• SOP

Statement of Purpose (SOP) - Your Ticket to Study Abroad

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  • By:CANAM Group
  • Updated On:Jul 24,2023 11:42 AM IST

This blog is an A-Z guide on writing a persuasive Statement of Purpose (SOP) to successfully complete your admission requirements. Keep reading to learn more.

Statement of Purpose (SOP) - Your Ticket to Study Abroad.webp
With the hopes of getting selected at their dream college, aspirants do whatever they can to make it to the final list. From clearing language proficiency tests to submitting documents for various admission processes, students strive to put their best foot forward.

Most universities require students to submit a Statement of Purpose (SOP) that helps the admission committee better understand the individual and their career goals. This assists them in filtering out the students that are best suited to the university and the course in particular.

Statement of Purpose (SOP)

A Statement of Purpose (SOP) is an 800-1000-word, self-written letter of intent provided by the student to the university or college. It includes one’s motivations, aspirations, and the incidents that have had an impact on their career decisions.

Aside from the student’s skill set and scholastic and co-scholastic achievements, academic institutions also decide whether or not to admit an individual based on this document. Often students question their writing style and copy sources available online. However, this counts as plagiarism and will most likely backfire as officials spend a great deal of time going through each application. Thus, students should take their time drafting an original and unique SOP. Keep reading to learn how to do the same. 

Why Write a Statement of Purpose (SOP)?

A student’s statement of purpose (SOP) plays an important role in the application process. Aside from showing the college or university one’s writing skills, it shows them the applicant’s personality and helps them decide whether they’ll fit into the campus community.

Thus, even if submitting an SOP is optional, students should make use of the opportunity to pitch themselves and show the institute why they make a good fit.

What should one include in an SOP?

This section delves into a deeper discussion of certain guidelines that need to be kept in mind whilst writing an effective and persuading statement of purpose. The following aspects need to be included in the SOP:

  1. Personal background and financial status
  2.  Academic history and co-scholastic activities
  3.  Interests and hobbies
  4.  Work experience (full/part-time, volunteering)
  5.  Short-term as well as long-term goals
  6.  Reasons why one wishes to study at the particular institution
  7.  Reasons for being interested in the chosen field
  8.  Relevant published works and previously submitted papers, if any

Detailed Steps to Write a Strong and Convincing SOP

1.Prepare an outline
Start by creating an outline or a skeleton of sorts to which details can be added in order to expand it. One of the hallmarks of a well-written essay is that it flows smoothly, the outline helps the writer stay focused.

2.Introduction
The first paragraph is not an introduction to the student although that might seem like the natural course of action. Instead, for SOPs introductions, begin by briefly mentioning what the entire essay is going to discuss. For instance:

  • An anecdote that recounts how the student’s interest in the field was sparked
  • A long-term goal that will be facilitated by the student completing the course
  • A short explanation including the student’s understanding of the field and how they plan to contribute to it after completing the course

3.Building the essay - Body
Here is the recommended order of topics that can be discussed paragraph by paragraph:

a)Introduction
b)Academic background and achievements
c)Professional experience
d)Reasons to join the program and what the student is excited to learn
e)Career goals
f)Reasons why the student has selected the university in particular
g)Conclusion expressing the student’s readiness and desire to join the course

4.Create multiple drafts and edit
Remember that it takes multiple drafts to get to that one SOP that convinces the admission panel. Pay attention to whether or not the text flows and if the sentences are grammatically correct and keep working on different introductions, conclusions, anecdotes etc.

5.Review and proofread
Go through the previously mentioned list of things that must be included in an SOP and tick them off after incorporating them. Make sure to mention only relevant accomplishments and knowledge. If there is an academic issue or a gap in education that needs to be addressed, explain it honestly and optimistically. This not only showcases self-awareness but resilience as well. Most importantly, tune all pointers to the university and course that the SOP is for. It is vital for them to know why an aspirant wishes to study at their institution in particular. There is no room for grammatical errors or factually inaccurate information in an SOP. Thus, go over it a couple of times on different days with a fresh mind. Furthermore, it is highly beneficial to get a second opinion from a teacher, professor or a Canam counsellor.

How can one write a statement of purpose that stands out?

