The statement of purpose (SOP), also known as a personal statement, is a significant part of your university application, along with your exam results and your admissions interview.
But what exactly does the SOP entail? How do you write a statement of purpose and what are some common SOP mistakes that students make?
Here, we will take you through all you need to know about writing an effective Statement of Purpose.
Table of Contents
What is an SOP?
A statement of purpose is a short essay that prospective students write while applying for a university course at the undergraduate or Master's level.
It's usually about a page long (around five paragraphs). It should detail a bit of you, your achievements and ambitions, and why you should be accepted onto a university course.
Essentially, the SOP is the student equivalent of a cover letter for a job application. University admissions panels will use your SOP, along with your exam results, to help decide if you should be granted a place on a degree course.
Why is the SOP necessary?
A well-written SOP is crucial for your admission acceptance. While the academic record and other exam scores are generally objective, the SOP is your application's only genuine subjective part. This is your chance to convince the admissions team why you are the right candidate. It's the only document in your application to show that you have something special that helps you stand out from the crowd.
Also watch our video on “Mastering the art of writing winning SOP”.
What do universities look for in an SOP?
Remember that the Admission Committee will analyse thousands of applications for the same course, so they're looking for something that convinces them that you can thrive academically in the course you've applied for and can contribute to the university.
They want to read about your ambitions, your personality, your achievements. In short, they want to see what value you can offer them!
What is the ideal length of a statement of purpose?
A statement of purpose should be one to two pages long, perfectly covered in 800-1000 words.
This paper can nonetheless vary in length, depending on the university's requirements. Certain institutions have a fixed SOP length and pattern of only 500 words, 200 words.
Also read: 3 winning statement of purpose samples
How to start an SOP?
You want to grab the reader's attention immediately, so you may want to start your SOP with a well-chosen quote that relates to your ambitions or, indeed, with a direct statement of your dreams.;
If you're applying to study Law, for example, briefly state your higher purpose is studying Law; To give people access to justice and fairness or protect people's human rights.
Then, move on to explain why you're applying to that particular institution.
To sum up, begin your SOP by making your ambitions known and complementing the institution.
What to Include in an SOP?
The following are all things you should include in your statement of purpose:
- Your objectives
- The reasons for choosing the university
- Your academic achievements
- Any extracurricular experience that has prepared you for success at university
For some inspiration, please look at our article 5 tips for writing your MBA Statement of Purpose.
SOP Writing strategies
Whether it is a degree or a postgraduate programme, a strong statement of purpose plan should be well outlined. You have to connect every point from your university to your career aspirations. The essay should always address your experience, present, and plans.
Here are some valuable strategies to use when preparing for and writing your statement of purpose:
Research your intended university, course and subject area. This will help you avoid general statements and will make you seem knowledgeable.
- Validate your claims with examples from your experience.
Instead of baseless claims like, 'I am hardworking', 'I am a problem solver', talk about an incident in the recent past where you solved a problem or worked hard to achieve a goal. Always show, don't tell.
- Maintain a logical flow from the start to the end.
Look at your SOP like a story. You start with a short introduction, followed by your past achievements and experience. Then you move on to explain why you deserve the admission now and tell the university what you will do with this education in the future.
- Be honest, do not lie or exaggerate anything.
Universities are well versed in identifying false information. Lying will not only create a negative opinion about you but might also lead to the university blocklisting you. Be positive and be yourself. Be genuine about your achievement and explain how you want to grow and improve from where you stand today!
- Proofread it yourself, and ask someone else to read it too!
Once you're done writing, leave your statement of purpose for a little while before beginning to proofread it. This will give your brain time to become less predictive!
And just in case, why not ask a teacher or mentor to proofread it as well? The more people you have helping you, the better off you'll be for it.
How to write a statement of purpose?
We've written a complete guide to writing your statement of purpose on the Edvoy Knowledge Base, so click through to find out more!
On top of this, we've written a beneficial article on seven common mistakes people make when writing their statement of purpose to let you know what to avoid!
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Q. In my statement of purpose, should I explain the low grades?
In any application document, including SOP, you should avoid stating any shortcomings about you. Very few universities will be questioning you about that.
Q. Which is the default SOP length?
The usual SOP length is around 800-1,000 words. However, some colleges and universities give specific instructions on how long the SOP should be, so check your institution's website before beginning.
Q. After submission, may I modify or edit my SOP?
After submitting your application, most colleges cannot amend or modify your SOP. That's why proofreading is important!
Q. Can I apply for numerous institutions with the same SOP?
While the general content of your SOP can stay the same no matter how many institutions you're applying to, you really should tailor some of the details to that specific one. After all, you'll be expected to write about why you're applying to that particular university. So, make sure to tweak it for each place.