purpose statement is to distinguish it from a mission statement because each plays a different role in your business plan .

Mission Statement vs. Purpose Statement

A purpose statement is a single statement that defines the reason your company exists—beyond simply making a profit. It also illustrates how your product or service positively impacts the people you serve. Once your purpose is established, you’ll need a series of goals to drive that purpose. That’s where the mission statement comes in.

First and foremost, a mission statement is actionable. It explains the path you need to take to reach your purpose. So, while a purpose statement is focused on the future, a mission statement is rooted in the present.

Unlike a company mission, your company purpose isn’t something that can be completed or checked off a list. A purpose statement illustrates the ongoing pursuit to push your company forward.

What Does a Purpose Statement Do?

A purpose statement sets expectations, both internally (for leadership and employees) and externally (for customers and investors). It acts as your company’s blueprint for the future and helps guide all the decisions you make—from how you manufacture your products to the words you use in your marketing.

Your purpose also influences your customer. In fact, 63% of global consumers prefer to purchase products and services from companies that stand for a purpose, according to recent research.

The study found that companies that stand for something bigger than what they sell, communicate their purpose, and demonstrate commitment are more likely to attract consumers and influence purchasing decisions.  

Leaders around the world are taking note of the rise of purpose-driven companies , too. Lise Kingo, CEO and executive director of the UN Global Compact, stated, “The idea of business as an agent of change and a purveyor of positive values is gaining traction and legitimacy around the world. With a growing number of companies taking steps to be more responsible in how they treat employees, communities, and the planet, we are seeing business emerge as a real player and solution-provider in the quest to put our world on a better course.”

Beyond attracting customers and increasing your bottom line, clarifying your company purpose is important for these reasons:   

1. Distinguishes Your Business from Competitors

One important role of your purpose statement is to define what makes your company unique. After all, your competitors might be able to replicate your product or service, but they’d be hard pressed to duplicate your unique purpose.

People can be genuinely inspired if your company has a solid purpose. When customers and employees understand what drives your passion and ignites your purpose, they’re more likely to get on board with it.  

2. Helps Meet Goals

A strong purpose statement sets a path for how your company will move forward, which will help you see and set clear goals. These goals should go beyond financial performance; they should also measure how your purpose is progressing toward the social impact you’re trying to make.

3. Informs Company Culture

A recent employee survey by Harvard Business Review found that only 28% of employees felt connected to their company’s purpose, and 34% thought they were contributing to their company’s success. According to the article, a lack of purpose among employees can create a negative company culture where employees feel unmotivated and unaligned.

So how do you avoid this?

Creating a purpose-driven culture starts with clear communication between employees and leadership—as well as listening and being open to feedback. When everyone understands and supports the company's purpose, it creates a united front where everyone from the top down is working toward the same goals.

Furthermore, multiple studies show a purpose-driven culture is a positive one. This is because employees feel more engaged and motivated when they can connect the work they do with how it contributes to the organization’s purpose .

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

How Do I Write a Purpose Statement?

Creating a company purpose statement is no small task. It requires a deep understanding of why your company exists and where it hopes to go in the future. If you’re still feeling stuck, here are some steps to take as you're developing your company's purpose.

Step #1: Define what you do.

But more specifically, lay out what your company does to solve a particular problem for your customers.

Step #2: Pinpoint your passion.

Think about what inspires the work you do. For example, are you passionate about creating sustainable products? Do you strive to be the most innovative? Are you focused on serving local communities?

Step #3: List your values.

Understanding the things your company is passionate about will help you come up with specific values that align with your purpose. Those values might include things like sustainability, innovation, integrity, quality, etc.

Step #4: Create a draft.

Once you’ve defined what you do and why you do it, take pen to paper and start drafting ideas for your purpose statement.

As you’re writing, make sure your purpose statement is:

  • Short (about 1-2 sentences)
  • Easy to understand
  • Aspirational (but not vague)

Step #5: Get feedback.

Ask others in your organization to review what you’ve written and consider their feedback as you hone your purpose statement.  

Step #6: Leave room for growth.

Keep in mind that a purpose statement is a constant work in progress, and changes will happen as your business evolves.

Examples of Effective Purpose Statements

Use these company purpose statements to draw inspiration from:

  • Southwest Airlines lets its personality shine through in its purpose statement: “Connect people to what's important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.”
  • Kellogg’s and Coke keep it short and sweet: “Nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive.” – Kellogg’s,  “Refresh the world. Make a difference.” – Coke
  • If you’re looking for an example of an empowering purpose statement, here’s Dove’s: “Discovering the value of 'real' beauty and improving self-esteem worldwide.”
  • Both The Red Cross and Whole Foods have purpose statements that make an emotional connection: “Our deepest purpose as an organization is helping support the health, well-being, and healing of both people—customers, Team Members, and business organizations in general—and the planet.” – Whole Foods, “To protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being .” – The Red Cross
  • Crayola and Lego lean on their ability to inspire: “Encouraging children to be creative, and enabling parents to inspire them.” – Crayola, “To inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.” - Lego

Now that you know what a company purpose statement is, why it’s important, and how to develop your own, you’ll be ready to put this important business skill into practice in your own organization.

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Business Plan: What It Is + How to Write One

Discover what a business plan includes and how writing one can foster your business’s development.

[Featured image] Woman showing a business plan to a man at a desk.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a written document that defines your business goals and the tactics to achieve those goals. A business plan typically explores the competitive landscape of an industry, analyzes a market and different customer segments within it, describes the products and services, lists business strategies for success, and outlines financial planning.  

In your research into business plans, you may come across different formats, and you might be wondering which kind will work best for your purposes. 

Let’s define two main types of business plans—the traditional business plan and the lean start-up business plan. Both types can serve as the basis for developing a thriving business, as well as exploring a competitive market analysis, brand strategy, and content strategy in more depth. 

There are some significant differences to keep in mind [ 1 ]: 

The traditional business plan is a long document that explores each component in depth. You can build a traditional business plan to secure funding from lenders or investors. 

The lean start-up business plan focuses on the key elements of a business’s development and is shorter than the traditional format. If you don’t plan on seeking funding, the lean start-up plan can serve mainly as a document for making business decisions and carrying out tasks. 

Now that you have a clear business plan definition, continue reading to learn how to start writing a detailed plan that will guide your journey as an entrepreneur.  

How to write a business plan 

In the sections below, you’ll build the following components of your business plan:

Executive summary

Business description 

Products and services 

Competitor analysis 

Marketing plan and sales strategies 

Brand strategy

Financial planning

Explore each section to bring fresh inspiration and reveal new possibilities for developing your business. Depending on which format you're using, you may choose to adapt the sections, skip over some, or go deeper into others. Consider your first draft a foundation for your efforts and one that you can revise, as needed, to account for changes in any business area.

1. Executive summary 

This is a short section that introduces the business plan as a whole to the people who will be reading it, including investors, lenders, or other members of your team. Start with a sentence or two about your business, your goals for developing it, and why it will be successful. If you are seeking funding, summarize the basics of the financial plan. 

2. Business description 

Use this section to provide detailed information about your company and how it will operate in the marketplace.

Mission statement: What drives your desire to start a business? What purpose are you serving? What do you hope to achieve for your business, the team, and customers? 

Revenue streams: From what sources will your business generate revenue? Examples include product sales, service fees, subscriptions, rental fees, license fees, and more. 

Leadership: Describe the leaders in your business, their roles and responsibilities, and your vision for building teams to perform various functions, such as graphic design, product development, or sales.  

Legal structure: Are you operating as a partnership or a corporation? If you’re registering a specific legal structure within your province or territory, include it here and the rationale behind this choice. 

3. Competitor analysis 

This section will include an assessment of potential competitors, their offers, and marketing and sales efforts. For each competitor, explore the following:

Value proposition: What outcome or experience does this brand promise?

Products and services: How does each one solve customer pain points and fulfil desires? What are the price points? 

Marketing: Which channels do competitors use to promote? What kind of content does this brand publish on these channels? What messaging does this brand use to communicate value to customers?  

Sales: What sales process or buyer’s journey does this brand lead customers through?

4. Products and services

Use this section to describe everything your business offers to its target market. For every product and service, list the following: 

The value proposition or promise to customers, in terms of how they will experience it

How the product serves customers, addresses their pain points, satisfies their desires, and improves their lives.

The features or outcomes that make the product better than those of competitors

Your price points and how these compare to competitors

5. Marketing plan and sales strategies 

In this section, you’ll draw from thorough market research to describe your target market and how you will reach it. 

Who are your ideal customers?   

How can you describe this segment according to their demographics (age, ethnicity, income, location, etc.) and psychographics (beliefs, values, aspirations, lifestyle, etc.)? 

What are their daily lives like? 

What problems and challenges do they experience? 

What words, phrases, ideas, and concepts do consumers in your target market use to describe these problems when posting on social media or engaging with your competitors?  

What messaging will present your products as the best on the market? How will you differentiate messaging from competitors? 

On what marketing channels will you position your products and services?

How will you design a customer journey that delivers a positive experience at every touchpoint and leads customers to a purchase decision?

6. Brand strategy 

In this section, you will describe your business’s design, personality, values, voice, and other details that go into delivering a consistent brand experience. 

What are the values that define your brand?

What visual elements give your brand a distinctive look and feel?

How will your marketing messaging reflect a distinctive brand voice, including tone, diction, and sentence-level stylistic choices? 

How will your brand look and sound throughout the customer journey? 

Define your brand positioning statement. What will inspire your audience to choose your brand over others? What experiences and outcomes will your audience associate with your brand? 

7. Financial planning  

In this section, you will explore your business’s financial future. If you are writing a traditional business plan to seek funding, this section is critical for demonstrating to lenders or investors that you have a strategy for turning your business ideas into profit. For a lean start-up business plan, this section can provide a useful exercise for planning how you will invest resources and generate revenue [ 2 ].  

Use any past financials and other sections of this business plan, such as your price points or sales strategies, to begin your financial planning. 

How many individual products or service packages do you plan to sell over a specific time period?

List your business expenses, such as subscribing to software or other services, hiring contractors or employees, purchasing physical supplies or equipment, etc.

What is your break-even point, or the amount you have to sell to cover all expenses?

Create a sales forecast for the next three to five years: (No. of units to sell X price for each unit) – (cost per unit X No. of units) = sales forecast.

Quantify how much capital you have on hand.

When writing a traditional business plan to secure funding, you may choose to append supporting documents, such as licenses, permits, patents, letters of reference, resumes, product blueprints, brand guidelines, the industry awards you’ve received, and media mentions and appearances.

Business plan key takeaways and best practices

Remember: Creating a business plan is crucial when starting a business. You can use this document to guide your decisions and actions and even seek funding from lenders and investors. 

Keep these best practices in mind:

Your business plan should evolve as your business grows. Return to it periodically, such as every quarter or year, to update individual sections or explore new directions your business can take.

Ensure everyone on your team has a copy of the business plan, and welcome their input as they perform their roles. 

Ask fellow entrepreneurs for feedback on your business plan and look for opportunities to strengthen it, from conducting more market and competitor research to implementing new strategies for success. 

Start your business with Coursera 

Ready to start your business? Watch this video on the lean approach from the Entrepreneurship Specialization :

Article sources

BDC. “ Step 2—Prepare a winning business plan ," Accessed November 13, 2022.

CBDC. " NEW fillable CBDC Business Plan ," Accessed November 13, 2022.

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How to Write a Statement of Purpose | Example

Published on February 13, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on June 1, 2023.

When you apply for graduate programs or scholarships, the admissions committee is looking for more than just a list of grades. The statement of purpose (also known as a statement of intent or motivation letter) is your chance to stand out from the crowd and showcase your motivation, skills and potential. It should:

  • Outline your academic or professional interests and goals
  • Discuss relevant skills, experience and achievements
  • Demonstrate why you’d be a good fit for the program

Table of contents

Successful statement of purpose example, requirements and prompts, personal introduction, experience and achievements, goals and motivations, fit with the program, tips for an effective statement of purpose, other interesting articles.

The torment of the Founding Fathers is responsible for my interest in Classics. My desire to learn Latin stemmed from reading American Revolutionary-era history during junior high and high school, and particularly from the countless Latin quotations I found in John Adams’ writings. Always eager for a challenge, I was intrigued by the American founders’ accounts of the torture of learning such a difficult language. In my first semester at university, I started learning Latin and thoroughly loved it. As I learned more and more about classical civilization through the language, I realized that I was passionately interested in many aspects of the field of Classics. I have since taken courses on mythology, art and archaeology, and religion, on ancient history, and on the classical tradition. I have also learned Greek, of course, starting with an intensive two-semester course at the university’s summer school. My experience studying abroad in Florence and traveling through Italy and Greece intensified my zeal for the field and, in particular, fueled my ambition to specialize in classical archaeology.

My personal philosophy of life is that everything is connected, and this conviction drives my desire to study Classics. The most rewarding moments for me are discovering and investigating connections – both broad ones, between fields and disciplines, and more specific ones, like the relationship between a piece of literature and an object of material culture. My liberal arts education has equipped me with a broad base of knowledge in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts, and in the honors program I pursued independent projects exploring academic and personal connections, including a paper on ancient Mayan astronomy, a self-observation study on the effects of nutrition and hydration on exercise performance, and a paper on the influence of political context on the changing artistic representations of John Adams. By seeking out connections between seemingly unrelated areas of academia, I have acquired a well-rounded outlook which helps me approach new ideas with both a range of prior experiences and a mind always open to different interpretations.

In accordance with my personal philosophy, I have also continued to explore connections within Classics and between Classics and other fields. In 2007, I published an article in my university’s undergraduate humanities journal; inspired by my studies in Florence, I compared representations of the birth of Venus in ancient and Renaissance literature and art. My major academic achievement to date, however, has been my senior honor thesis on John Adams’ connection to the Classics. Funded by a Hilldale Research Fellowship, I conducted research in the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society and in John Adams’ personal library at the Boston Public Library on the influence of the classical tradition on Adams’ worldview and how he consciously modeled himself on classical ideals. It was particularly fulfilling to connect historical and classical research in writing about the figure most responsible for instigating my study of the Classics.

As well as my research skills, I have demonstrated proficiency in the classical languages, winning prizes for both Latin and Greek translation from the Classics Department, as well as receiving an enthusiastic nomination from the department for the Pearson Fellowship from the American Philological Association. I am also the president of the undergraduate Classics Society, which allows me to share my enthusiasm for Classics with other students and the larger community.

One of the most appealing aspects of studying Classics is the vast range of topics encompassed by the field. Because my interests are broad and I value an interdisciplinary approach, I would like to pursue graduate study ultimately leading to a PhD in Classical Archaeology. Archaeology in itself is, of course, a multi-faceted field, requiring knowledge of history, language, anthropology, and various scientific and technological methods. I have already started building my skills in this area: I participated in a microartifact analysis from the excavation of a Maya site in Belize as part of an honors project, and this summer I will take part in two archaeological projects in Turkey after working as a research assistant on related material in the spring semester. This PhD program includes many other opportunities I am eager to explore, such as palaeography and papyrology courses, and especially the variety of fieldwork and museum experiences available. I believe that my strong background in the classical languages and wide range of courses on classical civilization and archaeological methods have prepared me well for this program, and I am convinced that, guided by my philosophy of interconnectedness, I will flourish in this program.

The first step is to read the application instructions. These should include the length of the document (usually 1-2 pages), any formatting requirements, and often a question or prompt that indicates what you should focus on.

In some cases, you might also be asked to submit a personal statement . Similar advice applies to both of these documents—both should give a sense of who you are, what you’ve done and what you want to do. But a statement of purpose is often more formal, tightly focused on your academic background and your suitability for the program.

If you are working on multiple applications, don’t try to write a one-size-fits-all text—tailor your statement of purpose to each program. Make sure to respond to the prompt and include all the information you’re asked for. A typical statement of purpose prompt looks like this:

Your focus will be slightly different depending on whether you’re applying for research-based academic programs (such as a PhD ) or professional qualifications (such as an MBA). But all statements of purpose should contain the following elements.

This is your chance to introduce yourself to the admissions committee and let them hear your voice. The statement of purpose shouldn’t tell your life story, but it should give a glimpse into who you are.

Academic and personal background

Give an overview of your academic background, and show what drives your interest in this field or profession. You might want to include some personal background too—your family history, social circumstances, personal relationships and life experiences have all shaped your trajectory and perspective. What unique insights will you bring with you?

Characteristics and personality

Think about aspects of your character that make you well-suited for graduate school. Don’t just list generic adjectives—give examples that demonstrate your strengths and show why they’re relevant.

