A Good Statement of Purpose tells a Great Story
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- Category: Admission Application
- Published on 24 Jan 2017
The body of your SoP allows you to control the narrative that you want to convey. Analysis might excite the mind, but it hardly offers a route to the heart, which is often discovered only through the telling of a good story.
A masterful study of good storytelling is The Leaders’ Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative by Stephen Denning. He has clearly demonstrated that good storytelling and leadership are both like performance arts and both involve equal amounts of action and thought. He identified 8 different story patterns, of which the ones relevant to writing the SoP include – Communicating who you are, Transmitting values, and Leading people into the future.
Communicating who you are in a Statement of Purpose
This story pattern engages the audience by revealing some strength or vulnerability from your past. In some University applications, these are ascertained through pointed questions like “Tell us an incident when you were conflicted, and how did you resolve it” or some other variation of the same. In such cases, it might be more relevant to use this story pattern in that question, rather than the usual format of an SoP. The key to this storypattern is to provide some basic details, and then use the reader’s imagination before leading them on to the conclusion you want them to have before forming an opinion about you.
Transmitting values while writing an SOP
This story pattern is useful when you can identify the values that you hold dear, and establish consonance with the university’s values. The end goal ofyour story is to make the reader feel a strong sense of endorsement of your actions at the end of the story. You need to communicate an experience that causes conflict and is really drastic in its outcomes;all this while reinforcing that your actions were determined by your values.
Leading people into the future in an SoP
This works for people who have developed their vision of the future, and have the communication skills to help the reader envisage and relate to it, without providing excessive details. This story pattern will help the evaluator figure out what you expect from the future, and how the program you are applying for fits into the big story.
It is possible that the story you craft falls into multiple story patterns. In fact, different combinations of these patterns can be used together , as long as they are part of an integrated whole. The whole point of using a story is to offer a piece of you in an interesting light. So, it helps to be honest and keep the story simple, focused and clear. It sounds easy to do, but in practice, needs a lot of preparation and reiteration.
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