Writing a Winning Statement of Purpose
The Statement of Purpose (SOP) is an essay required by graduate schools in which you write in detail his/her academic (and/or personal) background, what has influenced your career, your professional goals or interests, your purpose of pursuing a graduate degree and how that education helps you achieve your goals.
The SOP is one of the most important documents of your application packet. You should consider the SOP as an opportunity given to you to speak with the admissions committees directly. This document should be honest and show you in the best light. Through the SOP, you also have a chance to explain not only your achievements and accomplishments, but also any low performance in a standardized test (GRE®/TOEFL/IELTS) or an unusual dip in your academic performance.
The following are some important points you should consider before you begin writing your SOP:
- Gather all important information pertaining to your professional life (if working), academic life (college, high school), personal accomplishments and family background (this comes in very handy if you are the sole person planning to pursue higher education in your family), any specific incidence or a person who has influenced you etc.
- Evaluate yourself – DO a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) of yourself.
- Question yourself – Why do I want to go abroad for higher education? How will this effort make a difference to my life or my family or to the society? What are my career objectives? What opportunities will this education create? Will this education get me the skills and exposure to achieve my career objectives?
- Research the university/program
Universities are different and the programs, though give you the same degree, could be different as their focus could be different. The focus of a particular program may drive your decision towards or against choosing a particular university.
- Sell yourself
- Highlight your strengths, achievements and substantiate them with concrete examples.
- What special personal/professional traits that you possess would distinguish you from the competition?
- Have a clear objective of why you want to pursue higher education and how that education would help you?
- Put yourself in the shoes of the admissions committees and think – Why should the committee select you?
- Writing Strategies
- Be honest and be free in your writing. Do not expect the first draft of the SOP to create magic.
- Highlight your accomplishments. If you do not speak about and for yourself, no one else will! But, do not be hyperbolic in language.
Weigh the pros and cons of what and how to include. Avoid making excuses!
For example: I could not do well in the fifth semester of my under-graduation since I took ill.
You would rather want to present it as a learning experience: My fifth semester was a learning experience in shaping my personality as it taught me to face unforeseen situations with courage and gave me the determination to fight back. And thereon I maintained a good average of xx% in my academics.
Do not be boring!
For example: Knowledge is power. I like computers. Computers changed the way the world works blah blah.
Rather present how you have showcased you interest in developing knowledge by actively engaging in project work, internship, designing etc. and how you plan to take this interest to the next level.
- Organise your ideas. Ensure a smooth flow from one paragraph/idea to another.
- Check for any pre-specified word limit. If no word limit is mentioned, you should target about 750 to 1000 words.
- Use proper grammar and sentence structure.
- Avoid common jargon, contractions (can't, doesn't etc.), chat lingo!
- Get the SOP edited by a professional.