Statement of Purpose

Everything you need to know about writing an SOP

By Ekta
Updated on: Jun 11, 2024
Everything you need to know about writing an SOP
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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 admission interviews.

But what exactly does the SOP entail? How do you write a statement of purpose, and what are some common mistakes students make? Here, we will take you through all you need to know about writing an effective statement of purpose.

Don't miss these proven Statement of Purpose (SOP) templates. Download now for free!

What is an SOP?

SOP full form is Statement of Purpose. 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 about 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.

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Importance of statement of purpose (SOP)

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.”

How to write a statement of purpose (SOP)?

An SOP plays a crucial role in admission to universities abroad. It is basically the first impression you create among the selection committee when applying to your preferred course.

Ensure you have the necessary elements that define you are covered. Here, we have consolidated some key factors you should consider while preparing your statement of purpose (SOP).

Also read: How to write a statement of purpose?

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

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.

For example, if you're applying to study law, briefly state your higher purpose is studying law. Explain that you want 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. For some inspiration, please look at our article 5 tips for writing your MBA statement of purpose.

What is a good statement of purpose structure?

You can follow this structure to craft your SOP with ease.

  • Introduction.
  • What study program do you want to pursue?
  • Why did you choose this program?
  • Why did you choose this university?
  • Mention why you chose this country and your personal favourites about it.
  • What is your experience in the field of study, the findings and the duration?
  • Talk about your additional skills, unique characteristics, and more.
  • Mention if you enrolled in any special courses or programs.
  • Why should they choose you for the program?
  • What will you bring to the university during your academic journey?
  • What are your career goals, and how will the program and university help you attain them?
  • Conclusion

Also read: How to write an SOP for an MBA

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 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!

SOP for Canada

An international student’s statement of purpose (SOP) plays a vital in admissions into Canadian universities. You should submit a two-page, 800-1500 word essay consolidating your qualifications, experiences, and goals for the admission committee to consider your application.

SOP for the UK

UK universities require applicants to submit a more concise, academically focused SOP to determine their eligibility to pursue a study program. You should craft a 600-1200 word essay to prove your worth and secure admission.

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SOP for the USA

Similar to Canada, the USA also requires a two-page, 800-1500 word SOP to evaluate the eligibility and readiness of the applicants.

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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.

The essay can nonetheless vary in length, depending on the university's requirements. Certain institutions have a fixed SOP length and pattern of only 200 or 500 words.

Also read: SOP samples

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:

1. Research

Research your intended university, course and subject area. This will help you avoid general statements and will make you seem knowledgeable.

2. Validate your claims with examples from your experience

Instead of baseless claims like, 'I am hardworking', or '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.

3. 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 admission now and tell the university what you will do with this education in the future.

4. 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!

5. 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? The more people you have helping you, the better off you'll be for it.

Also read: SOP for MBA examples

Mistakes to avoid while writing a statement of purpose (SOP)

As we saw earlier, an SOP plays a crucial role in your college admission abroad. So it is important to not leave any room for mistakes. Here are some common errors you should look out for while creating your SOP.

  • Preparing the SOP at the last minute
  • Not adhering to the word count
  • Being untruthful, over-confident, and over-exaggerating things
  • Praising the preferred university too much
  • Extravagant presentation
  • Informal writing
  • Lack of proofreading

On top of this, we've written a beneficial article on seven common mistakes people make when writing their statement of purpose, explaining in detail what to avoid!

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Frequently asked questions

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.

What is the default SOP length?

The usual SOP length is around 800 to 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.

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!

Can I apply to 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.

What is a checklist for a statement of purpose?

Here’s a checklist for you to keep in hand while crafting your SOP.

  • Check your spelling and grammar.
  • Be compelling.
  • Stick to the word limit.
  • Explain why you chose the field and university.
  • Explain your skills and areas of talent.
  • Talk about how you can contribute to the institution.
  • Point out your experience and accomplishments.
  • Conclude with a strong note.

What should be included in an SOP?

Here are all the things you should include in your SOP.

  • Your objectives
  • The reasons for choosing the university
  • Your academic achievements
  • Any extracurricular experience that has prepared you for success at university

Can I start my SOP with a question?

Yes, you can start your SOP by answering a question. Starting the essay by introducing yourself is the best way to begin your statement of purpose.

What is most important when writing a statement of purpose?

There are many important factors to look out for while preparing your SOP.

  • Start early.
  • Be clear and concise.
  • Be honest and refrain from exaggerating.
  • Get constructive feedback.

How do I start a SOP?

You should grab the reader's attention at the beginning of your SOP. Start the essay with a well-chosen quote relating to your ambitions or a direct statement of your dreams. To sum up, begin your SOP by making your ambitions known and complementing the institution.

For example, if you're applying to study psychology, state your higher purpose is studying it. Explain that you want to help people with their mental health and make them understand its significance. Then, proceed to explain why you're applying to that particular institution.

Should I introduce myself in a statement of purpose?

Yes, it is essential to introduce yourself in your SOP. It will give the reader an idea of who you are and make it easy to evaluate.

How to write an SOP for an MBA?

Crafting an SOP for an MBA is the same as writing your statement for other courses. Start with an introduction, and proceed with your academics, professional experience, accomplishments, desire to pursue the course in the university, and your potential contribution to the institution, and end the essay with a strong conclusion.

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