  • Are you organized enough to handle a high-pressure workload?
  • Do you have the creativity needed to develop original ideas, or a systematic mindset perfect for problem-solving?
  • Do you have strong leadership skills, or are you great at working collaboratively?

Avoid including irrelevant autobiographical detail in the statement of purpose. Everything you include should be aimed at showing why you’d be a strong candidate for the program.

Your experience shows that you have the necessary skills to succeed in graduate school. Don’t just summarize everything you’ve done—pick out some highlights to build a clear picture of your strengths and priorities, illustrating how you’ve learned and developed along the way.

Academic experience

If you’re applying for a research-focused program, such as a PhD, show your knowledge of the field and outline your research experience. This might include:

  • A brief summary of your thesis or final project
  • Courses that you found particularly valuable
  • Projects you contributed to
  • Publications
  • Presentations
  • Extracurriculars that gave you relevant skills or experience

Professional experience

If you’re applying for a professional program, such as an MBA, outline your experience so far and show how it relates to your career plans. This might include:

  • Past or current job roles
  • Projects you led or participated in
  • Internships
  • Voluntary work
  • Training courses

In all cases, give specific examples with details of what you worked on, what you achieved, and what you got out of the experience.

As well as showing that you’re prepared for the program, explain what you expect to get out of it. What are your motivations for applying? How do you plan to make the most of its opportunities, and how will it help you achieve your goals?

Academic motivations

For academic programs, indicate your research interests, showing how they follow from and build upon what you have studied so far. This might include:

  • A subfield that you want to strengthen your expertise in
  • A specific problem or question that you’d like to address
  • An initial idea for a research project
  • A theoretical or methodological approach that you want to develop

This isn’t the place for an in-depth research plan, but it’s a chance to show your enthusiasm and knowledge of your field.

Professional motivations

For professional programs, outline your career aspirations and show how your experience informs your goals. This might include:

  • The next step you want to take in your career. What position are you aiming for and how will the program help you achieve it?
  • Your motivations for a career change. Can you make a link between your previous experience and your new direction?
  • Your long-term goals. Where do you want to be in five or ten years, and how do you see yourself getting there?

The admissions committee wants to know that you’re genuinely motivated to complete the program, and the clearer your plans, the more convincing your commitment.

It’s important to show not only why you want to study this subject, but also why you want to do it in this particular institution and department.

  • Do your research, and mention particular classes, specialisms or faculty that attracted you.
  • Show why you’re a good fit. Do your priorities align with the values and culture of the institution? What will you contribute to the department?
  • Discuss the specific skills, knowledge and experience you expect to get from the program.

The statement of purpose isn’t only about selling yourself—it’s about illustrating an ideal match between you and the program.

Once you’ve made sure to cover all the key elements, you can work on strengthening and polishing the text. Follow these tips to make your application the best it can be.

Stay focused

It can be tempting to try to cram in everything you’ve done, but a good statement of purpose requires careful selection to craft a focused narrative. One way to do this is by building your text around a central theme—for example, a character trait, an intellectual interest, or a career goal.

This strategy helps structure your text and puts your priorities centre stage. Link each paragraph back to the central idea, making it clear how everything fits together.

Think about your structure

The structure of a statement of purpose is somewhat flexible, as long as you include all the relevant information in an order that makes sense.

For example, you might start with a chronological story of where your interests began, or you might open with your goals and then select a series of examples that show your capacity to achieve them. If you’re desperate to study in this specific program, you could lead with a summary of why it’s your ideal choice, and then elaborate on each aspect to show why you’re a perfect fit.

The important thing is that the text showcases your strengths and motivations in a compelling, coherent way. As in any other piece of academic writing, make sure each paragraph communicates one main idea, and that each sentence flows smoothly and logically from the last. Use transition words and topic sentences to move between paragraphs.

Add meaning to your resume

The bare facts of your achievements—grades, prizes, work experience—are already included in your graduate school resume and transcripts. Use the statement of purpose not to repeat yourself, but to add personal meaning and texture to these facts.

If you got top marks for your thesis, describe the research process and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the topic. If you completed an internship or participated in a project, explain what new skills you learned and which aspects you found most valuable. If you already have lots of experience in the field, show how each step developed your skills and shaped your current plans.

Revise, edit, proofread

Your statement of purpose isn’t only about the content—it’s also a chance to show that you can express yourself fluently, confidently and coherently in writing. Spend plenty of time revising, editing and proofreading your text before you submit.

Make sure you stay within the recommended length, and check if there are any specific formatting requirements. If not, use a standard 12pt font, 1-inch margins and 1.5 line spacing.

When you have a final draft, our professional statement of purpose proofreading service can offer an extra pair of eyes to make sure every sentence is perfect.

Proofread my statement of purpose

Checklist: Statement of purpose

My statement of purpose clearly responds to the prompt.

I have introduced my academic, professional and/or personal background.

I have described any relevant experience and shown my development over time.

I have highlighted key achievements that demonstrate my talents.

There is a clear connection between my previous experience and my future plans.

I have explained how the program will help me achieve my goals.

I have mentioned specific aspects of the program, department and institution that appeal to me.

Every paragraph focuses on one central idea.

The paragraphs are organized in a logical order and tell a clear, coherent story.

You're on the way to a successful application. To maximize your chances of getting accepted, a Scribbr editor can help you improve your language, style, and structure.

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How to Write a Statement of Purpose: Tips, Guidelines, and Statement of Purpose Examples

Success in college and grad school applications begins with knowing how to write a statement of purpose. A statement of purpose should succinctly express your goals, stand out among others, and convince the selection committee that you are well-suited for the program.

According to Statista, the projected number of master’s degree recipients for the 2022 to 2023 academic year is 836,000. The statement of purpose examples provided in this guide will help you shine in your college application and get into the graduate program of your dreams. Keep reading to learn some quick tips for beginning and ending a good statement of purpose.

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What is a statement of purpose.

A statement of purpose is a graduate school application essay that articulates one’s interests, academic and professional experience, career goals, accomplishments, and reason for applying to the program. It is written by the prospective student and is a prerequisite for graduate and undergraduate college admissions.

A statement of purpose is your chance to tell the admissions committee who you are, how you can impact the academic community, and why you are an attractive candidate. If you want to get accepted into a good college , it is necessary to learn how to write a statement of purpose.

What Are the Parts of a Statement of Purpose?

  • Introduction. You should start your statement of purpose by introducing yourself. Focus on your academic interests and what motivated you to pick your particular field. The admissions team has a large number of applications to review, so it’s vital to highlight your background and interest in your program of choice.
  • A summary of your academic journey. Your academic record is a vital part of your statement of purpose. To qualify for a graduate program and start your chosen career path, you must state where you obtained your undergraduate degree. Place attention on your undergraduate thesis and how it has impacted your academic and career choices.
  • A description of relevant experiences and accomplishments. Discuss relevant personal experience you have in your fields such as jobs, internships, or volunteer work, and indicate what your responsibilities were. This part of your essay should be original as it’s your chance to show a more personal side of yourself to the selection committee.
  • Conclusion. End your statement of purpose by briefly stating your long-term goals . Explain how the program will prepare you to accomplish your future plans. Be clear and precise when you articulate your professional goals and ensure they relate to your program of choice.

How to Write a Statement of Purpose: Beginning and Ending

As with any piece of writing, it can be difficult to decide how to begin or end a statement of purpose. Read the guidelines below to learn how to keep your reader engaged from start to finish.

How to Begin a Statement of Purpose

If you’ve ever written a personal statement, writing a statement of purpose might seem quite similar. However, a statement of purpose is a formal academic piece that tells the reader about your career plans, not about who you are. It requires a slightly different approach. Your statement of purpose needs to stand out.

Your opening paragraph helps readers form their first impression of you and assess your academic proficiency. Starting with a famous short quote is a fun way to relate to the program or tell the committee relevant details about yourself. You want to highlight your academic interest, your passion for the field of study, and the motivating factor behind your choice of program.

How to End a Statement of Purpose

The closing paragraph must convey a sense of completeness and flow from the central theme of your essay. You should end your statement of purpose by restating its strongest points. Make sure not to include any information that shifts from the contents of the main body of the essay.

Show some enthusiasm by ending your statement of purpose on a positive note. Show the reader that you’re excited about the program and are prepared to take on the responsibilities that it entails. Ending your essay is just as important as starting it as it’s the impression that will linger for the admissions team.

How to Write a Statement of Purpose: 5 More Useful Tips

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Don’t Tell Your Life Story

While you may be trying to intrigue the reader and catch their attention, avoid excessive storytelling in your essay. The admissions committee prefer concise essays that explain a person’s academic goals and career objectives, so don’t waste time sharing personal experiences that are irrelevant to your application.

Customize Your Essay

A common mistake many students make is using one essay as a template for all of their different school applications. Every school has diverse characteristics and requirements, so it’s important to customize your statement of purpose to suit each school or program. You want to show the team that you’re attentive to detail and not cutting corners.

Show Your Qualifications

You want to convince the reader that you are an ideal candidate for the program, so be elaborate and specific about the area of study you are interested in and show your qualifications. Include a summary of your academic journey, relevant extracurricular activities, accomplishments, and work experiences that relate to the program.

Use a Formal but Conversational Tone

You want to use a formal yet conversational tone when writing a statement of purpose. Although you want to be professional, your essay should also be conversational and engaging. Do your best to maintain a balance between incorporating the required information in a formal and concise way and letting the reader get a sense of your personality.

Proofread Your Essay

Proofreading is a critical phase in any writing process. Read over your statement of purpose several times to spot any grammatical errors or writing inconsistencies. We recommend having someone else proofread your essay to gain a third-person perspective and be prepared.

Statement of Purpose Examples to Help You Get Accepted Into College or Graduate School

Now that you’ve learned how to write a statement of purpose, we’ve drafted a few examples to help you write a strong statement of purpose and nail your graduate school application.

Statement of Purpose Example 1: Culinary Arts Statement of Purpose

“A recipe has no soul. You as the cook must bring soul to the recipe.” I was eight years old and the youngest at the kid’s culinary camp when I first heard this quote by Thomas Keller. I remember writing it down and immediately picturing what it would look like engraved on the wall of my restaurant. That’s the day I knew I wanted to be a cook. My high school days exposed me to recreational cooking classes where I gained hands-on experience and knowledge about different elements of the food industry. My interest in culinary arts was further fueled by encounters I had with culinary entrepreneurs from around the world, from winemakers in France and chefs in Mexico to local food truck owners across my street.

I developed my leadership skills when I started a cooking club at my high school. I followed this ambition to college where I hosted the school’s first mini chef-style competition. My culinary journey continued when I took up cooking as a community service project and volunteered at a homeless shelter in California. I learned about flavors from different cultures, which I hope to share with guests at my restaurant, someday. This experience motivated me to take a course in sustainable food and agriculture, fulfilling my intellectual curiosity about food and nutritional security.

One of the driving factors behind seeking admission into your culinary program is the prospect of working with Chef André. His intriguing recipes and diet planners are promising areas for advanced study on sustainable diet and food security. I would be thrilled to work with him and explore my interest in these topics. I am also drawn to your extensive curriculum featuring culinary innovations, and your yearly seminars and conferences that bring together the best culinary experts from around the world. With my academic background, experience, and passion for culinary arts, I believe I am a perfect candidate for your program.

I am very proud of my ability to carry my passion for culinary arts from my childhood to this stage with the limited resources that I had. When I visit the cities of New York and California, I feel connected with my culinary journey, which further fuels my passion. With this program, I aim to acquire skills that are crucial to the evolution of my practice as a professional chef and restaurant owner.

Statement of Purpose Example 2: Mechanical Engineering Statement of Purpose

My journey to mechanical engineering began with an obsession with taking apart and rebuilding random objects around my family house. Soon after, this curiosity metamorphosed into an overarching desire to become a part of the engineering community. My passion for building began to evolve into creating. I was modifying everyday objects to make them look less conventional. By the time I was 17, I had built a remote-control mini drone.

My undergraduate studies in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Denver Institute of Technology have provided me with vast knowledge about different areas of the engineering field, such as thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and machinery kinetics. In college, I was focused on creating designs that improved the efficiency and safety of objects rather than just modifying their appearance. For my undergraduate project, I designed and fabricated a burglary-proof door. For about a year and a half, I worked as a junior engineer at Hawks Automobile. My responsibilities involved research before I was transferred to the design team after a few months. Some of my designs were integrated into their inventions and I hope to create more designs for future innovations across top-level engineering companies.

With my experience in both the academic and industry aspects of mechanical engineering, I look forward to working with experts to design prototypes that solve more complex human problems. I am certain that your master’s program will give me the skills and knowledge I need to excel as a trained professional in the engineering industry. The insights I will have learned from your program will equip me to tackle industry-level challenges with interdisciplinary solutions. This will help me gain a competitive advantage in the mechanical engineering job field.

Engineering has been an essential part of my life. I look forward to deepening my understanding of engineering concepts from a research perspective to reinforce my drive and natural predisposition to the field of mechanical engineering.

How to Use Statement of Purpose Examples to Write Your Own

Using a sample statement provided, you should be able to write a powerful statement of purpose that will leave a lasting impression on the admissions officers. Follow the guidelines and steps outlined in this article to write an original, motivating and truthful statement of purpose.

Now that you know how to write an effective statement of purpose, you’re one step closer to confidently acing the admissions process and walking through the gates of your dream school. We recommend you get acquainted with commonly asked college interview questions and have a look at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment outlook for graduate-level occupations .

How to Write a Statement of Purpose FAQ

No, a statement of purpose does not require any title or labels. The most important function of a statement of purpose is to express the candidate’s academic interest, future career goals, and reasons for wanting to join their program of choice.

A typical statement of purpose has an average word count of 800-1000 words and should not go beyond one to two pages. However, the range of 800-1000 words is not the standard word count, as some schools set their minimum word count to 500 and the maximum word count to 1200 words. Make sure to read the application instructions carefully.

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No, you don’t need to write your name on a statement of purpose unless otherwise stated in the application instructions. Your essay is one part of the admissions bundle required by the admissions office during the application process. Your application already contains your name, so you do not need to include it in the statement of purpose.

A statement of purpose is important because it’s a requisite for prospective students. It helps articulate your interests and goals and is one of the defining factors in whether or not you’re admitted into your dream school. For these reasons, it’s important to have a carefully crafted statement of purpose.

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How to Write a SOP Statement of Purpose: A Guide

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Are you an entrepreneur seeking to expand your enterprise? Do you know how to write SOP statement of purpose? Writing an effective Statement of Purpose (SOP) is key to success. An SOP should be concise and well-written, and highlight the objectives of your organization in clear terms. Want to learn how to write sop statement of purpose that engages readers while avoiding common mistakes?

In this blog post, we'll discuss tips on how to write SOP statement of purpose and share links to what it entails, as well as what not to include when crafting yours. Get ready to take your business up a notch with our helpful guide. 

What is a Statement of Purpose (SOP)?

A Statement of Purpose (SOP) is a document that outlines the mission, vision, and goals of an organization or individual. SOPs are a key factor in ensuring that operations remain uniform and expectations are clear, acting as an instruction guide for reaching objectives. SOPs are essential for businesses of any size because they help ensure consistency in operations and provide clarity on expectations. 

The crafting of a well-constructed SOP can confer upon your business an added level of credibility with potential customers or partners, in addition to offering numerous other benefits. Writing an SOP facilitates improved communication between employees, streamlines process for cost reduction, and guarantees consistent standards are met each time resulting in better customer service.

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

Furthermore, having clearly defined roles and responsibilities provides greater accountability while ensuring compliance with laws and regulations. All these features combine to make the writing of an SOP (purpose format included) a wise investment that will pay dividends over time. 

Types of SOPs vary depending on the industry or sector but generally fall into three categories: operational procedures which describe how tasks should be performed; policy documents that define acceptable behaviors; and training materials which outline best practices for onboarding new staff members or delivering services.

Each type has its own unique purpose statement so it’s important to choose the right one based on your specific needs.

For example, if you’re looking to increase productivity then operational procedures may be more suitable than policy documents while training materials would be ideal if you need to quickly bring new hires up to speed.

A well-written SOP can provide a clear understanding of the processes and goals of an organization, making it easier to manage. Let's look into crafting a successful SOP with an emphasis on clarity and objectives.

How to Write an Effective SOP?

To begin crafting an effective SOP, it is important to establish clear goals and objectives that can be monitored for progress. This will provide a roadmap for the document and ensure that you are addressing all of the necessary topics. It’s important to be specific when outlining these goals so that they can be easily tracked and monitored over time.

For instance, you can list each stage of the onboarding process from initial contact to completion in an exhaustive manner.

