Statement of Purpose (SOP): Format, Writing Tips and Requirements

By Cyril Zachariah Updated On - Feb 01, 2021 09:48 PM

A Statement of Purpose is a document or essay that outlines your reasons for pursuing a course at a particular university. In this article, you can learn more about what an SOP is, what is expected in a good SOP and what you should include in an SOP to be considered for admissions.

A Statement of Purpose, as the name suggests, is an essay of sorts explaining or outlining to the university the reasons they should choose you for a particular course. The Statement of Purpose should be a concise statement that highlights your future goals and ambitions, why you wish to pursue the course and how you are qualified to pursue the course at that university.

Universities abroad and a few in India as well, require its applicants to submit a Statement of Purpose as it helps the admissions committee to paint a clearer picture of you as a prospective student of a particular course or degree.

Why Write a Statement of Purpose?

The short answer to the question is - it can make or break your application. A well-written statement of purpose or SOP is not only useful for highlighting your strengths, qualifications and motivations behind choosing the course, it helps build a personality or character to your applications. A well-written SOP can help you be chosen for a particular course even with a relatively weak academic profile.

An SOP will help the university understand you better and acknowledge your skills, qualifications and ability to pursue a particular course. Thus, properly convincing the admissions committee to select you for the course.

Components of a Good Statement of Purpose

While writing a Statement of Purpose, there are certain elements or components that you need to ensure are included. These elements are required to provide a completed SOP to the university. Components such as:

  • Your Personal Background: Briefly describe your background, where you come from, the challenges that you faced along the way and how you overcame them. Keep in mind that this section should be extremely brief.

  • Your Financial Background: Another extremely brief component should be your financial standing, which you can add while highlighting your personal background. In both these sections, state the information as a fact instead of an endless story.

  • Academic Qualifications: While speaking of your academic achievements and profile, keep it short and to the point. State the reasons why you choose the programme or how a particular course helped your decision in pursuing a course or field of study.

  • Professional/Work Experience (if any): If you have worked, full-time or part-time or volunteered before applying for a course, then mention the same. While it may not be relevant to the field, it does provide you with a professional experience.

  • Your Goals and Aspirations (Short and Long-Term): Highlight a few of your short-term and long-term goals in the SOP. Try and write those goals and aspirations that are related to the course you’re applying to.

  • Published Works or Submitted Papers: If you have submitted papers or have some other published work, especially if you are looking to pursue a Masters or PhD course, then mention the same.

  • Reasons to Pursue a Course: It is important to paint an image of why you choose a particular course or field. This will help the admissions committee understand your motivations for pursuing a course.

  • Reasons for Selecting the University: Highlight the reasons for you choosing that particular university. For instance, talk about the course outcome statistics of the university or the curriculum they have designed for a particular course.

  • Extra-curricular Activities: It is important to highlight the extra-curricular activities that you have participated in college or high school and if you have led a team in sports or other activities, highlight them as well. This will help the university understand your leadership skills and team-playing abilities as well.

Note: While mentioning these components is necessary to building a strong Statement of Purpose, you must remember to keep the essay short, sweet and simple.

Also Read: Top Scholarships to Study Abroad

Statement of Purpose: Things to Remember

Speaking of short, sweet and simple, there are certain things to remember while writing your statement of purpose. Ensure that you keep these following points in mind while writing your next Statement of Purpose.

  • Keep it Short: A well-written Statement of Purpose should be completed in about 900 to 1,000 words.

  • Be Grammatically Correct: While writing a Statement of Purpose, ensure that you are grammatically correct. If you are unsure, seek help from experts or your teachers. Therefore, once you have completed your SOP, go through it at least twice, thoroughly.

  • Give Details But Don’t Write a Novel: If you have many accomplishments, it is extremely important to highlight them in your SOP. However, it is easy to get carried away and give too many details. Provide those details that are either related to the field you wish to join or those that are too important to miss out.

  • Avoid Repetition: While writing, you may find yourself repeating a few details or highlighting the same information again. Therefore, before writing an SOP, make a draft and go through it before finalising the statement.

  • Make Pointers First: Make a list of all the highlights that you wish to mention in the SOP. Make multiple drafts of the SOP and get your teacher or an expert to scrutinize your SOP.

  • Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth: While seeking help from experts or teachers is recommended, it is also recommended to seek help from either one or two people at the most. Seeking help from too many people may confuse you and probably even ruin the SOP.

  • Research: While the statement of purpose is meant to highlight your achievements, motivations, goals and aspirations, taking out time to study about the course offered by a particular university and even about the university can go a long way. Researching about the course and the university will help you add information for the component requiring you to talk about why you choose a particular course and the particular university.

  • Avoid Technical Terms: While jargons and technical terms may present you as a knowledgeable candidate, overusing them does not present a good image. Use limited technical terms.

Note: From the pointers mentioned above, one can understand that moderation is the key element. “... Take help but not too much, give details but not too much…” etc.

Also Read: Which Country Has the Best Higher Education System?

Country-Specific Requirements for Writing Statement of Purposes

One of the more common questions asked by students for writing a Statement of Purpose is whether there are country-specific requirements. One thing to remember here is that a Statement of Purpose is written for a University and a programme. Therefore, in almost all situations, there are no country-specific statement of purpose requirements. However, when writing your statement of purpose, mentioning your reasons behind choosing a country and then the university can be beneficial as well. Nonetheless, no country or university will specify any country-specific requirement when writing a statement of purpose.

Course-Specific Requirements for Writing Statement of Purposes

While there are no country-specific requirements, universities may require you to write a Statement of Purpose specifically structured for the course of your choice. Commonly witnessed for MBA programmes, aspirants are usually required to specify their purpose of and goals after studying a particular MBA or Management programme. Similarly, other courses such as Applied and Pure Sciences, Engineering, Law, Arts, etc may also reqiure course-specific requirements while writing a Statement of Purpose.

In most cases, you will be required mention your aspirations of pursuing the course in question, what attracted you to the course particularly offered by a specific university, your goals after studying the course, the industry you wish to join after the course and more. Answering these questions in your statement of purpose will tailor your Statement of Purpose specifically for the course you wish to join.

A good, well-written Statement of Purpose can, thus, become the element that can either make or break your application to a course in the university of your choice. Therefore ensure that you are able to paint a favourable picture of yourself in the minds of the readers.

With Indian Universities slowly starting to ask for the same, preparing to write your statement of purpose from now on can be good practice. Think of your dream course and dream university and write a proper statement of purpose. Make your teachers or parents read the statement and start training yourself in writing good statements of purpose.

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