When you write a statement of purpose, you need to remember that you are just one of many, perhaps even hundreds of applicants for your chosen study place. The person who reads your statement will have read dozens of others. If yours does not stand out in some way that shows that you are original, different and interesting - which of course you are (but at the same time not eccentric or peculiar - which you may be, but don't emphasize the fact!), it will be consigned to the heap of also-rans, the people who may get a place if there are some left over at the end.
If a statement of purpose fails to catch the reader's attention, it may be due to one or more of the following problems:
- It starts with flattering comments about the university they are applying for - the person who reads your statement already knows how good their institution is: they don't need you to tell them.
- It provides an entire life history, starting from birth, - by the time you reach the important bit, your reader will have lost interest. Unless your high school days are especially interesting, concentrate on your university career.
- It starts off by explaining exactly how the writer heard about this particular course - unless this information shows something important about you, leave it out.
- It begins by providing personal details that can be found on the résumé, such as age or place of birth.
- It begins by trying to second-guess the reader's thoughts, for example: 'You are probably wondering why a specialist in... should be applying for a place at...' This strategy might possibly work, but it will probably be more effective if you go ahead and answer the question.
- Although they do grab attention, the sort of statements that are least successful are those that use over-theatrical and silly introductions that are inappropriate for an academic environment. If you start with 'I am a really special person', or 'Ever since I was a baby, gazing happily at the world...', you shouldn't be surprised if you get rejected.
- Some statements dive straight into the complex field of the specialist, immediately discussing obscure areas of theory. Remember that while you are expected to show familiarity with your subject, not all readers may be specialists in your chosen field. If they can't understand you, they may not realize how good you are.