How to write the best SOP?
Shraya Singh, 30 Oct 2018

How to write the best SOP - A candidate’s statement of purpose, generally referred to as an SOP, is unequivocally one of the most important aspects of a college application. The SOP is the first point of contact that the admissions committee of any college or university has with the applicant and therefore, a well-written SOP provides the right first impression which could heavily influence the applicant’s admission decision. There are many tips that a prospective applicant can adhere to in order to write a compelling statement of purpose, but the best way to understand is reading sample SOPs and the best SOP’s of successful applicants in order to truly understand what the admissions committee is looking for. 

Essentially, an SOP is a two to three page essay which entails the applicant’s motivation behind and expectations from the specific course of application. It should also include the applicant’s reason behind applying for the specific program at the particular university of application. Apart from this, the best SOPs are generally essays highlighting major academic and professional achievements which have led up to the candidate’s program application as well as the candidate’s future professional goals following the completion of the program if he/she were to be admitted. 

As the statement of purpose is essentially an essay, it is integral that the correct grammar and vocabulary is used throughout the document. Additionally, it shouldn’t simply be a list of events, achievements and motivations. Instead, some of the best SOPs read similar to a story of sorts, with a certain amount of build-up leading to the applicant’s journey to the specific program of application. Although applicants may take advice and help from mentors or colleagues, the final statement of purpose, ideally, should be written by himself/herself. 

Sometimes, an SOP for a certain program differs from other programs as well, for example, the master’s SOP for a STEM course should be sprinkled lightly with jargons and the ‘catch’ or applicant’s motivation could be best described through a scientific reference, whereas, some of the best SOPs for an arts or English program has the liberty to run like a story and dabble lightly in poetry or literary quotes. Of the many pieces of advice to take into consideration while writing a statement of purpose for a college application, there are a few tips which are constant for best SOP writing for all types of programs of application. These tips will help prospective applicants improve their statement of purpose and, in turn, increase their chances of admission to a foreign university:

  • Some universities and programs delineate specific questions which are to be answered through the SOP, ensure that the answers to these are specific and clear.

  • The most important thing that the admissions committee looks out for is the applicant’s goals and aspirations and what kind of role that the specific program of application would have towards achieving them. 

  • The SOP is not for highlighting academic achievements in detail as the official transcripts and resume are designated for that role. Instead, applicants should use the SOP to highlight extra-curricular and co-curricular achievements as well as themselves as a person and how they would be a desirable element to add to any college-environment.

  • The best SOPs always have a ‘catch’ or a ‘hook’ which engages the reader and provides insight towards the applicant’s selection of the program. This can be a specific incident, a conversation, a book or movie; anything that provide the final spark of influence to the lead the applicant to the specific program.

  • The use of details and specific instances or events is integral for best SOP writing. This lends the essay authenticity and also provides an increasingly personalized product.

  • The statement of purpose is generally a narrative document, therefore, the entire essay should be written in the first person from the applicant’s point of view.

  • Although it is important for the statement of purpose to be well-written, it is not intended to highlight the writing skills of the applicant (unless writing is related to the program of application). The SOP essay’s primary focus is to delineate the candidate’s motivations, goals and personality to the admissions committee.

  • Applicants must keep in mind NEVER to copy and paste anything from the internet to ensure best SOP writing. The entire essay should be self-written and convey the applicant's personality through his or her words. Similarly, applicants can ask for advice or opinions from friends or colleagues, but the final SOP should be written by the applicant.

  • Universities often have varying requirements for the length of an SOP. It is best for applicants to produce a ‘base SOP’ which has the ‘hook’ and other integral bits. Applicants can then use the base SOP to draft individual university SOPs which are tailored specifically to the particular university and program of application rather than rewriting the SOP for each application.

  • Applicants must ALWAYS edit and revise their statement of purpose before attaching it the online application form. It is also advisable to have a friend or family member review it once before sending it in. 

  • Read sample SOPs online to gain more insight into what the admissions committee is looking for in applicant essays.

Also read:

How to write best SOP for MBA

How to write best SOP for MS

Statement of Purpose
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