Top 10 mistakes to avoid while writing your SOP!
The Statement of Purpose or the Personal Statement is an essay that you are required to submit while seeking admission in a university for any level of study. Usually spanning 500 to 1000 words, this all-encompassing document outlines your academic and professional achievements, your aspirations as well as the role of the university in helping you achieve them. Additionally, it is one of the building blocks to a great application.
Did you know that GREedge alumnus, Abhas Agarwal secured an admit at Colorado School of Mines (ranked #3) for MS in Petroleum Engineering with a 309 in GRE and a 6.4 GPA, because of a persuasive SOP?
What does the SOP entail?
A good SOP covers four major aspects, namely: who you are, what you have done so far, what you want to do, i.e., your academic as well as professional aspirations and how the university can help you. Each of these four aspects must be weaved together cohesively and clearly in order to provide an idea to the admissions officer of what you are like as a student and a person. This is the reason why the SOP can either make or break your chances at an acceptance letter.
How important is an SOP?
In short, very important indeed! The SOP is absolutely paramount to a successful application, mainly because it sets you apart from other students with similar academic qualifications and professional aspirations. It is your one chance to prove your worth and secure your admissions; so the better your SOP, the more your chances of your application being successful. A winning SOP also opens the doors to excellent scholarship and teaching/research assistantship opportunities.
Additionally, for students with a weak academic profile, a good SOP can compensate for what they lack and will serve to highlight their future ambitions and goals. So whether you are an average student who is concerned about your MS aspirations, or an achiever who wants to obtain the best possible scholarships, a stellar SOP will be the ticket to your dream.
10 mistakes to avoid while writing your SOP
Now that we have established what the SOP is and how it impacts your applications, let us look at the ten most common mistakes made by students while drafting their SOP, and how you can avoid them.
#1 Working on the SOP in the last minute
Often, students tend to underestimate the time and effort it takes to write the SOP, and think they can spend a few hours copy-pasting from sample SOPs from the internet. We strongly recommend that you start brainstorming on your SOP at least a month before you have to send your applications. Write as many rough drafts as you need with improvements on each draft. Whatever you do, remember that the SOP is a product of much deliberation and planning, and cannot be left for the eleventh hour.
View the 20-Day SOP Timeline Here!
Day 1: Identify your motivation for higher studies.
Questions you should ask yourself:
- Why do you want to do this course?
- Why US or any country that you are planning to pursue?
- Is it inline with your career goals?
- Why is this university your best option?
- Is it worth investing a lot of money and time?
Day 2 – 4: Identify your strengths and weaknesses.
- Are there any incidents that demonstrate my strengths?
- Have I achieved something significant that will help me get this admit?
- Are there any weaknesses that I should address?
- Are there any challenges in life which I have overcome/ working on it?
Day 5: Make an outline of your SOP.
- Decide how to prioritize your academic, research or work experience
- Decide which part of resume to ignore and what to add
Day 6 – 10: IBC Approach
- Come up with an Introduction, Body and Conclusion paragraph
- Introduction should consist of a strong opening hook (Read down to see a sample)
- Body paragraphs should consist of your most significant achievements in detail
- Conclusion should not be a summary but a memorable closing sentence
Day 11 – 15: Complete the first draft of your SOP
- 1500 word raw essay
- Including all the points from brainstorming with minimal concern for flow (zero editing)
Day 15 – 20: Final draft
- Minimum 3 to 4 iterations till the word limit reaches 800 to 1200
- Ensure that the flow of the essay leads perfectly to your career aspirations
- Ensure that the right university details are provided from authentic sources
- Ensure that there are no grammatical errors
GREedge Admission Tip: Do the 3C Check – Concise, Coherent & Compelling!
#2 Weak introduction and conclusion
The first impression makes a lasting impression. Since the introduction is the first thing that anyone ever reads, making it impactful will impress the reader and hold his attention. Similarly, to ensure that the admissions committee reads through your entire 1000-word essay, start with a powerful line like a quote that summarizes your academic experience or one that reflects your mindset, thinking, or aspirations.
Similarly, how you end your SOP also matters because that is the very last thing a reader takes away from your essay. Wrap it up by mentioning what your expectations from the university are, and how you hope to contribute to the university. Your conclusion must show your knowledge of the university and the program you are applying for.
For example, tap into reality!
In this rapid change of globalization one must be giving a serious thought to reason why so fast? I think one of the dominant factors that is tending to cause a considerable change in the world is unquestionably the field of civil engineering, where the brick works are in a race to touch the sky.
