How to write a powerful Statement of Purpose (SOP) | Sample SOPs inside!
Last Updated on February 17, 2021 by iSchoolConnect
What if my Statement of purpose is not good enough? What if my writing style isn’t up to the mark? What if my SOP is too common? Get answers and tips for all these questions and more in this blog about how to write a Statement of Purpose (SOP).
The questions mentioned above are the ones running through the mind of almost every student writing a statement of purpose for their college applications. To help you write a rocking SOP, I’m gonna give you some simple tips on how to write a statement of purpose and what to avoid while doing so!
Now, I don’t blame you for feeling nervous. Your SOP is what makes or breaks your college application. To help negate the stress, it is crucial to back your abilities and have full faith in your writing style. But before we get there, let’s understand what is a Statement Of Purpose.
What is a Statement Of Purpose?
The Statement of Purpose, also known as the SOP, is the most important part of your university application. It introduces you to the admissions committee and gives them a chance to get to know you better. It’s objective is to convince the committee that you deserve to be a part of the university’s community.
If written well, your Statement of Purpose can get you into your dream university.
What do colleges look for in an SOP?
Before you start following the instructions mentioned above, it’s important to remember who you’re writing to your SOP for and what they’re expecting.
So head over to the university course page, look at the documents they need, scroll down to the SOP section, and find out exactly what they are looking for. Always keep those points in mind while writing your SOP.
- Your motivation behind applying
- Your interest in the course and the university
- How you can contribute to the college
- What makes you the perfect candidate (your USP)
Every section of the SOP we will talk about will cover at least one or two of the points above (you can come back back and cross-check).
In the end, you have to write your SOP with one goal in mind – to define your purpose for applying to that university. The more you stick to this goal, the more crisp your SOP will be.
How to write a Statement of Purpose for grad school
To that end, your Statement of Purpose should cover a variety of key points (which we will cover one by one in this blog). You have to tell the committee who you are, where your career interests lie, and what values you’ll bring into the classroom when you step in. Let’s cover all the important sections of an SOP one by one-
Have a grand opening
Universities go through thousands of applications every year. The candidates they consider might be just as good and deserving as you.
So, how do you make your application stand out? Have a grand opening. It will help you capture the attention of the admissions committee within seconds.
One way to have a grand opening is to share something personal. Talk about an incident or an event in your life that draws you toward the course you want to study. I’m not asking you to make up an experience, just share a part of your life.
If I were applying for a course in Psychology, I would mention that I had suffered from an anxiety attack last year. This incident made me approach a psychologist for help, and she completely changed the way I look at myself and the world. What she did makes me want to help people like me, who are also suffering from anxiety.
It’s true. And sharing something personal will make the person reading your SOP connected to you. They will want to read on.
Talk about your future plans
Right after sharing what drives you to study further, talk about what you will do after you graduate. This will not only add a layer to your personality but also show that you are someone who likes to plan things in advance.
You don’t necessarily have to talk about getting a job. You can also say you want to start your own business or volunteer (if that’s what you really want to do).
If I were to apply for a course in Public Policy, I’d say I want to get a job in an organization that’s working at the grass-root level. This will allow me to interact with people and get insights into their actual needs. And that’s pretty important when it comes to drafting policies for a nation.
As you can see, after talking about what I want to do in the future, I mentioned why I want to do it. This goes to show that I think things through before making a decision and gets me more brownie points!
Stress on your previous experience
Now that you have established what drives you and what your goal is, it makes sense to talk about how far you’ve come.
In case you’re a working professional, talk about what you did, and share your accomplishments at work. If you’ve had more than one job, devote one paragraph to every place you’ve worked and start from the top. And if you’re a student, talk about the internships you’ve done and how they helped you grow.
This is where you get to brag (subtly) about yourself. So mention your projects, your contributions, and your learnings as well as you can. If you won some award or conducted any workshops, throw that in too!
But remember, keep your sentences short and to the point. If you’ve done something that is not relevant to the course, edit it out.
Share your academic interests
Just like your work experience, your accomplishments at college are meant to talk about your progress. Here, you can mention your favorite subjects and how well you scored in them. You can also talk about the topics you loved the most and share how you pursued your interests outside of class (through projects, publications, etcetera).
This is also a great time to highlight which subjects you want to study at that university. It will show the admissions committee that you have researched them really well about them and depict how interested you are.
When applying for a Masters in Computer Science, I can highlight that I did really well in subjects like Signals & Systems and Mathematics. This led me to research about ethical hacking and publish a paper on it. And that’s why I’m looking to specialize in Cybersecurity at the university.
From here on, you can slowly start creating a build around why you think you are the best candidate for the university.
Mention a few co-curricular activities
Before you start, it’s important to know the difference between co-curricular and extracurricular activities. Co-curricular activities are activities associated with your academics. Like competitions, courses, projects, and events. Extracurricular activities or things you do outside of academics, like dancing.
Adding co-curricular activities to your SOP shows that you are genuinely interested in the course. Plus, these activities take you outside the academic world and show you what the latest developments in your field are.
Ever since I was in school, I’ve been reading books – fiction, non-fiction, self-help, science, economics, etc. Mentioning this in my application for a course in creative writing will add weight to my personality. It also shows the admission committee what type of genres and writing styles I’m interested in, and how my reading has evolved over time.
In conclusion – co-curricular activities are a great way to showcase your growth. So if you haven’t done much outside of academics, it’s time to take up a co-curricular activity!
Talk about the university
The university-specific para in your SOP shouldn’t be generic. This means that you shouldn’t just mention the university name, your course, and the names of a few student committees you wish to join.
