You want to attend your dream university — who doesn’t?
And thus begin the quest. You work day and night to gain high scores, network hard to acquire an impressive letter of recommendations, go... and so forth.
But this doesn’t even begin to cover everything that you require to apply for your undergraduate/graduate studies abroad.
There is a critical aspect of the holistic application that can either make you or break you; that is your Statement of Purpose (SOP).
If other areas of your application are not impressive enough, then your SOP might help you change the examination committee’s mind.
Before we talk about how to write a winning SOP, let’s see what it exactly is and why is it so important.
The SOP is an essay that a student must write mandatory as part of the application process for higher studies abroad. Simply put, it is a letter of intent where you articulate what you wish to achieve while pursuing a particular course in the university you are applying to. Most foreign universities search for bright individuals that align with the courses they are applying for.
So, for instance, you are applying for higher studies in Artificial Intelligence, and then your SOP should demonstrate why you want to take this particular course? What projects have you done in the past that can exude your interest? And why you are the right fit for the Artificial Intelligence program?
It is the best way to let the university know what you have accomplished, what you can offer to the university, and what you hope to attain during your studies and later in your career.
The SOP is an essential piece of document in your application. It acts as a window to who you are, as your representative who is relaying information about you, while you are physically absent. It is, without a doubt, one of the most significant influences on admission officers.
But you would think, why is so important when you have to submit your academic transcripts and CV, either way?
Well, an SOP goes above and beyond your regular scores, CV, and certificates.
It has the power of turning around a low GPA, and average SAT or GRE scores and making things work in your favor. The scores provide an objective measurement, while the SOP is a subjective matter altogether. It has the power to uniquely separate and differentiate you from the mass of applicants. Thus proper guidance is needed to write a winning SOP.
Here are some of the ingredients to write a winning SOP. While the nature and quality of accepted SOPs will vary over different universities and degree courses, the essence of an SOP can be captured with these points:
For a significant chunk of applicants with no work experience, there is nothing to talk about except classes, marks, and subjects. You should exploit this to stand out. Craft your SOP by reflecting on things, issues, or instances that had an impact on you and helped shape you. This way, you can read up more on different subjects and get well-versed with ideals like what motivated you. Also talk about what you want to achieve in life, your strengths, weaknesses, hobbies, and special interests.
If you want to get an acceptance letter from your dream university, then you have to show your genuine interest in the course/subject field you are applying to.
If you are applying for a computer science degree, then you should back it up substantially with reasons as to why you have chosen that particular university.
Here are some of the major things that you need to cover in your SOP:
An SOP must have clarity, which depicts that you are a confident individual who has a concise goal in mind.
Most SOPs start off something like this:
“I am honored to apply for the XYZ Engineering program at your esteemed University because I have the required technical skills that will augment even further at your program. I also want to develop my technical knowledge and work under one of the best faculties’ yadda yadda yadda…”
Trust me when I say, most of the students write their SOP along the same line.
And even worse, some of the students tend to cherry-pick phrases and quotes from SOPs online and put together one for themselves.
Let’s be blunt: don’t waste your time writing such SOPs, they are going to get rejected after a single glance. Well, unless you have invented a cure for cancer…then it is a different game altogether.
However, since you have done no such thing, you have to craft a winning SOP.
And the best way to go about it is by writing it as a story, not as statements.
Stories help you connect with your target reader the way conventional statements never can.
For instance, you can craft the above sentences like this:
“My zeal to create new algorithms started when I was in high school. There was nothing new for me to work on, and there is no excitement in going to school. One day, I stumbled upon a YouTube tutorial, and that’s where it all began…”
Which narrative do you prefer?
Which SOP do you think the admission committee will remember even after reviewing thousands of them?
The answer is simple: while both the SOPs tell the same thing, the way the latter one narrates it makes all the difference. Make sure to avoid writing redundant bits. Be succinct and write a great story.
Another critical factor that separates you from the herd is the effective representation of your extra-curricular activities. They form a vital addition to your achievements in the field of education and help make you appear like a well-rounded individual who epitomizes holistic learning.
Being able to balance studies with extracurricular activities make you appear in a good light since it speaks of your ability to do multiple things at once, without losing focus on either. It helps establish the notion that you are a capable individual who knows when and how to prioritize things over one another and achieve set targets and goals.
Writing an SOP in the active voice is an unspoken tip that will definitely help you earn brownie points. It helps to draw the attention of the reader to the ‘here and now’ instead of pulling them back in the past. It helps the admission officers make thoughtful decisions about the present capabilities of the students, and an active voice sometimes helps bring a choice in their favor.
Write a winning SOP keeping all the tips mentioned above in mind.
Don’t exaggerate about your achievements and don’t downplay them either. Also, it is essential to remember one thing while writing your SOP: the unique and differentiating factor must be ‘you.’ It is you who will be judged on who you are and what you have done, more than on your test scores and recommendation letters. The SOP should paint your picture and talk about you, in your own flavor, to effectively bring out your uniqueness.