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Plans, Goals, and Dreams: Exploring the Future in Your Personal Statement

By Peterson's Staff updated on Thursday, October 31, 2013
Although this section comes last in a chronological statement of purpose, it may be the most important part of your SOP. This your chance to explain to the reader what you want to do during and after graduate school. You want to leave your readers with a clear understanding that you’re not just seeking this degree because it seems kind of interesting or because you can’t think of anything else to do; they should sincerely believe that you have a plan in mind and that graduate school figures into that plan.

But how do you set that up? Follow the tips below, and you'll be alright. Or, visit EssayEdge today, and get personalized expert advice that'll help you incorporate your future plans to the greatest effect in your statement of purpose.

You don't need a blow-by-blow
You can talk a bit about your plans for graduate school, but you don’t need to lay out your entire course of study in detail. If there’s something in particular that you plan to focus your studies on, then you should definitely mention it. But don’t try to mention every single professor, project, or paper you think will play a role in your continuing education.

Connect the dots
You don’t have to talk about your educational plans/goals in isolation either. Connecting your plans for school to your longer-term plans for your career is an effective way to really increase the “purpose” of your statement. If you can clearly show how study in this program will prepare you to achieve a specific life goal, you’ll enable the admissions officer to see exactly what type of value you’ll get from their program.

For example, instead of writing a generic statement like “I aspire to eventually earn a PhD”, why not show what your graduate studies will enable you to do in more specific terms. A better alternative would be something like, “After earning my MA from XXX and having built particular expertise in XXX, I will be ready to advance my career by XXX." This does a much better job of showcasing how you have a vision of your future and a set of goals, even if you don't necessarily have every step written out.

What will you contribute?
Also, don’t forget to discuss how you will contribute to the program while you’re there. You don’t only have to talk about what you plan to take away from your graduate school experience – what will you give back while enrolled? Are there extracurriculars you plan to participate in, or a project that you think will benefit others in the program? The more you can show your graduate school experience to be a give-and-take experience, the better off you’ll be.

Structuring your personal statement around the future
In discussing your future, it often helps to break things into sections. You can focus on what you’ll do while in school, what you’ll be doing 5 years after school, what you’ll be doing 10 years after school, and things that are more long-term in nature.

Avoid clichés
As you talk about your future, watch out for clichés. This is one area of the statement of purpose that is particularly susceptible to clichéd statements. “I want to become a professor” is particularly overused by graduate school applicants. Even if that’s true, you should find a way to make it more unique and specific to your particular case. What do you want to teach and where? Deepening your descriptions in this way will make your essay stand out in a good way.


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