Subsequently, it is necessary to delineate the procedures necessitated for reaching those objectives. Make sure you include as much detail as possible here — it’s easy for readers (and yourself) to get lost in a sea of vague instructions.

Clearly identify who has to do what, the required materials, and how long it will take. Visual aids such as flowcharts or diagrams can also help explain complex concepts more quickly and effectively than text alone.

Finally, make sure your SOP is concise and clear. Avoid using flowery language or lengthy explanations; instead, stick with simple words and short sentences where possible. Focus on providing information that's relevant rather than trying too hard with elaborate phrasing or jargon-heavy technical terms. Ensure that modifications are tracked and the SOP is kept up-to-date, allowing all personnel to access the latest version.

Writing an effective SOP requires clear objectives, concise language, and concentration on the benefits to the reader. With these tips in mind, you can now craft engaging SOPs that are sure to have an impact.

Tips for Writing an Engaging SOP

Writing an engaging SOP can be tricky, but with the right language and visuals, it doesn’t have to be. Using simple language and short sentences is key for ensuring your message gets across without losing readers along the way. Emphasize employing comprehensible terms that express a precise significance.

For example, instead of saying “utilize” say “use” or “apply”; instead of saying “commencement date” say “start date".

Including examples and visuals where possible helps break up the text into smaller chunks which makes it easier to digest for readers. Visuals such as flowcharts, diagrams, screenshots, etc., can help illustrate processes in a more effective manner than just relying on words alone. This also enables you to highlight any potential risks or challenges associated with certain tasks in a visual format that may not come across as clearly if only written out.

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

Finally, focus on the benefits that will come from following your SOP rather than simply listing out instructions. Emphasizing how following this process will make life easier for employees or increase efficiency within their job role is likely to encourage people to actually read through what you've written. By highlighting these advantages upfront you are more likely to get buy-in from those who need to follow your guidelines so they understand why it is important for them to do so.

By following the tips outlined above, you can ensure that your SOP is engaging and effective. Additionally, by avoiding common mistakes when writing an SOP, you can create a document that will be useful to both management and employees alike. Next, we'll look at how to test processes described in the SOP for maximum effectiveness.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing an SOP

When writing an SOP, it is important to avoid common mistakes that can lead to confusion and frustration. Not being specific enough is one of the most frequent errors made when crafting an SOP. It's critical to be definite and succinct so readers comprehend the purpose of their activities.

Failing to test the processes described in the document can also be a major issue, as any inaccuracies or inconsistencies will create problems down the line. Maintaining the document current is critical, as outdated information can lead to major repercussions for your organization.

Another mistake many people make when writing an SOP is using overly complex language or long sentences which makes comprehension difficult. Instead, use simple words and short sentences so readers can easily follow instructions without having to reread them multiple times. Additionally, visuals such as diagrams or flowcharts should be included where possible as these are often more effective than text alone at conveying information quickly and accurately.

Lastly, focus on how this procedure benefits both employees and employers alike; provide examples of improved efficiency or increased productivity due to following a well-written SOP — this helps engage readers while reinforcing its importance within your organization.

Finally, don't forget about regular maintenance. An out-of-date document won't do anyone any good so ensure you review it regularly — at least once every six months — in order to keep everything current and accurate with minimal effort required from staff members who rely on it daily for their workflows and tasks.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you write a successful statement of purpose that meets all your needs without running into any common pitfalls along the way.

FAQs in Relation to How to Write SOP Statement of Purpose

How do you write a sop statement of purpose.

The purpose of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is concisely and explicitly stated, specifying the aims and range of coverage. It should include information on who will use it, when they will use it, why they are using it, and how they will use it. The statement should also provide clarity regarding any limitations or restrictions that apply to its implementation. A well-crafted SOP statement of purpose can ensure that everyone involved understands the intended outcome as well as their roles in achieving those outcomes.

How do I write my own SOP?

Creating an SOP is critical for companies to ensure a steady and precise execution of their operations. Begin by identifying the purpose of the SOP, then outline its scope, responsibilities, and expected outcomes. Document each step clearly with detailed instructions that are easy to follow.

Finally, review and test your SOP before implementing it into practice. By doing so you will create an efficient process that can be followed reliably across all departments within your organization.

Writing an effective SOP is essential for any business, as it serves to provide clarity and guidance on how processes should be carried out. Crafting a carefully constructed statement of purpose can ensure that all personnel in the company are aware of their duties and obligations. Following our SOP format tips will help make sure that you know how to write SOP statement of purpose that is engaging, informative, and error-free - setting up your team for success.

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SOP (Statement of Purpose): Format, Samples, and Tips

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  • Updated on  
  • Feb 17, 2024

sop statement of purpose

To aesthetically present a movie on the screen, great actors are the requisites. Similar is the case when one is carving their own career path. From choosing the right course to getting into your dream university, you need to take each step carefully. As a crucial part of the eligibility criteria, the universities often demand LOR s, SOPs or entrance test scores to assess the candidates and their suitability for the chosen course. A Statement of Purpose (SOP) is one such element that beholds great value in the admission process of those aspiring to study abroad. Creating an alluring SOP is essential to help the assessment committee understand your willingness for the program you have applied for. This blog aims to provide a comprehensive step-by-step guide on drafting a statement of purpose that can help you sail smoothly through the assessment process and get entry into your dream academic institution.

This Blog Includes:

What is a statement of purpose (sop), why is sop important, sop format, 2. formulate, 3. revise and modify, what do colleges look for in an sop, how to write a perfect statement of purpose (sop / admissions essay), introduction, academic background and professional experience, career goals, why this course, why this university, how long should an sop be, what to include in an sop, what not to include in an sop, 10 tips to write a successful statement of purpose, sop sample for business analytics, sample statement of purpose for mba , sample statement of purpose for masters, sop formats for usa, canada, uk, and australia, top 5 mistakes to avoid while writing an sop, how can you reduce your chances of rejection from your chosen university, can sops help with scholarships, sop vs letter of motivation, sop vs personal statement.

A Statement of Purpose can be referred to as an informative document, containing personal statements, and is essentially required as part of the admission procedure of study abroad programs. Also referred to as an application essay, it comprises the basic details of a candidate along with their professional and personal interests, academic highlights as well as future aspirations. An SOP plays an integral role in the application process of a study abroad program as it provides the admission board with the key information about the candidate and why they want to study a particular course at their institution. It not only describes who you are as an individual but also gives an idea about your writing skills and proficiency in the English language.   

A well-written SOP is an extremely significant element during your admission process. While the academic record and other exam scorecards, academic transcripts and backlog certificates are essentially objective in nature, an SOP is the only truly subjective aspect of your application. It is the only document in your application that allows you to prove that you have something unique which makes you stand out from the crowd. As such, it is the document of your application docket that can hugely determine your admission.

Also Read: Statement of Purpose vs Personal Statement

As such, there is no particular or proper format for writing a statement of purpose or an SOP. Students have to write an SOP just like an elaborative and descriptive English essay dividing the whole context into different paragraphs. Each paragraph must be having distinctive features describing different scenarios, features or characteristics about yourself. You can take the help of the below-provided structure and get started with writing an SOP for the university you want to study in. 

How to Write a Statement of Purpose?

As a pivotal document for any study abroad application, an SOP needs to be precisely well-written. To help you understand the different elements of this document, we have curated a step-by-step procedure that you can follow to curate an impressive statement of purpose.

The first step of the process of drafting a statement of purpose is to think about the varied aspects of your candidature that you should mention in it. The mandatory inclusions of an SOP are academic achievements (especially at the undergraduate level), prior work exposure or volunteering experiences. Start with framing an outline for the document and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which field of study excites me the most?
  • Why do I want to pursue this degree?
  • What are my expectations from this degree?
  • What outgrowth can this degree offer me?
  • Where can this degree take me, personally and professionally? 
  • Through my pre-requisites, what values can I add to this program?

Once you have made key pointers for most of the questions mentioned above, you can begin jotting them down in a thorough and comprehensive manner.

Now that you know what you want to mention in your SOP, it’s time to curate a rough outline for the document. Here is a list of some essential tips you need to keep in mind while formulating your statement of purpose:

  • Since the admission committee strives to understand your candidature through the SOP, you need to be honest in describing your career aspirations and objectives. Focus centrally on maintaining the authenticity of your mentioned details. Duly elaborate on your advantageous perception of the chosen course.
  • Creatively cite your personal and professional interests. Mention what you are passionate about and what excites you. Then, sensibly connect it with your chosen program and how it will assist you in grooming your skills. For instance, you can state that you are aspiring to gain experiential learning or training in your desired industry through the course.
  • What brought you here should be a sure-shot mention in your SOP. You can begin with stating those features of your chosen course that convinced you to opt for it. Then, write down the objectives you want to fulfil by studying the program. It can be personal growth or professional upliftment or even both. Try to be unique and precise when listing your reasons. 

Once you have jotted down your SOP as per the above-mentioned necessary tips, the final and concluding step is to revise and make changes accordingly. Go through the list that you created in the beginning and ensure that you have added all of them.

  • The word limit for a statement of purpose is between 500-1000. 
  • Do not miss out the predefined sizes for spacing, margins and font size.
  • Try getting a second opinion but getting your SOP read from a friend or an experienced professional.

Many foreign and even national universities ask for a Statement of Purpose (SOP) from candidates wanting to enrol in suitable courses that the university has to offer. They ask for the SOP from candidates in order to check and look at the following things:

  • The writing capabilities of the writer or the candidate 
  • The X factor that makes their writing stand out from the crowd
  • Choice of thoughts and ideas that has been explained in the SOP
  • The unique personality of the candidate 
  • Candidate’s talent, previous experiences, interests and potential
  • How and what can the candidate contribute to the department of the college/university
  • Candidate’s motivation or inspiration to study a selected course must be evident and justified
  • The reason behind to choose a particular university/college and a particular course of study
  • Academic and extracurricular achievements and recognitions (if any)
  • Originality and clarity of the SOP as a whole. 

To know more, read our blog on – How to Write an SOP?

Check out the video on the same below!

How to Write a Powerful and Convincing SOP?

Whether applying for undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate programmes, the strategy of writing a powerful statement of purpose should be sound focused throughout. Starting from your academic and professional background to your career aspirations, you need to carefully connect all the dots between reaching your goals through your choice of school and course. The essay should always go in a flow covering your past experience, present involvements, and future plans. An important point to remember while writing your SOP would be to divide it into paragraphs that cover all the pointers. Here is a look at how you may write the SOP presenting your profile strongly:

This paragraph is often confused with self-introduction. It should not introduce you but should discuss what you are about to discuss in your SOP. There are multiple approaches you may adopt to go about this paragraph:

  • Discuss your long-term goal and connect it with your idea of pursuing the course you are applying to
  • Present your understanding of the chosen field and write how you want to contribute to that field
  • Explain your background in 2-3 lines and connect it with your future goals
  • Write about an anecdote that helped you realise your professional interest in the chosen field

This comprises of your academic background: what you have done so far, what you are currently pursuing, your academic strengths and projects, and the industrial exposure you have attained.

This is the most important paragraph, where you should discuss your short and long-term goals. Your immediate goal would be where you would want to work right after completing this course. You should be able to name some companies within India along with the designation you see yourself working at. This should explain the kind of job profile you would be working on.

Then comes your long-term goal, wherein you should mention where you see yourself from 10-12 or 15 years down the line. This may include your desire of working at the CEO/CFO/CTO level or maybe establish a firm that you own. It may also include your dream of expanding your existing family business overseas. You may also be interested in further studies like a PhD which can be included here.

More in this section may include your desire of becoming a professor or researcher. In any case, it is suggested that you discuss your business aim, principles, and core values or how you would influence the young aspirants of this industry. You should be able to portray ‘how you wish to make a difference in the industry keeping in mind the current industrial scenarios and emerging trends.

In this paragraph, you should discuss why you want to join a course and what modules would you tap during this course. It should also cover the skills you would acquire in this duration along with the exposure that would help in developing the skills desired to realise your goals.

This is a specific paragraph wherein you can convince a university as in how they are suitable for your profile and you are an ideal candidate for their university. You should discuss the course curriculum, research work, faculty names, as well as the university-specific activities that would help you in enhancing your profile.

Also Read: How to Write a Best Statement of Purpose?

Ideally, if considering an internationally renowned university, then the statement of purpose should be at least 1-2 pages long. In terms of word count, then the same should be around 1000 words. Having said that, the word limit and the length may also sometimes depend on the university that the candidate is targeting and also on the level of degree. Like for example, a candidate who is writing an SOP for an undergraduate program may not exceed 800 to 1000 words whereas a candidate who is writing an SOP for a PhD or M.Phil degree course has to write it in around 1200 words and sometimes even more. Some universities even have a fixed length and word count which is uniform for all the programs and courses. 

There are many elements to an SOP. Universities could ask question-based essays or simply a general statement of purpose. Until and unless categorically asked, an SOP must include your goals and the career path you have taken up so far as well as your academic progress. Other elements that are further important to the SOP are also the personal motivations that lead you to choose the university/course you have applied to as well as how you intend to use that experience to achieve that goal.

Following are a few things that you must do in order to make your SOP application strong:

  • Your Statement of Purpose should have a unique and engaging beginning as well as an end. It must be original, a reflection of you. 
  • Explain your academic background, present and future aspirations. Through this, you must justify your choice of a particular course for masters or doctorate courses.
  • Upon reading your SOP, the admission officer should be able to understand how you can contribute to the university in terms of research and further scope in your chosen area. 
  • Always write your SOP in an active voice and ensure you provide information in a manner that is a reflection of your passion and optimism. If you have any statements or references, try quoting them with relevant examples rather than being direct.

Often universities come across a lengthy statement of purpose and yet they reject it. Even when you cannot find one grammatical error, the seemingly excellent SOP would be rejected. And the primary reason is – too much unnecessary information. For instance, just because you might want to talk about your family, does not mean you go on and on to talk about only your family. While your SOP should be a brag sheet, it should be a brag sheet with a substance. You need to pick and choose what to include. Pick a theme and mention the accomplishments that make the most sense to your candidacy.

  • Weave your career path into a story, not statements.
  • Do not write what you think should be written. Personalise the SOP and make it your own.
  • Do not stress over it. Although it is an important part of your application, the SOP should be a direct reflection of you.
  • Find the deeper meaning behind the events of your life and pen them down.
  • Give a strong reason as to why you chose the particular school and course.
  • Be specific in the timeline of events.
  • Use a formal but conversational tone.
  • Accept your mistakes and explain how you are willing to act on improving. Use action items.
  • Give yourself enough time to write the SOP and edit it constantly. 
  • Proofread, edit, re-edit and then edit it again! There is always room for improvement, remember that.

Also Read: SOP for Scholarship

Statement of Purpose Samples

Here are some good examples of well structured SOPs that you can refer to while writing your own.

“ A successful career in Business Management requires adequate knowledge to utilise the strengths and weaknesses of an individual. In my undergraduate degree, I majored in economics and psychology because I believe that understanding these two fields is important for leading a successful business. I want to increase my experiences and knowledge further by pursuing an Executive MBA, which will equip me with advanced skills that are necessary to achieve my career goals.

As I have carried out various leadership positions, I have learned how to efficiently work in teams and pursue the specified goals. In my previous company, ABC, I successfully implemented the strength-cum-weakness finder software which helped us assign projects to the groups based on the mapped data. As employees got allotted tasks as per their efficiency, it resulted in a 30% net gain for the company over the following year. I believe that a successful business leader understands the importance of strategically utilizing a company’s resources to ensure the maximum potential and development of the company. Further, the pivotal thing I learned about myself by taking up leadership roles is that teamwork is a crucial element of successfully achieving an organisation’s objectives. An Executive MBA will help me furnish my leadership skills imparting me with the knowledge of hierarchical structures and how to work with other leaders of different domains in an effective manner.

