Statement of purpose aka SOP is an essay that reflects your personality, ambitions and profile to the admissions committee of the university. It is one of the major criteria that determines whether you get an admission or not. Its importance is much higher than your GRE or IELTS scores. So, writing a good SOP is paramount. When it comes to writing an SOP, there are a few rules which are discussed below.
- SOP Structure:
Your SOP should answer only 4 questions:
- How did you choose this course and university?
- What are your expectations from this course?
- What are your ambitions or career goals?
- How will this course and university help you to achieve your career goals?
Follow the Intro-Body-Conclusion Format. Remember to be clear and to the point. In the introduction paragraph, you can write about how you came across this course, and how you were inspired by it. You can answer the first question by explaining the back story.
For example, you might have come across Internet-of-things in your college or office and you are passionate about it. Then you think about implementing your ideas by starting a business but then you realize that you don’t know accounting and financing. You search for courses related to IoT and business and come across a tailor-made course. You chose this course because you realized that it could project you in the right orbit.
Now, there are similar courses offered in various other universities as well. But you have decided to opt for this university for particular reasons. Elaborate on them. For research based studies, you must research on the professors and their current research topic.
If you find your suitable topic, mention that professor and his topic and tell them that this is where your interest lies in. Make them feel important. This way, you can butter them up with your words. But do not write that I chose this university because I have scored 310 in my GRE and I had no other choice, etc.
To answer the second question, you can elaborate on your weaknesses. Following the above example, you are weak in Accounting and Finance. Tell them that you are strong in a particular field but weak in Accounting and Finance and how it will help you overcome that weakness.
Throw some light on your career goals. Needless to say, your goals must be related to the course that you have taken. The university wants to get an idea of what you want in life and how you can be of use to them.
You can answer the final question by writing about their placement and internship programs or their vast alumni body or any other striking feature that will help you achieve your goal. Basically, it is about how they can be of use to you.
- The word limit:
The word limit for an SOP may vary from university to university. A few universities may permit 1000 words but most of them stick to 600 or 700 words. The reason is that they receive copious amounts of documents from a myriad of students applying to that university and the admission committee will not have time to peruse through SOPs that are two or three pages long.
The word limit is always mentioned in the official websites of the universities. If you are allowed to use only 5 words, be concise and to the point. Do not mention of your achievements, etc., that are already available in your resume.
After you draft your SOP, make sure to read it a number of times and see whether it flows well. All sentences must be short and connected. Do not use too many conjunctions.
- Formatting and styling:
Each university prescribes the font style and size, border and margin size to be followed. As a general rule of thumb, use Times New Roman and font-size 12. Do not change the border size and do not add solid borders or margins. Also, keep the heading as ‘STATEMENT OF PURPOSE’ with an underline. Do not write your name in the heading.
- Writing multiple drafts:
Write the first draft. Reduce the number of words in a sentence wherever possible. Check if it flows well. Write subsequent drafts by making corrections to the previous drafts. Use your GRE or IELTS vocabulary wherever possible. You haven’t studied them for nothing. So, use those words to impress them with your vocabulary skills.
In conclusion, remember to stick to the word limit. Keep it short and precise but impress them with your vocabulary. Follow the Intro-Body-Conclusion format. Proof read for spelling and grammatical errors. Here, I would reiterate that you are telling your story. So, make sure it flows well when you read it. Achieving it within the first draft is difficult. So, write multiple drafts and keep editing.
- Article Written By: Nitai
- Edited/ Reviewed By: Tejaswini (MA in Linguistics)
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