SOP - Parameters
Did you know there’s a huge gulf between a mediocre Statement of Purpose and a stellar, admit-winning one? Curious about what the difference is? It’s fairly simple: an excellent Statement of Purpose ticks all the parameters that the universities are on the lookout for, whereas a subpar one doesn’t. So, what are these parameters, really, and how can you incorporate them in your Statement of Purpose? To illustrate these parameters, we’ll be giving you examples of SOPs that do adhere to them, and wherever applicable, those that don’t. Let’s take a look:
Your Statement of Purpose must not be simply a copy of your CV, written in paragraphs. Whereas your GRE scores, transcripts and CV are factual and mechanical, your Statement of Purpose should tell a story of who you are as a person and an academic, and help bring a fresh perspective to your application. For instance, say you graduated with a modest GPA of 6.5. Now, though your CV will merely reflect this GPA, your Statement of Purpose can help show how despite this, you have excelled in other areas, or the odds that you've encountered and successfully overcome, proving that your GPA is not the be-all and end-all of things. For instance, take a look at the way this Statement of Purpose tells a story:
Now, note this Statement of Purpose that sounds flat and mechanical:
What’s the difference? Whereas the first Statement of Purpose tells a gripping story of how the applicant discovered and nurtured his love for the subject, the second one is merely making a generic statement without backing it up with evidence. Stories are engaging, whereas statements aren’t.
The transition between paragraphs must be smooth and seamless, and make for an effortless read. This ensures better readability and ease in understanding your SOP. Stick to the flow discussed previously, which will allow you to maintain a chronological sequence. Remember, your SOP must move gradually from your present to your past and then back to your future. For instance, let’s look at this SOP which moves seamlessly from academics to co-curricular activities and skills:
It’s an unfortunate, yet common belief that in order to write a good SOP, you must employ grandiose phrases and vocabulary. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Stick to a simple, yet persuasive vocabulary: an excessively flashy one will not only wear out the reader, but make it seem like you’re using such language to make up for a weak profile. Also, avoid using the passive voice unless it’s absolutely necessary. For instance, note how difficult and jargon-laden this paragraph is:
Not only is this difficult and boring to read, but it can also be off-putting for your readers. A more lucid translation of this para would look something like this:
Your SOP must demonstrate your keen academic knowledge and intellectual vigour, and an impactful way to do this is to mention any internships, research assistantships or training workshops that would have helped you hone and perfect your knowledge of the subject. Remember, universities are on the lookout for students who possess a strong grasp of their discipline, so be sure to highlight these. For example, take a look at this para:
Here, the applicant is making a strong case for his knowledge and skillset by talking about the various projects and ideas he worked on to enhance the same. A bad SOP would be one that neglects to talk about how you have sought to bolster your knowledge of and skillset in your discipline through certificate courses, internships, research assistantships or training programmes.
No Statement of Purpose is perfect: even the high performers have some aspect that they’re not proud of or happy about. Regardless of how embarrassed you are of your passable GPA or your backlogs in the fourth semester, don’t be tempted to lie or exaggerate about it on your Statement of Purpose. Not only is this dangerous, since your referees can be contacted to verify, but can also lead to an instant rejection of your application. No matter what, always maintain a spirit of truth and honesty, and when talking about setbacks and failures, you can always show how you overcame it. This way, your readers see you as someone who doesn’t dwell on failure, but uses it a stepping stone to future success. For instance, note how this applicant discusses his moderate GPA:
Although he recognises his modest GPA, he doesn’t try to gloss over it. Instead, he talks of how, notwithstanding, he has mastered skills that are otherwise not found in his peers, and therefore how his GPA is not the only thing that matters.