Statement of Purpose (SOP)
What is it?
Each applicant must submit a Statement of Purpose. The Statement of Purpose is your opportunity to help reviewers better understand your academic objectives and determine if you are a good match for the field to which you are applying. The statement of purpose should convince the faculty on the selection committee that you have solid achievements behind you that show promise for your success in graduate study.
If necessary, the SOP gives you the chance to address any gaps or weaknesses in your academic record. Be honest, but brief. Turn your weakness into strengths and illustrate how you overcame obstacles, showed resilience and remained persistent in your goals.
Why is it important?
- One of the most important pieces of your graduate school application
- Gives the reviewers an understanding of your academic background and interests
- Helps them determine if you are a good match for the program
Length, Format and Style
- Unless otherwise noted 1-2 pages is typical
- Use a standard font and font sizing for easy reading
- Included your full name and proposed program of study at the top of each page
- Your reasons for undertaking graduate study
- Explanation of your academic interests
- Information on your undergraduate study and any research experiences and how they fit with the program you are applying to
- Skills you have learned from academic, lab or research experiences
- Professional goals
Essential SOP Writing Tips
- Follow instructions carefully - some programs have specific items they want you to address in the essay.
- 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. Again, some require you to name a professor or professors with whom you would like to work.
Reading Between the Lines
- Admissions committee is looking for self-motivation, competence, potential and resilience
- Be honest – address any important things that happened to you to affect your grades. Be positive and show your perseverance in overcoming obstacles
- Evaluate rather than narrate – give specific examples and illustrate
- Keep the language simple, positive and focused
- Write with an active rather than passive voice
- Proofread and pay close attention to details – they matter!
- Have others read your essay before you submit it
Four Part Outline
Part 1: Introduce yourself, your interests and motivations
Part 2: Summarize your academic career
Research you conducted – title of project, research mentor, your role and the outcome.
Important papers or thesis project you completed, as well as anything scholarly beyond your curricular requirements.
Relevant work or internship experience as related to the field you are applying to
Part 3: Discuss relevance of your recent and current activities
- If you graduated and worked prior to returning to grad school, indicate what you’ve been doing, what you learned and how this helped you prepare for and focus your graduate studies.
Part 4: Elaborate on your academic interests
- 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.
- Pose a question, define a problem, or indicate a theme that you would like to address, and questions that arise from contemporary research.
Cornell University is the largest school in the Ivy League and offers a huge range of academic programs. Interested in applying?
Located in Ithaca, NY, Cornell University is known for its diverse academic programs and cold weather in upstate NY. Before you think about putting Cornell down on your college list, make sure it really is the best fit for you.
Think you’d thrive in Cornell’s community and environment? Next, you need to decide which undergraduate college or school you want to apply to. It might be difficult to decide immediately what you want to major in, and you might change your mind after you enrolling, but there has to be something you are interested in studying! Here are the 8 undergraduate college or school you can apply to:
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
College of Architecture, Art and Planning
College of Arts and Sciences
Cornell SC College of Business: Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
Cornell SC College of Business: School of Hotel Administration
School of Industrial and Labor Relations
Cornell University’s application only asks for one additional supplemental essay: Why are you interested in studying at Cornell University? Each undergraduate college/school has a specific question you need to answer. The response is limited to 650 words.
So, choose your undergraduate college or school at Cornell and find the essay prompt you need to respond to below:
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Why are you drawn to studying the major you have selected? Please discuss how your interests and related experiences have influenced your choice. Specifically, how will an education from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and Cornell University help you achieve your academic goals?
Sakilan - Accepted to Cornell University ‘19
“Sakilan! You’re going to miss your stop!” my sister yelled. A ladybug had gotten trapped in the back of our yellow bus, a rare occurrence. I stared at it curiously, anticipating its next movement. I was so engrossed in the bug that I had missed my stop. View her full “Why Cornell” supplemental essay.
College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
Describe two or three of your intellectual interests and why you are excited to pursue them within your chosen major in AAP. What personal experiences, background, or future goals will you bring to your scholarly and artistic pursuits at Cornell? (Please limit your response to 650 words.)
bettyyyh - Cornell University ‘15
Civilization is an art in which people are living, interacting, and connecting together. It is a way to harmonize and stabilize the environment and resources distinct to a location. Architecture should exist the same way; it needs to become a system that is engaging and interdependent to the people, the land, and the resources of a location. The world is changing fast, and our lifestyle and architecture needs to keep up. I propose that we begin thinking of architecture in a new way. Buildings and spaces not only house us, but also shape and change us. Our relationships and interactions are molded by architecture and the spaces which are part of our physical, social, economic, and political surroundings. View her full Cornell application file.
