How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Master’s in Data Science

Many colleges and universities require a statement of purpose for master’s in data science student applications. The statement of purpose can play an important role in your application, as it allows admissions staff to learn about your goals, experience and education outside of scores and grades. This guide will cover what a statement of purpose is, what needs to be included in it, frequently asked questions and tips to help craft your own.

What Is a Statement of Purpose for Master’s in Data Science?

A statement of purpose is a short essay written by master’s of data science applicants discussing their work and educational history, goals for the program and future career interests. A statement of purpose for master’s in data science programs may also detail any deficiencies in an application such as an employment gap, low GRE or GMAT test scores or grades and information about independent study in lieu of other relevant coursework. The statement of purpose provides a space to highlight your specific life experiences and goals in your own words.

What Is the Admissions Committee Looking for in Your Application?

Admissions committees typically look for the following information:

  1. Who is applying? What about the student’s academic or personal background, work experience or extracurricular activities stands out? Does the applicant show a history of demonstrated interest in data science? What will they be able to add to a graduate program environment?
  2. Does the applicant have analytical skills or experience? Data science requires a person to deeply analyze large and complex data sets. While some core capacities, like mathematics, may be taught, a statement of purpose provides a space to demonstrate analytical skills or relevant experience.

Statement of Purpose Format Requirements

While every school has different requirements, the general format for a data science master’s statement of purpose may include:

  • Length: 1-2 pages; school will specify length.
  • Word Count: 250-500 words; some schools allow up to 1,000 words.
  • Spacing: Double or single spaced
  • Font: Times New Roman in 12-point font
  • Margins: No less than 1 inch
  • Format: Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx) or PDF format

Refer to the college or university’s requirements before submitting, particularly if you are sending out multiple statements of purpose to different schools.

Statement of Purpose vs. Personal Statement

Master’s in data science programs may ask for a statement of purpose or a personal statement—some may ask for both. While these might seem like the same thing, there are a few distinctions.

A statement of purpose typically is focused on academic and analytical information. A school requesting a statement of purpose may request information about reasons for applying for graduate study as well as relevant professional interests and goals. A personal statement might be a broader essay asking about life experiences and interests—though still as they relate to the program.

It’s important to read admissions requirements carefully to determine what information each school wants from either a statement of purpose or a personal statement.

10 Tips for Statement of Purpose for Data Science Programs

A statement of purpose may be daunting for master’s in data science applicants, but there are some steps you can take to make sure you’re delivering a good effort. The tips below can help guide you while writing your statements of purpose for data science programs.

Read Examples of Statements of Purpose for Data Science

Read samples of statements of purpose. If you have access to successful applicants’ essays, read them. If not, read a wide variety of statements of purpose and notice what does and does not work. Be sure not to plagiarize as it could be grounds to deny your application.

Brainstorm Topics and Decide on a Structure

As mentioned above, a statement of purpose should highlight who you are and how you work analytically. Take time to brainstorm relevant topics that showcase experience as well as signs of interest in the data science field. After you have your bullet points set, focus on a structure that best highlights you as an applicant. Make an outline before you start writing.

Pick One or Two Narrow Topics and Stay Focused

A statement of purpose should be clear and to the point. It’s not a recap of your entire life or resume. Avoid covering too much information in your statement of purpose. Stay focused on one or two key topics and provide plenty of supporting information to showcase your analytical skills as it relates to those points.

Make Your First Paragraph Interesting

Admissions committees read hundreds of applications. A focused and interesting introductory paragraph can grab the attention of the reader and keep them from putting your statement down. A personal anecdote, a thought-provoking question or an emotionally compelling story at the beginning of your statement of purpose can all grab a reader’s attention.

Highlight Information That Sets You Apart

Write about any activity that highlights your strengths as a data scientist. If you have relevant experience on a resume or affiliations with a professional organization, make sure you highlight that. A statement of purpose, in part, is about what makes you qualified to become a data scientist.

Keep the Focus on YOU

A statement of purpose is about how your experience, culture and background has helped prepare you for a career in data science. This is not the time to write at length about your professor’s career or general concepts of data science. A statement of purpose often requires a limited amount of space. Make sure you are using it effectively to highlight your own strengths.

Be Yourself and Don’t Fake Experience

Take the truthful approach and recall your experiences and accomplishments with complete honesty and authenticity. While it may be tempting to inflate your experience or accomplishments in data science or analysis, misrepresenting data—or outright lying—will hurt more than it will help.

Keep Language Concise and Tone Positive

Data science is used to draw information from raw data sets and as such, those working in data science may need to be able to explain their findings. A statement of purpose is the first place you can showcase an ability to effectively communicate. Avoid rambling, vague or repetitive language and keep the tone positive and outcome-focused.

Double Check Schools’ Instructions

Read and re-read the school’s instructions for submitting a statement of purpose. Data science requires attention to detail. You don’t want to disqualify yourself by not following basic instructions. Make sure you meet all the stated requirements, and don’t make mistakes like exceeding word count or incorrectly formatting a document.

Proofread, Proofread and Proofread

Check your essay for any grammatical errors. While data scientists often deal with numbers more than writing, it’s still important to proofread because it will show the admissions committee you pay attention to details.

FAQs About Data Science Statements of Purpose

Before beginning your master’s in data science application, get answers to any final questions about statements of purpose. If you’re still unsure about the process, consider asking your admissions counselor.

How important is the statement of purpose for data science programs?

Take the statement of purpose seriously. Often, it is the only part of your application where the admissions committee gets to hear directly from you. A well-crafted statement of purpose can help provide context around low test scores or grades as well as highlight how your experience has helped prepare you for the program.

When should I start preparing for my statement of purpose?

Whether applying to a campus-based or online master’s in data science, it’s better to start working on your statement of purpose earlier to ensure you have sufficient time to think and prepare. Since some master’s in data science programs may have rolling application and start dates, it’s best to double check admissions deadlines and make sure you have plenty of time to write and edit your statement of purpose.

Is there a format I should follow for my statement of purpose?

Schools may have different requirements for statement of purpose submissions. Check directly with your school of interest. In general, keep statements of purpose concise—word counts may range from 250 to 1,000 words—and focused on academic and professional achievements that may help you succeed in a data science program.

How long is a statement of purpose for master’s in data science programs?

Different schools have different word count requirements. Some schools will specify the length, but others do not. In general, a statement of purpose is between 300 and 500 words. Some schools allow up to 1,000 words. If word count isn’t explicitly stated, try to be concise. These are short essays.
Writing a statement of purpose is one of the first steps toward studying and working in data science. If you want to better prepare for your application, it’s best to start searching for programs early to understand their requirements. Students can either look at data science programs by state or consider data science scholarships available for students.

Last updated: March 2022