Statement of Purpose: Part 1

A very frequent question is how to write an statement of purpose, which is the most important tool at your disposal to distinguish yourself from your competition. In this blog I offer up one sample statement of purpose. Two things have to come together to write a successful statement of purpose: a compelling story and how it relates to your academic interests. Note that this applicant has an amazing story to tell – a long road trip across Mongolia – replete with a breakdown that allows the author to inject his passion about mechanical engineering. Yet, in the next blog we’ll see demonstrate how it can be significantly improved.

“After 87 days on the road, two weeks since I’d slept indoors, in the middle of the seemingly endless plains of Eastern Kazakhstan, I watched in horror as the oil drained out of the bottom of my motorcycle’s shock absorber. This was not good. I was still over a month away from my destination in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I knew from having spent a year living in Bolivia and traveling across South America by motorcycle that the shock failure presented a real challenge. Alone, and without replacement parts, there was little I could do in that moment but reflect on how this situation could have been avoided. How could I have seen this coming? Everything I had read and researched about that shock design and the materials used in it indicated that the shock could survive even the most unforgiving roads and tracks that I would face in Central Asia. Eventually I made it to a small city in Siberia where I found a mechanic with the necessary tools needed to disassemble the shock. Once apart, I could see the wear that had accumulated to the small internal rubber O-ring that initiated the failure of the entire device. Without a source of the specialized spare parts needed to properly repair the shock, the Russian mechanic and I had to rebuild the entire device using only scrap parts lying around his shop. I had always been interested in exotic and specialty materials, but it was the arduous experience of having that shock absorber break in Kazakhstan, and of seeing the damage done internally to the shock absorber, that solidified my desire to apply high performance materials for demanding applications for a living, and explore better ways of designing those parts to last under severe operating conditions.”