Ethan Fast

State Your Purpose

4 April 2011 -- Charlottesville, VA

Now that my PhD admission cycle is over, and the dust has cleared, I’m planning to write a few posts about the grad school application process. This first post will be about crafting your statement of purpose (sometimes known as a “personal statement”). It’s a statement that broadly describes your reasons for pursuing a PhD at a particular university.

Around four months ago, I was interested in reading a few good examples of personal statements. Unfortunately, it seems that few people like to share. The one exception I found online (and later met at MIT’s visit days) was Jean Yang. So to current grad school applicants: I empathize with your pain, and I’m crazy enough to share one of my statements1. This is the one I sent to Stanford, where I’ll be starting a CS PhD next fall.

So how do you write a statement of purpose? There is no fully general reciple. However, I do understand what worked for me, and so I can mention a few things that I kept in mind:

That should be enough to get you started. If you are applying now, I wish you luck. Hopefully, this post has given you some new ideas.