Statement of Purpose (SOP): All You Need to Know!

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Srishti
Srishti Chatterjee
Study Abroad Expert
Updated on Feb 21, 2022 13:01 IST

A Statement of Purpose (SOP), is a reflection of your personality that you portray in front of the admissions committee (AdCom) for getting enrolled in universities abroad. It is your chance of impressing the committee by presenting your profile strongly through an essay that describes your personality traits, which are not covered in your academic documents.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • SOP Formats, Templates, and Guidelines for SOP Writing
  • Tips for writing impressive SOPs
  • Common Mistakes to avoid in SOP
  • Importance of SOP
  • Word Limits in SOP
  • SOP Samples for different courses: UG, MS (Engineering), MBS
  • SOP Samples for different countries: USA, UK, Canada, Australia
  • Things to and not to include in SOP
  • SOP FAQs

What is SOP?

An SOP is a long essay required by universities abroad and nowadays some of the Indian universities during the application process. As the full form of SOP reveals, a Statement of Purpose is an essay stating the purpose of applying to a particular course in a particular university. This essay consists of a gist of who you are, who you want to become, and how ready you are to pursue a certain course in an institution.

The document seeks to understand the candidate’s life, the motivations for the chosen career path and his/her goals. Hence, you should discuss the past incidents that have influenced your career path in a specific domain wherein you aspire to grow by joining a course/college.

Why is SOP important?

A well-written SOP is extremely critical to your admission. Needless to say, there are many aspects of a candidate’s application that are inspected before finalising a decision. While the academic record and other exam scorecards/academic transcripts and backlog certificates are essentially objective in nature, an SOP is the only truly subjective aspect of your application.

It is the only document in your application that gives you the opportunity to prove that you have something unique that makes you stand out from the crowd. As such, it is the document of your application docket that can hugely determine your admission.

What is the General Statement of Purpose Format?

Most universities across the globe have a standard format/template that is acceptable. However, the content in SOP varies with different kinds of courses. Learn how to write the SOPs for different courses here:

Shiksha Guidelines for SOP Writing

While there are a number of formats and samples available online for an SOP that aspirants can use for SOP writing, however, it is difficult to choose the right format. Also, you would not find the correct formatting details required for a particular draft or the ideal chronology to follow.

Each SOP should be unique and thus, Shiksha has its own guidelines for an SOP to help the students decipher the parts of a statement of purpose so that it can be drafted easily. To know all about the correct formatting and context of an SOP, you can read Shiksha Guidelines for SOP.

SOP Samples and Format for MBA, MS, UG, and PhD Courses

Every course has a different way of writing its SOP application. Check out the course-wise SOP Samples and Formats.

Should you put your name on your Statement of Purpose?

In a traditional SOP, you do not need to write your name or course details anywhere in the document. The SOP is a part of your application/student profile, thus, it will have your name and course details by default. However, there might be some universities or schools that specify whether they require your name and course details in the SOP. These universities will provide you with specific instructions on how and where to write your personal details in a document. Thus, you need to follow their instructions thoroughly.

SOP Formats for USA, Canada, UK, and Australia

There is no fixed format to be followed in an SOP for a country. However, a university may provide you with a set of guidelines based on which you may need to write your SOP. If you still want to refer to samples for different countries, check out the generic samples given below:

SOP structures and formats for other countries can be found here:

SOP for Germany

SOP for Sweden

SOP for Hong Kong

SOP for Singapore

SOP for Netherlands

SOP for Ireland

What do colleges look for in an SOP?

While drafting your SOP, you need to keep in mind that the admission committee will be reviewing thousands of applications for the same course. Thus, not only your SOP needs to be crisp and precise, but it should also highlight the uniqueness in your profile. Here are a few things that the college review committee generally look for in a student’s SOP:

  • Your writing capability is reflected in your SOP. Your SOP should be free from grammatical errors. The language should be lucid enough for them to comprehend yet should have a good vocabulary. Make sure not to use too many heavy words as sometimes too much rich vocabulary makes the sentence redundant and it fails to communicate the meaning.
  • What makes you stand out from the rest of the crowd? Highlight your unique side/unique personality. The Adcom should be able to recognize you an as individual through your SOP. Your interests and goals will help them know you on a personal basis.
  • With your talent, previous experiences and interest, how and what can you contribute to the department and college/university, as a whole? Think of it as a two-way process. If you receive an admit, your career will get a kick-start and through your efforts and participation, the department/college can receive benefits. You need to mention how you will be able to contribute to their community, be it through sports, community services, societies or clubs, and so on.
  • Being familiar with the university facilities and curriculum will help you a great deal. You need to be aware of the student programmes, faculty, internship opportunities, student facilities and societies, traditions etc that sets the university apart from others. The Adcom should be convinced that you know about the department and college/university thoroughly and thus, you are applying in it and not applying randomly.
  • Your motivation or inspiration to study a selected course should be clear, evident and justified. Adcom does not approve of bragging sentences in the SOP. So keep it original, real, and free from any overbearing or arrogant statements.

How to make your SOP stand out from the Crowd?

Now that we have assessed how important your SOP is, we come to the important part – how to write an SOP that stands out amongst 1000s of applicants every year. There are obviously some basics about SOP writing, which clear what all you need to keep in mind like general word limit, format, etc.

