A Statement of Purpose (SOP), a Personal Statement, or a Cover Letter is a vital element of the total application package for impressing the admission committee and the funding authority when applying for admission into any program to pursue higher study abroad. According to Admission Committee members, the SOP is the essential document in the application, among others, you submit. Standardized tests (GRE/GMAT, IELTS/TOEFL), transcripts, letters of recommendation, writing samples, and other documents are also required for your graduate school application. However, these do not reveal as much information about a student or his background as an individual applicant that the statement brings to the admission panel. Many of you requested to write an article with a few tips for a successful SOP. Today I am trying to share my own experience with you all.

First, I will list what we should consider while writing an SOP. Below I am listing down the items which you should do.

Top To Dos:

  • It would help if you wrote your essay by giving your reader a proper direction toward the theme of your thesis. The thesis is the central point of your communication towards the admission committee or the professor under whom supervision you are applying for this studentship. From beginning to end, you should justify your story of experience and aspirations in terms of your thesis and future research or professional career.
  • Before you begin writing, brainstorm to construct a proper structure for your statement by thinking about what you will discuss and how you will discuss it.
  • In the introductory remarks, be unique, creative, and imaginative, but make sure it’s something no one else could write.
  • When delivering information, be logical. Make sure the essay has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Each paragraph should flow logically from the one before it, which means each paragraph should begin maintaining a link to the previous one.
  • Try to provide examples from your real-life experience. At the same time, you mention any of your skills or talents and how this experience will support your entire journey towards completing the program.
  • Rather than describing your expertise, try to evaluate and analyze it. It is important to discuss what you have learned when writing about your achievements. You can’t simply “share stories.”
  • You may discuss things of your interests or what excites you most. This will give the admission committee about your hobbies or what you like beyond your academic activity.
  • The applicant should never duplicate or copy an SOP from the internet or other people’s example copy. Students are often seen attempting to copy other senior students’ statements or those seen on the internet. It is highly advised not to duplicate SOPs. Plagiarism detector software such as i-thenticate or Turnitin can detect the similarity instantly from the internet. It also checks the similarity with the university database. So, ultimately your application will be rejected if the software finds any duplication, even if you have a good CGPA, GRE, IELTS, or TOEFL score.
  • While writing the SOP, remember the program/subject and discipline/faculty you are applying to get admission. Also, check attentively what attributes they are looking for in a potential student for their postgraduate (MSc/Ph.D.) programs, what additional conditions/requirements they have, and how many of them are met by you. If a provision is lacking, please explain why it is missing acceptably. It would be best if you elaborated on how you plan to recover that deficit during your study period. Don’t try to hide any obligation; it may negatively influence the application reviewer’s mind.
  • You may speak briefly about your enthusiasm for your field of study. You should describe the reasoning behind your decisions, particularly those that lead you to seek the degree for which you are applying.
  • Why do you desire the course/project for which you are applying? Why is it now? What are your plans following the course/program/study? What do you intend to do in the long run? These questions must be answered.
  • If the student has a journal or conference paper or a book chapter, indicate where it was published, the Journal impact factor, the name of the publication, the page number, and a brief synopsis of the published piece.
  • Students must include extracurricular activities from their university or college experience in their SOP. If the students were organizers of any program or were involved with any academic, research, social, or cultural organizations/societies throughout their university years, they should write about it. If the student was a good athlete or had good stage performances, such as in a debate, it should be mentioned in the SOP. Such information demonstrates the applicant’s leadership, networking, administrative, and managerial skills, which are essential for his postgraduate studies and his early career researcher position after completing the study. The SOP can express that the student is interested in their educational program and extracurricular activities. They want to be an active participant in those activities in addition to studying.
  • In their statement, the students should summarise the purpose of doing an MS/Ph.D. degree in the applied university or the country. They should also mention the expected career plan after completing a post-graduation degree.
  • Make your write-up concise. It must not be too long or too short. For example, it could be 1 to 3 pages long. For my case, I used an SOP that extended to three pages with proper spaces within sentences and margins on each page.
  • Make your write-up understandable to the reader. You are not required to use uncommon or unnecessary critical words in the background of your essay.
  • Use readable fonts (i.e., times new roman), font size (ideally 12 points), standard spacing (1 or 1.25), alignment (justified), and margins (normal).
  • After finishing writing, recheck your writeup several times. Try to check the grammatical, syntax, typos, or sentence structure errors, take feedback from your peers, and address the mistakes.

Again, here I am listing the items you always try to avoid.

Not To Dos:

  • Only write a brief about the past. Instead, discuss the future more, and to be honest, the ‘purpose’ in the statement of purpose refers to your goals and aspirations for future career or study objectives.
  • It is not recommended that you tell them, “I am excellent in this subject,” ” Please consider me as a potential student,” “I want to do my post-grad in this subject,” or “I’d like to thank the admissions committee for taking the time to review my application.”, “I sincerely hope you will allow me to attend your fine school.”, or anything else that does not complement the student.
  • Do not use a luxurious or respectable lifestyle, financial soundness, or improved living conditions in a developed country as a motive for applying to that specific course or country.
  • Do not incorporate frequent technical terminology, uncommon words, or a local word/term from your mother language if not relatable, and if you require to write that word, then provide that word’s meaning.
  • Do not get the name of the program, school, or professor wrong. This mistake proves that you did not provide enough attention while submitting your application.
  • Avoid repeating information from other components of the application. Do not criticize or complain about the “system” or your circumstances. Avoid discussing political matters if they are unrelated to the program you are applying for admission.
  • Do not use unusual formats or packages or supply supplementary documents unless specifically requested.
  • Unless you have a remarkable and unique story that connects to your application, do not discuss your minority status or underprivileged background.
  • It is unnecessary to mention the school ranking.
  • Provide no information that contradicts your thesis.
  • The statement should not be looked at or used to compose an autobiography, itinerary, or Curriculum vitae.

Some Questions which must be answered in your statement:

  1. What you’re doing right now?
  2. What course are you applying for?
  3. Your suitability for the chosen course.
  4. Significant educational and professional experiences.
  5. Your short-term (2-3 years from now) and mid/long-term goals (5-10 years from now).
  6. Why did you choose this particular college/university, and why this particular course?
  7. Significant extracurricular activities, such as social service, etc. (if relevant)

                                                   STRUCTURE/FORMAT of a Standard SOP   

Some Helpful Links:

Grad School Essay Writing

Good luck with your future endeavours.

Thank you all!

Mohammad Mahbubur Rahman
Doctoral Researcher, Food Security for Equitable Future Research Group,
Department of Sociology, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
Web: https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/sociology/people/mohammad-rahman


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