Note: these tips are intended for students applying to CS/ECE programs.
- Statement of purpose
- Be specific, persuasive, clear.
- Tips from http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~harchol/gradschooltalk.pdf.
This is an excellent paper that addresses the bigger picture of applying
to CS program, and is relevant to EE people as well:
- It’s misleading that the personal statement is called a
“personal” statement, since what admission committees are really looking
for is a research statement. What admission committees want is a statement
about what research you have done, what research you hope to do, and why
you like research.
- First paragraph – Describe the general areas of research
that interest you and why. (This is helpful for a committee to determine
which professors should read your application.)
- Second paragraph and Third paragraph – Descibe some
research projects that you worked on. Tell us what you found, what you
learned, what approaches you tried. It’s fine to say that you were
unable to prove what you wanted or to solve your problem.
- Fourth paragraph – Tell us why you feel you need a Ph.D..
Look back to section what in there appealed to you.
- Fifth paragraph – Tell us why you want to come to CMU.
Whom might you like to work with? What papers have you looked at from
CMU that you enjoyed reading? What will CMU teach you?
- Tips from
- Your purpose in graduate study. This means you must
have thought this through before you try to answer the question.
- The area of study in which you wish to specialize.
This requires that you know the field well enough to make such decision.
- Your future use of your graduate study. This will
include your career goals and plans for your future.
- Your special preparation and fitness for study in the
field. This is the opportunity to relate your academic background with
your extracurricular experience to show how they unite to make you a
- Any problems or inconsistencies in your records or
scores such as a bad semester. Be sure to explain in a positive manner
and justify the explanation. Since this is a rebuttal argument, it should
be followed by a positive statement of your abilities.
- Any special conditions that are not revealed elsewhere
in the application such as a large (35 hour a week) work load outside of
school. This too should be followed with a positive statement about
yourself and your future.
- You may be asked, "Why do you wish to attend this
school?" This requires that you have done your research about the
school and know what its special appeal is to you.
- Career goals. write two short paragraphs:
- What career have you chosen? What factors formed this
- What evidence shows that this is a correct choice? That
is, how can you show that this choice is realistic? (Personal experience
in the field is a good place to begin.)
- What accomplishments, work experiences, important
activies (skills/qualities) will help me in grad school?
- Tips from
- Demonstrate motivation in-between the lines.
- Emphasize everything from a positive perspective
- Recommended writing structure:
- This is where you tell them what you want to study. For
example, M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis in
dynamics and controls.
- Summarize what you did as an undergraduate
- Important class or classes you took which stimulated
your desire for graduate study; specific project or class?
- Research you might have done. Indicate with whom, the
title of the project and what your responsibilities were. Write
technically; it's professors, not secretaries, reading this.
- Work experience, especially if you had any kind of
responsibility for testing, designing, or researching a product or
- Indicate what you want to study in graduate school in
greater detail.This is a greater elaboration of your opening
- Indicate area of interest, then state questions you
might have which are associated; i.e. what you might be interested in
studying. You should have an area selected before you write the
- If you can, contact the department for information and
find out what the professors are doing for research. Are there people
whose interests match yours? If so, indicate this as it shows a sign
that the student has done his or her homework and is highly motivated.
(Be sincere, however. Don't make up something bogus just to impress
- Tips from
- Academic background
- How have you prepared yourself to succeed in graduate
- What body of relevant knowledge will you take with you?
- Significant study or lab skills
- Research or publications completed to date
- A successful statement will...
- Has great opening lines or paragraphs
- Conveys at least a glimpse of the applicant's personality
- Substantiates specific academic preparation and knowledge
of subject matter
- Demonstrates an understanding of the challenges as well
as the rewards of a chosen career
- Gives a sense of maturity, compassion, stamina, teamwork
skills, leadership potential and general likability, usually without
addressing these issues directly (tells a story rather than gives a
- Says what you really mean by describing an event or
emotions and thoughts in detail
- Gives specifics, with DETAILS. It's far better to give
your essay a complete description of one incident than to cram it full
of activities and accomplishments without any hint of what they meant to
you, your motivations for doing them, what you learned, or emotions
- Shows how you will use the graduate education in your
planned career and establishes that you understand your place in the
- Demonstrate that you've read the catalog carefully,
researched the program, and considered your reasons for applying to the
- Direct your focus at that specific program; refer to
faculty with whom you have been in contact.
