How to write a statement of purpose

I see many applications to graduate school and 99% of those coming from India follow the same template: They begin with a childhood memory of seeing an animated movie or playing a game and wax poetic about how that became the inspiration for their interest in computer graphics. I don’t know where that template is coming from and why it is that popular, but it is ineffective, and I’m tired of it, and I’m sure there must be better advice out there, but here’s what I would hope to see in a grad school statement of purpose:

  1. What are your long-term goals? Where do you want your career to go?
  2. How can the graduate degree you are applying for help you get there? What are you looking to learn in this graduate degree?
  3. What skills do you bring to the table that will help you succeed in graduate school? (This would also be a good place to explain some of your lower grades, if any – do so gracefully and honestly).

As I read your statement of purpose, I (and I think I speak for some of my colleagues, too) look mainly for fit. We hope to understand if we can help you get where you want to be in life, and if our department offers what you are looking for.