Studying for an Executive MBA, I plan to take charge of multiple team projects throughout the duration of the degree so that I can polish my teamwork skills. I aspire to work under industry leaders and attain global exposure. Pursuing this degree from your institution, I aim to gain professional as well as personal skills that can help me soar through my career journey. ”

I had a keen interest in Biology since childhood. I was eager to learn about the living organisms around my surroundings and how they function. I took this interest forward and decided to pursue my higher education in biology. When I was first introduced to the field of biotechnology, I was mesmerized by what technology can do to improve the life of any living organism. This inspired me to look at various research programmes in biotechnology and how we are moving towards a phase where technology can alter even the basic fragments of any living organism and change the course of life an organism goes through. I observed the various research patterns that have been taking place in the agricultural industry with the advent of GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) giving birth to the Green Revolution. This was only one potential achievement in the extensive list of achievements that biotechnology was progressing towards. I worked with a reputed biotech firm which gave me an insight into how fast-paced the research in biotechnology is. The firm gave me the necessary exposure leading me to decide that I want to pursue MS in Biotechnology. My ambition to work in this field lies essentially in bringing changes in the lifestyle of people in a way that I can research and extensively study the required positive steps towards climate change. My goal is to achieve a sustainable lifestyle for every individual. The exposure that your esteemed institution will give me in the field of research will help me achieve this goal by working at a reputed platform

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  • SOP for Australia

Here is the basic format for USA, Canada, UK and Australia:

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

If you are planning to study abroad and want to write a good and outstanding statement of purpose for the university that you are targeting, then here are some of the common mistakes that you can avoid from the very beginning while writing an SOP:

  • Writing the SOP at the last moment without any plan of action or a roadmap
  • Writing a weak and vague introduction and conclusion 
  • Using informal language, slangs, short forms in your SOP
  • Exceeding the word limit and not reaching the correct word limit at all
  • Making your SOP excessively flashy and flattery


If you are eligible for any college-specific scholarships, then during the application process you will be required to write a separate essay/SOP. Either you will be given an essay prompt/question along with a word limit or they would simply ask for an SOP stating the reasons why you think you deserve this scholarship and/or what makes you unique from the rest of the candidates? Thus, a generic SOP is different from a scholarship SOP.

Must Read: LOR: Types, Format, Sample and Tip s

A Letter of Motivation is a letter directly addressed to the admission committee/department faculty explaining your objectives, motivation and goals related to the course. The SOP is not addressed to any specific person or department, it is drafted in an essay format, whereas, the motivational letter is always addressed to a professor or department under whose guidance you will be studying.

Also Read: How to Write a Motivation Letter?

Very much similar to an SOP, Personal Statements are an on-page essay where you write about your motivation, inspiration, goals, and achievements. Personal Statements usually have a more intimate tone than SOP as it talks about the highlighted incidents of your life. Another crucial difference between an SOP and a Personal Statement is that an SOP is addressed to no one in particular, while a Personal Statement is addressed to a professor or department under who you choose to study.

Relevant Reads:

Only your LORs need to be attested by your college or company. An SOP need not be attested/self-attested until and unless specified by the university. If you take a LOR from your college professor/school teacher or a Principal/Dean, then that LOR needs to be signed by the recommender along with the college/school stamp and letterhead. Similarly, for professional LORs, they need to be signed by their respective recommenders on the company’s letterhead and company stamp.

Once you have finalised your SOP draft, give it a double-check for grammatical and formatting mistakes. Your next step should be to analyse and critique your essay. Look at your SOP through the eyes of the Adcom and see what you find lacking. For more effective inputs, you can show your drafts to your friends and family and see how they react to them. Accordingly, you can make some changes but do not overdo it or deviate from the format. Lastly, check for spacing errors and save the final SOP which you will be using for the application process.

You should avoid mentioning any low marks or shortcomings about yourself in any of the application documents, including SOP. There are very few universities that ask you about your gap year. For them, you can mention the reason for the gap between your studies. Generally, no university asks about low grades during your study period as your selection depends on various criteria like exam scores, student profile, financials, and so on. Thus, it is advised against mentioning any flaws or low marks.

Hence, we hope that now you are geared up with all the quintessential tips to start carving out your SOP. If you still have doubts or need further professional guidance, you can always reach out to our Leverage Edu experts and we’ll assist you throughout the admission process, be it selecting a suitable course and university or drafting impressive SOPs and LORs. Call us immediately at 1800 57 2000 for a free 30-minute counselling session. Further, also follow us on  Instagram ,  Youtube ,  LinkedIn ,  Quora   and  Facebook   for more educational content.

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I was really impressed and happy with the informations I was able to get reading through your well documented page.

I am really impressed reading through your sample and guides in writing an SOP.I was able to put mine together and I have submitted awaiting feedback from the Admissions office. Thanks so much.

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11 Tips for Writing a Powerful Statement of Purpose [Sample SOP Included]

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

By Jitta Raghavender Rao • GradSchool Admissions

The Statement of Purpose is probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of graduate applications. Most students pass it off like it is just another essay about themselves, and naturally, write monotonous stuff that doesn’t stand out. That is why, the university admissions committee puts a hefty weight on statement of purposes and their structure  – they want to see whether you take the interest in letting them know how much you want to study at their university.

Most Statements Of Purpose Start Off Like This:

“I am applying to the Master of Science program in Something Engineering at the University of Example because I believe my technical skills will blossom at your program as it is a place where I will be challenged and where I can develop my scientific and technical knowledge.”

Or Like This:

“I am honored to apply for the Master of Science program at the University of Example because for as long as I can remember, I have had a love affair with science. Since I was a kid in school, I have known I wanted to be a scientist/engineer.”

Now, almost 99% of the statements are structured similarly, and often times, students copy-paste, and edit statement of purposes from their seniors or friends, making it sound even more generic or irrelevant to their applications. If you want to stand out from the crowd; if you want the admissions committee to remember your essay at the end of the day, even after going through hundreds of applications; if you want to gain that extra advantage by being somewhat special and unique, you will have to draft a great statement of purpose.  Great, but original .

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

How Can Your Statement Of Purpose Stand Out From The Crowd?

How do you write a great statement of purpose that sounds original, but at the same time gives the admissions committee what they are looking for? Simple. Basically, every university expects a student  to answer to some basic questions  that the admissions committee has. They may not ask you openly, but  these are generally what they expect you to answer:

  • What you want to study at graduate school?
  • Why you want to study only this degree?
  • Why do you want to study at this particular college? What do you like in us?
  • Why did you choose to study in this particular country? What do you like about it?
  • How much and what kind of experience you have in your field?
  • Is your experience related to you choice of degree?
  • If you are already experienced, what additional skills are you planning to gain from the degree?
  • What you plan to do with your degree after graduation?
  • Would you choose to end up with a job or take up research?
  • What are your expectations from both the graduate program, and the university?
  • Would you like to study or do research under any particular professor? If yes, why only them?
  • How can you contribute to our university and our program? What specific skills do you bring to the table?
  • Apart from work and education, what are your hobbies, interests, and habits? What are you like, as a person?
  • What do you understand about our student community and culture? Why do you think you will fit in?
  • What is that one unique aspect/characteristic about you that we should know? Why does it matter to us or to the fellow students of your class?

Now, these are the questions you will have to consider before starting off with your statement of purpose. Write down answers separately to each of the questions asked above, and try to build a story that the admissions committee would love to read. Remember, unlike an MBA program, you won’t be having any personal interviews for a graduate program, so  the only way to impress the admissions officers is by telling your story through the statement of purpose . You will have to convey your story in the best possible way, such that the committee finds you interesting enough. And if you are interesting enough to them, you will end up with not only admission, but also a decent scholarship as well .

Strategies to Write a Powerful Statement of Purpose

It is important that you follow a specific strategy when it comes to drafting your statement of purpose. Though most students write whatever comes to their mind, or whatever they see on the internet, you are not most people.  You would want your statement of purpose to sound brilliant, and original . And for that, you’ll need some strategies.

1. Write Stories. Not Statements

If given a choice, would you prefer reading a novel or a newspaper?

A novel, without a doubt. Do you know why?

Because while a newspaper gives you mere news and some eye-catching headlines, a novel tells you a story; a beautifully written piece of  literature that you will be emotionally connected to . It brings those humanly feelings out of you, and involves you in its storyline. You imagine yourself in place of the narrator/character, and understand why he/she has done that, or taken such decisions. We remember stories much easier than statements.

Because stories connect to us, statements don’t.

For example, most people say this:

“I used to work in a multinational software company in the development team, and I had to do the same job every day: code stuff. There was nothing new for me to learn at work, and there was nothing very exciting about going to the office. One day I decided that I had to get out of there, so I applied to college to study higher courses and get a better job.”

Doesn’t that sound like most stories? Albeit, a very normal story? Instead, how about saying this:

“Late in the night one Monday, I had found myself in the middle of a deserted office, and fifteen thousand lines of code. Full of caffeine in my bloodstream, and an empty life beyond office, I realized that the computers started coding my brain, and controlling my life. No longer wanting to let the machines feed on me, I decided that college would be my salvation.”

Both the stories come to about four lines. But which narrative do you think will keep the admissions committee reading? Which story do you think will be remembered by them even after reading 5000 applications?

Think again.  Do you want your statement of purpose to read like a novel or a newspaper?  If the former is your answer, then you need to put in a lot of effort to tell your story. Think about ‘why’ you want to study what you want to study. Is there a strong reason behind it? Is the reason emotional, economical, or any other? Think hard, and you will find a connection. The reason might not seem obvious in plain sight, but when you think hard enough, you will understand that  there is strong reason why you want to study a particular course/degree.

Now, when you have found this strong reason, tell it as a story. Write a short, but great narrative about what made you make this choice. About why you have chosen to study this course at this university. Impress the committee with your creative storyline, and you will reap the benefits big time.

2. Quantify Your Stories

Even though we asked you to write a story, you will have to remember that  your story should not read like a thesis . It should rather serve as the best source of information about you. And when it comes to information, numbers play a key role. Your story should be not only qualitative, but also quantitative. And that means,  your story must contain measurable quantities  instead of just stories, so the reader can understand the depth of it.

For example, if you have worked for a local NGO teaching math to primary kids, you could say:

“During my engineering days, I helped a local NGO by joining as a math tutor, where I taught basic math concepts to school children.”

Now even though this sounds really good, it doesn’t give the reader the entire picture and they certainly do not know how much of an impact you made on those children.

So,  you could change that bit to something like this:

“During my second year of engineering, I joined ‘Teach Math’, a local NGO, where I was a part of the Math tutoring team. For a  period of 10 months , I  taught basic math  like algebra, geometry and arithmetic  to more than thirty  5th and 6th grade students. And every single student I taught to,  secured an A  in math that year. I’ve never been prouder in my life.”

Do you see the difference? These numbers suddenly give a whole new perspective to the readers, and their respect for you is suddenly multiplied. That’s the power of numbers;  they add authenticity, and authority to your stories . If you can quantify your stories properly, and show the results instead of just actions, the committee will not forget your name. You can use the same strategy for the rest of your story, no matter what it is about.

Whether it is a research project you did, or a college fest you organized, or a college sports team you led, whatever it is, add numbers to your stories, and make them sound more realistic, and more beautiful.

3. Be Specific

You have to make sure that whatever you say in your statement of purpose, you need to be very specific with it. Don’t just say something because you think it will impress the admissions committee. Whatever you say,  you have to really dig into details . Be introspective. Don’t just say “I chose this degree because I love this field.” Explain clearly why you love this field, what made you decide that you want to work in this field for the rest of your life, what skills you are trying to amass, why it completes you as a person, etc.

Don’t beat around the bush like you normally would, when you talk to your friends. Don’t use ideal sentences like ‘I want to change the world’ or ‘I want to find my inner self’ or any of those cheesy lines. Just be straightforward and always to the point, but not so much as to come off as arrogant. Find your reasons and then  find a nice, memorable way to say it .

Grad school admissions officers require the statement of purpose not just because they want to find about you and your dreams. More importantly,  they want you to think for yourself , as to why you are taking such a life-changing step; why you think this is the best thing that can happen to you; and why you think you truly need it to succeed in life.

The ‘why’ is always profoundly important , and also an extremely difficult question to answer, which is why, if you can find answers to all the whys, then you are almost in.

4. Customize Your Essay

One of the biggest mistakes students make is to prepare a basic template for their statement of purpose, and if they are applying to more than one university, they simply change the relevant names and details. But the rest of the statement is an exact copy.

This is never a good idea, because though they might seem quite similar to each other, every university is vastly different from the others. Each of them has a diverse set of characteristics that define them, and their  cultures, methodologies, visions, values, mottos, strengths, weaknesses , etc., vary greatly. These things are much more important than the departments, or university rankings, or number of Ph.D.’s or other materialistic qualities.

So, if you are applying to multiple universities, you need to factor in all these qualities of every university, and customize your statement accordingly. Mere changes in names and details won’t suffice. You need to tailor your essay such that the admissions officers think you will fit in well into their community. Remember,  every student community is like a family , and if you give hints that you cannot fit into a family or their culture, you may not be welcomed easily.

Speaking of cultures, different countries obviously have different cultures, but even a large country like the US has different cultures in different parts of the country. So, before you begin writing, try and research the general culture within the region in which your target university is, and learn something about it. It may also help in aiding your decision process;  if a culture doesn’t attract you much, then there’s no point in wasting an application .

5. Use a Formal But Conversational Tone

Nearly all statements or essays come under two categories:  The super formal, and the super friendly . The first category is when you write a statement of purpose that is so formal, it looks like you are writing to your lieutenant in the military. The second one, of course, looks like a casual email to a friend. Now, when asked which one seems like a better choice, most students say the formal way is the way to go, and super friendliness is a big no. And still, a minor set of applicants think they can outsmart the admissions committee by sounding friendly, welcoming, and funny.

But, on further reflection, you would understand that  neither of the approaches is ideal . And you are right, neither of them is right. Like we talked about it already, your statement of purpose should read like a novel: slightly formal language, but still a tinge of fun and uniqueness. That is what you need. A conversational tone is the best and the safest way to go. Write like you are talking to someone, but avoid using casual language.

Imagine you are talking to your dean, or the director of your college . What would your language be like? That’s how your statement of purpose should sound. Now, occasional humor is okay, but you shouldn’t try to sound too funny or too smart. No intentional jokes or funny lines should find their way into your statement. After all, it’s a statement of purpose, and  the purpose is to pursue a graduate degree , not to impress people with your sense of humor. So, if what you write brings a smile on the readers face, then it’s perfectly alright. But  it shouldn’t make them throw away your application  because you didn’t seem serious enough to them.

6. Decide How You Want To Portray Yourself. And Learn How to Portray Indirectly.

You must see that the statement of purpose serves as a medium to convey your attitude, your personality and your character. Alright, those are some heavy words, and it can actually be difficult to them on paper. So, what you can do is,  learn what your statement of purpose should portray you as , in terms of a few criteria, which tell the admissions committee that you are:

  • Very passionate about the field of study you have chosen.
  • An Intelligent student who can withstand the academic workload of a graduate program.
  • Well-prepared academically and personally, and eager to study new courses.
  • Able to take on the challenges of studying at an international graduate school.
  • Able to build and maintain a good rapport with professors and fellow grad students.
  • Able to finish the graduate degree within time, and graduate with a good percentage.
  • A potential remarkable representative of that grad school in your future career.
  • A successful alumni of the grad school who in the future can help in recruiting graduates.
  • A responsible alumni who in the future will help raise funds for the grad school, to spend on research, infrastructure, facilities, student scholarships, etc.

These are basically the parameters that grad school admissions officers look at, when they decide who is joining their class.

Now, you might be wondering that the statement of purpose can only be as long as 1000 words, and that there’s quite a lot to cover in that little space. This is where your writing skills should come in. You simply can’t just go ahead and write “I am very passionate about the field of study I have chosen.” That is the last think you would want to write. What you should instead write is a sentence that indirectly means the same. You will have to choose your words wisely so as to indirectly communicate your “passion. You can use brief examples to show why you are so passionate about it.

For example,  you can say something like:

“My grandfather was a car mechanic. I remember when I was nine, he took me to his garage for the first time and showed me how he could repair my damaged bicycle so I could ride it again. When he passed away a few years later, he left me the entire garage. It was a turning point in my life. Some of my best days were spent inside the garage, where after coming back from school, I tried fixing various appliances in the house. That was what led me to choose to be a Mechanical Engineer.”

The above paragraph speaks volumes about you as a person and your passion for Mechanical Engineering without you actually saying it.  Any admissions officer in the world wouldn’t reject an applicant with such a deep reason , and such a wonderful story behind him/her. Now, remember, you don’t have to lie. Try and remember stories from your life that have shaped your decisions. And connect them beautifully to your goals and dreams.

Now similarly,  your “intelligence” can be conveyed by how you write . The quality of the statement of purpose, the organization, expression, etc. of your statement tells how intelligent you are. Demonstrating knowledge of the field, and using related jargon shows that you are “well-prepared”. Showing what you have done already describes your ability “to take on the challenges of grad school”. Your grades and your previous performance prove your ability “to finish the graduate program in time”. Being a “future remarkable alumni” can be implied by your being a commendable representative of your previous institutions, like your high school, or undergraduate school. Similarly, you will have to try and represent all the qualities mentioned above in an indirect, but powerful way.

7. Don’t Create Stories. Be Yourself

Because we asked you to write stories, there would naturally be an inclination to “create” stories out of thin air. Do not do this at all.  Write great stories only if you have great stories . Some people might come from normal backgrounds, who had normal lives, and probably didn’t achieve anything spectacular. It’s completely okay.  If you don’t have anything great to write, don’t write it . Be normal, and write normal stories.

