Common Mistakes to Avoid While Writing an SOP or Application Essay

By Sristy Sharma Updated On - Apr 26, 2022 05:06 PM

SOP and Application Essays are important part of any application process. But the question is, 'what exactly makes a perfect essay or SOP?' Knowing what to do isn't always enough. Hence, we have prepared for you a guide to learn some of the common mistakes that you must avoid while writing SOPs and Application Essays to get accepted in your dream college.

In any application process there are numerous procedures to be fulfilled, and when it is for international education these procedures only add up to a lengthier process. In this process there is one component which is known to impact your acceptance status by a lot, that is, the Statement of Purpose (SOP).

What is an SOP?

There are only a limited number of seats available in any particular college or university, even if there is a provision of multiple batches and affiliated colleges. While the academic performance certificates and other transcripts might help you to rise on a better level in comparison to other candidates, it would be foolish to assume that many others would not have strong profiles to present against you. There is also a factor of desired college and it is important that you get admission in the same so that you can truly enjoy your education. In this regard, it is the SOP which helps in finalising the deal.

An SOP is a type of application essay which is provided by a candidate insupport of their applicaion along with the academic proofs and other documents during the application process. The essay conveys an applicant's purpose of applying to a particular school and course with the help of previous academic background, current interests and pursuits in the field, and eventual goals and mission after completing the course.

In simple words, while academic transcripts and other certifications determine your performance capacity, SOP determines your intentions and dedication to achieve the performance.

SOP is filed even for domestic institutions, yet it is simply unavoidable for the study abroad journey.

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Difference Between Other Application Essays and SOP

You might have heard of different terms for SOPs, such as Motivation Essay, Addendum, Personal Statement, etc., and must be wondering about what is the difference between all these essays and how are they different from SOP.

All these names, including SOP, are simply different names for an application essay required by the universities abroad. They are vital documents and all play ultimately the same role in the profile evaluation of an international applicant. However, you are not asked to submit all of these documents by any university. Only one of these is required.

In most cases institutions specifically mention the documents required in an application process, and it is possible that they might mention two types of application essays. In such cases, the universities or colleges would provide you with essay prompts or topics that would need to work upon. There is generally a word limit specified to such essays.

For instance if an institution asks for SOP and Personal Statement, then the admission panel wants you to provide some personal background information in the Personal Statement and your reason to choose the institution and future goals in your SOP.

Common Mistakes to Avoid While Writing an SOP

Guidance is available in how to write an SOP and which are the points that must be included. However, it takes a lot of primary and secondary drafts before arriving to the final one. Let us learn what to avoid, or what not to do.

We bring to you the most common mistakes which candidates make in writing an SOP or any application essay. You can refer to this guide and ensure that you do not commit these mistakes and be more confident in your final application.

Ignoring the Format

There is a certain format of application essays which must be properly followed. The format when disturbed often creates a disturbance in flow of the essay and leads to the overall effect being punctured. For example, it is recommended by the format that academic performance must be mentioned before co-curricular achievements. If they are interchanged then the overall message can be interpreted as the candidate being less academically inclined or having comparatively less achieving in academics. This does not speak well especially when an application is being made for technical courses.

Not Filtering the Irrelevant Information

There might be a lot of information that you might desire to convey, and often it is seen that candidates resort to putting each and every achievement of theirs in the SOP, which is an absolutely wrong approach. Your requirement is to ensure your acceptance for the course and you must only use the information which is related to the course and may help and support your cause. For example, even if your science project was placed first in your matriculation, it is better to not mention it as academic achievement when applying for a course in Historical Studies.

Oversharing Personal Story

It is seen that while establishing a personal touch in an application essay, candidates over-indulge with personal information. Personal Profiling must be kept to a minimum and only to serve as a support and impactful information. Universities are comparatively more interested in what you can and intend to do with the course.

It is an added benefit if you are pursuing a course in an area which also serves as your family’s background. Yet a single impactful recognition of fact shall be a better course, in comparison to talking about it for a whole paragraph. 