By focusing on unique experiences, skills, motivations and desires one can set themselves apart from the rest of the cohort. These should be linked to the program and university that the student have applied to in addition to explaining how their uniqueness makes them the ideal candidate. Students should insert only the most relevant achievements and experiences and quantify them using metrics or examples whenever possible. Additionally, emphasize transferable skills based on past work experience.

What is the ideal length for an SOP?

The ideal length for a Statement of Purpose (SOP) differs based on the institute and course one is applying to. Generally, an SOP is between one to two pages in length and 800-1000 words long.  However, various colleges and universities or programs may specify a word limit which does not go past 1200 words, thus it is vital to carefully review the application requirements and adhere to the guidelines.

Common mistakes students make while writing an SOP

There are a few mistakes students generally make while working on their SOPs. Go through the list below to avoid them:
•Unclear introductions and conclusions
•Using informal language, short forms and slang
•Being over or under the word limit
•Writing an overly flattering and unrealistic SOP
•Writing without an outline or plan

Writing an SOP for Undergraduate VS SOP for Postgraduate

AspectUndergraduate SOPPostgraduate SOP
Academic and professional backgroundInclude high school details and subjects and any academic achievementsInclude high school, bachelor’s details and any professional achievements
Career goals
Mention future goals and vision for the intended career path
Short-term and long-term goals after having completed an undergraduate degree
MotivationExplain reason(s) for choosing the university and course in particular based on interestsExplain reason(s) for choosing the university and course in particular by tying them to academic history, career goals
AchievementsMention academic achievements, volunteering and any internshipsMention research work, volunteering or any published projects
Co-scholastic AchievementsIn the school or outsideIn school, while pursuing bachelor’s or working

What do colleges look for in an SOP?

Keep in mind that thousands, if not lakhs, of students apply for the same course and the universities and colleges take their time whilst deciding who to welcome onto their campuses. Hence, SOPs should be precise and to the point. Mentioned below is the rubric followed by the admission committee:

•Individuality: While writing an SOP, one should cite examples of qualities and achievements that set them apart from the others.

•Awareness and motivation: In order to show the admission panel that the student’s application isn’t a generic one sent to multiple universities, one should tailor their essay according to details about the course, faculty and university facilities that inspired them to apply. Additionally, one should lay out a lose if not detailed plan about what they intend to do with the qualification they seek to acquire.

•Contributions: One’s case can benefit from stating how their presence on campus will make a difference. Thus, write about plans to volunteer or join sports teams, societies, and clubs.

•Language: One’s SOP should be grammatically correct since it acts like a writing sample from the aspirant. Heavy words and jargon should be swapped with clear and crisp sentences that clearly convey the student’s intent.

Additional Tips
1.Be concise and to the point
2.Make sure the language is apt and positive
3.Plan it well ahead of time to keep adding relevant content over time
4.Don’t use jargon or heavily loaded words
5.Check for proper language and grammar

Can SOPs help students secure scholarships?

SOPs are different from essays students are required to submit for college-specific scholarships. Students are usually informed if they are eligible for the latter and provided an essay question with a word limit. These provide information about the student’s merit, financial need (if relevant) and co-scholastic accomplishments. An SOP is written with the aim of securing admission into a college or university whereas a scholarship essay is submitted in order to ease the financial burden after securing admission.

All of the points mentioned above need to be kept in mind to be able to create an impactful and convincing SOP. When written the right way, it can open the right doors.

For decades, we, at Canam, have been helping students actualize their dreams come true. Be it career counselling, university selection or admission guidance, we can guide you the right way. Contact us to learn more today!

FAQ

Plan out an outline before anything else and research the program and university so you can tailor your essay to relevant details.
No, with adequate research and drive one can easily write a strong SOP.
No, it isn’t necessary to mention your name in the SOP (unless stated otherwise) since it is accompanied by a series of official documents that contain all your details.
Unless asked, avoid discussing any academic shortcomings in SOPs or any other admission documents. If there is an issue which stands out in transcripts, offer an honest and logical explanation behind it.
Yes, mention any relevant internships or work experience in the SOP. But, since it isn’t possible to include all details, in the essay make sure the selected information holds value and advances your case.
LORs need to be attested with the recommender’s signature, the university or college’s stamp and letterhead. SOPs do not have to be attested.

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