It is better to be normal than to pretend to be someone you are not. The admissions officers are expert psychologists, and  they can spot a true applicant from a false applicant  with just one reading. So, you will badly hurt your chances of getting into your dream school if you try to be someone else. Just be yourself, and write only about the things that have happened to you, and the things that you are passionate about.

For instance, saying “I love research” just because you think they will like it, isn’t going to help you a lot. Whatever you say just for the sake of it, won’t appeal much to the committee, as  they would look for relevant evidences in your stories and in your past . So, don’t even think about fooling the committee with a false storyline. Try and be yourself throughout the essay.

8. Address Your Problems

The Statement of Purpose is a great opportunity for you to address some of your problems. If you have had any problematic academic background, or a gap year in your career, or if you had any work-related problems, you can address them on the statement of purpose in order to reassure the admissions committee. You must  try and be as honest as possible , and talk about your problems in a matured manner.

Instead of trying to defend yourself, you can point out the actual reasons that led to the problems, but more importantly, you should highlight ‘how’ you overcame the situation, and ‘what’ you have learnt from the experience. For example, let’s say that you got all C’s or all D’s in one semester. This normally isn’t the kind of academic profile a good grad school would want from you, unless there is a strong reason behind it. So, take some time and  dedicate a few lines to explain whatever happened .

If you had a health problem during your semester exams, or if you faced any emotional setback during that time, if you experience any personal loss, or if you had to take up additional family responsibilities other than studying, you can mention that in your statement. But, more importantly, you should not forget to demonstrate how your grades have been steadily improving since then, and that you now have a decent grade-point average in the discipline.

If you can spin this story well enough for the committee to empathize with you, then  your story will enhance the admissions committee’s image of you as a matured student , with the abilities to “take on additional challenges” and “to finish on time”, even when things are against you.

9. Do Your Homework

This is one very important point you should exercise while you are writing a statement of purpose. You should be thorough with the details of all the universities you are applying to, and list down all the things you like about each university, before you write the essays.

Most students simply write generic sentences like “I am impressed by the importance your university gives to research” or “I would like to study here because you have 100 Ph.D.’s and 20 Nobel prize winners.” etc. No, that is not how you do it. The admissions committee knows how great their college is;  you don’t have to remind them again and again . But, you should let them know what exactly you like about them, that you so badly want to be there.  The specifics are really important .

For example, you could say something like this. (Excuse the random jargon, it is only to give you an idea.)

“I would fully utilize the resources that the Wallenberg Hall provides, as I am particularly interested in the field of molecular chemistry. The special 24/7 laboratories provided for student research on molecular processing is exactly the kind of opportunity I am looking for, as I could totally see myself working in the labs day and night.”

And something like:

“I especially want to study under Dr. Mark Adams, Ph.D., as I have been an avid follower and admirer of his work in the field of quantum chemistry, which is not only the field I would choose for my research study, but also is a topic that I am zealous about, personally. I would be more than honoured if I can earn a spot in his research group.”

Do you see how professional it sounds? Such things show how well prepared you are, and how eager you are to study at that university. Now, to write something like this,  you obviously need to do lots of research  both online and offline, and be very thorough about the college, its facilities, courses, and professors. Yes, it is very difficult, but you better believe it is completely worth all the hard work.

10. Proofread, Edit, and Re-edit. Ask Friends and Family To Grade Your Essay

Another mistake students make is, they try and keep their essays to themselves. Maybe they are shy, or maybe they think their friends and family aren’t necessarily experts on the subject. So they think there’s no point in asking friends and family to critique on their essays. Wrong. Your statement of purpose speaks about you as a student, as an individual. Yes, there is technical slang involved, and yes your family members may not be experts on that. But,  they sure are experts on ‘you’ . Which is exactly why you should approach them.

They can not only give you additional points to add, but they can give you  valuable stories about your childhood  or schooling days, which you probably won’t remember. Plus, it’s very easy to say something about others, but at the same time, it’s painfully difficult to describe yourself to someone. Which is why someone very close to you, like friends and family, can describe you accurately. You will get  new perspectives on your stories , which sometimes are better than your own versions, and including them in your statement of purpose will do you a lot of good. Also, remember to proofread your statement time and again, and keep on re-editing content until you, your family and friends think you have the best statement in the world.

Remember that your statement of purpose is a  literary picture of ‘you’ as a person , and it is representing on your behalf. So, make it a top priority to avoid typos, misplaced commas and semicolons, overused quotes, being too wordy, using too many complex words and sentences, and being too straightforward. Be careful.  Be a perfectionist when it comes to writing . It shows how much you care about going to a particular college. And, once you are done with everything, do not forget to ask your friends and family to grade your statement of purpose, and ask them to criticize it accurately, so you can avoid submitting a less than perfect copy of your statement.

11. Take Advice From Professors.

If you know a professor at your undergrad institution, don’t hesitate to approach him/her for advice regarding your statement of purpose. They are of course very experienced prospects, and they might have seen thousands of statement of purposes and students in their careers. So, it wouldn’t hurt to ask for their opinion. Plus, since unlike your family, they are technically sound, they can also provide you valuable insights on how to project your technical expertise and project works in the statement.

After all, a  professor knows what another professor looks for in a prospective student , so it would only help if you approach your college professors. And, if they are really close to you, you can  also ask them for a really good letter of recommendation . So whichever way you look at it, there are only benefits for you.

Checklist for a Powerful Statement of Purpose

Here’s a basic checklist designed to help you draft a flawless Statement of Purpose. Make sure you write in an organized manner, and cover your points in a proper order. We have given this checklist so that you can write your statement of purpose without confusing yourself and the readers. Following a meticulous order like this will  make your statement of purpose a lot better to read and understand  about you and your story. Feel free to add anything else to the list if you think it will boost your chances, but remember to not write too much because you would then be exceeding the word limit. 


  • Introducing yourself in a unique manner.
  • Demonstrating your passion for the field.
  • Story about your background or experience in the field you’ve chosen.
  • Description of your academic background in the field you’ve chosen.
  • Specific classes or special courses you have taken, that are related to your field of interest.
  • Some of the professors you have studied under, especially if they are well-known in that field.
  • Co-curricular and Extracurricular activities in the field of you interest.
  • Publications or other professional accomplishments in the field (perhaps conference presentations or public readings)
  • Any community service or leadership experience while in college.
  • Explanations about problems in background (if needed)
  • Explanation of why you have chosen the specific grad school and other related questions as discussed in the beginning of this article.
  • Mention what you like about the university you are applying for, and why: facilities, infrastructure, etc.
  • Mention names of one or two professors in that school and what you know of and appreciate about their work, and why you want to study or work under their guidance.
  • Specific features of the grad program and the university, which attract you personally. And why.
  • Get advice from several of your professors, family, and close friends. Ask for stories about yourself.
  • Proofread and edit; ask friends and family to proofread for you as well.

So, those are some strategies and tips for you to write a powerful statement of purpose, impress the committee, and thereby ace the admissions process. Make sure you do every one of these things, and you won’t be far away from the college of your dreams. Do you have any strategies that worked well for you? Do let us know in the comments section.

We almost forgot!  We are giving away a sample Statement of Purpose for download, so you can get an actual glimpse of how the aforementioned tips and strategies have been incorporated in a real Statement Of Purpose. But remember, this should serve only as an inspiration to  your own  Statement of Purpose, but not a source to copy from. Close to 10000 students check this space regularly, and if every single one of them uses the same phrases in their own statement of purposes, very soon, everyone will be held for plagiarism. So, try and copy only the framework and the organization, but not the actual content. Happy Writing!

Download your free sample SOP now:

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127 Comments to “11 Tips for Writing a Powerful Statement of Purpose [Sample SOP Included]”

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I am confused about a question that why you want to pursue MS in CS ? I don’t have any research paper for technical work. But i have solid final year system project. and i want to go for higher education.

Need Help….

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It’s a question many students face when applying for a Computer Science program. In your case, if your final year project is related to Computer Science, try and emphasise how doing that project made you realize your interest for Computers. If you have any relevant work experience (software) then it will be easy for you to convince them about your choice of study. If you are applying for a top program, this is really important.

Try and build stories around your interest for computers, and use all the techniques given above. If you are still unsure, then maybe you should take a break, work for a year or two in a relevant field, and apply again. But, if you really want to go ‘now’, you should emphasise your project really well. Be positive! Good luck! 🙂

Hi Sachin, Thanks for useful insight on difficult doubt. I have tried hard for my SOP. i need someone could just refer it so i could get more correction and may help me build a good SOP.

If possible give me your mail-id. so i could mail to you !!!

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I sincerely appreciate the time and the effort you put to carefully explaining these steps, I am really grateful.

Thank you for all you do.

I have mailed my SOP on mentioned Email-Id. Could you please let me know any improvements in my SOP asap…..

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Just sent you a mail with steps you should take to improve your SOP. Let me know if you need help! 🙂

Just had a look around your suggestion. I would surely work around it. But I am confused which content to be removed because I have had much extracurricular activities and projects too!

Still I will concise it and will make improvements soon.

Thanks a lot!

Hi Jitta/ Sachin,

I have revised my SOP. Made necessary changes as suggested by you, Jitta. Thanks for your help! 🙂

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I sincerely appreciate the team that up this wonderful work together which I we take my time to follow accordingly but and I get a direct SOP format on my mail or something to prove read for me when done with it

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

Sachin yar , why you guys do not send the pdf man . I get a message that I will be delivered on the mail but I never receive it

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

Geat advice. Thank you so much!

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

Where is the sample sop? Can you please give me the download link?

The download link is available right at the end of the blog post. Hope you have found it already.

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

The essay is not available from the download link. I received one sample sop as a .vcf file which is not opening.

Paul, I just checked and the download link is working. Mind trying again?

Ok im trying again . but i told you that i got the mail after i clicked on the link. the mail has a .vcf file attached, which is not opening.

Could you check your email? We have sent you the direct download link. Happy Studying! 🙂

got it 🙂 Thanks so much 🙂

Awesome! Would love to hear how it helped you 🙂

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

Hey Sachin,

Thanks for the article! I really appreciate it!

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

I have already confirmed my email but can’t download the sample SOP.If you can send me the direct link as you did with “shaoni paul”, this will be nice .

Please re-enter your mail id and you will taken to the download page. Let me know if it doesn’t work 🙂

I hope you find the sample SOP helpful!

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

Just sending a .vcf file and downloading the same. Tried it twice.

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

Hey Keerthi,

I am sorry to hear that you had to go through this process twice. I just checked and it looks like your email isn’t confirmed yet. Please re-enter your email and make sure you confirm your subscription. You should receive an email with a link to the SOP after a few minutes. Let me know if you don’t receive this mail 🙂

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

Hello, what is an ideal length for SOP? Please reply quickly as I need to finalize my SOP within this week. This article helped me a lot. Thanks in Advance.

Shrawan, there is no definitive ideal length for a statement of purpose. It entirely depends on the course you are applying to. For instance, if you are applying for an engineering school and send a 5 page SOP, the admissions committee may conclude that you are unable to express yourself concisely. And if you are applying for a literature school and send a 1 page SOP, that would again be a disaster too.

The general norm is a two to three pages statement of purpose. If you are going beyond that, it just means you are writing things that are totally unnecessary and would only act as a hindrance to your admission.

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It was great to me~ It’s so helpful~

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This article was really helpful and readable. It was very surprising that your article actually answered what I was asking inwardly! I think you just have an insight into a person’s mind! Thank you very much 🙂

Thanks for the kind words, Sarah, I’m happy to hear that the article helped you answer your questions.

Let me know if there is anything I can do 🙂

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

Hi Thanks for your useful post. I made my SOP based on your tips and I emailed it now. Could you please kindly review my SOP and give notes about it? I’m in a hurry, because I’m going to apply tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow for universities where their deadlines are 5 Jan. So I appreciate if you do me the favor urgently 🙂

Hey Ali, Please check your inbox and let me know if there is anything else I can do 🙂

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The blog is excellently written and I am confident that it will certainly help me with my personal statement. Thanks.

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Thank you very much for the article. It was very useful! Last year, I applied to a couple of grad schools and got rejected, which I believe was in part due to my weak SOP. This year, I’ve tried to improve it and would be grateful if you could please review it for me, and let me know of its flaws. Thanks. Keep the good work going.

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Thanks for the write-up. I really need the sample SOP. Thank you.

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I really needed some advise and you really provided with excellent explanation and SOP. And want to tell you thank you very much for all this. Now I know what was the biggest mistake in my prior SOP and why University did not admit me. Thank you very much again!!! ^_^

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Excellent information with unique content and it is very useful to know about the information based on blogs.

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Hi, Thanks for such a wonderful article being made. It helped me in stating the exact way of writing and proposing in the way the reader expects….. Thanks a lot…. 🙂

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Thank u immensely for that great inside on SOP,I HV a better idea now on what to write.

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There’s definitely a lot to know about this issue. I like all the points you made.

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Thank you very much For such a creative blog,its much helpful. I really found answers of my all questions in this pretty written blog and it really awakened my mind to show that creativity which i had once before 3 years. Thanks once more dude.

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it’s really helpful, thank you!

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These tips are damn cool and intuitive hope so this will push me to touch zenith

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This is the best blog i have seen so far that fully explains how to write a SOP. Most blogs show you a lot of wordy stuff which forces you to copy since you don’t understand the structure instead of writing something original for yourself. With this information, it really bring out the saying; “Teach a man how to fish rather than giving him fish…” Thanks for all the help.

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Thank you for the tips and strategies am hopeful to write a good SOP and I have just started preparing my SOP and will continue to seek for your guide indue course.

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This article is quite amazing and full of insight. I am going to take to the above instructions with due attention to details.

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Thank you so much! Very helpful.

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This blog is excellently written, wished I found you earlier.

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High sachin, Thank you for your wonderful explanations on how to write a powerful SOP, To be sincere with you I really understand everything that you just explained and how you articulated it, I believed that it’s really going to help me a lots but the issues that I am having right now is that I don’t know if it’s actually possible for a computer science undergraduate that is currently in final year now at University to apply for any scholarship to pursue his MS in CS because I don’t have any research work though I’m still doing my project work

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Thank You So Much For Helping The World.

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Happy to help, Adikalie! Glad to know you found it useful. 🙂

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Thank you so much for this guide.

Hello plz when can I get a reply yet?

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Hi, Thank you for this wonderful information on writing SOP. It covers everything I was looking for

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Very informative…Thanks.

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Hy. Thank you, it is very helpful. now, I work on my own SOP for student exchange and this article solved my problem.

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Simply wonderful!

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Thank you for sharing this great source of information! I will prepare my statement accordingly!

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Hi, I find this article really impressive and useful.I hope this will help me a lot writing my SOP.

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Thanks for the detailed tips

Thanks for the detailed tips. Am so grateful for this.

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This article is so informative! Thanks a lot for such useful tips! Some students underestimate the role of the statement of purpose and as a result, they get rejections. So, without an appealing, error-free, interesting and sweet SOP it is almost impossible to get a place at grad school or any other institution. Some students prefer writing this piece of paper on their own while others consider hiring professional SOP writers to help them out and make their lives a bit easier. Anyway, as the author said, a statement of purpose is a chance to impress the assessing committee and distinguish yourself from the crowd. Let’s do this 🙂

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Fantastic SOP guide! I’m gonna apply to top universities this year so it’s going to be useful.

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Hi! the instructions are amazing and gave me great insights on how to write my ideal SOP! Thank you so much!

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Hello The post was wonderful and so much helpful

Thank you very much

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What a nice guidance… Thank you… I like the way you explain

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Sop writing is not a piece of cake but you have jotted down all the points in beautiful way. Keep It UP

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Your article is very helpful!

Thank you, Ray

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Hi, thank you for your helpful guidance.

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Hi! Thank you so much for these useful tips. They really helped me with getting started.

Hi! Thanks for the tips they really helped.

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This was extremely helpful!

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Excellent post! very useful information. you are the best

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Hi, Sachin!

Thank you very much for great advices and tips!

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Hi.. the post is amazing….

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Helpful tips!

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Thanks so much! This is really helpful.

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It was very helpful. Thank you so much!

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As much as I am still left tensed and pumped to work towards my SOP, this helped me calm down and have a sit-down with my own brain and work my way around it more steadily! Thank you so much!!!

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Hi,thank you for this, I’ve been thinking of how to compose my sop, but with this guide I believe I will be able to come up with something that’ll impress the grad school committee and gain my place in the university.

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Thanks for the detailed information.

