9 Tips To Draft a Winning SOP
A statement of Purpose or SOP, as the name suggests is your personal statement about:
- Who you are
- What you’ve done professionally and academically so far,
- Who or what has been your major influence, and
- Where you plan to take your career from here.
It isn’t necessary to riddle your SOP with cold, hard facts; it can have anecdotes and short interesting stories describing your influences and academic achievements.
Either way, you need to write your SOP very well.
A good SOP can make your profile, while a bad one can mar it.
Why is SOP important?
Your SOP is your chance to make yourself stand out of a crowd of people with similar educational qualifications as yours. It gives you an opportunity to portray your intent and desire to learn, prove your worth, and convey why you are the perfect candidate for the respective course.
Common SOP mistakes
Every GRE aspirant works hard to score high in GRE. But that is often not the case with SOP.
The problem of delaying : People tend to put off writing the SOP or essay and delay till the last minute. They often wind up with the near-perfect essays found in admission guidebooks. After countless sessions, finding the one distinguishing factor for your SOP can be very difficult. Not to mention, struggling through an ocean of Dos and Don’ts. Then come the first, second, and umpteen drafts for the SOP, which could quite tire you out.
The problem of hurrying : When the admission deadlines rapidly approach, aspirants hurry up with their SOP. This step of drafting SOPs shouldn’t be hurried at all. Proper planning is required to draft an SOP, as it determines how you present your achievements before the admissions committee.
Will your SOP be interesting enough to make it stand out of the hundreds of others processed each day during the admit season or will it get buried under the weight?
Proper planning can give you enough time to create and submit a well-written and carefully put together SOP. Starting early gives you the opportunity to get the SOP proof read a couple of times before sending it across.
Tips for writing a good SOP that can help you get good admits
Tip#1 : Ideal Word Limit
The length of SOPs is generally specified by the respective university. Mostly it lies between 500 and 1000 words. If the university does not specify the world limit, try to keep it within 1000 words. In any case, don’t exceed 1200 words.
Tip#2 : Keep it simple
Bold, italics, underlined, unnecessary footers and headers, numerous highlights and font changes are a no! They hamper readability to a great extent. Keep it simple, clean, and professional.
Tip#3 : Begin with a catchy paragraph
The admissions committee wants to learn about you. They would like to see you, beyond the numbers and grades. Reveal your personality through your Statement of Purpose (SOP). The admissions committee reads more than 40 SOPs at a time. Catch their attention with the first few lines. Your SOP is your first personal contact with the admissions committee. Use it to distinguish yourself.
Here’s a small example as to how you can distinguish yourself. It is taken from the 2008 heist Drama movie “21” starring Kevin Spacey, based on a real life story of the MIT Blackjack team.
Well those who have watched the movie know what I’m talking about! For those who haven’t here’s a quick run down:
The protagonist of the movie, Ben Campbell is a brilliant student from MIT and has received admit from Harvard Medical School. The catch is the tuition fee is too much for him to pay. While there is the option of a financial aid in the form of one “Robinson Scholarship” that will pay for his fees for the entire duration of Master’s. But in order to avail the prestigious scholarship he needs to dazzle the director.
Now here is where the story begins and he goes through a lot of experiences. some good and some not so much. But there is a life lesson in each of these experiences. Towards the end of the movie when he meets the director again he’s got a story to tell, a rather interesting one; one that has made him mature and aware of the way of the world.
The learning from this little anecdotal review of the movie is, whatever it is that you have done over the years at college and school level could make for a very interesting story. It might not be relevant to your field of study but if it captures your leadership skill and other soft skills go ahead and flaunt it!
But remember, these stories shouldn’t be elaborate or take up most of the space in your SOP.
Tip#4 : Don’t share too much
Avoid providing any personal details that are not asked for. Share data that is relevant to your MS, for example, talk about your chosen field of study, area of interest, etc.
Tip#5 : Use of extra-curricular activities
Whether it is sports, theater work, or administrative work at cultural festivals, mention why you participated in those events and how they helped in shaping your personality. If you have been part of the management committee at any of your college’s Technical or Cultural Fest that can also be mentioned and will certainly add more weightage to your SOP.
Make sure you mention the challenges you overcame and the life lessons/skills you learned.
Tip#6 : Use of co-curricular activities
Major paper publications, presentations, R&D experience, guest lectures, workshops etc., can provide a boost to your SOP. Apart from your academic skills, the admission committees look for leadership skills in the potential Master’s graduate.
Tip#7 : No unnecessary flattery
The professors and the faculty members are well aware of the quality of education they offer. What the university is looking for is to understand what your aspirations are and what you bring to the table. Remember your SOP is about describing you and not extolling the virtues of the university and its faculty!
Tip#8 : Appreciate more feedback
After you have settled on a draft for the SOP, make sure you get it reviewed from as many people as you can. You don’t necessarily need to take or include everything you’re told. Trim it according to what you feel is right and delete the parts that you don’t agree with.
Tip#9 : SOP can be improved continuously
Drafting SOP can be a long and tedious process. Taking advice, making changes, retaining some content, trimming out the rest, and the process continues . . . a process of continuous improvement will help you make a brilliant draft of your SOP.
I hope these 9 tips along with the sample SOP, has provided you a clear idea on how to draft a winning SOP. Ask any of your doubts by commenting below.