Welcome to sScholars Center, today we will talk about the Importance of a Statement of Purpose in our Graduate Application. Also at the end, we have discussed 5 Tips for Writing an Effective Statement of Purpose.
A well-written statement of purpose or SOP can open up the doors to the best graduate schools, offering Master’s, Ph.D., and MBA degrees. It can even help you tide over some weak areas in your profile and achieve more than just a top university admission, like the envious situation of getting a full scholarship.
Despite a low GRE or GMAT score, many international students who are non-native English speakers think an SOP is a way to demonstrate their grasp of English, which is not. Your TOEFL annual performance is a better indicator of your comfort with the English language.
The nuances of how you write a good SOP can vary based on the degree, geography, and overall objective, which may not necessarily be academic in nature, as some companies require an SOP for employment as well.
So, the first thing to say is that our graduate application consists of several things and is a total package. This package includes your CV, Transcript, GER, TOEFL score, IELTS score, SOP, and Letter of Recommendation (LORs). Sometimes a separate personal statement is required.
So in this case what I want to say at the beginning is that everything in our transcript, CV or GRE, is a fixed thing like our academic result is fixed, our GRE score is fixed, and even the TOEFL score is fixed.
However, the Letter of Recommendation is not fixed, and sometimes we are required to submit draft copies of letters of recommendation or professors submit them. But the ultimate submission is what the professor does.
But CV and SOP are these two things that are totally in our hands from writing to submission and finally, we can bring changes to them.
Why SOP is Important?
SOP means Statement of Purpose, it is also known as a statement of intent. And for a Master’s application, it is very important. Basically, there have two reasons behind the SOP being important, such as –
Reason No – 1: Opportunity to show Research Experience & Interest.
In the case of a graduate application, you have to submit all documents as a package. Where the package is started with your CV and then contains your SOP. After seeing your CV, the admission committee gets an initial idea about the student (just a basic profile). But after seeing the SOP committee can understand what is the background of the student, and what type of thesis he or she did before or contribute. After then for verification purposes, they check students’ TOEFL or GRE scores.
Basically, SOP is a space for students, that allows mentioning the things that you can’t mention in your CV. In simple words, a CV does not allow space for details profile sharing. But SOP allows you to “distinguish yourself” from the funding or scholarship panel.
Mainly, SOP is the opportunity to show your research experience and interest. And ultimately professors want this. if they are searching for a research assistant, then they will focus on what you have done or what is your contribution. They don’t read your full thesis paper, but they definitely read your whole Statement of Purpose paper. And with 100% full confidence, it can be said that every professor read your SOP at once. Actually, SOP helps to opportunities to grab their attention.
For example, there are two student information, Mr.X and Mr.Y.
Suppose, Mr.X got –
- CPGA 3.50,
- GRE score is 310,
- TOEFL -107
Othe hand, Mr.Y got –
- CPGA 3.51,
- GRE score of 314,
- IELTS score of 7.
Now, which student will approach the Professors, or which student will get a chance to work with Professor, is decided based on research background. And you can explain the research background in detail by SOP.
Reason No – 2: Better Option to Explained Unpublished Research.
In many fields, it happens that I do many projects but we don’t have any publications. You can better describe those unpublished researches in an SOP. Sometimes the research may remain unpublished due to financial reasons or because the output is not good, but the experience you gain while doing the project is useful for many professors.
SOP mainly reflects, as a student or as a researcher how is your quality. Cause CPGA is a number and it doesn’t reflect your qualifications. There can a lot of reasons for your low CGPA. SOP is the space, where you can explain, why your CGPA is low. You can explain it to yourself.
And if you can explain the reason for your low CGPA, you have a chance to get funding and it happened many times. There has a lot of examples that with low CPGA students get funding for MS.
5 tips Statement of Purpose (SoP) Writing tips:
As an international student, if you are applying to universities abroad, you must have been asked to write an SOP as a part of your application. Now we are discussing the five tips that helped you to write a really good SOP. So, Let’s jump to the first section.
Section – 1: Introduction.
The SOP is almost like an essay about yourself telling the people at university why they should accept you into a course. So obviously, each essay has an introduction, the main body paragraphs, and a closing conclusion or a closing statement. So for the introduction, I would want you all to think about why have you chosen this particular field or subject for study. What was it that first interested you in this field or subject? And finally, why have you tried to pick this university or this course?
Now, obviously, a lot of you who have read examples of SOPs online will try to begin with cliche statements such as Ever since I was a child, Ever since I was a young girl, I wanted to do engineering. Or you may also start with something like the great man Martin Luther King has said this, or John F. Kennedy I said this. And one request that has for you all today is do not start your SOPs with cliche statements like these.
Think about what really got you interested in pursuing the field that you are in at the moment. For example, it could be a personal experience with a family member. It could have been an experience in your life. It could have been that you were inspired by somebody you were close with, or that you have admired. And they have inspired you to take up this profession now and which is why you are thinking about studying this particular course at university.