Helpful information

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The guide is excellent. All students aspiring to write SOP must get it. THANKS SIR

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I found this article very useful and I appreciate the effort you put into it to keep us abreast. Cheers.

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Have a good day !

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That was great, complete and truly helpful.

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Thanks for this write up.

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Thank you for the useful article. An ever-increasing number of students will utilize this to compose their personal statement. The admissions committee will utilize this to enable them to see exactly your identity and to judge your reasonableness for their school, so it should be composed consummately. This will be the most critical piece of your application necessities and should be composed superbly. The application process for whichever school you’re applying for will expect you to supply a personal statement as a major aspect of your application. Thank you.

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Thank you for this wonderful steps in achieving a better SOP.

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Thank you very much for this important information. Actually I have realized that most of the mistakes I have been making are here mentioned. This time I will not repeat the mistakes. Thank you very much.

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Thanks for this brilliant article;

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I have always wondered how should my SOP look like ? I always wanted to have my own unique version as I am applying now. Though I had a rough idea, after going through this blog,I must say that I am more clear about what the contents should be and how the SOP should sound. Thanks a lot for sharing the tips.

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You are the best for sure! i am satisfied and i hope that i am going to make a very good SOP

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Very good post. I think these tips are helpful and needed. Writers often struggle with purpose statements, yet they are so important. What I like about your post is that you delve into various ideas and explain them well. Thank you for helping writers!!

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Thanks for this great post. It exposed a lot of flaws in my SOP and made me to believe that what caused the rejection of my grad application is the SOP. The admission committee states in the comment section that I met the minimum requirements but my application is not competitive.

Sure, I will do a hard think and find answers to all the why questions.

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Thank you for such nice tips. SOP are now becoming a requirement of every reputable college and university. I am also very worried as I want to apply for my masters in a reputable US university but I fear that my SOP writing skills are not very good. I hope these tips help and I get into a reputable university.

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It was great reading the writing skills of SOP, more in a story manner rather a statement. I will try to work on these lines. Thank you.

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the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

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Northeastern University Graduate Programs

How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

Congrats! You’ve chosen a graduate program , read up on tips for applying to grad school , and even wrote a focused grad school resumé . But if you’re like many students, you’ve left the most daunting part of the application process for last—writing a statement of purpose. The good news is, the task doesn’t have to feel so overwhelming, as long as you break the process down into simple, actionable steps. Below, learn how to write a strong, unique statement of purpose that will impress admissions committees and increase your chances of getting into your dream school.

What is a statement of purpose?

A statement of purpose (SOP), sometimes referred to as a personal statement, is a critical piece of a graduate school application that tells admissions committees who you are, what your academic and professional interests are, and how you’ll add value to the graduate program you’re applying to.

Jared Pierce, associate director of enrollment services at Northeastern University, says a strong statement of purpose can be the deciding factor in a graduate student’s admission.  

“Your statement of purpose is where you tell your story about who you are and why you deserve to be a part of the [university’s] community. It gives the admissions committee the chance to get to know you and understand how you’ll add value to the classroom,” he says.

How long should a statement of purpose be?

“A statement of purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words,” Pierce says, noting that it should typically not exceed a single page. He advises that students use a traditional font at a readable size (11- or 12-pt) and leave enough whitespace in the margins to make the statement easy-to-read. Make sure to double-space the statement if the university has requested it, he adds. 

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How to Write a Statement of Purpose: A Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you understand how to format a statement of purpose, you can begin drafting your own. Getting started can feel daunting, but Pierce suggests making the process more manageable by breaking down the writing process into four easy steps.

1. Brainstorm your ideas.

First, he says, try to reframe the task at hand and get excited for the opportunity to write your statement of purpose. He explains:

“Throughout the application process, you’re afforded few opportunities to address the committee directly. Here is your chance to truly speak directly to them. Each student arrives at this process with a unique story, including prior jobs, volunteer experience, or undergraduate studies. Think about what makes you you and start outlining.”

When writing your statement of purpose, he suggests asking yourself these key questions:

  • Why do I want this degree?
  • What are my expectations for this degree?
  • What courses or program features excite me the most?
  • Where do I want this degree to take me, professionally and personally?
  • How will my unique professional and personal experiences add value to the program?

Jot these responses down to get your initial thoughts on paper. This will act as your starting point that you’ll use to create an outline and your first draft.

2. Develop an outline.

Next, you’ll want to take the ideas that you’ve identified during the brainstorming process and plug them into an outline that will guide your writing. 

An effective outline for your statement of purpose might look something like this:

  • An attention-grabbing hook
  • A brief introduction of yourself and your background as it relates to your motivation behind applying to graduate school 
  • Your professional goals as they relate to the program you’re applying to
  • Why you’re interested in the specific school and what you can bring to the table
  • A brief summary of the information presented in the body that emphasizes your qualifications and compatibility with the school

An outline like the one above will give you a roadmap to follow so that your statement of purpose is well-organized and concise. 

3. Write the first draft.

Your statement of purpose should communicate who you are and why you are interested in a particular program, but it also needs to be positioned in a way that differentiates you from other applicants. 

Admissions professionals already have your transcripts, resumé, and test scores; the statement of purpose is your chance to tell your story in your own words.

When you begin drafting content, make sure to:

  • Provide insight into what drives you , whether that’s professional advancement, personal growth, or both.
  • Demonstrate your interest in the school by addressing the unique features of the program that interest you most. For Northeastern, he says, maybe it’s experiential learning; you’re excited to tackle real-world projects in your desired industry. Or perhaps it’s learning from faculty who are experts in your field of study.
  • Be yourself. It helps to keep your audience in mind while writing, but don’t forget to let your personality shine through. It’s important to be authentic when writing your statement to show the admissions committee who you are and why your unique perspective will add value to the program.

4. Edit and refine your work.

Before you submit your statement of purpose:

  • Make sure you’ve followed all directions thoroughly , including requirements about margins, spacing, and font size.
  • Proofread carefully for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Remember that a statement of purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words. If you’ve written far more than this, read through your statement again and edit for clarity and conciseness. Less is often more; articulate your main points strongly and get rid of any “clutter.”
  • Walk away and come back later with a fresh set of eyes. Sometimes your best ideas come when you’re not sitting and staring at your computer.
  • Ask someone you trust to read your statement before you submit it.

Making a Lasting Impression

Your statement of purpose can leave a lasting impression if done well, Pierce says. It provides you with the opportunity to highlight your unique background and skills so that admissions professionals understand why you’re the ideal candidate for the program that you’re applying to. If nothing else, stay focused on what you uniquely bring to the classroom, the program, and the campus community. If you do that, you’ll excel.

To learn more tricks and tips for submitting an impressive graduate school application, explore our related Grad School Success articles .

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in March 2017. It has since been updated for thoroughness and accuracy.

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Not sure what graduate schools are looking for in a statement of purpose? Looking at successful graduate school statement of purpose samples can help! In this guide, we’ll orient you to what makes a great statement of purpose or letter of intent for graduate school. Then we’ll provide you with four successful statement of purpose examples from our graduate school experts. We’ll also provide analysis of what makes them successful. Finally, we’ll direct you to even more helpful examples that you can find online!

The Graduate School Statement of Purpose: An Overview

A statement of purpose (also called a letter of intent or a research statement) introduces your interests and experience to the admissions committee. For research-focused programs, like most PhDs and many master’s degrees, your statement of purpose will focus primarily on your past research experience and plans. For more professionally-focused graduate programs, your statement of purpose will primarily discuss how your pursuit of this professional program relates to your past experiences, and how you will use the skills from the program in your future career.

A statement of purpose for grad school is also where you sell the admissions committee on why you belong in their program specifically. Why do you fit there, and how does what they offer fit your interests?


What’s in a Great Grad School Statement of Purpose?

Here are the essential elements of a strong graduate school statement of purpose:

Clear Articulation of Goals and Interests

A strong statement of purpose will clearly and specifically lay out your goals in undertaking the program and what you hope to accomplish with the degree. Again, for a research-focused program, this will focus primarily on the research project(s) you want to undertake while you are there. For a more professional program, discuss what interests you within the professional field and what skills/knowledge you hope to gain through the program.

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You should be as specific as possible in discussing what interests you. Use examples of particular phenomena, tools, or situations that you find exciting. If you are vague or say that everything in the field interests you, you run the risk of seeming unfocused or not actually that passionate.

Don’t worry that being too specific will box you into a particular research area or subfield during your entire tenure in graduate school. Your program understands that interests change—they won’t be pulling out your research statement to cross-reference with your dissertation proposal!

Evidence of Past Experience and Success

A great graduate school statement of purpose will also show programs that you have already been successful. They want applicants that will be able to follow through on their research/professional plans!

To this end, you’ll need to provide evidence of how your background qualifies you to pursue this program and your specific interests in the field. You’ll probably discuss your undergraduate studies and any professional experience you have. But be sure to draw on specific, vivid examples.  You might draw on your thesis, major projects you’ve worked on, papers you have written/published, presentations you’ve given, mentors you’ve worked with, and so on. This gives admissions committees concrete evidence that you are qualified to undertake graduate study!


Interest and Fit With the Program

The third essential ingredient to a great statement of purpose is to clearly lay out why you and the program are a good fit. You should be able to identify both specific reasons why your work fits with the program and why the program suits your work/interests! Are there particular professors you’d like to work with? Does the department have a strong tradition in a certain methodology or theory you’re interested in? Is there a particular facet to the curriculum that you’d like to experience?

Showing that you and the program are a match shows that you chose the program thoughtfully and have genuine interest in it. Programs want to admit students who aren’t just passionate about the field. They want students who are genuinely enthused about their specific program and positioned to get the most out of what they have to offer.

Strong Writing

The final essential piece of a strong statement of purpose or letter of intent is strong writing. Writing skills are important for all graduate programs. You’ll need to demonstrate that you can clearly and effectively communicate your ideas in a way that flows logically. Additionally, you should show that you know how to write in a way that is descriptive but concise. A statement of purpose shouldn’t ever be longer than two pages, even without a hard word limit.

Admissions committees for humanities programs may be a little more focused on writing style than admissions officers for STEM programs. But even in quantitative and science-focused fields, written communication skills are an essential part of graduate school. So a strong statement of purpose will always be effectively written. You’ll see this in our statement of purpose for graduate school samples.


Real, Successful Statement of Purpose Samples

In this section, we’ll present four successful graduate school statement of purpose examples from our graduate school experts, along with a brief commentary on each statement. These statements come from a diverse selection of program types to show you how the core essentials of a statement of purpose can be implemented differently for different fields.

Note: identifying information for these statements have been changed—except for example four, which is my statement.

  • Statement of Purpose Sample One: Japanese Studies MA

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 7.31.42 PM

This statement of purpose is notable for its great use of space and its vivid descriptions. The author is able to cram a lot into about a page. She discusses how she came to her two primary research interests (and how they are connected). She integrates this discussion of her interests with information on her past experiences and qualifications for pursuing the course of study. Finally, she includes details on her goals in pursuing the program and components of the program that interest her. Her examples are specific and fleshed-out. There’s a lot very cleverly included in a small amount of page space!

Additionally, the language is very vivid. Phrases like “evocative and visceral” and “steadily unraveling,” are eye-catching and intriguing. They demonstrate that she has the writing skills necessary to pursue both graduate study and her interest in translation.

  • Statement of Purpose Sample Two: Music MM

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 7.32.01 PM

This sample is fairly long, although at 12 point Times New Roman it’s under two pages single-spaced. The length of this statement is partially due to the somewhat expansive nature of the prompt, which asks what role music has played in the applicant’s life “to date.” This invites applicants to speak more about experiences further in the past (in the childhood and teen years) than is typical for a statement of purpose. Given that this is for a master’s degree in music, this is logical; musical study is typically something that is undertaken at a fairly young age.

This statement does an excellent job describing the student’s past experiences with music in great detail. The descriptions of the student’s past compositions and experiences performing new music are particularly vivid and intriguing.

This statement also lays out and elaborates on specific goals the student hopes to pursue through the program, as well as features particular to the program that interest the student (like particular professors).


  • Statement of Purpose Sample Three: Economics PhD

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One of the first things you’ll likely notice about this statement is that it’s a little on the longer side. However, at 12 point Times New Roman font and single-spaced, it still comes in under 2 pages (excluding references). It makes sense for a PhD statement of purpose sample to be longer than a master’s degree statement of purpose—there’s more to lay out in terms of research interests!

The writing style is fairly straightforward—there’s definitely a stronger focus on delivering content than flashy writing style. As Economics is a more quantitative-focused field, this is fine. But the writing is still well-organized, clear, and error-free.

The writer also gives numerous examples of their past work and experience, and shows off their knowledge of the field through references, which is a nice touch.

  • Statement of Purpose Sample Four: History of the Book MA

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 7.32.39 PM

This is actually my statement of purpose. It was for a program that I got accepted to but did not end up attending, for a Master’s in the History of the Book. You’ll notice that the two essay prompts essentially asked us to split our statement of purpose into two parts: the first prompt asked about our research interests and goals, and the second prompt asked about our relevant experience and qualifications.

I’ll keep my comments on this graduate school statement of purpose sample brief because I’ll do a deep dive on it in the next section. But looking back at my statement of purpose, I do a good job outlining what within the field interests me and clearly laying out how my past experiences have qualified me for the program.

Obviously this statement did its job, since I was accepted to the program. However, if I were to improve this statement, I’d change the cliche beginning  (“since I was a child”) and provide more specificity in what about the program interested me.


Deep Dive Analysis of a Sample Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

Next, we’ll do a paragraph by paragraph analysis of my statement, statement of purpose sample four. I’ll analyze its strengths and suggest ways I could shore up any weaknesses to make it even stronger.

Essay 1: Academic Interests

To refresh, here’s the first prompt: Please give a short statement that describes your academic interests, purpose, objectives and motivation in undertaking this postgraduate study. (max 3500 chars – approx. 500 words)

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Paragraph 1

Since I was a child, my favorite thing has always been a book. Not just for the stories and information they contain, although that is a large part of it. Mostly, I have been fascinated by the concept of book as object—a tangible item whose purpose is to relate intangible ideas and images. Bookbindings and jackets, different editions, the marginalia in a used book—all of these things become part of the individual book and its significance, and are worth study and consideration. Books and their equivalent forms—perfect bound, scrolled, stone tablets, papyrus—have long been an essential part of material culture and are also one of our most significant sources of information about the human historical past. Through both the literal object of the book, the words contained thereon, and its relationship to other books—forms of context, text and intertext—we are able to learn and hopefully manage layers of information with which we would otherwise have no familiarity.

First, the good: this paragraph does a good job introducing my academic interest in the book-as-object, and shows off pre-existing knowledge both of the study of material culture and literary theory. Additionally, the language is engaging: the juxtaposition of “tangible” and “intangible” in the beginning and phrases like “perfect bound, scrolled, stone tablets, papyrus” lend life to the writing and keep the reader engaged.

If I were to go back and improve this paragraph, first, I would absolutely change the first sentence to something less cliche than talking about my childhood. I might try something like “My love of books is a multifaceted thing. I don’t only love them for the stories and….” Second, I would chill out on the em dashes a little bit. Three sets in one paragraph is a little excessive. Finally, I might actually cut this paragraph down slightly to make more room word-wise later in the statement to discuss what specific things about the program interest me.


Paragraph 2

Furthermore, blogs, webcomics, digital archives, e-readers, and even social media sites like tumblr and Facebook have revolutionized the concept of the book by changing how we share and transmit ideas and information, just as the Gutenberg printing press revolutionized the book all those years ago in the fifteenth century. Once again there has been an explosion both in who can send out information and who can receive it.

This paragraph briefly and effectively introduces my other main academic interest: how new technology has changed the concept of the book-as-object. The tie-back to the printing press is a nice touch; it’s a vivid example that shows that I’m aware of important historical moments in book history.

Paragraph 3

I am deeply interested in the preservation of the physical book, as I think it is an important part of human history (not to mention a satisfying sensory experience for the reader). However I am also very concerned with the digitization and organization of information for the modern world such that the book, in all of its forms, stays relevant and easy to access and use. Collections of books, archives, and information as stored in the world’s servers, libraries and museums are essential resources that need to be properly organized and administered to be fully taken advantage of by their audiences. My purpose in applying to the University of Edinburgh’s Material Culture and History of the Book is to gain the skills necessary to keep all forms of the book relevant and functional in an age when information can move more radically than ever before.

This paragraph actually has a focus problem. Since it covers two topics, I should split it into two paragraphs: one on the integration of my two interests, and one on my goals and interests in the program. I could also stand to expand on what features the program has that interest me: professors I’d like to work with, particular aspects of the curriculum, etc.

