What are the essential components of a strong statement of purpose or MBA goals essay? The adcom will want to see a MAP of where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you’re headed. (A personal statement is slightly different in that your readers will want to know your current location and how you got there, but clear plans for the future are secondary and usually not required.)
MAP has a double meaning for those of you writing statements of purpose and goals essays. It stands for Motivation, Aspiration, and Perspiration, and represents the map you should follow when writing your essays.
• Motivation: What makes you tick? Why have you made the decisions you have made? Why do you want to go into your chosen field?
You’re passionate about feeding children in poverty-stricken families or communities. While growing up, one of your best friends was a recent immigrant from Swaziland, and came with horrific stories of seeing friends and family die of starvation. From spending time with his family, you learned about the value of having a full belly, and you began to learn about poverty and starvation that was happening closer to home, in neighborhoods not far from your own. Throughout high school, you volunteered in a soup kitchen, and realized that this was a population and a cause that you wanted to continue to work with in the future.
• Aspiration: Where are you headed? What do you aspire to immediately after you complete your degree and sometimes long term?
You want to feed the world. You know it’s a lofty aspiration, but you’ve already seen the benefits of baby steps, and you’re eager to takes greater leaps in this area. You’ve seen what works at local soup kitchens, and what doesn’t work. You’ve seen good leadership, and you’ve seen what happens when poor leadership takes control. Most importantly, you have ideas – big ideas, real ideas. You want to enter the not-for-profit space and truly learn how to feed more people and how to make your efforts more sustainable. You’ve worked hard to make connections with leaders in organizations that do exactly this, and you plan to bring your skills and ideas to such a place after you earn your degree.
• Perspiration: When in the past have you sweated to achieve? When have you dedicated yourself to a cause or goal? When have you worked hard to make an impact and contribute?
You’ve worked tirelessly, for years now, as a volunteer at your local soup kitchen, and then as a paid intern one summer in their office. You’ve seen how hunger can tear a family apart and break a person down. You’ve seen sickness and have gotten sick yourself, and worked through it because of your pure dedication to the people that you met along the way. You’ve increased the amount of food at the kitchen, while simultaneously lowering costs. You’ve brought educators (volunteers) to the shelter to present seminars and workshops of job and interview skills. You’ve written proposals, and you’ve been heard.
The above examples relate more to a goals essay, but the same three elements should also be present if you’re writing a statement of purpose for an academic program. Describe your motivation (how your research interest developed and why it is important), your aspiration (what you plan to do – both your current research goals and your career goals), and perspiration (how your previous academic, research, and professional experiences have prepared you for graduate study).
When you write your statement of purpose or MBA goals essay, check it for MAP. If it has these three critical elements, you have started down the right path.
• From Example to Exemplary, a free guide to writing outstanding admissions essays
• Stand Out! A Critical Goal for Your Application, a podcast episode
• Add Detail to Your Social Enterprise/Community Service Goals