Austin wrote:Does anyone have some good advice on how to focus a statement of purpose? I've written two now and I'm having a hard time deciding what questions my statement should answer. My first draft was basically an entire statement of why I like Math and why I'm qualified for the program, which I didn't like. My second draft at least got specific about the areas I'm interested in, but continued to focus on why I'm interested in those areas. What exactly are the readers wanting to know?
Also, in discussing interests, how specific should the statement be? My second draft named general areas I'm interested in (Geometry and Topology), and gave one example of a professor at the university that I would like to work with.
I've heard that it's good in a personal statement to also talk about things on your application that might make the department think twice. For example, if you had a low subject score, explain why they should still consider you. This is a great time to talk about any research experience or math awards you have to offset your score.
It is also a good idea to talk about extracurricular activities, especially those in which you held leadership positions or played a key leadership role. I've learned from personal experience that leadership looks excellent no matter what program you are applying to.
Finally, some remarks about diversity are good. You might not think you are diverse, but you can probably find something about yourself that makes you different from the crowd. For example, I'm a girl, so I'd probably talk a bit about the challenges women in mathematics face and how there aren't many of us and blah blah blah.
The main thing your personal statement should do is sell yourself. You want to make sure that if the program has any doubts about your qualifications, your statement clears it up.