A Statement of Purpose (SOP) is a long essay required by universities abroad and nowadays some of Indian universities during the application process. As the full form of SOP reveals, a Statement of Purpose is an essay stating the purpose of applying to a particular course in a particular university. This essay consists of a gist of who you are, who you want to become, and how ready you are to pursue a certain course in an institution. The essay seeks to understand the candidate’s life, the motivations for the chosen career path and his/her 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.
SOP is a reflection of your personality that you portray in front of the admission committee (Adcom) for getting enrolled in universities abroad. It is your chance of impressing the committee by presenting your profile strongly through an essay that describes your personality traits, which are not covered in your academic documents.
A well-written SOP is extremely critical to your admission. Needless to say, there are many aspects of a candidate’s application that are inspected before finalising a decision. While the academic record and other exam scorecards/academic transcripts are essentially objective in nature, an SOP is the only truly subjective aspect of your application. It is the only document in your application that gives you the opportunity to prove that you have something unique that makes you stand out from the crowd. As such, it is the document of your application docket that can hugely determine your admission.
The Statement of Purpose is the single most important part of your application that will tell the admissions committee who you are, what has influenced your career path so far, your professional interests and where you plan to go from here.
As the name signifies, the Statement of Purpose is your personal statement about who you are, what has influenced your career path so far, your professional interests and where you plan to go from here. It need not be a bald statement of facts; several successful SoPs address these questions through anecdotes, stories or by describing their hero. But whether your SoP is subtle or to the point, it must be well written to be successful.
Statement of Purpose are really simple to write but need to have certain points covered in them for it to make a substantial contribution to the application. A few tips to write a strong SOP are firstly, to start well in advance and plan out what all you are going to mention in your SOP. Planning ahead gives you time to collect all your thoughts and give time to your application. Second, Maintain a formal tone throughout the SOP as it is going to be reviewed by a well qualified panel at the university. Third, write persuasively to convince the reviewers that you are serious about your education and future plans. A strong SOP is essential to convince the university that you are serious about further education and want to excel at their university.
1. Write Stories. Not Statements
Because stories connect to us, statements don’t. Story is a beautifully written piece of literature that you will be emotionally connected to. It brings those humanly feelings out of you, and involves you in its storyline. When you have found a strong reason, tell it as a story. Write a short, but great narrative about what made you make this choice. About why you have chosen to study this course at this university. Impress the committee with your creative storyline, and you will reap the benefits big time.
2. Quantify Your Stories
It should rather serve as the best source of information about you. And when it comes to information, numbers play a key role. Your story should be not only qualitative, but also quantitative. And that means, your story must contain measurable quantities instead of just stories, so the reader can understand the depth of it. If you can quantify your stories properly, and show the results instead of just actions, the committee will not forget your name. You can use the same strategy for the rest of your story, no matter what it is about. Whether it is a research project you did, or a college fest you organized, or a college sports team you led, whatever it is, add numbers to your stories, and make them sound more realistic, and more beautiful.
3. Be Specific
You have to make sure that whatever you say in your statement of purpose, you need to be very specific with it. Don’t just say something because you think it will impress the admissions committee. Whatever you say, you have to really dig into details. Explain clearly why you love this field, what made you decide that you want to work in this field for the rest of your life, what skills you are trying to amass, why it completes you as a person, etc. The ‘why’ is always profoundly important, and also an extremely difficult question to answer, which is why, if you can find answers to all the whys, then you are almost in.
4. Customize Your Essay
One of the biggest mistakes students make is to prepare a basic template for their statement of purpose, and if they are applying to more than one university, they simply change the relevant names and details. But the rest of the statement is an exact copy. This is never a good idea, because though they might seem quite similar to each other, every university is vastly different from the others. Each of them has a diverse set of characteristics that define them, and their cultures, methodologies, visions, values, mottos, strengths, weaknesses, etc., vary greatly. So, if you are applying to multiple universities, you need to factor in all these qualities of every university, and customize your statement accordingly. Remember, every student community is like a family, and if you give hints that you cannot fit into a family or their culture, you may not be welcomed easily.
5. Use a Formal But Conversational Tone
Nearly all statements or essays come under two categories: The super formal, and the super friendly. The first category is when you write a statement of purpose that is so formal, it looks like you are writing to your lieutenant in the military. The second one, of course, looks like a casual email to a friend. It’s a statement of purpose, and the purpose is to pursue a graduate degree, not to impress people with your sense of humor. So, if what you write brings a smile on the readers face, then it’s perfectly alright. But it shouldn’t make them throw away your application because you didn’t seem serious enough to them.
6. Decide How You Want To Portray Yourself And Learn How to Portray Indirectly
You must see that the statement of purpose serves as a medium to convey your attitude, your personality and your character. Alright, those are some heavy words, and it can actually be difficult to them on paper. So, what you can do is, learn what your statement of purpose should portray you as.
7. Don’t Create Stories. Be Yourself
Because we asked you to write stories, there would naturally be an inclination to “create” stories out of thin air. Do not do this at all. Write great stories only if you have great stories. Some people might come from normal backgrounds, who had normal lives, and probably didn’t achieve anything spectacular. It’s completely okay. If you don’t have anything great to write, don’t write it. Be normal, and write normal stories. Just be yourself, and write only about the things that have happened to you, and the things that you are passionate about.
8. Address Your Problems
The Statement of Purpose is a great opportunity for you to address some of your problems. If you have had any problematic academic background, or a gap year in your career, or if you had any work-related problems, you can address them on the statement of purpose in order to reassure the admissions committee. You must try and be as honest as possible, and talk about your problems in a matured manner.
9. Do Your Homework
This is one very important point you should exercise while you are writing a statement of purpose. You should be thorough with the details of all the universities you are applying to, and list down all the things you like about each university, before you write the essays.
10. Proofread, Edit, and Re-edit. Ask Friends and Family To Grade Your Essay
Another mistake students make is, they try and keep their essays to themselves. Maybe they are shy, or maybe they think their friends and family aren’t necessarily experts on the subject. So they think there’s no point in asking friends and family to critique on their essays. Wrong. Your statement of purpose speaks about you as a student, as an individual. Yes, there is technical slang involved, and yes your family members may not be experts on that. But, they sure are experts on ‘you’. Which is exactly why you should approach them.
11. Take Advice From Professors
If you know a professor at your undergrad institution, don’t hesitate to approach him/her for advice regarding your statement of purpose. They are of course very experienced prospects, and they might have seen thousands of statement of purposes and students in their careers. So, it wouldn’t hurt to ask for their opinion. Plus, since unlike your family, they are technically sound, they can also provide you valuable insights on how to project your technical expertise and project works in the statement.
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