SOP Checklist

GRE syllabus

Begin with a catchy paragraph

The admissions committee wants to learn about YOU. They would like to see you as more than 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.
Talk about yourself, your aspirations and your professional goals. Relate these to the graduate program you intend to pursue.
If the university asks for responses to specific questions, answer accordingly. Don't generalize. Avoid using terms like 'invaluable', 'significant', 'challenging', unless you can provide further explanation from personal experience. Avoid over-used phrases such as 'I can contribute', 'meant a lot to me' or 'is appealing to me'. Be direct. Be honest or at least sound honest. Try to strike a personal chord.

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Answer the questions: Why should the graduate school admit you? What makes you special?
Why do you want to continue studying? How will graduate study affect your career? What have you done in the past? What do you expect? What are you looking for in an international experience? Why have you chosen this particular university? After MS, what? Why?
Be objective but talk about yourself in a straight-forward manner. Talk about your experiences and academic background and how these have influenced your decision to pursue graduate studies.
Faculty measure your ability to succeed in grad school and in your academic discipline using your SOP. The admission committee is looking for a commitment to pursue your desired field and adequate preparation to do so. Keep these points in mind while writing your SOP.
Your SOP must demonstrate your knowledge of the field, but it shouldn't lecture or bore the highly trained professionals who will read it. They already know what skills are important for the field. They want to know your purpose and specific academic interests. State your preferences without being too simple or boring.

This is no place for humility

Highlight your achievements. List any special preparation or achievements that make you 'more qualified' than others. Use whatever you can from your arsenal to stand out from the crowd.
Honestly address any problems or special conditions. For example, your grades in one semester may be poor, because you had to work a part-time job or were affected by a family emergency. Balance such negatives with positive points: "Though I had to take up a part-time job to support myself, I developed important time management skills. These skills helped me raise my grades the following semester, while pursuing my research interests".
Your SOP should not provide information already provided in the application. Don't quote from university catalogs. Your SOP should ideally be less than two pages long. Optimal SOP length might vary for individual universities. Send one SOP to each university you apply to. Don't make one common SOP and send copies to different universities. NEVER plagiarize sections of your SOP from a friend, senior or the Internet.

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Ask yourself

Why are you interested in your chosen field of study? How and when did you begin to get interested?
Why do you want a graduate degree?
Why do you want to study abroad?
What was the most rewarding class you took in college? Why?
What was the most rewarding assignment you did? Why?

Career Plans

What are your short and long-term career plans?
How will pursuing a graduate degree help you reach your career goals?
What current and past work experiences have you had? What were the most important things you learned from them?

Extracurricular Activities

What hobbies do pursue in your free time?
Which clubs or extracurricular activities did you participate in during college? Did you hold any positions of leadership?
Have you won any awards for your extracurricular achievements?
Have you done any volunteer work?
Is there anything unique about your background, for instance, in terms of experiences, accomplishments, family history or cultural background?
Did you have to overcome any unique obstacles growing up?

Personality Questions

Are you responsible? If yes, describe how.
Are you creative? If yes, describe how.
Are you honest? If yes, describe how.
Are you independent? If yes, describe how.
Are you mature? If yes, describe how.
Are you hard-working? If yes, describe how.
Are you confident? If yes, describe how.

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