Faculty Recruiting Support CICS

Statement of Purpose (SOP) Checklist

Write Convincingly about Your Grad School Aspirations

An SOP is your opportunity to prove several important aspects of your candidacy for a graduate program, including:

  • Expression of why a program is right for you, based on extensive knowledge.
  • A way to showcase your written communication skills.
  • The opportunity to connect your experiences to future goals in both academic study and the world of work.
  • A creative way to share your story.

Follow our SOP Checklist to start yours today:

  1. Determine the right fit: Consider what is most important to you. Is prestige important to you?  What are your values and how does a program align with those? CICS's "Computing For The Common Good" mission is a great example of what to look for.
  2. Know Your Audience: Graduate school applications are usually reviewed by that will include faculty and sometimes even current students.
  3. Briefly introduce your qualifications: Mention your areas of expertise--research, ML, Frontend, for example. Be sure to include your coding skills.
  4. Pay attention to word limits: Many grad programs will limit the length of your SOP in terms of word count. If there is no defined word limit, a good rule of thumb is to keep your SOP to 1000 words or less.  If you do have a word limit and happen to go over, don't fret.  It can be easy, with the help of a reviewer, to trim down an SOP that is too long.
  5. Be creative and idetify what you want out of the program: Most grad programs require a resume or curriculum vitae (CV). It is important to know the difference. However, your SOP should not simply repeat your resume or CV.  Instead, focus on short-term and long-term goals.  These include, but are not limited to, interesting classes, research, teaching opportunities, and career paths that any given program can help you accomplish.
  6. Focus on perspectives/experiences you can bring to the program: Tell a story that sets you apart. Research? Clubs & Organizations? Volunteer work related to CS? Leadership Roles? Events (HackUMass, Hack(H)er, etc.)? Admissions Committees want to see how you will fit into both your program of study and the greater community at their institution.
  7. Connect to faculty: What are the faculty members' research interests? You can and likely should pick at least one faculty member, mention them by name, and explain how your interests align with their work. This is a great way to prove that you belong in the community and it offers another way to discuss your expertise. See CICS Faculty Research Areas, CVs/Resumes, Personal Websites, Publications/Presentations, or even News Articles for examples.
  8. Leave a lasting impression: In your concluding paragraph, don't just reiterate what you've already written. Drive home your theme. What makes you stand out? How do you see yourself contributing to the classroom and broader community? Think back to step 6.  Most importantly, tell the committee what makes the program special to you! Thank them for their time and consideration in reading your SOP.
  9. Review: Like any professional or academic document, an SOP must be refined before submitting.  Have your SOP reviewed by a friend or family member with graduate school experience or, of course, a careers professional.  Ask them to consider your argument.  Do I make the case?  Then, pay close attention to spelling and grammar.  Repeat this step several times.

    Check out our Statement of Purpose example.
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