Go beyond that, talk about the subjects, the professors you have researched (thoroughly) about, or the one thing you found the most unique about the course.
Lancaster University offers an amazing course in Psychology. From my research, I know that students who take up this course can specialize in the Psychology of Advertising. After talking about my internships, work experiences, and co-curricular activities in the field of Digital Marketing, I could say how that neatly ties up with what the program is offering.
This shows the admission committee the level of your interest in their course. If you mention a professor’s work somewhere in the middle of your SOP, it can greatly increase your chances of being considered.
Want to look at some sample SOPs that will help you write your own? Download this PDF now!
Statement of Purpose (SOP) format
While writing your Statement of Purpose may seem like a very monumental task right now, it won’t be the case once you start writing. The most common problem most students face is editing their SOP after they’ve written it. You can save yourself some major trouble by following these SOP format suggestions:
- Write your Statement of Purpose (SOP) in a paragraph format with not more than 1000 words or one to one and a half pages.
- Make sure you mention your full name and the program you want to apply for at the top of each page.
- To make sure that your SOP is the easiest to read, use a Times New Roman font (12 points) with 1-inch margins on all sides.
- The SOP format and the number of words vary according to each university
- Try and maintain a conversational yet, friendly tone while writing your SOP.
- The SOP format and the number of words vary according to each university.
SOP writing tips
Your statement of purpose is what sets you apart from all the other candidates that apply for the same spot as you do. So making sure that you write a powerful and convincing Statement of Purpose is of utmost importance. Here are a few tips to help you along:
1. Make sure it’s structured
While there is no specific order of writing an SOP, to make sure your SOP is easy to read, it’s ideal to have a structure to your text. Start with a basic introduction, your personal details, program and career details, etc. and then move on to talking about your experiences.
2. Break out your writing skills
Along with your IELTS or TOEFL, your SOP is also a direct reflection of your English language skills. So be careful not to make any grammatical mistakes, use proper vocabulary, and have someone proofread the SOP for you.
3. Research, don’t copy!
One of the worst things you could do while writing your SOP is to copy a template or sample SOP from the internet and use it as it is. Your content is what makes the SOP unique and convinces the university to let you in. So do your research about the SOP writing format, but always make sure that you put your own original words inside the Statement of Purpose (SOP).
What not to write in your Statement of Purpose
To help you overcome the pressure of writing your SOP and avoid making any mistakes, we have a few tips on the top 5 mistakes to dodge while writing your SOP:
1) Boasting and Bragging
You need to know the delicate balance between informing and boasting. Your essay should be a reflection of the confidence you have. You need to keep in mind that boasting about achievements shows a great deal of insecurity. Bragging about your achievements also gives an impression of self-importance and conceit. This is not the kind of impression you want a selection committee to have of you.
2) Beating around the Bush
The one thing that all selection committee members despise is candidates not coming to the point. Many candidates needlessly focus on elaborating on the fine details that they forget to put a persuasive reason that keeps the reader hooked. Create an outline containing the experiences and achievements you want to talk about and then structure the essay accordingly. Carry on fine-tuning the essay until you feel that the SOP does not beat around the bush and is perfect for presentation.
This is the one thing that happens when students try to present and carve an image of themselves rather than showcasing their true selves. For example, your SOP might state that you love sports; however, the resume does not have any mention of your sporting activities. Such tactics will send confusing and contradicting signals to the committee.
4) Weak Introduction
A strong introduction sets the tone of your essay. An introduction that does not gain the attention of the reader renders the SOP useless. To ensure that you have a gripping introduction, connect your personal background with the academic goals you want to achieve. Avoid providing irrelevant background information and making unclear statements about your future goals.
5) Writing an SOP at the Eleventh Hour
It is easy to differentiate a hurriedly written SOP from one that is well thought-out and engaging. Therefore, the art of how to write a statement of purpose is a gradual process; good SOPs are a result of days of introspection and hard work. Therefore, it is advised that you take the SOP seriously and write with a clear state of mind. If you want your SOP to stand out from the other SOPs, it is imperative that you don’t make mistakes like the ones mentioned above.
After you’re done
After you’ve finished collating all the paras and added them to your SOP, it’s time to work on your second draft.
- The first thing you should do is take out all the unnecessary sentences. If a statement doesn’t serve your goal, edit it out.
- To know what changes you should make, share your SOP with friends, colleagues, teachers, and mentors. Take in all their suggestions and rewrite your SOP.
- This has already been mentioned before but I’m saying it again – double-check for any grammatical errors. Even your friends might have missed some, which is why it’s best to use an online tool…
What if you had a tool to help you write your Statement of Purpose?
Knowing all the things you are supposed to write in your SOP and actually including all aspects in your SOP, is an entirely different matter. It can be very confusing. To help you write a well-rounded and impressive SOP, iSchoolConnect has an AI-based SOP-writing tool. It will guide you and help you cover all aspects such as:
- Sentence Structure
- Grammar Check
- Plagiarism Detection
- Readability Scoring, and more!
With this SOP Writing mentor, you can…
1) Get immediate and detailed content suggestions and tips to write the perfect SOP
2) Correct all your grammatical, punctuation, and language-related errors with the help of the instant tips given by the tool
If that doesn’t sound amazing, I don’t know what will.
Anyway, I hope you found this information on How to write a Statement Of Purpose for grad school helpful. And in case you get stuck while writing your SOP, you can always drop a comment. We would be very happy to help.
Until then, happy writing!