- Get the name of the program you are applying to into
the statement. Know the exact name.
- All the best essays will be both honest and direct.
- Don't attempt to guess at what you think people want to
- Sincerity and truthfulness should be clearly evident.
- Tips from http://www.csulb.edu/~psy301/perstate.html:
- You must demonstrate to the committee how your goals
coincide with what the program has to offer as well as how you will fit in
and how your qualifications will benefit the program.
- The applicant should not use the same essay for each
program. A generic personal statement is easy to detect.
- Tips from
- To distinguish your essay, add something unique to it
without throwing in irrelevant information that will annoy your readers.
One of the best ways to do this is to discuss, briefly, an idea in your
field that turns you on intellectually. It's an effective essay-opener,
and it lets you write about something besides yourself for a bit. There
are other benefits as well. The idea you choose to talk about, and your
comments on it, often tell an admissions committee more about you than
your own self-descriptions can.
- Finally, don't just reuse the same statement of purpose for
each school you apply to. You can recycle the same information, but make
sure you tweak it for every school. Your statement will sound stale and
the admissions committee will notice if you don't do this.
- Tips from
- Things which all college admissions officers want to see in
- A Picture of Your Overall Personality
you give a picture of your personality? I would suggest that you imply
rather than state the facts. For instance, don’t say ‘I am a smart
person.’ Demonstrate it, imply it. Don’t say ‘I am energetic.’ Give
evidence by the fact that you worked after school for six hours every
day and still had time to play on the volleyball team.
- Academic Background and Work Experience
would be a mistake to talk about your high school. Start with your
undergraduate career. School records may be worth mentioning if there is
something extraordinary about them.
Admissions officers are looking for
some continuity in what you have done, what you want to do in the near
future and what you hope to do in the distant future. So, connect them.
- Commitment and Motivation
Rather than simply
saying ‘I am committed’, find a way of inferring that you are indeed
highly committed and motivated to your proposed field of study.
- Communication Skills
They will be looking at
your writing skills - how well you can present yourself clearly and
intelligently when writing, hence the importance of spending
considerable time on the statement.
- Writing style
- Write simply, not in a flowery and complicated
- Write in a straightforward way.
In other words
don’t be subtle or cute. Write in a clear and logical manner. If you
have to be creative, that is fine, but do so in a straightforward way.
These people are really interested in your vocation. They don’t want to
read something that is in the form of one act plays nor do they want to
read three adjectives per noun. They want you to be direct and
- Be clear in what you are saying.
Make sure you
are logical. Explain yourself with great clarity. Finally, most
important of all, be specific, not vague. Don’t say - ‘My grades were
quite good’ but say ‘I belonged to the top 5% of my class’. Don’t say -
‘I am interested in sports’. Say ‘I was captain of my hockey team’.
Don’t say ‘I like poetry’. Say ‘I did a study of Shakespeare’s sonnets
and wrote a twelve-page bachelor’s degree dissertation on Imagery’.
Don’t say - ‘I want to be a Supreme Court Judge, that is why I want to
go to law school’. Say things like ‘I was an apprentice in a court’ or
‘I often went with my father to the courts to listen to cases’ or ‘I
wrote a legal column for a school newspaper’. That is being specific.
- Tips from
Think of the statement of purpose as a
composition in three different parts. The first part is a brief summary of
the program you want to study and what particular area of research you
want to focus on. The second part should be a summary of your college
experiences. What brought about your interest in engineering (perhaps a
bit of pertinent background information), any work experience you might
have had, if you put yourself through school, co-op or summer job
experiences and research experiences--here you can elucidate what design
or job responsibilities you had. You may be as specific as possible, as it
is engineering professors who are reading this statement. The third part
is composed of why you want to go to graduate school, what you would like
to study (research), and ideally, with whom you would like to study. Write
the department or consult the web for information concerning the
professor's research interests, then consult your library for recent
publications. When you can mention what you would like to study, and whom
you would like to study with, it often indicates to a department that
you've done your homework and have serious intentions about the pursuit of
graduate study. At all times, be sincere and honest