Sop Do's and Don'Ts'

Do’s and Don’ts for your Statement of Interest/Statement of Purpose 
Thanks to Rob Toonen, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii 
Sections reproduced by permission 

• Explain something about yourself, your self-discipline, time management skills,
motivation, and drive for seeking a graduate degree in your field.
• Mention scientific accomplishments that you are particularly proud of and why. Try to
explain to the committee how you evaluate yourself in terms of accomplishments
and productivity.
• Try to present a clear and well-thought-out idea of who you are and what you would
like to do in graduate school.
o Briefly introduce a general problem of interest to you (why would anyone
care?), and then get to the specific area of your interest.
o Explain what you would like to accomplish with regard to resolving some
open question. BUT don’t come across as dogmatic, or claim that you’re
going to solve any of the world’s problems! (see DON’Ts below)
• IMPORTANT: Specifically mention any faculty members that you would like to
work with, and whether you have contacted them about the possibility of
working in his or her lab.
• Explain why you think that lab or graduate program is a great place and would be
a good fit for what you are looking for from your graduate education – i.e., what are
the specific reasons that you are applying to THIS program as opposed to any other?
• Explain what your ultimate career goal is (e.g., a GIS analyst, resource
manager, faculty position at a major research university, etc.).
• Take more than a couple of pages to make your point. Admissions committees have to
read a couple hundred of these things, and the statements that make a compelling case
for acceptance in 1-2 pages are MUCH more successful than ones that ramble for 5
pages (and are never read to the end because they are too long!). On the other hand,
don’t shoot off a statement that is only 1 or 2 paragraphs long either!