The art of writing an SOP: Aplicar explains

Just as we need a cover letter when we apply for a job,we need a statement of purpose to introduce ourselves to a jury that decides whether our application is worthy of acceptance to their institution. Think of it as an exercise in conveying your personality to another person without meeting them. Would you think that you are a sum total of your mark sheets and documentation? Neither do we! Aplicar is glad to guide you in the process of creating a winning SOP.

An SOP could be the difference between getting selected or not to an institution, even among students with the same qualifications. It expresses your profile through an essay to the admission committee enabling you to stand out in a crowd.

Why are SOPs so important?

While academic records can convey your performance in subjects that you have been tested for at various levels, your attitude, outlook towards life, goals, beliefs and driving forces are something that cannot be gleaned from them. This is where an SOP becomes indispensable, giving you an edge over your academic competitors or making up for lack of academic prowess.

What constitutes a good SOP?

Anything about you that is not evident from the supporting documents and records, and that will help strengthen your case for admission to a particular institute should find its way into an SOP. A well thought out structure that covers all important details is a must. Here are the main elements of a good SOP:

  • Who you are?
  • What has your journey been?
  • What are your achievements?
  • What do you seek to achieve at the university?

Step-by-step guide to writing your SOP

  1. A great introduction: With hundreds of applications to go through, it is important to make a good first impression so that your application isn’t discarded in the first few sentences. Start with a line that will hook them and make them want to read on to know more about you. That having been said, avoid flowery language, choosing instead simple words and sentence structure.
  2. Personal background: Anything that has helped you become who you are; influences that have shaped you, family and friends who have inspired you, personal icons you look up to and other history that would enable the admissions committee to understand your personality and goals better, should be mentioned. Things that do not align with your current goals or the course that you are applying for should be kept off the application. Hobbies that you are really passionate about, sports activities and social clubs should also be there. Write with the intent of introducing them to the person you are beyond your academic record without sharing any unnecessary personal details.
  3. Exceptional achievements: If you have performed exceptionally well or are proud of an achievement in any field, do mention it. It may not be linked to your course but could point to attributes such as leadership, initiative, dedication or ability to work well in a team.
  4. Community, environmental or other social service: If you have rendered your services to any social organisation, group or have taken personal initiative in a social cause, include it in the application. It is worth supporting your experiences with documentation such as newspaper cuttings, certificates or awards. Connecting how the experience would help you in the course that you are interested in would be even better.
  5. Career goals: Link your interests, capabilities and achievements to your goals. Elaborate on what the purpose of undertaking this education is for you and to what end. If you are looking to join your family business, explain how the particular course will help enhance the existing business.
  6. Reasons for choice of university, course and country: Even though it should be obvious, never mention that a university wasn’t your first choice. If it made to your top five or top 10, think of the reasons why you decided upon it. Go through the college website, understand what the course really offers, which parts of the course excite you the most, what are the opportunities that you could further explore while you are at that institution and why you chose that particular country. Research well and don’t give vague reasons.
  7. A strong ending: You do not have to summarise, rather think of the conclusion as a parting sentence that will leave a positive impression on the committee. It should tie together the introduction and body of your essay.

To further fine tune your SOP, follow these tips:

  • Start with a first draft that isn’t edited and may be two or three times the word count required.
  • Edit for whatever seems unnecessary, spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, sentence structure and repetitions.
  • Ask someone whose opinion you value to make suggestions about the SOP. Ask them if you should remove any references or add something more. Evaluate the suggestions and incorporate them using your best judgement. Asking for opinion is good but not too many opinions as otherwise it may lead to the SOP seeming
  • Stick to the word limit. If no word limit is mentioned, try to contact the institution by email and ask them for the same.
  • Keep the writing simple, direct and honest.
  • Do not copy and paste the same SOP for all college applications. Ensure that each SOP is written with a particular course and college in mind.
  • Keep in mind the font specifications that are given by each institution. Avoid the use of fancy fonts, colours and unnecessary formatting tools.
  • The university knows its strengths and that of its teaching staff. Focus on why they would be the best fit for your career goals and avoid resorting to flattery.
  • Spend enough time thinking over what you will write, writing at least a few drafts before finalising it and editing before submitting.
  • Do not repeat information that is already there in the academic records and other details that you are filling out in the application forms.
  • Before submitting the SOP, make sure there are no errors.
  • Under no circumstances should you copy from any source.

The SOP is the most important document that you will need for your admission, making it a must for you to spend time reflecting on what you should and should not add. If you need more help with your SOP, sign up and login to to get the latest inputs from our expert counsellors.

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