Once the decisions of where to go and what universities to apply are made, the next step is to understand their application process. While most universities keep it simple by asking your GMAT/GRE, TOEFL/IELTS scores, your transcripts, making you write two essays with a word limit, and asking you to produce letters of recommendation; others keep it slightly more complex. They substitute the essay part with asking you to write an introduction about yourself in a statement that highlights amongst a lot of things, your compatibility with what the university has to offer.
Statement of purpose is typically about a 1000 words. Most universities ask statement of purpose to understand what clarity an individual has about what he wants to do. An SOP is the better option because it doesn’t have to showcase any technical knowledge that one would have to borrow from anywhere, thereby obtaining some unfair edge over the others. An SOP should ideally contain details about oneself, ones long-term and short-term goals, passions, how one thinks the university can help in achieving in any of them. All it requires is a grip over the soft skills, which is an extremely important skill-set to possess. Because of this, an SOP sets a level playing ground for everyone applying. This also helps the team at the university better understand the candidate as clarity in the SOP directly translates to clarity in what the student wants to achieve.
For the trained eye, an SOP can also help weed out troublemakers and those people that would not contribute anything productive to the university’s legacy. It would also help in understanding how far the individual is going to make an effort to better himself using the facilities at the colleges and whether he’s done his research before applying or he’s just applying to all of them, hoping to be lucky. A well-written SOP can also tell the admissions committee whether the university that is being applied to can have a symbiotic relationship with the candidate. All said and done, it is important to know how to write a good SOP. Mentioned underneath, are some of the tips on how to write a good SOP.
1) Collate the ideas
An SOP should contain details about oneself. This, however, doesn’t mean that you write all the unimportant details about yourself. Keep it concise and make sure all the important parts of your life so far have been highlighted. Most people think accomplishments in extracurricular activities should not be mentioned. On the contrary, applying to a university that boasts of diversity, requires you to highlight those achievements because this just serves to tell the admissions committee that you are willing to venture out there and experiment. Mention your schooling in concise words, why you chose the stream you did in your high school/graduation (depending on what you’re applying for) and where you hope to go from there. This is one of the important aspects about an SOP because they expect to see clarity of thought.
Therefore, mention how your graduation/high school has helped you realise what field you want to go into, or whether you want to continue in the same field. Along the same lines, mention your long term goals in the field because no admissions committee wants to see a casual student enrolling in the course. Don’t forget to show in the SOP that you’ve done you research and this interest is not some windfall interest. Also indicate that you’ve done your research about the university. While mentioning that, make sure you mention your short term goals. These should primarily include what you hope to do in the university as a student- what skills you hope to develop and how they’ll translate to your long term goals. There should not be mixed messages in the SOP. You can’t mention that you wish to pursue Finance in the Long Term and take up something as arbitrary as English Literature. It sends the wrong message. While you may mention that you wish to pursue them as a hobby, that message should be clear.
2) Use Simple Language
Most people assume that writing to prestigious universities require you to use flowery language with high frequency words and obscure idioms. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The most important thing to remember in an SOP is communication of ideas. An SOP, when read, is read for clarity of thought and appropriateness of vocabulary- not high frequency words and idioms where other words could have been substituted. Don’t make the mistake of compromising on quality for vocabulary. This, however, doesn’t go to mean that you use casual words. Keep the SOP forma, use appropriate vocabulary. In case of doubt, feel free to refer to the dictionary. The SOP must give off the idea of being well-researched and thought of, not something you’d write to a school fair.
3) Revise and edit the SOP
Always remember that SOP helps the admissions committee put a face to your resume. There are going to be countless resumes and scores. In the application process, the SOP is the only thing you can fully control. To make your application, resume and score count, you need to draft a good SOP, one that the admissions committee can understand and analyse with ease without having to spend too much time on it. So, take the time to go through your SOP, revise your strengths, weaknesses, the things you bring to the course, the things you hope to take away at the end of the course.
4) Ensure there is constancy of flow
This is one of the important things in writing an SOP. One should focus on the way the writing should flow. Obviously there are going to be a lot of things one wants to say. However, it should be remembered that the writing should not feel dismembered. When re-reading the SOP, ensure that the flow is constant and legible.
Though SOP is not the determinant, make the lasting impression count.