Imagine an admission committee member reading essay after boring essay filled with platitudes about candidates who wish to take a particular master’s degree program. When you write your statement of purpose – or letter of intent, as it is also known – write with this member in mind. Colleges use the letter of intent as a tool to gauge certain qualities of applicants, such as intelligence, capacity for hard work and an ability to communicate well. Think of your writing task as marketing yourself as one of the best candidates with all of these attributes.
Find out what details the college wants in the letter of intent: how long it should be, to whom you should address it, and the topics to cover. Call the college office and ask about this if you are not sure.
Write an introduction that hooks the reader into continuing further. For example, if you are applying to a master’s of social work program, use the anecdote about how you grudgingly accompanied your mother to read to an elderly neighbor and then began doing it willingly on your own. This is definitely more interesting than talking about wanting to “dedicate my life to serving those in need.”
Introduce yourself in brief, stating your credentials and your previous coursework. Display your familiarity with the field of study by using relevant technical terminology. Highlight your skills with handling instruments and using specific software. Speak positively of the people who shaped your career. If your teacher was someone who is an authority in the field, mention his name.
Include information about other achievements, such as making it to the dean’s list, presentations at conferences, publications in journals and participation in research activities. Also mention other extracurricular activities that relate to the course you wish to pursue. For example, if you are applying for a master’s degree in education, mention your participation in debate and quiz competitions.
Provide information to address any gaps in your education or work background. Explain the family commitments or health problems that caused you to take a break and how they helped you come out stronger.
State specifically what about the college made you choose to apply. Find something that is genuine, such as the specialization subject they offer or the research of some of the faculty members in a particular discipline of your interest.
End by requesting an interview. Provide your contact details -- postal and email addresses, as well as telephone number.
Write a narrative that covers all the topics the college specifies, but not necessarily in the same order. Being able to work your way engagingly around those topics without losing the logical sequence is a sign of creative intelligence. This is a quality that serves to set you apart from other applicants.
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images