I am currently in the process of applying to a PhD program at a university in Canada. As part of the application, I need to submit a statement of purpose. The prompt for the statement of purpose is as follows:

A statement of purpose (maximum 500 words) that discusses your career goals, why you want to do research, and the areas of research that interest you. If you have done any original research, please describe the results, their importance, and your particular contributions. If you have specific research plans, outline them here.

I have already written my statement of purpose for other universities and all of them required a maximum of 2 pages. My statement of purpose is currently 2 pages long, with a total of 1,249 words. I have described everything that the prompt mentions in these 2 pages, but I do not think I can do that in under 500 words. Is it ok to submit it as is? If not, how do you suggest I proceed?

Thanks for the help.

Update: I emailed the University in question about the length of the statement of purpose, and it turns out that their application form was not updated. They in fact allow a 1-2 page statement of purpose. I think this is helpful for future situations.


1 Answer 1


I would think that two and a half times the maximum would be a bit extreme and leave people less than pleased.

A few extra words wouldn't hurt most likely, but what you suggest seems unreasonable.

Factor out the most important ideas and express them concisely. Consider it a test that you don't want to fail.

A note on the SoP. Don't use it to reprise what is in the CV or other materials. Don't use it to explain past problems/issues. Make it entirely forward looking. What do you expect to accomplish in doctoral study and thereafter. You are wasting words if you try to use it for other things.

  • Would explaining your contribution in previous published research be a negative in this case? A large portion of my SOP is a long the line of <I published paper x. My contribution was y. I explored z which didn't work. This led to a publication>. Would this count as wasting words? Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 6:53
  • Probably, if it puts you over the limit. But talking at all about already published papers is talking about the past. Talk about the future. The CV already shows your publications.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 11:15

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