In spite of these things, however, this paragraph does a good job clearly integrating the two academic interests related to the book I introduced in the first two paragraphs. And the language is still strong —“satisfying sensory experience” is a great phrase. However, I’ve been using the word “information,” a lot; I might try to replace with appropriate synonyms (like “knowledge”) in a couple of places.

Paragraph 4

Additionally, I intend on pursuing a PhD in Library and Information Sciences upon completion of my master’s and I feel that this program while make me uniquely suited to approach library science from a highly academic and interdisciplinary perspective.

This final paragraph offers just quick touch on my future goals beyond the program. It’s typically fine for this to be relatively brief, as it is here, just so long as you can clearly identify some future goals.


Essay 2: Relevant Experience

The second prompt just asked me to describe my relevant knowledge, training, and skills.

As a folklore and mythology student, I have gained a robust understanding of material culture and how it relates to culture as a whole. I have also learned about the transmission of ideas, information, stories and pieces of lore among and between populations, which is an important component of book history. Folklore is also deeply concerned with questions of the literary vs. oral lore and the tendency for text to “canonize” folklore, and yet text can also question or invert canonized versions; along with this my studies in my focus field of religion and storytelling have been deeply concerned with intertextuality. One of my courses was specifically concerned with the Heian-period Japanese novel The Tale of Genji and questions of translation and representation in post-Heian picture scrolls and also modern translations and manga. In addition to broader cultural questions concerned with gender and spirituality both in historical Japan and now, we considered the relationships between different Genji texts and images.

This is a strong, focused paragraph. I relate my academic background in Folklore and Mythology to my interests in studying the book, as well as showing off some of my knowledge in the area. I also chose and elaborated on a strong example (my class on the Tale of Genji ) of my relevant coursework.

I also have work experience that lends itself to the study of the book. After my freshman year of college I interned at the Chicago History Museum. Though I was in the visitor services department I was exposed to the preservation and archival departments of the museum and worked closely with the education department, which sparked my interest in archival collections and how museums present collection information to the public. After my sophomore year of college and into my junior year, I worked at Harvard’s rare books library, Houghton. At Houghton I prepared curated collections for archival storage. These collections were mostly comprised of the personal papers of noteworthy individuals, categorized into alphabetical folders. This experience made me very process-oriented and helped me to understand how collections come together on a holistic basis.

This paragraph also has a clear focus: my past, relevant work experience. Discussing archival collections and presenting information to the public links the interests discussed in my first statement with my qualifications in my second statement. However, if I were to revise this paragraph, I would add some specific examples of the amazing things I worked on and handled at Houghton Library. In that job, I got to touch Oliver Cromwell’s death mask! An interesting example would make this paragraph really pop even more.

Finally, in my current capacity as an education mentor in Allston, a suburb of Boston, I have learned the value of book history and material culture from an educational perspective. As a mentor who designs curriculum for individual students and small groups, I have learned to highly value clearly organized and useful educational resources such as websites, iPad apps, and books as tools for learning. By managing and organizing collections in a way that makes sense we are making information accessible to those who need it.

This final paragraph discusses my current (at the time) work experience in education and how that ties into my interest in the history of the book. It’s an intriguing connection and also harkens back to my discussion of information availability in the paragraph three of the first statement. Again, if I were to amp up this statement even more, I might include a specific example of a book-based (or book technology-based) project I did with one of my students. I worked on things like bookbinding and making “illuminated manuscripts” with some of my students; those would be interesting examples here.

This statement is split into two parts by virtue of the two-prompt format. However, if I were to integrate all of this information into one unified statement of purpose, I would probably briefly introduce my research interests, go in-depth on my background, then circle back around to speak more about my personal interests and goals and what intrigues me about the program. There’s not really one correct way to structure a statement of purpose just so long as it flows well and paragraphs are structured in a logical way: one topic per paragraph, with a clear topic and concluding sentence.


More Statement of Purpose Examples

We’ve provided you with four great graduate school statement of purpose examples from our graduate school experts. However, if you’re looking for more, there are other sample letters of intent and statements of purpose for graduate school online. We’ve rounded up the best ones here, along with some strengths and weaknesses about each example.

Majortests Statement of Purpose Sample

This is a fairly straightforward, clearly written statement of purpose sample for a biology program. It includes useful commentary after each paragraph about what this statement of purpose is accomplishing.

  • This statement of purpose sample is well-organized, with clear topic sentences and points made in each paragraph.
  • The student clearly identifies what interests her about the program.
  • The student proactively addresses questions about why she hasn’t gone directly to graduate school, and frames her professional research experience as a positive thing.
  • She gives a tiny bit of color about her personality in a relevant way by discussing her involvement with the Natural History Society.
  • In general, discussing high school interests is too far back in time unless the anecdote is very interesting or unusual. The detail about The Theory of Evolution is intriguing; the information about the high school teacher seems irrelevant. The student should have condensed this paragraph into a sentence or two.
  • While this statement is cogently written and makes the candidate sound competent and well-qualified, it’s not exactly the most scintillating piece of writing out there. Some of the constructions are a little awkward or cliche. For example, the “many people have asked me” sentence followed by “the answer is” is a little bit clunky. This is probably fine for a STEM program. But just be aware that this statement is not a paragon of writing style.

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UC Berkeley History Statement of Purpose Sample

This is a graduate school statement of purpose example from the UC Berkeley History department’s PhD program, with annotations from a professor as to why it’s a successful statement.

  • The author is able to very clearly and articulately lay out her research interests and link them to past work she has successfully completed, namely, her thesis.
  • She is able to identify several things about the program and Berkeley that indicate why it is a good fit for her research interests.
  • She addresses the time she spent away from school and frames it as a positive, emphasizing that her use of time was well-considered and productive.
  • Her writing is very vivid, with excellent word choice and great imagery.

While very well-written and engaging, this sample statement of purpose for graduate school is a little bit on the long side! It’s a little over two single-spaced pages, which is definitely pushing the limits of acceptable length. Try to keep yours at 2 pages or less. Some of the information on the thesis (which comprises over half of the statement of purpose) could be condensed to bring it down to two pages.


Pharmacy Residency Letter of Intent Sample

This is not technically a sample letter of intent for graduate school because it’s actually for a pharmacy residency program. However, this example still provides illumination as to what makes a decent graduate school letter of intent sample.

  • This is a serviceable letter of intent: the writer clearly lays out their own goals within the field of pharmacy, what qualifications they have and how they’ve arrived at their interests, and how the program fits their needs.
  • The writing is clearly structured and well-organized.
  • The main weakness is that some of the writer’s statements come across as fairly generic. For example, “The PGY-1 Residency Program at UO Hospitals will provide me with the opportunity to further develop my clinical knowledge, critical thinking, teaching, research, and leadership skills” is a generic statement that could apply to any residency program. A punchier, more program-specific conclusion would have amped up this letter.
  • While the writer does a decent job providing examples of their activities, like working as a tutor and attending the APhA conference, more specificity and detail in these examples would make the statement more memorable.
  • There’s a typo in the last paragraph —a “to” that doesn’t belong! This is an unprofessional blip in an otherwise solid letter. Read you own letter of intent aloud to avoid this!

NIU Bad Statement of Purpose Example

This is an ineffective graduate school statement of purpose example, with annotations on why it doesn’t work.

As you might imagine, the main strength in this document is as an example of what not to do. Otherwise, there is little to recommend it.

  • The annotations quite clearly detail the weaknesses of this statement. So I won’t address them exhaustively except to point out that this statement of purpose fails at both content and style. The author includes irrelevant anecdotes and lists without offering a decisive picture of interests or any particular insight into the field. Additionally, the statement is riddled with grammatical mistakes, awkward sentence structures, and strange acronyms.
  • You’ll note that the commentary advises you to “never start with a quote.” I agree that you should never start with a freestanding quote as in this example. However, I do think starting with a quote is acceptable in cases like the Berkeley history example above, where the quote is brief and then directly linked to the research interest.


Graduate School Statement of Purpose Examples: 4 Key Points

Graduate programs ask for statement of purpose to hear about your interests and goals and why you think you and the program would be a good fit.

There are four key elements to a successful statement of purpose:

  • A clear articulation of your goals and interests
  • Evidence of past experiences and success
  • Interest and fit with the program
  • Strong writing

We’ve provided you with four successful statement of purpose samples from our graduate school experts!

We also provided additional statement of purpose samples (and a sample letter of intent) for graduate school from other sources on the internet. Now you have all kinds of guidance!

What’s Next?

If you’re looking for more information on graduate school , see our guide to what makes a good GPA for grad school .

Not sure if you need to take the GRE ? See if you can get into graduate school without GRE scores .

Want more information about the GRE? We can help you figure out when to take the GRE , how to make a GRE study plan , and how to improve your GRE score .

Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

Author: Ellen McCammon

Ellen is a public health graduate student and education expert. She has extensive experience mentoring students of all ages to reach their goals and in-depth knowledge on a variety of health topics. View all posts by Ellen McCammon

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

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How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Grad School (Examples)

the statement of purpose in a business plan should be at least two pages

What is a Statement of Purpose for Grad School?

The Statement of Purpose (or “SOP letter”) is a key component of your application materials for most graduate schools, MBA programs, and Ph.D. programs in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and other countries around the world with an English-language curriculum. The most important thing about the statement of purpose (or personal statement) is that it ties together grades, test scores, and application and expands upon it, giving admissions officers a much more expansive window into who you are as a student and a person.

Although the graduate school application and academic CV provide a lot of information about you as a candidate, the letter will tell them “who you are” and “what you want to be” in a much more detailed and personal way than the other components in the application package.

What to Include in a Statement of Purpose

Before entering a graduate program, the graduate faculty need to know why you are interested in coming to this institution or program and how it will help you achieve your larger academic and professional goals in life. They also need to see that you are a person capable of high academic achievement in their given program. This means an extended history of your academic achievements during your undergraduate career (and graduate career if you have attended grad school), as well as the goals and objectives you have set out for yourself.

Ultimately, you need to stand out as a candidate from the field, showing why the admissions officers should accept you over the many other strong graduate candidates. The Statement of Purpose should highlight the reasons why you are more than just your test scores and grades—it could even help you overcome a less-than-perfect score in a class and account for any missing years in education. Therefore, keep in mind that your grad school SOP letter should be honest, candid, and most importantly, complete.

How long should a Statement of Purpose be? 

For most grad school programs, your Statement of Purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words, depending on the level of your program and your academic history and achievements. A grad school SOP usually does not exceed two pages when written in a traditional font at a readable size of 11-point or 12-point. Leave enough whitespace in the margins to make the statement easy for admissions committees to read. Your SOP letter should also be double-spaced and follow standard formatting rules for university essays. Visit your program’s admissions website for specific Statement of Purpose formatting details.

Specific SOP Letter Questions to Answer

The following questions should be clearly answered in your SOP (in relatively this order):

  • WHO are you (as a person and a student)?
  • HOW did you become interested in this topic/field of study?
  • WHAT have you done so far in the field of your choice?
  • WHY/HOW do you want to study this field?
  • WHY do you want to study at this university/program and WHY are you a good fit?

What style of writing is needed in a Statement of Purpose?

Although the SOP letter is more informal than a research paper, make sure that your language is not only free of grammatical and mechanics errors but that it is of an academic level that reflects your educational level and qualifications. Apply the following standards to the writing and the essay-drafting process:

  • Compose using “graduate-level” academic writing.
  • Make your language more personal in tone than research writing.
  • Use the active voice and first-person point of view more often.
  • Write chronologically, starting from your most important actions and achievements during your undergraduate years.
  • Use lots of details—list course names, professors, methods, and specific schools and programs.
  • Write several drafts of your SOP letter, giving yourself time to edit, revise, and edit again before submitting your essay to the graduate admissions faculty.

Statement of Purpose Organization

A well-structured Statement of Purpose allows readers to see your growth and development as an individual and as a researcher and student. You can think of the SOP letter as a story where all parts are in sequential, chronological order. The following is the most standard structure of a Statement of Purpose. For each “section,” you should write at least one paragraph but no more than two paragraphs, depending on the word-count limit indicated by your graduate program:

  • A  “hook”  that demonstrates your passion for the field
  • Segue  (transition) to your background in the field
  • Specific  classes  you have taken, given by name
  • Specific  professors  you have had, especially if well-known
  • Extracurricular activities  in the field
  • Publications  and other  professional accomplishments  in the field
  • Explanations about  problems in your background  (if applicable)
  • Mention  one or two professors  whose work you appreciate
  • Specific features  of the grad program which attract you
  • A  brief conclusion  repeating your purpose for applying to this program

Statement of Purpose Brainstorming Questions

As we mentioned above, it is critical that you answer all the questions expected in your Statement of Purpose. While graduate programs almost always provide specific prompts and instructions on their university/program website, the list below gives much more in-depth questions that you can answer to ensure impressing the graduate admissions faculty at your program. Use these as prompts to answer and brainstorm your more complete answers in each section (see the examples in the images below).

Academic/Professional Interests and Motivations

  • What most interests you about this area of study?
  • Why are you interested in this area and topic?
  • When did you first start to show an interest? How did you exhibit this interest?

Academic Background

  • What majors, classes, or other academic experiences have you had in this field?
  • Which of your work, research, and/or extracurricular experiences are related to this field?

Publications/Professional Accomplishments/Awards

  • What work have you published or written (thesis, dissertation, etc.) related to this field?
  • Which awards have you received that show my ability?

What are your short-term and long-term goals?

  • What do you hope to accomplish academically?
  • What sort of research or professional work do you want to do in the future with your graduate degree or Ph.D.?

Recent Research/Professional Activities and Preparation

  • What work have you been involved in recently that has prepared you for this program?
  • What have you been involved in recently to show your interest in this field?

Why are you interested in this university and graduate program?

  • What does this university/program offer you that other schools don’t?
  • Which courses and professors most interest you?
  • What makes you a “good fit” for this institution?
  • What will you bring to this program?

What makes you stand out as a graduate school candidate?

  • What other information about you should the school know that will attract them to you?
  • Do you have any unique abilities or circumstances?

Do you have any weaknesses or missing elements you need to explain?

  • Do you have any semesters of low grades that you may need to account for?
  • Any inconsistencies or big changes in your academic or professional direction?

Statement of Purpose Structure in Detail

Think of the following questions and their answers as topic sentences or “mini-theses” that will guide the information and details in the rest of the paragraph. Answer each question during the brainstorming process and write it in a simple sentence or two. After answering these important questions, you will have a complete working outline (nearly a first draft!) in which you can later fill in the details, edit, and revise.

Grad School Statement of Purpose Example

University/Program:  NYU Anthropology Department

Major:  East African Studies

Paragraph 1: Introduction and Intended Program (“hook”)

statement of purpose example introduction paragraph

Paragraph 2: Background, Interests, and Motivations (“segue”)

statement of purpose example paragraph

Paragraph 3: Elaborate on your academic background

statement of purpose example paragraph

Paragraph 4: Extracurricular Activities

SOP example text

Paragraphs 5-6: Publications and More Recent Activity

graduate SOP example fifth paragraph

Paragraph 7: Why are you a good fit for this program and school?

graduate SOP example seventh paragraph

Paragraph 8: SOP Conclusion/Commitment Statement

statement of purpose example final paragraph

More Statement of Purpose Samples

Here are several examples of successful graduate school statements of purpose. Both candidates were applying to top-15 graduate and MBA programs. Notice how each essay incorporates their personal experience with their future goals, both academic and career.

Note: These are actual sample essays edited by professional editors . Personal info is redacted for privacy. This is not a reusable template.

Statement of Purpose Example 1

Computer science (CS) studies require abstract thinking and practical problem-solving skills. Hence, CS students usually need strong theoretical and technical abilities, which I have gained through my undergraduate education. For example, I am well-trained in mathematics, and the courses I have taken in the field have laid a solid theoretical foundation for understanding abstract computational propositions and designing complex algorithms. I am also skilled at computational thinking: I can connect theories with real-life problems and create computer programs to provide innovative solutions. Additionally, I am very passionate about studying CS because I know that CS will significantly impact my career and future life. Therefore, I feel confident that I will succeed in the _________ Program. I am looking forward to studying at ______, where I can learn how to create web scrapers, manage databases, contribute to open-source projects, and research various advanced topics.

The introduction immediately states the academic program and field of study. It adeptly defines what “success” is in the field of CS and connects that with his/her history, skills, and passions.

