Statement of Purpose

What is a statement of purpose?

A statement of purpose (SOP), in the context of applying for graduate school, is an essay that’s one of the most important aspects of your application because it tells the admission committee who you are, why you’re applying, why you’re a good candidate, and what you want to do in the future. It’s sometimes called an SOP letter, application essay, personal background, objectives for graduate study, cover letter, or something similar to one of these.

The statement of purpose reflects not only who you are as a candidate, but your writing abilities as well. In college and graduate school, you’re going to be doing a ton of writing. Seriously a ton. It was not unusual for me to write papers 10-20 pages or longer. With that in mind, it is really important to show that you are a truly competent writer. Some quick tips are:

  • Your statement of purpose shouldn’t have any spelling or grammatical errors
  • Use strong, clear, and concise writing
  • Avoid cliches and repetitive language
  • Stay away from overly informal language
  • Keep a positive and confident tone

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 finalising a decision. While the academic record and other exam scorecards/academic transcripts and backlog certificate 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 gives you the opportunity 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.

 

What is the general format?

The general format is similar to any other piece of academic writing. You should use:

  • 12 point Times New Roman font
  • 1-inch margins on all sides
  • 5 line spacing

This format will make your writing easier to read. It is also the expected format. Sadly, you probably won’t get bonus points for standing out with your general visual formatting. It is going to benefit you much more to focus on wowing your reader with your actual content.

Part 1: Introduce yourself, your interests and motivations

Tell them what you’re interested in, and perhaps, what sparked your desire for graduate study. This should be short and to the point; don’t spend a great deal of time on autobiography.

Part 2: Summarise your undergraduate and previous graduate career

  1.  Research you conducted. Indicate with whom, the title of the project, what your responsibilities were, and the outcome. Write technically, or in the style of your discipline. Professors are the people who read these statements.
  2.  Important paper or thesis project you completed, as well as anything scholarly beyond your curricular requirements.
  3.  Work experience, especially if you had any kind of responsibility for testing, designing, researching or interning in an area similar to what you wish to study in graduate school.

Part 3: Discuss the relevance of your recent and current activities

If you graduated and worked prior to returning to grad school, indicate what you’ve been doing: company or non-profit, your work/design team, responsibilities, what you learned. You can also indicate here how this helped you focus your graduate studies.

Part 4: Elaborate on your academic interests

Here you indicate what you would like to study in graduate school in enough detail to convince the faculty that you understand the scope of research in their discipline, and are engaged with current research themes.

  1.  Indicate the area of your interests. Ideally, pose a question, define a problem, or indicate a theme that you would like to address, and questions that arise from contemporary research. This should be an ample paragraph!
  2.  Look on the web for information about departments you’re interested in, including professors and their research. Are there professors whose research interests parallel yours? If so, indicate this. Check the specific program; many may require you to name a professor or professors with whom you might work.
  3.  End your statement in a positive manner, indicating your excitement and readiness for the challenges ahead of you.

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 moulding your character. However, when it comes to defining your SOP within the communicated word limit by some university, 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 been to such as school, college, office, etc.Some abroad universities do not require SOP, they rather give you Essay Prompts along with a word limit. 

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