Tips to write a perfect SOP (Statement Of Purpose)
Posted on: February 22 2019, By : Ayush Varhadi
The Statement of Purpose is probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of graduate applications. Most students pass it off like it is just another essay about themselves, and naturally, write monotonous stuff that doesn’t stand out.
An SOP is a long essay that is often asked by universities abroad. The full form of SOP is Statement of Purpose. Usually about 1000 words, this essay seeks to understand the candidate’s life, the motivations for the chosen career path and his/her goals. There are many elements to a Statement of Purpose or a SOP as it is famously referred to.
Now, almost 99% of the statements are structured similarly, and often times, students copy-paste, and edit statement of purposes from their seniors or friends, making it sound even more generic or irrelevant to their applications. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you will have to draft a great statement of purpose.
Strategies to Write a Powerful Statement of Purpose
• Write Stories. Not Statements
For example, most people say this:
“I used to work in a multinational software company in the development team, and I had to do the same job every day: code stuff. There was nothing new for me to learn at work, and there was nothing very exciting about going to the office. One day I decided that I had to get out of there, so I applied to college to study higher courses and get a better job.” Doesn’t that sound like most stories? Albeit, a very normal story?
Instead, how about saying this:
“Late in the night one Monday, I had found myself in the middle of a deserted office, and fifteen thousand lines of code. Full of caffeine in my bloodstream, and an empty life beyond office, I realized that the computers started coding my brain, and controlling my life. No longer wanting to let the machines feed on me, I decided that college would be my salvation.”
Both the stories come to about four lines. But which narrative do you think will keep the admissions committee reading? Which story do you think will be remembered by them even after reading 5000 applications? Think again. Do you want your statement of purpose to read like a novel or a newspaper? (HR Training)
• Quantify Your Stories
Even though we asked you to write a story, you will have to remember that your story should not read like a thesis .For example, if you have worked for a local NGO teaching math to primary kids, you could say:
“During my engineering days, I helped a local NGO by joining as a math tutor, where I taught basic math concepts to school children.” Now even though this sounds really good, it doesn’t give the reader the entire picture and they certainly do not know how much of an impact you made on those children. (Consulting Firm)
So, you could change that bit to something like this:
“During my second year of engineering, I joined ‘Teach Math’, a local NGO, where I was a part of the Math tutoring team. For a period of 10 months, I taught basic math like algebra, geometry and arithmetic to more than thirty 5th and 6th grade students. And every single student I taught to, secured an A in math that year. I’ve never been prouder in my life.” Do you see the difference? These numbers suddenly give a whole new perspective to the readers, and their respect for you is suddenly multiplied. That’s the power of numbers; they add authenticity, and authority to your stories.
• 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. Be introspective. Don’t just say “I chose this degree because I love this field.” 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.
• 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. These things are much more important than the departments, or university rankings, or number of Ph.D.’s or other materialistic qualities.
• Use a Formal But Conversational Tone
Imagine you are talking to your dean, or the director of your college. What would your language be like? That’s how your statement of purpose should sound. Now, occasional humor is okay, but you shouldn’t try to sound too funny or too smart. No intentional jokes or funny lines should find their way into your statement. After all, 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.(HR Training)
• 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.
Now, you might be wondering that the statement of purpose can only be as long as 1000 words, and that there’s quite a lot to cover in that little space. This is where your writing skills should come in. You simply can’t just go ahead and write “I am very passionate about the field of study I have chosen.” That is the last think you would want to write. What you should instead write is a sentence that indirectly means the same. You will have to choose your words wisely so as to indirectly communicate your “passion. You can use brief examples to show why you are so passionate about it.
• Don’t Create Stories. Be Yourself
It is better to be normal than to pretend to be someone you are not. The admissions officers are expert psychologists, and they can spot a true applicant from a false applicant with just one reading. So, you will badly hurt your chances of getting into your dream school if you try to be someone else. Just be yourself, and write only about the things that have happened to you, and the things that you are passionate about.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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. You can also take advice from an education consultant. 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.
You can also take help from an Overseas Education Consultant In Mumbai who will guide you in writing the Statement of Purpose and assist you in your activities in the process of preparing to study abroad.