Preparing a Statement of Purpose

Students listening to a panel

The statement of purpose that accompanies your application is very important to the admissions committee and is often a crucial factor in the decision to admit. A clear, well-focused statement reveals your potential for graduate work and may compensate for average grades and test scores.

Your Statement of Purpose should include:

  • Career goals and how the MS degree fits in with them
  • Past research experience, including background, techniques, results, and larger implications (keep this portion of the statement to 3/4 page max)
  • Advisors/mentors you are interested in working with on your research (please do not contact professors until you are admitted to the program)

Tips for success

1. Your statement should show a commitment to a compatibility with the goals of the Northwestern program
Review the Neurobiology department’s list of research advisors and Program Handbook to make sure that your interests in graduate work can be met in an area of study offered at Northwestern.

2. Be as specific as possible about (1) the direction you wish to pursue in the area of your interest, and (2) your educational objectives
Provide details about the types of neuroscience research that interest you, the kinds of methodologies and approaches you want to learn more about, and what parts of the field you want to study (and if you want to pursue research or the medical profession). If you want to work with specific people in the Neurobiology Department (or even elsewhere in the university) you should mention this in your essay.

3. Write clearly and persuasively
Your statement should demonstrate the clearest and most persuasive effort of which you are capable. The admissions committee needs to be able to evaluate your ability to analyze problems and organize your thoughts on research interests or problems in neuroscience and your ability to perform in a research setting.

4. Proofread your statement carefully
It’s a good idea to have a friend or faculty member at your undergraduate institution look over your statement before you submit the final copy. Remember, the admissions committee is looking for people who have focused interests, are self sufficient, and are strongly motivated. Our ultimate goal is to train people as scholars who can define and solve problems on their own.