Admissions 101: 5 tips for writing a great statement of intent or answering faculty questions!

Let's pause our acronym posts this week for a very in-demand topic! It's applications peak season and some of you might have already submitted a great statement of intent or beautifully answered the Faculty Questions. But some of you might also be pondering on what turns these documents into an offer of admission, specially as the November 15 deadline is fast approaching! So, today, I'd like to bring you my tips according to my experience writing a statement of intent as I applied to OISE. After I tell you MY tips, I'll also show my supervisor's opinion, Dr. Kathy Bickmore, on the same topic, and you can see for yourself if it fits with my tips!

Remember that the program you apply to might ask only for you to reply to specific Faculty Questions. In that case, though the tips given here can help you tailor your replies, the most important tip is answer what is asked! I`d say either for statement in letter format or for fill-in-the-box-format, you need to think of your past, your present and your future! Let's get into the details!

A snapshot of when I had to write mine, in literally letter format!

1) Look to the past. Introduce yourself. Not just "my name is", "I'm from the x place", but what is your background, what's the academic/professional trajectory you've walked. Show you did the walk, not just the talk. What did you do during your previous academic journey, or elsewhere in your community, OF RELEVANCE to the program you're applying? If changing fields like I did, why did you change fields? If your culture or place of origin has heavily influenced this background, you can also dwell a bit on that too so they can understand better who you are and can read your experiences accordingly.

  • If you are applying for a research based program such as MA or PhD - what is your research background? When did you start engaging in research? What was your research about? What type of methodology did you work with (especially if applying for PhD)? Remember, research includes diverse ways of knowing and of circulating knowledge and you don't have to fit any model!

  • If you're applying to professional program such as MEds and MT - what is your professional experience, related to the program and question asked? What did that experience teach you about your field?

  • For either, as well as if you`re changing careers, think WHAT happened in your research experiences or professional experiences that made you want to pursue this new degree you're applying to.

2) Look to the future. Explain why you wish to pursue this new degree and where you want to get with it.

  • If applying to a research program, you need to address what is the research you wish to pursue. It doesn't have to be super detailed, but it's good to include how you got to deciding this is the research you want to pursue, some potential research questions, possible context and possible methodology (if PhD it's good to be a methodology you have knowledge of according to the background you provided - but not mandatory). No citations/references, so be sure it's your very own words and you aren't plagiarizing anything! Remember you also need to list potential supervisors!

  • If it's a professional program, just make sure to include WHY and HOW this new degree will affect your practice, how it's going to contribute to your career (not just jobs/ranks but think about societal change, positive effects on the public you deal with, about improvements in your own practice towards equity, social justice, literacy for all, wellbeing, whatever is your field about.)

3) Look to the present. It's important to make it clear WHY OISE. We all know it's the best, great faculty, etc, but still, go beyond the excellence fact. Get specific.

4) My golden rule: BE PASSIONATE. Don't shy away from saying this your dream because you believe you can help reduce inequality in x way through y (substantiate that claim!). Don't shy away from relating personally to what you are proposing or from stating your positionality if you have that need/it makes sense. Justify/substantiate your claims through your background, through your goals, don't just state them.

5) Lastly but most importantly, be truthful! Be honest with yourself and with the admissions committee!

Oh, and if you are applying to CIDE (you should know what that acronym means already, it is my sweetheart!), you also need to mention your relevant, international or cross-cultural experiences and make sure, if applying to a research program, that your proposed research makes sense for CIDE! I would also check, for MA/PhD, if the potential supervisor(s) you mention are CIDE affiliated faculty!

If your seeking another collaborative specialization or Program Emphasis, be sure to address their requirements too!


Now that you've read MY 5 tips for a great statement, here's my supervisors' take on it with a text she usually sends to future students who email her:

"Your application will be reviewed by at least two faculty members in the home program(s) to which you apply. The process is designed to be equitable for applicants and faculty: While your application 'statement of intent' should mention faculty whose work particularly interests you, advisors cannot promise to take you in advance of the admissions process. Introduce yourself, your strengths, what you want to study at OISE: show what you have learned from your practical and academic experiences, how well you articulate your ideas in writing, and your particular graduate study interests. If you're applying to a thesis program, describe your research experience, and sketch out a topic, conceptual approach and rationale for a potential thesis study. If you also apply to CIDE, be sure to mention in your statement CIDE, your own prior international/ cross-cultural [including Indigenous nation] experience, and international comparative aspects of your proposed area of study.’

- Dr. Kathy Bickmore

So, what do you think? Did my tips, based on my own statement, align with my supervisors' expectation? Do you think it will help you write yours? Do you have any suggestions? Let us know in the comments, hit us up with a DM on @oisevoices or send us an email, just be mindful that we can't evaluate your application - there's an admissions team that will do just that when you apply! But, as I always say, the "no" you already have by NOT applying, so try it and see for yourself when the YES comes! Best of luck and see you all Fall 2022!