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Statement of Purpose

by Em16

This is part of my application to a summer writing camp at the University of Iowa. The prompt is:

In 1-2 pages, tell us why you want to participate in the Studio and what you hope to accomplish here. You may want to discuss your writing sample or talk about writers that you admire. This is a chance for us to get to know you a little bit from your own words. 

“Statement of purpose”. I must say, when I read that phrase, I was immediately intrigued. The assumption that there is such a thing as purpose, and it can be neatly stated in a two page essay- if anything ever struck me as a challenge, that did. Mostly because I struggle with word limits. But also because to write my own statement of purpose I would first have to figure out what that purpose was. I’ve so far been unsuccessful in finding any sort of purpose to life. In fact, it only has served to confuse me. With each new piece of evidence to examine, I seem to come even closer to the conclusion that life has no purpose.

Writing, however, is different. Purpose is central to writing. From the early days of elementary school to high school courses, it is drilled into us that whatever write, it must have a purpose. Purpose itself is the purpose of writing. We write to find meaning in a muddle of meaningless events.

The closest thing to purpose I’ve ever known is writing. I started writing when I was in 6th grade, and I haven’t stopped since. I’ve stopped plenty of things- playing flute, watching Disney Channel, procrastinating on my homework. I’ve started a lot of things- high school, piano, getting Bs (that was a hard one to start). Sometimes I feel like a computer program, constantly going through updates, adding new features, and fixing bugs. But the one thing that stays constant is writing.

My vision in coming to the Studio is, ultimately, to improve my writing. I’d like to learn how to make characters that a reader will latch on to. I’d like to be able to construct plots that are more than just a two-dimensional sequence of events. I’d like to study syntax, and the parts of a beautiful sentence. Maybe I’ll create a few beautiful sentences myself.

At the Studio, I would meet other teen writers, which is a rare occasion for me. Most of my friends are going to end up as doctors, scientists or lawyers, not authors. Serious writers are almost like mythical creatures.

Not for me, though. I’ve met more published authors than I have lawyers, and I am intimately familiar with the lives of many famous authors. Leo Tolstoy, for example, who is one of my favorite others. He didn’t have the most stable personality, yet his books have a certain allure that can’t be found elsewhere. He disarms assumptions, seeing the world as if for the first time. It’s not that he’s rational or that he sees the world the way a scientist would. There are many times when his writing doesn’t make logical sense. But it is at these moments, when he lets go of the reasoning of this world, that he is the most insightful. He is able to grasp both the sense and nonsense inherent in life.

I don’t expect that in two weeks, I can learn how to write as well as Tolstoy. That would take years. I do hope, though, that I can begin to understand how Tolstoy summoned the inspiration and courage to write his great works.

Is this a review?



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111 Reviews

Points: 9075
Reviews: 111

Sun Feb 23, 2020 11:45 pm
tgham99 wrote a review...

I really like the approach that you took when responding to the prompt. I'm not sure if the right word is "meta" but that's the feeling I got while reading; I think you put a very unique spin on what was asked of you and it worked very well.

I like that your essay/statement has a very humble tone, which is really emphasized in the last paragraph. I feel like you accurately conveyed the feeling of wanting to be a better writer, but also wanting to acknowledge the fact that, as with all other challenges throughout life, it's a process, and learning from others (like Tolstoy) is a great way of getting to where you awnt to be.

In terms of grammar and spelling, I didn't see any slip-ups, so kudos to you there.

I like that the tone of the piece is also very genuine; I really like the intro sentence to the second to last paragraph about how you're familiar with the lives of many famous authors. This in itself is a good way to set you apart, and I think that you did a good job of talking yourself up without seeming overly arrogant or tooting your own horn.

I hope this review was helpful and I hope your application was accepted!!

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54 Reviews

Points: 405
Reviews: 54

Sun Feb 23, 2020 11:00 pm
PlainandSimple wrote a review...


Here to review!

I just want to say, you really had me interested. I mean I know that is kind of the point for something like this to show you are different from all of the rest. But you actually did a great job with that. What I also thought was really cool is the fact of how you describe a writer. I never thought of writers like that. Fabulous job!

Hopefully, you got to go!

_ from your friend,
@PlainandSimple _

Keep writing <3

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522 Reviews

Points: 18486
Reviews: 522

Wed Feb 05, 2020 12:55 am
Lavvie wrote a review...

Hi Em16!

Good for you to applying to a writing summer camp at the University of Iowa! As you may well already be well aware, U of Iowa is probably the best university for an MFA in Creative Writing and while that may be a way off for you yet, having the opportunity to attend a summer camp there would be an amazing experience. With that said, I'll try to provide some pointers so your statement can stand out even more ;)

To be very honest, I think the strongest part of your statement lies in the middle. The beginning seems a little inauthentic, perhaps a bit forced, and I think you spend too much time philosophizing about the word "purpose" rather than telling the selections committee why you love writing and why you want to do it intensively for two whole weeks. I think you need to start your statement with this sentence of yours: "Writers are almost like mythical creatures." (I would remove "serious" in this case because it comes across as a bit arrogant.) Then I would suggest you proceed with your statement in the following manner:

1) Writers are mythical creatures - elaborate on why, what your friends are doing and you're doing in contrast
2) What you like to write, what you feel when you write (reference your writing sample, perhaps your favourite author, Tolstoy)
3) Why this Iowa summer camp is perfect for you and why you're perfect for them - in other words, why this experience would be mutually beneficial

Essentially, while it may seem that I am suggesting you revamp the entire statement, I think you actually have most of the content already written - it's just a matter of reorganization and focusing more on a single theme, and having that theme thread its way throughout the whole statement. You don't have a lot of space to write and the people reading your application don't have a lot of time, so you really need to catch their interest immediately. Be wise!

I have a lot of faith in you and hope you'll keep us up to date at YWS if you're selected!

Best of luck,

grammar is hard and i dislike it immensely
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