You are 800 words away from writing your SOP

The STATEMENT OF PURPOSE is a document that tells the Admission committee of a college/university more about you in your non-academic environment. Let’s put it this way- It’s a long essay that describes you and your life- your motivation to seek a particular course and where do you see your life headed. It’s all about your influences and incidents that have shaped you and now guide you to pursue a particular programme.

  • It’s your first best impression.
  • Its individualistic
  • It’s a personal account
  • It’s a creative exercise

The SOP is critical because while your academic score is an objective score, the SOP is a subjective one- the subject being YOU. It’s your chance to stand out amongst thousands of admissions and therefore has equal weightage with that of your academic performance.

The format of an SOP

The format of an SOP is fairly standard and will defer only basis the programme that you are applying for. However, check once if the particular university has laid down some guidelines for you to follow.

Here are 5 steps to help you through a specific SOP-

1. Prepare a list of personal and professional instances/achievements

Many universities abroad would like to know about your personal and work experiences, so it becomes important to write about them. A list is helpful to separate your personal and professional stories.

Let me give you an example.

Personal instances would include perhaps a blog regarding a specific topic or interest and has garnered attention or a huge exercise expedition or even your love for rehabilitating stray animal population. Professional instances would include all your work-related experiences. Make sure that you strike a good balance between the two.

So, does this mean you should be writing about ALL your achievements? Most definitely not. Choose accomplishments that make sense to your candidature. Choose accomplishments that show value to the university. What is important is to highlight your learning from the experience? What impression that experience has made on you? What have you learnt from your success/failure?

Your family history too is relevant, but keep it short and sweet. You are seeking admission, not your parents.

If your family has shaped your personality and it is relevant for the admission committee, please highlight it. For example, if you come from a family of teachers and you are looking for a specialized program, it is relevant for you to highlight the influence your parents have made on you. If you come from a business family and you are seeking a business program or a course in entrepreneurship, then it is relevant for you to talk about your learning.

Talk about your academic and professional projects, but again specific ones that have left behind important learnings for you and those that will matter to your end goal.

2. Select particular traits about yourself that you would like to highlight. What end are you trying to achieve with those traits?

Choose what highlights you the best and write about it, with relevant examples

Are you adaptable?

Are you a learner?

Are you determined?

Are you tenacious?

Are you a leader?

A college or university looks for a unique individual amongst thousands. Your interests, goals and talents are looked at as contributory elements to a college/university. While you are seeking admission, the university is also looking to see how you can add value to their prestige.

3. The word limit is there for a reason

While we agree that an SOP talks about the purpose of your life, here we must understand that TOO MUCH is fatal to the cause of the SOP itself. Stick to the word limit. If points sound like repetition, remove them. Use smart words and phrases. Understand precise writing. Be lucid. And don’t brag, keep it real. Most universities set a word limit for you and that’s usually between 800 and 1200 words. That’s pretty much the length of what you are reading right now.

Write in paragraph format. That will make it easy for you to retain your focus at all times.

The first paragraph is crucial. Compare this to the headline of a news story. Would you continue to read or watch if the headline appeared wishy-washy? You could start with an anecdote, or you could describe yourself and connect it to your long-term goals.

The second and third paragraphs can talk about your academic and professional front.

The fourth and fifth paragraphs can talk about your choice of the university and course, and finally your career goals.

If you are applying for a scholarship, then your SOP clearly needs to explain why you are the one deserving of the scholarship.

4. Read up about the university/faculty/clubs

You must know who you are writing to. It’s the beginning of your relationship with a particular university. What interests you about them? Who is their faculty? Can you be part of some of the university clubs (sports/ community activities)? Does your philosophy resonate with that of the university’s? Do you identify with their traditions? Both you and the university must know about each other. It’s a two way street.

5. The first draft isn’t the last draft

As you begin to write, you must remember that your first draft will continually undergo changes. Focus on the correct use of the language, good vocabulary, punctuation, grammatical syntax and spellings. You want to make sure that it’s a zero-error document. Proof read it again and again. Get your family and friends to read it and give you feedback. Every day as you go through it, you will get another perspective. We cannot stop harping about this particular point as the final draft lays you out on paper.

Please remember that the admission officer is at a vantage point where she/he has read SOPs of many students. They are adept at making out a last minute, hurriedly written SOP versus a writeup where a student has taken the pain to write well. It is your application, so please spend time on your SOP.