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Is it OK to use bullet points in the statement of purpose for graduate school applications?

I'm applying for a PhD program in physical science. I want to organize some information in a bullet points form. However, I didn't see this done in any of the statements that I have seen online.

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Both Buffy and JoshuaZ raise valid points:

  • One of the things that [some] reviewers will be looking for...is your basic writing ability.
  • The reaction [to bullet points] seemed to be all over the place. One person thought bullet points stood out and were great. Another considered it to be unprofessional.

I'll add: Used well, bullet points can convey your message succinctly, which is a skill reviews are looking for. Used badly, they suggest a poor writing style. You, yourself, can perhaps determine whether bullet points are working. Give it a try. You can also ask people what they think.

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I would guess that a narrative form serves you better for most of your statement. However, some bullet points, if explained well, are probably fine.

However, if the whole thing looks like a naive Powerpoint slide deck it would likely be damaging. One of the things that a few, at least, of the reviewers will be looking for in your statement is you basic writing ability. Don't make it so sparse as to require interpretation, but don't make it pedantic.

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I literally just had a conversation a few people on this subject although it was for Post-Docs and similar positions rather than for graduate school. The reaction seemed to be all over the place. One person thought bullet points stood out and were great. Another considered it to be unprofessional. I can't speak to your specific field, but I suspect that the same reaction will occur here with it being either very good or very bad depending on the exact makeup of the committee reading the letters.

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