Expert Tips: How to write a winning SOP
Every aspirant who is beginning their MS journey has one question in mind.
They all wonder how to write an SOP that can get them into the Top Universities.
If you are one of them, you need look no further than this article to get all the information you need.
To get straight to the answer: the SOP that is most likely to swing the big decision in your favor is one that makes you stand out and in a good way. In other words, the SOP should be unique, unlike the thousands of others that the Professor has read, and it should make you look desirable.
This might sound simple enough, but creating such an SOP takes a lot of time, effort and most of all, introspection. Writing an SOP that is unlike all others can seem impossible at first. How do you come up with something that no one else has already written? But if you really think about it, it’s not very difficult to achieve. There may be hundreds of thousands of students writing essays for grad school admissions, but there is just one you. No other person has had the same experiences, the same ideas, passions, emotions and dreams as you. No other person thinks in the exact same way that you do. If you could somehow capture this uniqueness in writing, then you would have created a truly outstanding statement.
But how do you go about writing such an essay?
As the first general rule,
Avoid stating things that an outside observer can write about you.
Things about what you’ve done, what you accomplished, etc, can be written by anyone. Besides, these things can be known from your resume and grade sheets. Your SOP, however, should show the reader the side of you that none of your other documents can capture, it should show the real you. It should show your way of thinking, of approaching problems and situations, and your unique perspective of the things that happened to you and the experiences that shaped you.
So, don’t simply tell them that you love the field, tell them why- truly and profoundly why. Dig deep and understand what makes you love the field over all the others, what makes you want to spend your whole life working in this area. Once you understand why, writing it down won’t be difficult.
Don’t simply tell them the choices you have made, tell them why you made them. It could be your choice of major, your choice of project, choice of some approach/technique that you used to tackle a challenge in your project or work, or any major educational or career decision that you’ve made for that matter. Walk them through your choices, discuss the factors you considered, give them a peek inside your head, show them how you think.
When discussing your experiences, don’t simply tell them what happened, instead tell them what you actually experienced. Three people working together on a project will write the same description of the project, but if they were to write their individual experiences, it would be vastly different. Because each person has different strengths and weaknesses, each person faces different challenges at different points, they perceive each situation differently, and they learn different things from the encounter. This uniqueness of experience is what you must convey in your SOP.
When discussing your goals, don’t simply tell them what you want to do but also why you want to do it. But before you even get to the part that states your goals, make sure you’ve discussed the instances that demonstrate your dedication and passion, those that prove without a doubt that you’re driven to achieve your goals.
Now that we’ve covered the first general rule of SOP writing quite comprehensively, let’s take a look at the others.
The second general rule is to not discuss the things that the Professors already know. Avoid describing your field of interest; things like the importance of your field in the current world, how advancements in this area have helped society at large, what the field promises to achieve in the future, etc. This is one way to make your SOP bland and uninteresting. Instead, tell the professor what they don’t know, tell them about you. Have the SOP focus entirely on you: your passion, your experiences, your ideas and your aspirations. Tell them your unique story.
When describing why you’ve picked the university, avoid telling them all the great things about the institution. They already know. Instead focus on what you hope to gain from your degree and how the university can provide you what you seek. Do your research, find the professors whose research works interest you most and discuss how you can contribute to them. Make it known that you have researched the university well and that you have a solid reason for picking them.
These general rules aside, there are certain other things that you must also remember. The first of these is very important.
The SOP should not be too long. Most applicants feel compelled to discuss every single detail about their education and work in their SOP, essentially turning it into a data dump. The professors don’t have to time read about every single thing you’ve done in life. If you make your SOP too long, you also run the risk of having your statement skimmed over, which hardly creates any impression on the minds of the reader. Your statement will soon be forgotten and your application overlooked. So, only include those details that hold great significance to your development and your field of study. Leave out the rest. If the university does not impose a strict word limit on your SOP, it is best to keep it to around 1000 words.
Don’t use your SOP to showcase your vocabulary. This will only make it difficult to read. With the professor being short on time considering all the SOPs that lie in front of them, it’s best not to waste their time by giving them a complicated read. Always use the simplest words and the least confounding sentences.
As you may have discerned, your SOP for grad school is one of the most difficult things you will write. There is no one right way of doing it. But now that you have gained a general sense of how to approach your essay and what to avoid, you should be able to create something that captures who you truly are and swings the decision in your favor.
Remember, creating the perfect SOP takes a lot of time, but it will be well worth it in the end.