Similarly, childhood hobbies and matters must not be discussed for too long or too often. Their mention must be limited to once or twice and in a manner that they provide a base for further development of information.

Language and Grammar Errors

Since an application essay is being conveyed from your perspective it must follow a narrative of a story, however, it must be seen that this implication is limited and not overdone. Too much focus on narrative style leads to necessary information getting cut and limited in favour of literary impressions.

The language of the SOP must not be informal and filled with slangs of the common man’s tongue. Moreover, in formal format the language must not be too heavy, a simple yet professional language is enough to create a positive impression.

The type of course which is being applied for must dictate the use of technical language and even that must not be overdone. 

Tense of the essay must relate to your perception of time in the present. In case multiple essays are to be filed, their purpose shall dictate the tense in application. 

Adoption of Negative Approach

In any case, focus on talking about your relationship with the institution and what you desire to make out of course in the long run. Mention of third party is not recommended and so is any negative representation of any institution or home country. It does not leave a good impression of the candidate at all. It is better to focus on ‘Why do you choose what you’re applying for?’ and not ‘Why are you not choosing other options?’

Length of Application Essay

Length of the application essay must be kept to a range of 700 - 900 words, with a provision of about 10% to 15% more or less. An application essay of less than 600 words is often too short to properly convey the purpose and overloaded with unnecessary details when over 1000 words. In the former case the panel might feel a lack of purpose and about the latter as time consuming.

Over-Statement and Non-Clarity

It is one of the most common problems in any application essay. In a bid to ensure an impactful impression you might feel a need to exaggerate your achievement and over-polish them for their material effect. However, it must be remembered that all those achievements are evidenced through certificates and academic transcripts you have attached. Your aim is to justify their impact and matter in motivating and leading you to apply for the course.

This over exaggeration also leads to unclear application as it is more apparent that you are boasting of your past achievements and unclear of what you desire in future from the course. This speaks more about your misunderstanding of the purpose of the application essay and therefore must be absolutely avoided.

Co-Curricular and Social Activities Presentation

While the two spectrums form an important part of SOP, they must be conveyed in moderation and following the academic achievements. For the purpose of Social and Ethical nerve, the sentence formation must  be relied upon and for co-curricular activities, a diverse yet focused approach must be taken. Do not indulge in sports and arts in a single statement, but take help of about 4-5 sentences and convey the achievements in a cascading manner, preferably moving from athletics to social and eventually finer skills and hobbies.

Justification of Academic Performance

The impact of achievements is included among the purpose and aims of an SOP, yet they must not be justified for their quantitative effectiveness. Higher scores are good but as far as your academic transcripts are fulfilling the eligibility criteria, it is enough. Their justification will only rob you of words in your already limited word range. On the other hand, over-pressuring of impressive academic achievements is also futile, as if SOP is impactful they will do their work anyhow. So it is better to avoid the practice.

Not Giving Enough Time Writing

Writing an SOP or any application essay is by no means an easy task, however, delaying the act for long shall not only lead to a sloppy attempt but also create a risk of missing the deadline. It is better to give proper time to the writing and editing process so that the end result could be favourable. Moreover, it shall also allow you to submit an application early as it is definitely not recommended to wait for the deadline.

Ignoring Editing and Proofreading

It is better to re-read, edit, and proofread your SOP or application essay at least twice after every draft. Often this exercise is seen as a burden and ignored but such a practise is harmful to candidates only. Editing and proofreading process helps in finding the minor mistakes which the grammar and language checking tools are unable to detect. The impact of a statement, relevancy of an information, format fallacies, etc. can only be discovered in this process.

As you can see, SOP and application essays truly have a power to decide whether you will get accepted in your dream institution or not, despite your past academic performance. It therefore becomes extremely important that rather than experimenting with the document on your own you seek guidance of professionals

We have experts waiting for you to simply contact us and they shall guide you through the process, and even in application filing. Register on our site or write to us at abroad@collegedekho.com.

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