When applying to study at a university abroad, one of the most important pieces of a strong application is your Statement of Purpose (SOP). A Statement of Purpose is a short essay that highlights your educational background, achievements, and goals. It’s also where you should share why you’d like to study your desired program at the university of your choice. 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.
What is SOP?
An SOP is a long essay required by universities abroad and nowadays some of the 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 document 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.
Why is SOP important?
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 finalizing a decision. While the academic record and other exam scorecards/academic transcripts and backlog certificates 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 allows you 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.
TCL Global Guidelines for SOP Writing
While there are several formats and samples available online for an SOP that aspirants can use for SOP writing, however, it is difficult to choose the right format. Also, you would not find the correct formatting details required for a particular draft or the ideal chronology to follow.
Each SOP should be unique and thus, TCL Global has its own guidelines for an SOP to help the students decipher the parts of a statement of purpose so that it can be drafted easily. To know all about the correct formatting and context of an SOP, you can read our Writing guidelines for SOP.
Should you put your name on your Statement of Purpose?
In a traditional SOP, you do not need to write your name or course details anywhere in the document. The SOP is a part of your application/student profile, thus, it will have your name and course details by default. However, some universities or schools might specify whether they require your name and course details in the SOP. These universities will provide you with specific instructions on how and where to write your personal details in a document. Thus, you need to follow their instructions thoroughly.
What do colleges look for in an SOP?
While drafting your SOP, you need to keep in mind that the admission committee will be reviewing thousands of applications for the same course. Thus, not only your SOP needs to be crisp and precise, but it should also highlight the uniqueness in your profile. Here are few things that the college review committee generally look for in a student’s SOP:
- Your writing capability 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. Make sure not to use too many heavy words as sometimes too much rich vocabulary makes the sentence redundant and it fails to communicate the meaning.
- What makes you stand out from the rest of the crowd? Highlight your unique side/unique personality. It should be able to recognize you an as individual through your SOP. Your interests and goals will help them know you on a personal basis.
- With your talent, previous experiences, and interest, how and what can you contribute to the department and college/university, as a whole? Think of it as a two-way process. If you receive an admit, your career will get a kick-start and through your efforts and participation, the department/college can receive benefits. You need to mention how you will be able to contribute to their community through sports, community services, societies or clubs, and so on.
- Being familiar with the university facilities and curriculum will help you a great deal. You need to be aware of the student programs, faculty, internship opportunities, student facilities and societies, traditions, etc. that set the university apart from others. It should be convinced that you know about the department and college/university thoroughly and thus, you are applying in it and not applying randomly.
How to make your SOP stand out from the Crowd?
Now that we have assessed how important your SOP is, we come to the important part – how to write an SOP that stands out amongst 1000s of applicants every year. There are obviously some basics about SOP writing, which clear what all you need to keep in mind like general word limit, format, etc.
What is important to note is that you must always remember which course you are writing the SOP for. For example, if you are talking about studying Computer Science in a country, you must discuss all your encounters, experiences, and learnings of Computer Science. Do not miss out on anything important and do not talk about the rest of the things too much.
Specifically speaking, the SOP for an MBA application would be rather different from the SOP for a Masters’s course like an MS or an MSc. Similarly, the SOP for a Bachelors’s course would be widely different from any of the two.
How long should a statement of purpose be?
Statement of Purpose should be 1-2 pages long, ideally wrapped in 800-1000 words. However, the length of this document may vary as per university-specific requirements. Some universities have a fixed length and pattern of SOPs required, which is fixed to 500 words only, even 200 words in some cases. Most of the universities accept generic length, which is 800-1000 words, which may go beyond 1000, but not exceeding 1200 words, in some cases.
It is generally easy to write a story of your life explaining the importance of each incident in shaping or molding your character. However, when it comes to defining your SOP within the communicated word limit by some universities, the challenge is to portray your best within limited words. In such cases, it is better to mention the major achievements from every place you have been to such as school, college, office, etc.
What to Include in an SOP?
There are many elements to an SOP. Universities could ask question-based essays or simply a general statement of purpose. Until and unless categorically asked, an SOP must include your goals and the career path you have taken up so far as well as your academic progress. Other elements that are further important to the SOP are also 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 that goal.
What not to include in an SOP?
Remember that there is no exhaustive list of what you can include in an SOP. What you need to remember is that in such a case, it becomes equally important to understand what you must not include in your SOP. For instance, should you talk about your family? What about your school life? Every organization I have ever worked with? All my extracurricular achievements?
Also, read our other article on the SOP –
Download writing guidelines of SOP: Writing guidelines of SOP