College of Arts and Sciences
Describe two or three of your current intellectual interests and why they are exciting to you. Why will Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences be the right environment in which to pursue your interests?
Yoso - Cornell University ‘19
The traffic light turns orange. It’s about to become red. With only seconds to act, accessing sensory signals from the eye, your brain quickly calculates the intensity of the push of your foot and acceleration at which you need to stop in time. Then it orders your muscles to press down on the brake. Your timing is perfect. Unlock his full Cornell application file!
College of Engineering
Cornell Engineering celebrates innovative problem solving that helps people, communities…the world. Consider your ideas and aspirations and describe how a Cornell Engineering education would allow you to leverage technological problem-solving to improve the world we live in.
Cornell2021 - Cornell University ‘21
People in my community believe the only way to be successful is to pursue medicine or engineering and arts are looked down upon here.I have a science background but am also interested in the deeper questions of existence, such as one encounters in philosophy. I don’t want to let go of my passions. Instead, I want to study at Cornell, where, far from being looked down upon, interdisciplinary study that includes the liberal arts are treasured through its unique independent study option, independent major, and distributional requirement system which will give me freedom in designing my curriculum and will let me explore a wide range of fields, from philosophy to literature. Continue reading his Why Cornell supplemental essay.
College of Human Ecology
How have your experiences influenced you to apply to the College of Human Ecology? How will your choice of major impact your goals and plans for the future?
Riya957 - Cornell University ‘19
I decided I wanted to become a doctor when I was seven years old. I want to care for the most vulnerable. I developed this urge after I experienced a family friend’s death, especially after seeing overcrowded Elmhurst Hospital in New York. Since then, my interest in the sciences, especially biology, grew. View her full “Why Cornell” supplemental essay.
School of Industrial and Labor Relations
Tell us about your intellectual interests, how they sprung from your course,service, work or life experiences, and what makes them exciting to you. Describe how ILR is the right school for you to pursue these interests.
Maxw2021 - Cornell University ‘21
Like the Strait, I’m a fluid connective body, but instead of serving as natural barrier or political divide, I seek to reconcile strained relations. Given my strong interests in cross-cultural mediation, inclination to manage disputes, coursework in interdisciplinary social sciences, and leadership and employment positions, I seek “to solve human problems [and] manage and resolve conflicts” within Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR). Read his full “Why Cornell” supplemental essay!
Cornell SC Johnson College of Business: Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
How have your interests and experiences influenced your decision to study Applied Economics and Management? Describe how you would take advantage of the Dyson School’s unique opportunities, for example, its affiliation with both the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Andrew.b - Cornell University ‘18
“The Global Financial Crisis of 2008 turned my life in the right direction.” Who, outside of certain savvy Wall Street investors, ever makes that statement? I do. I did not make exorbitant amount of money like they did at the time. I was, after all, only an eighth grader. More importantly to me, the salient feature of the crisis was not how some profited, but how most suffered. The crisis challenged me to a new level of empathy and introduced me to the world of finance and economics as I began looking into what caused the collapse. Subprime mortgages, collateralized debt obligations, and credit default swaps were foreign terms to me, but that was about to change. Watching business and financial documentaries became common late-night practice. Could I someday know enough to make a difference? I was alive with purpose. I was hooked. Unlock his full successful Cornell application file.
Cornell SC Johnson College of Business: School of Hotel Administration
The global hospitality industry includes hotel and foodservice management, real estate, finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, technology, and law. Describe what has influenced your decision to study business through the lens of hospitality. What personal qualities make you a good fit for SHA?
bweintraub - Cornell University ‘2021
I am an anomaly among my peers. While many of them wrestle with the uncertainty of not knowing what they want to do or be in the future, I have always known. Even in elementary school, when the popular options were superhero or sports legend, I had altogether different aspirations. If you had asked me then, my answer would be the same as it is today: I want to work in the hospitality industry. Unlock his full successful Cornell application file.
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About The Author
Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.