So obviously, try to include a personal experience from your life because this then begins a story or a narrative that you can then continue all the way through your SOP. Also what this does is hooks the reader. So once you have the reader hooked within the first 35 words or the first 40 words of your introduction. They now want to read the rest of your soap till the end. So obviously trying to build a good introduction by using the three prompts that have been mentioned before.
Section – 2: Academics
Now, in the academic section, we would want you all to write about how your previous education has now led you to apply for this particular course or university. So what you do not want to do, is right that I got 85% in my 10th, I got 90% in my 12th. And that’s why now I’m applying for a medicine degree. Because they already have this information from your application form.
So what most suggest that you do is write about how your previous experience or previous academic achievement has now led you to apply for this course.
For example, I knew that UCL was a very research-oriented university. And so what I did was I used my example. Saying that I studied research and statistics in year two of my undergraduate degree and I also completed my thesis, which I wanted to get published. And when I was at work, I also had undertaken a case study or a research project which I published at a so-and-so conference.
It helps the people from the university understand that, yes, this person has these skill sets and knowledge from their academic backgrounds previously. And they are now going to be able to utilize this to study further or to improve further.
Section – 3: Personal.
The personal section in this region. That you all emphasize more about “what were the extracurricular activities that you have done. What was any kind of internship or volunteering experience that you’ve had, or any position of responsibility that you have held.”.
For example, if you are organizing a small group of people, do not just right, I was a good communicator, I was a good team leader, I was a good problem solver. Just writing this one statement does not help the university understand that you are a good anything.
So what I would suggest you do is write about the situation in more detail. For example, you can say that during my internship I was asked to organize a group activity and I had 20 people working with me. And during this activity, I was able to ask for consensus between the group and establish a way to move forward. And thus I was able to demonstrate good leadership and communication skills while working within the group.
Because now what you have done is you’ve not said that I am a good team leader. You’ve now helped the person reading your SAP understand that, yes, this person demonstrates good leadership skills because he was able to manage his group well.
As you undertake more activities during your academic or work life, it also helps the University understand that you are able to maintain a good balance in your life. You are able to now meet the demands of a university. Because obviously, studying at a university can be very stressful and very demanding.
So when you write this information, put this information in your SOP. The University is now able to understand that yes, so and so forth is now able to manage its academics. But also take part in more activities to build their overall selves.
Section – 4: Highlight your Skills.
You need to highlight what are the skills that you bring to this particular course or university. So always think about what evidence of skills you have as a person, any internship or volunteering experiences that you have had in this specific area of this specific field. That you think is going to improve your chances to apply for university.
You would have done something. Think about any research publication that you have done. Think about any course that you have attended, and any conferences that you have attended.
And this is understandable that during the space of lockdown in the past two years, it would have been really hard to attend any courses or do any volunteering. So what we would recommend is to visit this resource called the University of Hertfordshire. Because they have listed down some volunteering experiences that each person may have had in their respective fields.
And there you will see, something for engineering, and there’s, something for healthcare professionals. So please try and see this. But also, if you are a student and you are looking forward to applying the following year. Then please try to do some of these activities since it will help you to strengthen your SOP a long way.
Section – 5: Closing Statement.
It is the closing statement or the conclusion. So now, through your entire SOP from the introduction to the academic section, the personal section, and highlighting your skills, you have now shown the University that you are supposed to be a good candidate or a good prospective student that the university should take for this particular course.
So in the closing statement, try to draw all of these factors in by saying that through my previous experience. These are my career goals for myself for the next five years or ten years. And these parts of the course or whatever aspect of the course that you have chosen. Or whatever course you have chosen will help me to reach these career goals. Also, mention the reasons you have thought.
So obviously another way to also conclude would be also asking the university or informing them that “your course is very research-oriented and I would like to conduct research in the future”. And so I would want to study this course at “University Name”. Study this course wherever because it will help me to build my basics, Or build a firm foundation in research, which will help me to further my career.
A Most Common Question About SOP:
How long should my SOP be?
Some recommend that you should have your sop for at least 2000 to 3000 words. But many experts agree that, if you wrote only for about a thousand words and it contain your all information with good decoration. Then it is enough. So do not limit yourself by saying this is the word count that I need to have. But try to include as much content about yourself as you can in the SOP.
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There is an uncountable Importance of a Statement of Purpose. If we think overall holistically, it appears that the most important document in an admission package is the SOP. And this statement of purpose is ignored by many students. We don’t spend as much time on SOPs as we do on GRE, TOEFL, or IELTS.
If you look at the admission notices of top-level institutes like MIT, you will see that it says to give SOP a lot of importance. SOP is not something to be written in two days, at least 2-3 months should be taken to write SOP properly. And never submit the first draft of it. So, before submitting your SOP refine it again and again and take help from experts.