We travel places and the first thing that portrays the social status and gives us the idea of a City is the infrastructure especially due to innovation in field of structures.
Or, if you want to write something shorter, use a quote!
My favourite words are possibilities, opportunities and curiosity. I think if you are curious, you create opportunities, and then if you open the doors, you create possibilities- Mario Testino
#3 Using informal language and slangs
Use professional language. Ensure that your tone is polite, formal, and respectful. Keep in mind that your grammar and vocabulary are good. Your essay will be read by a panel of distinguished academics. Avoid using slang, abbreviations, and informal vocabulary. Your sentences should be concise and clear. Additionally, use only words and phrases you are comfortable and familiar with. Do not try to embellish your writing with lofty words.
#4 Dwelling too much on your weak GPA or backlogs
Talking about backlogs and low GPA is all about circumstances. It is a subjective question and it varies from profile to profile. A general rule of thumb to follow is that you must maintain positivity and highlight your learning from the experience. Therefore, mention your backlogs or low GPA only if you had extraordinary circumstances such as ill-health, genuine lack of interest etc.Do not try to justify or make excuses for your poor academic performance; show it instead as the start of something better. Positivity is a must, for it speaks volumes about you.
GREedge Admission Tip: Be sure to consult an admission expert before deciding to include this information in your SOP because this could potentially be a deciding factor between an admit and a reject. It takes years of experience in dealing with universities to clearly understand where to draw the line.
#5 Exceeding the word limit
Usually, the university will specify the word limit you must follow; if it is not mentioned on the website, it is always a good idea to try and contact the admissions office via email and ask them about it. Otherwise, try to limit it to 500 to 1000 words. A long SOP that solely focuses on your achievements will not hold the attention of the admissions committee who are reviewing close to 10,000 applications every season.
#6 Including irrelevant information
Your SOP is not your autobiography! The sole purpose of an SOP is to explain just enough about you and what you have done so that you can secure an admit. Don’t digress from the point and divulge personal information about your family background, financial circumstances, personal anecdotes, etc., unless it is actually pertinent to the purpose of studying Master’s abroad.
#7 Making the SOP excessively flashy
This covers two important aspects of your SOP: content and font.
Content: While it is important to talk about your achievements, it is even more important not to be boastful. You must present your learning while you state your experience/educational qualification. This will show that you are curious, learning-oriented, and humble.
Font: Using bold, italics, underlines, highlights, bright colours, and fancy fonts is a strict no-no. Use a simple font and basic formatting, and do not use any color other than black. Your SOP should look clean, minimalistic, and clutter-free.
GREedge Admission Tip:To ensure absolute readability, use fonts like Arial, Verdana, or Times New Roman in a standard size like 12. You can be creative and quirky without being immature. Always remember, less is more when it comes to your SOP.
#8 Excessive flattery
The university and the professors reviewing your applications are aware that the quality of education and infrastructure they provide; so, do not waste your words on flattering them. Your SOP is all about you and your achievements and aspirations, and is not a mouthpiece for advertising the university.
However, be sure to include your expectations from the university by stating specifics such as current areas of research or distinguished professors under whom you would like to work. This shows that you are logical, practical, and have conducted thorough research before making an informed decision. It will also come in handy during VISA interviews when you are asked about why you chose this particular university among all other admits.
#9 Being dishonest
Honesty and authenticity are the hallmarks of a good SOP, and will always be appreciated. Avoid making up or exaggerating facts, and write it like it is. Remember, there is always a chance that the admissions panel will contact your referee and ask for verification! Remain truthful and honest at all times: being genuine and candid are qualities that will never go out of fashion.
GREedge Admission Tip:If you have a genuine story that sparked your interest in a particular field, by all means, talk about it briefly. But never falsify a story to ensure your SOP stands out from the crowd.
#10 Not proofreading and editing
Once you are done with your SOP and have edited it to your satisfaction, give it to your friend, family member, or an expert to go through it once.
Proofreading ensures that you avoid making the following errors:
- Spelling mistakes
- Punctuation errors
- Improper grammar
- Repeat your points
- Incoherent flow from one para to the next
A third person will always be able to spot errors better than you. Additionally, ask them for their opinions and feedback and try to incorporate the, into your final draft. These final tweaks and edits are as important as the essay itself. Never make the blunder of sending your SOP without thoroughly proofreading every single word of it.
We hope this article will help you craft the perfect SOP! Comment below and ask us any doubt you have regarding admissions and we’ll get back to you ASAP!
Looking forward to hearing from you!