I wish to apply to public universities in the US for a PhD in the near future and at this point I am drafting my statement of purpose.

Having been exposed to how research (majority of which is public and funded by the government) is done in my country (India) from an early age and having worked in some of these research organizations myself, I was considering including a desire to be an active part of the academic community (in what capacity, I don't think I can be sure at this point) in India and possibly working to contribute to it as one of my motivations for gaining a PhD.

Given that I wish to apply majorly to public research universities (majorly funded by the governments, as I understand it) in the US, will it be perceived as not being in the interests of the university to accept a student who is keen on returning to his country following his education? Does this kind of a thing matter during the admissions procedure? Should I be thinking along these lines? How is marginal patriotism this kind of a motivation perceived in a statement of purpose?

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    The people reading your SOP may care about this, or they may not, but it seems to me it would have a negative impact if anything. Why do you want to include it? SOP's are not really for telling your life story; focus instead on what kind of research you want to do, why the program you're applying to is a good place to do it, and why you can be successful in that program.
    – user37208
    Sep 23, 2015 at 5:20
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    This probably depends strongly on your field of study. Sep 23, 2015 at 6:25
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    I don't think "patriotism" is the correct word here.
    – Cape Code
    Sep 23, 2015 at 6:56
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    For example, if you were studying political science, anthropology, or social theory, having a strong engagement with the discipline's issues with regard to your home country might be seen as giving you focus, bringing more diverse perspectives to your cohort, and giving the discipline more representatives outside the US. Sep 23, 2015 at 7:10
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    On the other hand, physical chemistry or aeronautical engineering programs would likely not care about those factors. Maybe something somewhere in the middle is environmental engineering, where India presumably faces different challenges than the US. Sep 23, 2015 at 7:12

2 Answers 2


Depending on your wording (and to a lesser extent on your discipline), I do not think this is problematic at all. Most public universities in the US are not directly concerned with the monetary investment in their students.

Rather, they are concerned with attracting motivated, high-quality graduate students along with an undergraduate student body that contains (and serves) many students from the state but also includes students from diverse backgrounds and with different life experiences.

You do not say in your question whether you are pursuing a graduate or undergraduate degree, but I think in either case it's fine. Having a plan to return to your home country is totally understandable, and speaks to both your motivation and long-term planning.

Furthermore, admissions committees understand that while you have this plan now, that things can happen over the course of years and that you plans you outline in your statement of purpose may change.

As multiple comments and answers indicate, this should not be the main focus of your statement of purpose and does not need to be belabored.

I agree with the comment that "patriotism" is not quite the right word for your preferences, and I think using that word (or some others) would seem strange or inappropriate in your statement, but in general, expressing a desire to eventually apply the skills you will be learning in your home country should not be a problem.


TL; DR. You do not know where you would like to be after finishing your PhD.

You make several assumptions that may or not hold true.

First assumption. You will finish the PhD. As everyone in this forum knows, finishing a PhD is a long and hard process. Not everyone makes it through.

Second Assumption. You will get a job in your home country, after getting a PhD. This is even worse. The market for PhD holders is very competitive. This is why after the PhD, people may go to several countries for doing postdocs, before getting (if they will ever get) a tenure position somewhere. You cannot plan this beforehand.

Third Assumption. You will still want to go to your home country after your PhD. People change and the 3-7 years required for finishing a PhD is a long time. People may meet their significant other, get married, have kids or change their minds where or what they want to be. You cannot possibly predict how this will turn out for you.

Bottomline. In professional documents, like the SOP, provide all the necessary information you are required to provide and nothing more. Your political preferences, your religion or your love for your country is personal information and you should keep it that way. Be professional and only provide the scientific information and aspirations that is relevant to the university you apply to. Everything else, keep it to yourself.

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    In my experience many application guidelines specifically request that the statement of purpose include something about the student's overall career goals. It is a statement of purpose after all. There is definitely a lot of hyperbole that goes into writing many aspects of the statement, but if you left out anything about why you intend to get a PhD there wouldn't be much left in the SOP.
    – BrenBarn
    Sep 24, 2015 at 6:21
  • @BrenBarn - This is the basis of an effective Answer (which I would vote up). Sep 26, 2015 at 4:27

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