During my undergraduate career, I took many pure math courses, including Linear Algebra, Probability Theory, and Mathematical Statistics. These courses have prepared me well for studying advanced computer science because a wide range of methods used in modern computational research is based on mathematics. For example, in machine learning, knowledge from linear algebra and mathematical statistics is the basis for two key research methods: algebraic and statistical methods. Thanks to my proficiency in both areas, I will be able to find statistical explanations for the algebraic approach as well as perform algebraic calculations for statistical models. Therefore, I am confident in my ability to solve various theoretical problems during hands-on machine learning research. 

This part talks about academic history and skills. This applicant has the academic background and course history to be prepared for graduate-level study.

Furthermore, the computational thinking skills I gained from my undergraduate education enable me to formulate a problem, express the solution, and evaluate the results. In my Mathematical Modeling class, my professor introduced a mathematical model for describing the stock market. However, I soon realized that the model was too simple to illustrate real scenarios due to the lack of time variables. Therefore, I supplemented his original model with an iterative formula to measure time, programmed equations into a MATLAB editor, and generated solution graphs. I was surprised by the results, which implied a potential contradiction with the professor’s proposed solution. When I explained my findings to the professor, he was very impressed by my work. I plan to continue to capitalize on the strength of my computational thinking skills at Columbia to manage complex databases, practice classic algorithms, and apply my computer science expertise to solve real-life problems.

The applicant moves on to give an academic experience that demonstrates how he/she learns. How does the student handle barriers? How does the student interact with professors and mentors? How did he/she solve a problem? Graduate programs are looking for students who take control of their learning. 

One of the primary reasons that I want to study computer science is my internship experience. During the winter break of my junior year, I worked as an investment research intern at a private equity firm, where I was responsible for collecting financial data and writing industry reports. I enjoyed this work and continued finding methods to improve my efficiency—I wanted to spend more time on data analysis and less on manual data collection. After visiting another private equity firm with my manager, I realized that I needed to learn computer science. At that firm, all of the data collection and analyses were done automatically by its data mining and machine learning system. Using this approach, the firm could spend more time communicating with investors to raise more capital. Although I later switched my career goal to economics research, I am still motivated by what I learned from my internship experience: in the 21st century, computer science will fundamentally change every industry and every one of us. As such, we must embrace computer science to gain advantageous positions for our careers.

The applicant next explains why he/she wants to study at this program. The applicant writes about a professional high-performing experience that informed why studying CS could be beneficial. The applicant only learned this while “on the job .”

Outside of the classroom, I enjoy hiking. During my three years in _____, I climbed many mountains in the area. Hiking can be challenging on steep trails because I am sometimes exhausted, only halfway to the top. However, I never give up. In these moments, I will take a rest, have some energy bars, and continue walking until I reach the apex and discover the beautiful scenery there. Studying computer science is similar to hiking in some ways: as a non-CS major, I may find some CS courses challenging. However, with the patience and perseverance I have learned through hiking, I am able to overcome these challenges and master advanced computational techniques. As an international student, I will maintain full-time enrollment at my current university in order to attend the program if I am admitted. I hope to apply the computer science skills I will acquire at Columbia to boost my career development and achieve a better future.

Here, the student shows how well-rounded she/he is. Challenges are to be expected and not avoided. The applicant shows that balance is key to her/his way of learning.

Statement of Purpose Example 2

Life is short, but it is enjoyable to pursue and commit to something you love. My interest in information systems arose from my internship. Previously, I just wanted to start my career as a business analyst, more focused on the business side. But after the internship, this changed. At ____ , I gained exposure to SaaS and FinTech, which piqued my interest in programming, machine learning, and technology. Learning about these two fields afforded me opportunities to research technology and information science methods, and the process of actually handling data for analysis taught me that data is more useful in today’s business world than it was in the past, and I need to improve my data processing and forecasting skills to better serve my data-related work. My current master’s program focuses more on statistics than machine learning and technology, so I am eager to enroll in ____ ’s Master of Science in Information Systems program to follow my passion. I am confident that my strong academic background and relevant experience will allow me to succeed in this program.

The applicant immediately demonstrates his/her professional background. If your professional background is your best selling point, start with it. The applicant is a mature candidate and is applying because she/he knows what they want and what they need from the program.

After my undergraduate study in finance, I wanted to improve my statistical and technical skills along with business knowledge in order to meet my future job needs. In 2019, having achieved outstanding grades, I enrolled in ____ University’s master’s degree program in Applied Statistics and Decision Making. But based on my previous internships and projects, I want to take more courses in information systems and programming. Upon entering my current degree program, I selected courses on statistics, regression analysis and modeling, Python, R, sentiment analysis, and similar topics. These statistical and data science courses resolved some of the challenges I faced during my internship and helped determine my career goal in technology.

The second paragraph most often recalls the candidate’s academic or undergraduate history. The goal is to demonstrate you have taken the proper coursework to be prepared and you are aware of the skills needed.

This past summer, I interned at Visa in financial data analytics, a business-technology combined role. Compared to my previous internship at ____ , I learned more about data and technology foundations by gaining a comprehensive knowledge of the data analysis process. We use customer reporting and company network data to analyze customers’ credit status and make adjustments accordingly. Specifically, I used Python and SQL to conduct EDA and ETL processes. Then, I wrote a filter function to realize data extraction automation. After that, I compared and analyzed the internal business data. I marked the flagging value with the binary standard, using simple classification models, like logistic regression and random forest, to understand changes in the data. Finally, I designed dashboards using Tableau to show the investment and management team the flagging data of customers and their overall credit statuses. Through this internship, I was able to apply my theoretical knowledge to a specific extent, but it was still relatively simple data analysis and machine learning, as I did not optimize my model or made predictions. In order to conduct more in-depth research and make predictions, I decided to learn more about modeling and technical methods.

Next is professional experiences. The applicant details real, professional projects she/he has completed. The applicant shows why and how each tool is important in a business context (this candidate was applying to a top business school in NYC).

Therefore, I have decided to pursue graduate study in information systems at ____ . Several features of your program make it the perfect place for my future studies. First, the opportunity to pursue a summer internship to enhance my future job prospects appeals to me. Second, I am drawn to the comprehensive structure of the curriculum. I will have the chance to study in both the ____ School of Business and Computer Science and conduct an information technology project, which will enable me to achieve my goal of mastering business methods as well as algorithms relevant to technology management. Furthermore, I believe I am a great fit for your program and can both succeed and contribute a unique perspective. I have the requisite knowledge of business, statistics, mathematics, and programming required by the program. My previous internships and projects have provided me with substantial experience in both business and technology, and I have a clear understanding of what I hope to achieve in the program. Ideally, I want to consolidate my prior knowledge, focus on algorithms and systems, and deepen my study of machine learning and algorithms to be able to use various models flexibly and fluently. Finally, because I have studied in _____’s summer program, building a strong network with my professors and classmates, and earned my first graduate degree in New York, there is no question of my being able to adapt and assimilate to a new culture or environment. 

This section explains why the student is applying, what he/she hopes to gain, and what she/he can contribute. They cite the program’s strong network as a selling point.

Within one year of graduation, I hope to find a satisfying job related to technology and business, such as a technology consultant or product manager position in a technology or finance company. In the long run, I am eager to grow my network, make critical contributions to my team at work, and hope to become successful in the field of technology. Continuing my studies in your distinguished program would be a worthwhile journey for me and an integral step to achieving my goals.

Further Tips for Writing the Graduate Statement of Purpose

  • Highlight your self-motivation, competence, and potential in this essay
  • Emphasize everything from a positive perspective and write in the active voice.
  • Demonstrate through examples; don’t just write that you are a “persistent person”—show it!
  • Approach every topic with continuity and focus.
  • Start at least 2-3 months in advance and write several drafts of your SOP letter before finalizing your essay.

The Final Step: Editing Your SOP Letter

As any good writer knows, it takes more than one draft to create a strong and compelling work of writing. After you have brainstormed for your grad school SOP letter, answered key questions, created a working outline, and written your first draft, there is still a lot of room for revision. Share your work with a friend or peer whose opinion you trust.

Even better, let a professional proofreading service like Wordvice (including personal statement editing and statement of purpose editing services ) revise and proofread your essay so that it lives up to its full potential and helps ensure that you will be admitted to the graduate or doctoral program of your choice. Our Essay Editing Services also include recommendation letter editing and cv editing , covering all kinds of application documents for college, university, MBA programs, and other advanced degrees and programs.

For more academic resources on writing the statement of purpose for grad school and editing your essays and academic work, check out the following articles and videos.

Wordvice Admissions Resources

  • All You Need to Know About the Letter of Recommendation
  • Tips for Writing a Strong Personal Statement 
  • Write a Strong MBA Admissions Essay
  • Writing a Strong Recommendation Letter
  • Sample Academic CV for Graduate Programs

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Statements of Purpose: Drafting Your Statement

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The statement of purpose is perhaps the most important, and most challenging, element of your application packet. This letter needs to reflect who you are and why you would be an asset to the program you are applying to. It needs to make you stand out from the hundreds of other applicants and yet stay within the genre-based expectations for a statement of purpose. This resource provides information on writing statements of purpose specifically for graduate school applications.

Write one essay for each program. Although they may sound similar, each program’s statement prompts asks for slightly different pieces of information about who you are. You may be fortunate to have two or three similar prompts for a few programs, but even then, remember that you must meld your own interests with the opportunities available at each particular program--so, no two statements should read exactly alike. In essence, be prepared to draft (and continuously revise) dedicated statements for each program application. Don’t send out a boilerplate essay.

Attempt to create one unifying theme in your narrative. Some applications ask you to include the answers to broad prompts in your statement. For instance, the only instructions you get may be: describe your goals and preparation to pursue graduate study in no more than 1500 words. Conversely, others may ask you to answer a series of very specific questions such as your reasons for applying to their program in particular, how your background fits into your professional goals, how your past achievements would aid you during your time in graduate school, and what you have learned from your prior professional experience. Regardless of the particular kind of writing situation, attempt to fit your narrative into one unifying theme. For example, if your essay focuses on how family has played an important role in your decision to go to graduate school, do not throw in an experience from your trip to a foreign country as another factor in your decision making process unless it is strongly tied with the overall theme of family. Also, be sure to stick to the word limits.

Strong statements of purpose answer four important questions that inform admissions committees of who you are professionally and personally.

Professionally, statements of purpose answer two questions for the committee.

First: what kind of work are you interested in doing in graduate school?

Be specific, don’t make the mistake of thinking that being vague in your focus will reach a wider audience. For instance, if you mainly want to study business ethics with two prominent faculty members who focus on that topic, write that in your statement. Do not worry that you are pigeonholing yourself by being specific and instead list several other areas that you could be interested in. There will not be enough time to go into all of these areas and it will make your statement sound aimless and disconnected.

Second: why is the program you are applying to a good fit for you?

This is where your online research on each program comes into play. Be specific about what makes the program that you are applying to your ideal choice. Avoid general statements such as “your program is one of the best in the country.” Focus more on the specific things that you think make it great—for you and your research in particular. If it has a good instructor to student ratio, how will that benefit you? If what separates the program from the rest is that it provides excellent field training before you graduate, how will you take advantage of this? Be specific. You may also talk about your goals after grad school. Where do you see yourself? Does the program have a good history in helping other students get there? You don’t have to be one hundred percent certain about your future plans; no one will pull your application essay before you graduate and express shock and disappointment if your interests happen to change. But generally, going to graduate school is a huge commitment. Admission committees want to know that you understand this and that you envision some type of gain for your dedication.

A word of caution: Avoid changing your statement just to get into a program if it is a bad fit for you. You’ll save yourself time and money down the line.

Be aware that while it is generally a good idea to be as honest about your intentions as possible, avoid being too candid about your reasons for applying to a certain school if they are less than scholarly. For instance, admission committees do not want to hear that you are applying to their program primarily because of the school’s proximity to significant others, family, friends; because it is located in a place with a great college town feeling; or, because it offers a variety of funding opportunities (however, you could probably mention this last one in passing if their funding is outstanding among other programs, signaling a dedication to its students’ goals).

Personally, statements of purpose also answer two questions for the committee.

First: What matters to you—and why?

The committee will receive a lot of data about you. The statement of purpose allows you to give that data meaning. It is important that you not just rephrase whatever is on your CV or resume because this won’t get at the meaning behind your experiences. A job or a class may have lasted only a few months, but it may have been the impetus for you to go to graduate school because of a unique experience that occurred there. The statement of purpose should give the committee a sense of who you are and how you have personally interpreted events in your life.

Second: How are you unique from the other candidates?

Above all, avoid playing it safe with bland language. It can be tempting to resist making yourself stand out in your statement because you don’t want to ruin your chances by “sounding weird.” Ironically, this type of information may be what makes you the most compelling candidate. Graduate program committees receive dozens—sometimes hundreds—of applications each year. Make your voice stand out among the rest by showing that you are not only professional but that there’s a person behind the important decisions you have made. What was the human element that motivated you to get you to where you are?

Many people wonder whether they should mention their minority status. Generally, you should mention your minority status only if it pertains to your studies. For instance, did working with a minority group (that you belong to) motivate you to go to graduate school? How so? Are you interested in undertaking minority issues once you have earned your degree—and, if so, in what capacity? For example, once you earn your Masters in Social Work, are you hoping to help Hispanic individuals who suffer from serious and persistent mental illness? Tie this with your background to give this goal some context.

Remember to switch over between other graduate application tasks such as asking for letters of recommendation, ordering your transcripts, filling out the questionnaire for each school, and so forth. This will break up the writing task and help to re-energize you.

Works Consulted

Getting In: A Step-By-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 1997. Print.

Kaplan, Inc. Get into Graduate School: A Strategic Approach . New York: Simon & Schuster. 2003. Print.

Stelzer, Richard J. How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School . 3rd. ed. Lawrenceville, NJ: Peterson’s Publishing, 2002. Print.

Stewart, Mark Allen. Peterson's How to Write the Perfect Personal Statement . Lawrenceville, NJ: Peterson’s Publishing, 2009. Print.

students walking across wheeler hall

Writing the Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose should convince the admissions committee that your achievements show promise for your success in graduate study. Think of the statement of purpose as a composition with four different parts.

Make sure to check on the appropriate departmental website to find out if your statement should include additional or specific information.

Part 1: Introduce yourself, your interests and motivations

Tell them what you’re interested in, and perhaps, what sparked your desire for graduate study. This should be short and to the point; don’t spend a great deal of time on autobiography.

Part 2: Summarize your undergraduate and previous graduate career

a) Research you conducted. Indicate with whom, the title of the project, what your responsibilities were, and the outcome. Write technically, or in the style of your discipline. Faculty are the people who read these statements.

b) Important paper or thesis project you completed, as well as anything scholarly beyond your curricular requirements.

c) Work experience, especially if you had any kind of responsibility for testing, designing, researching or interning in an area similar to what you wish to study in graduate school.

Part 3: Discuss the relevance of your recent and current activities

If you graduated and worked prior to returning to graduate school, indicate what you’ve been doing: company or non-profit, your work/design team, responsibilities, what you learned. You can also indicate here how this helped you focus your graduate studies.

Part 4: Elaborate on your academic interests

Here you indicate what you would like to study in graduate school in enough detail to convince the faculty that you understand the scope of research in their discipline, and are engaged with current research themes.

a) Indicate the area of your interests. Ideally, pose a question, define a problem, or indicate a theme that you would like to address, and questions that arise from contemporary research. This should be an ample paragraph!

b) Look on the web for information about departments you’re interested in, including professors and their research. Are there professors whose research interests parallel yours? If so, indicate this. Check the specific program; many may require you to name a professor or professors with whom you might work.

c) End your statement in a positive manner, indicating your excitement and readiness for the challenges ahead of you.

Essential Tips

1. What the admissions committee will read between the lines: self-motivation, competence, potential as a graduate student.

2. Emphasize everything from a positive perspective and write in an active, not a passive voice.

3. Demonstrate everything by example; don’t say directly that you’re a persistent person, show it.

4. If there is something important that happened to you that affected your grades, such as poverty, illness, or excessive work, state it. Write it affirmatively, showing your perseverance despite obstacles. You can elaborate more in your personal statement.

5. Make sure everything is linked with continuity and focus.

6. Unless the specific program says otherwise, be concise; an ideal essay should say everything it needs to with brevity. Approximately 500 to 1000 well-selected words (1-2 single space pages in 12 point font) is better than more words with less clarity and poor organization.

Emery Evans

Rebecca Geach

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If you've chosen a good online research and essay writing service, then you don't have to worry. The writers from the firm conduct their own exploratory research, add scientific facts and back it up with the personal knowledge. None of them copy information from the Internet or steal ready-made articles. Even if this is not enough for the client, he can personally go to the anti-plagiarism website and check the finished document. Of course, the staff of the sites themselves carry out such checks, but no one can forbid you to make sure of the uniqueness of the article for yourself.

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