How to write a winning Statement of purpose (SOP)

What is a statement of purpose?

A statement of purpose (SOP), also called personal statement, is an essay required by universities admission committee  during the application process.

It is an essay stating the purpose you\’re applying to a particular course in a particular university.

Components of a good statement of purpose

In your personal statement, you\’re expected to include the following:

  • Who you are
  • Who you want to become, and
  • How ready you are to pursue your chosen course

Purpose of Personal statement

SOP gives you an opportunity to sell yourself to the adCom. It is a chance for you to impress the admission committee by presenting your profile strongly, through an essay that describes your personality traits, which are not covered in your academic documents.

Personal statement gives the adCom an avenue to know you, understand you, know your motivations for your chosen career path and your goals. Hence, you should discuss the past incidents that have influenced your career path in a specific domain wherein you aspire to grow by joining a course/college.

The statement of purpose should be a narrative about why you took the steps you did and how it brought you to graduate school. Some examples that might apply include: Previous jobs, internships, or volunteering. If you have gained any valuable and relevant volunteer or work experience, be sure to mention it.

How to make your SOP stand out 

While writing a winning SOP, you must at all times, remember what course you are writing SOP for. You must talk about your encounters, experiences and learnings on that course. Do not miss out anything important and do not talk about the rest of the things too much.

Note, SOP for various applications differs. SOP for bachelor course is different from masters and so on. Make sure to distinguish your SOP.

What to include in an SOP

An SOP must include the following;

  • your goals
  • the career path you have taken up
  • your academic progress.

Other elements that are also important to include in a winning SOP are the personal motivations that lead you to choose the university/course you have applied to as well as how you intend to use that experience to achieve your goals.

What not to include in your SOP

It is not rare that universities come across plenty statements of Purposes that are rejected, despite them being descriptive and thoroughly proofread.

The primary reason why universities turn down such seemingly excellent SOPs is them having too much unnecessary information.

Consequently, we don\’t encourage you go about rambling all your accomplishments in your SOP except if you need it to describe your personality.

However, while your SOP can be a brag sheet, it should be a brag sheet with a substance. You need to pick and choose what to include and what to discard.

Don\’t go about discussing your family history, financial details. Make references to your academic projects and work experience but avoid going into detail. It\’s not necessary. It makes your SOP full of jargon and lengthy.

Never exceed the given word limit. Do not lie in your statement of purpose, dishonesty may lead to rejection. Avoid creative front or coloured paper. Don\’t write that the institution was not your first choice. Beware of humour, it can backfire.

Steps to writing a Winning Statement of purpose 

Step 1: Prepare a list of all you wish to include.

A Statement of Purpose is going to be a long document. Before you start writing it, you need to think and prepare a list of things you would like to include

Step 2: Ideate on the theme of your SOP

Think on how you want your SOP to progress. You might be tempted to write down all your experience but you must decide how your SOP will flow towards your goal.

You can start by asking yourself, what incident stands out amongst others and how it has brought you to where you are currently.

Step 3: Research about the course and the University

Research about the culture, the alumni and find out how the culture and the success stories of the university you chose fits with the theme you have chosen. 

Step 4: Prune the List

You must now revisit the list prepared and start pruning it. Remove every unnecessary information from your list.

Step 5: Write, Edit, and Re-write

After completing step 1 to 4, it is now time to write. We always recommend never to submit your first draft. It is extremely important to write it once and re-visit it.

Strategies to writing a winning SOP

Whether you\’re applying for undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate programmes, the strategy of writing a powerful statement of purpose would be to sound focused throughout.

Starting from your academic and professional background to your career aspirations, you need to carefully connect all the dots between reaching your goals through your choice of school and course.

The essay should always go in a flow, covering your past experiences, present involvement, and future plans. Always try to write each point in a different paragraph. For example

  • 1st Paragraph: Introduction of SOP
  • 2nd and 3rd Paragraphs: Academic Background and Professional Experience
  • 4th Paragraph: Why your chosen course
  • 5th Paragraph: your career goals
  • 6th Paragraph: Why your chosen University
  • Closing Paragraph of SOP

What colleges look for in an SOP

Note that your statement of purpose is one among thousands of others to be reviewed on the same course.

Your SOP, therefore, needs to be precise and crisp, highlighting your uniqueness.

Here are few things the college review committee will generally look for in a student\’s SOP:

  • Your writing capability: this is reflected in your SOP. Your SOP should be free from grammatical errors. The language should be lucid enough for them to comprehend yet should have a good vocabulary
  • Highlight your unique traits.  Your interests and goals will help them know you on a personal basis
  • You need to mention how you will be able to contribute to their community, be it through sports, community services, societies or clubs, and so on.
  • The Adcom should be convinced that you know about the department and college/university thoroughly. They should not consider your application as a random one.
  • Your motivation or inspiration to study a selected course should be clear, evident and justified.

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