9 Tips To Draft a Winning SOP

A statement of Purpose or SOP, as the name suggests is your personal statement about:

  1. Who you are
  2. What you’ve done professionally and academically so far,
  3. Who or what has been your major influence, and
  4. 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.

sop3

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.

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6 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    Hey! Thank you sooooo much for this piece!
    I was reading another article with tips for writing a sop (here it is: http://www.sopwritingservice.net/how-to-write-a-perfect-statement-of-purpose/ ) but I was searching for something that will motivate me and I have found it in your article. I was really afraid that my sop will be just plain and boring but then I read this words in your article: “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.” and it just made my day. I don’t have tragic life experience or something like this to show how I was influenced by it but I guess now my work won’t be just another statement of purpose noone wants to read.
    I hope I will do great.
    Thanks again!

    • Hi Rachel,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us! I’m so glad we could help!
      Yes, making your SOP personal and honest will surely catch the attention of the admission officers. It is after all the closest thing to interviewing you.
      All the best for admits and let us know how it went! Good Luck!

  2. I am so grateful for your article.

  3. I was having some problem while writing SOP for a student. Anyways, i managed to complete it after reading these tips. Thanks for writing this amazing blog.

  4. kartik says:

    after having work experience in both IT industry as well as a freelancer nutritionist, should i pursue sports analytics or sports managment is good choice or should i pursue with data analytics and that too is canada a good option?

  5. Arpita Deshmukh says:

    Arpita Deshmukh Northeastern University
    Fall 2018
    1
    Statement of Purpose
    Hello, I am Arpita from India, the world‟s largest Democracy. I have completed my primary, secondary and Junior college from Mumbai, the financial capital of India. I will be graduating from Pune University, Pune, the Oxford of the East and also a historical center where the great Maratha warrior and Ruler Shivaji Raje established his Empire when almost the whole India was conquered by non-Indian. I am proud to be from Pune University which is named after Savitribai Phule, a woman who started the first school for girls in India in 1848 and recently the students of one of the affiliated colleges launched their own satellite “Swayam”. For further studies, I wish to pursue my masters from the USA, the land of opportunities. At the first India Mobile Congress, one of the leading industrialists said, “Data is the new Oil”. The importance that Oil had decades ago will now shift its focus on data. Computers are ubiquitous and so are data and the technique of storing this data is gathering importance. Before the advent of computers, data storage was a problem. As data started increasing, this problem began to multiply. After „data storage‟, another important concept is „usage of the data‟ i.e. converting the relevant data into useful information. Thus, data is gathering more importance and hence I decided a program which centrally focuses on data and information systems.
    In August 2014, I started with my first year of Engineering in Information Technology at Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT), Pune. I was hell-bent towards achieving the title of being a “topper” at my college. However, I realized that focusing only on studies and not engaging in other activities would not lead to my all-round development and it would be an amazing experience as well. I decided that I had to manage my studies as well as my co-curricular activities. So, in my second year, I joined as a member of the organizing committee in two major events of our college i.e. Summit and Texephyr. Summit is our sports event, and Texephyr is the technical event. Organizing these events educated me with something which cannot be found in the books. Talking to people personally, encouraging them to participate in our events, getting sponsorships from different companies and businesses etc which was the main financial source of our events. What is this and why should one follow this? This is exactly what the employers expect in the corporate world. Such experiences imbibed in me qualities like teamwork and increased my confidence which I believe will help me in my career.
    My final year project is titled as “Energy Efficient Dynamic Street Lighting System.” Dynamic street lamps are not widely used in India; hence I wish to implement this system in India which would help in effective utilization of available energy resources and result in a reduction of costs. This will eventually benefit the country in monetary terms. This is my short-term goal which I wish to achieve. Moreover, my paper based on my final project has been accepted for publication in 2nd IEEE conference on Electronics, Communications and Aerospace Technology (ICECA 2018) for which I have received an acceptance letter as well. Furthermore, I would also like to do research in relevant fields under the guidance of the esteemed professors at the university. I strongly believe that before applying the techniques, you should know the techniques well. Before choosing the program MIS, I was sure about one thing, that I wanted to pursue higher studies which included an amalgamation of technology and its utility for the organizations. After learning about different graduate programs, I figured out that this program would be an appropriate option for me. This is my first milestone in achieving the higher goal.
    Career options like Business analysts, Database Administrator, Database analysts interest me. However, as for my IS degree, I would remain open to other options as well. My first long-term goal is learning to use the concepts which would help the organizations in solving challenging business issues which will not only benefit the organization but also help me to increase my learning curve.
    Similar to my short-term goal, I intend to make it as my second long-term goal as well i.e. using the trending technologies for the betterment of the people which would make their lives simpler because that is what science is for. I firmly believe that once you have a goal in your mind, you can certainly achieve it.
    Arpita Deshmukh Northeastern University
    Fall 2018
    2
    I learnt that the co-op program provided by Northeastern is older than 100 years and one of the best. I have realized that making a strong network is very crucial for professional advancements and I learnt that NEU deeply focuses on this area. Another feature which I found interesting about NEU is that it also promotes experiential learning which is also essential because one should be able to put one’s knowledge into practical usage and this would help to solve various business-centric problems. Moreover, such hands-on experience in the industry would enable me to learn more about the global economy. I also like the fact that the college of Engineering Graduate Cooperative Program is available on a competitive basis to selected students. This instills a sense of commitment and competition and the students realize that one has to put in efforts to be a part of the co-op program.
    The all-inclusive, flexible and industry-aligned curriculum is one of the best I have come across. Moreover, the basics of the courses have been covered/to be covered in my engineering degree which would act as the foundation for learning the courses in depth offered by the program. I am

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