Statement of Purpose Tips

UC Merced Study Abroad LogoThe statement of purpose requirement serves two primary purposes: 1) as a writing sample to demonstrate the strength of a student's writing skills, as writing skills tend to be more highly emphasized while studying abroad; and 2) to confirm both the student's understanding of the program and the suitability of the program for the student. The statement of purpose instructions should help students with the content but students often have difficulty with writing basics. Here are some tips to help with the writing basics:

Basic Tips

The statement of purpose should:

  • Lend itself to constructive discussion by the interview panel.
  • Have a clear, well-argued academic rationale, backed up by and consistent with student's academic record.
  • Be well presented: no grammatical/spelling errors.
  • Be free of jargon, slang, vacuity, etc.

Common Study Abroad Statement of Purpose Content Mistakes

Study abroad students frequently do not understand the statement of purpose requirements:

  • Failure to follow statement of purpose directions
  • Failure to articulate academic goals
  • Confusion of travel and study abroad

Common Study Abroad Statement of Purpose Grammar Mistakes

Study abroad advisors often see errors like these:

  • Misused or missing semicolons: instructions on usage
  • Agreement:
    • Subject-verb agreement
    • Subject-number agreement
  • Improper English capitalization: example:
    • Capitalize: formal names (e.g. people, places, universities, etc.), weekdays, months
    • Do not capitalize (except at the beginning of a sentence or in a title): majors, minors, course names
  • Incomplete sentences
  • Missing punctuation

Common Study Abroad Statement of Purpose Semantic Mistakes

Students often confuse words that sound similar when writing their statements of purpose for study abroad:

  • Complement vs. compliment: to complement means that two or more items go well together but to compliment means that someone says something nice to someone
  • Effect vs. affect: to affect means to have an effect on but to effect means to cause something to happen
  • Deep-seated vs. deep-seeded: deep-seated is correct and deep-seeded is not an English expression
  • Piqued my interested vs. peaked my interest: to pique one's interest is correct and to peak one's interest is not an English expression
  • Immerse vs. emmerse vs. emerge: to immerse means to go or plunge into something (e.g. a culture or language), to emmerse is not an English verb but rather a misspelling, and to emerge means to come out of something; therefore immerse and emerge have nearly opposite meanings
  • Immersion vs. emersion: immersion is the act of plunging something into another thing (e.g. language) and emersion is when an object or person comes out of something such as water