Sample Statement of Purpose for History
Statement by MSU Alumnus (01/2000)
The History Student, admitted to Rice
�Why in the world do you want to
become a historian? Heaven knows Russia doesn’t need professional
historians! � Having studied for five years at the department of
history at Moscow State University, I was constantly surprised by
how frequently I have been asked that particular question. Many have
urged me over the years to make a change, to align my career with
more basic interests. Unlike these people I have a firm believe that
every person can create his happiness with his own hands, and my
happiness is in history.
An intense interest in history has always been a trademark of mine.
I grew up in a family of historians, so since early childhood I got
used to the sounds of disputes in history, in which later I took
part myself: Some day I grew to challenge my parents and win, using
my own rules of logic and argument, in spite of their influence on
my theories about history.
It was time when the USSR began its painful transformation into the
new Russia; the time, full of revolutionary events and ideas, hopes
and expectations for a new life after crush of communism.
Conceptions, opinions and ideas, freedom of speech and opening of
archives created favorable mental atmosphere, which inevitably
stimulated my interest in history and aspiration for cognition. When
I read books of Walter Scott, I was fascinated by Scotland. Soon my
interest of Scotland became more concrete — I tried to examine
actual resources of economic growth and rapid formation of
capitalist system in XVIII century Scotland in order to find
�remedies� for the diseases of Russian economy. My decision to
become a historian followed logically the desire to grasp the
meaning of the present and the perspectives of the future through
understanding of the past.
Entering the department of history at Rostov State University (in my
native city) was the first important step in my life. But after the
first year of studies I realized that Russian �wind of change�
didn’t influence �soviet� ideological approach to history, at least
in the Russian province. At this time I have chosen the opinion of
English philosopher Joseph Priestly as my motto: �We have to make
our lives ourselves.� Inspired by the idea, I decided to do the next
important step in my career: to change the kind of education and the
way of life. I transferred to Moscow State University, the best
institution for getting education in history in Russian Federation.
This year I graduated from Moscow State University and faced the
dilemma of choosing the best way to continue my education. Today,
standing on the threshold of the next vitally important period in my
life, I am going to follow my principle in shaping my own life.
To help you understand my current goals better, I would like to
explain my educational experience up to this point. While studying I
was interested in modern British history, my research work was
devoted to the British Enlightenment. The first course paper with
the title �Political ideal of Joseph Priestly� had won recognition
as one of the three best student’s works of the year at the
department. Later I narrowed my focus to a particular problem of the
Scottish Enlightenment, because my early interest to the Scottish
Enlightenment was born of passion for Scotland. So in my next
written works I investigated a contribution of Adam Ferguson, a
famous Scottish philosopher, to development of political economy.
The graduation paper had the title: �Social and economic thoughts of
Adam Ferguson� and it took its place in the department’s library of
the best graduation papers.
During educational process I had different experiences connected to
history. For some time I was lucky enough to teach at school and
work in archives and libraries (see attached Student report summary
of academic records). Also my educational background and scientific
importance of the theme helped me publish articles in historical
magazines and to take part in conferences.
In terms of career, my goals are to teach history, conduct research
projects, and publish results of the projects. To achieve my aims
means to become a specialist with high qualifications.
Unfortunately, the latest changes in Russia brought about not only
positive democratic reforms and political freedom but also reduction
of employment possibilities for scientists and curtailment of stable
government subsidies for scientific projects. As a result, history
suffers from this situation as all other fields of science do.
To my mind it is of key importance to have possibilities to obtain
excellent education and to conduct certain research projects
independently that is why I consider doctoral studies at Princeton
University as the next professional stepping stone in my career.
First of all, teaching assistantship program could provide me with
the practical teaching experience. My desire is to learn in practice
how to guide others in their explorations of the world through
history, to encourage them to see in history all I see in it: the
whole of human experience and the power of human intellect and
Further, earning a Ph.D. in history would advance my other goals by
adding to my creative and analytical skills in history as well as in
working with language. Development of history as a science in Russia
depended on ideological strategy of the only ruling political party
for the last seventy years. Inevitably it left traces on the main
approach to history. With certainty I can assert, that
manifestations of such approach are still very powerful in
historical education in Russia. Apparently, we should take not only
external democratic institutions, but rather change our approach to
life, which can affect our approach to history. However it may be,
Russian historians should use experience of colleagues from the
countries with democratic traditions. I still feel I have so much
more to learn about different approaches to history.
Taking all the circumstances into consideration, I came to the
conclusion, that the best opportunity to pursue my �chosen path�
would be to continue my education as a graduate student at Princeton
University. The facilities, scholarship, and traditions of your
university, combined with the caliber of the student’s body, make me
confident that I will be stimulated throughout the course of my
studies. Upon graduating from your program, a variety of options are
available for pursuing my objectives.
In conclusion I must say that I would regard my being admitted to
the graduate program not only as a great honor but more as a high
responsibility and obligation of hard work.