What is important to note, is that you must, at all times, remember which course you are writing the SOP for. For example, if you are talking about studying Computer Science in a country, you must discuss all your encounters, experiences, and learnings of Computer Science. Do not miss out on anything important and do not talk about the rest of the things too much.

Specifically speaking, the SOP for an MBA application would be rather different from the SOP for a Masters course like an MS or an MSc. Similarly, the SOP for a Bachelors course would be widely different from any of the two. Here is a look at how to write a winning SOP.

How long should a statement of purpose be?

Statement of Purpose should be 1-2 pages long, ideally wrapped in 800-1000 words. However, the length of this document may vary as per university-specific requirements. Some universities have a fixed length and pattern of SOPs required, which is fixed to 500 words only, even 200 words in some cases. Most of the universities accept generic length, which is 800-1000 words, which may go beyond 1000, but not exceed 1200 words, in some cases.

It is generally easy to write a story of your life explaining the importance of each incident in shaping or moulding your character. However, when it comes to defining your SOP within the communicated word limit by some universities, the challenge is to portray your best within limited words. In such cases, it is better to mention the major achievements from every place you have been to such as school, college, office, etc.

Some abroad universities do not require SOP, they rather give you Essay Prompts along with a word limit. In order to learn the importance of word limit in an SOP, you may refer to this Importance of Word Limit in Essay.

What to Include in an SOP?

There are many elements to an SOP. Universities could ask question-based essays or simply a general statement of purpose. Until and unless categorically asked, an SOP must include your goals and the career path you have taken up so far as well as your academic progress. Other elements that are further important to the SOP are also the personal motivations that lead you to choose the university/course you have applied to as well as how you intend to use that experience to achieve that goal.

While understanding how to write an SOP, we come across various questions. To sum up your entire life and career in 100 words can be a tiresome exercise. With the word constraints rather important, what is important to understand at the onset is what to include in your SOP?

Must read:

What not to include in an SOP?

Remember that there is no exhaustive list of what you can include in an SOP. What you need to remember is that in such a case, it becomes equally important to understand what you must not include in your SOP. For instance, should you talk about your family? What about your school life? Every organization I have ever worked with? All my extracurricular achievements? How to know the most important question – what not to include in your SOP?

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Strategies to Write a Powerful and Convincing SOP

Whether applying for undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate programmes, the strategy of writing a powerful statement of purpose would be to sound focused throughout. Starting from your academic and professional background to your career aspirations, you need to carefully connect all the dots between reaching your goals through your choice of school and course.

The essay should always go in a flow covering your past experience, present involvements, and future plans. An important point to remember while writing your SOP would be to divide it into paragraphs that cover all the pointers. Here is a look at how you may write the SOP presenting your profile strongly:

Introduction of SOP: 1st Paragraph

This paragraph is often confused with self-introduction. It should not introduce you but should discuss what you are about to discuss in your SOP. There are multiple approaches you may adopt to go about this paragraph:

  • Discuss your long-term goal and connect it with your idea of pursuing the course you are applying to
  • Present your understanding of the chosen field and write how you want to contribute to that field
  • Explain your background in 2-3 lines and connect it with your future goals
  • Write about an anecdote that helped you realise your professional interest in the chosen field

Students often make the mistake of introducing themselves or their childhood in the first paragraph. In some cases, students tend to forget about the purpose behind writing an SOP. Check out the Common Mistakes to Avoid in an SOP.

SOP 2nd and 3rd Paragraphs: Academic Background and Professional Experience

This comprises of your academic background: what you have done so far, what you are currently pursuing, your academic strengths and projects, industrial exposure you have attained, etc. If you have any professional experience it should be discussed in the upcoming paragraphs. This helps in establishing your career progression.

SOP 4th Paragraph: Why This Course?

In this paragraph, you should discuss why you want to join a course and what modules would you tap during this course. It should also cover the skills you would acquire in this duration along with the exposure that would help in developing the skills desired to realise your goals.

SOP 5th Paragraph: Career Goals

This is the most important paragraph, where you should discuss your short and long-term goals. Your immediate goal would be where you would want to work right after completing this course. You should be able to name some companies within India along with the designation you see yourself working at. This should explain the kind of job profile you would be working on.

Then comes your long-term goal, wherein you should mention where you see yourself from 10-12 or 15 years down the line. This may include your desire of working at the CEO/CFO/CTO level or maybe establish a firm that you own. It may also include your dream of expanding your existing family business overseas. You may also be interested in further studies like a PhD which can be included here.

More in this section may include your desire of becoming a professor or researcher. In any case, it is suggested that you discuss your business aim, principles, and core values or how you would influence the young aspirants of this industry. You should be able to portray 'how you wish to make a difference in the industry keeping in mind the current industrial scenarios and emerging trends'.

SOP 6th Paragraph: Why This University?

This is a specific paragraph wherein you can convince a university as in how they are suitable for your profile and you are an ideal candidate for their university. You should discuss the course curriculum, research work, faculty names, as well as the university-specific activities that would help you in enhancing your profile.

Closing Paragraph of SOP

In this paragraph should conclude your desire and readiness towards joining the chosen course. Since this is the closing paragraph, you should sound focused and prepared for all the challenges that came your way. It should also show that you have the zest in you to succeed and with the help of the chosen course and university you will definitely make a difference in the industry on a global perspective.

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Can SOPs help with Scholarships?

If you are eligible for any college-specific scholarships, then during the application process you will be required to write a separate essay/SOP. Either you will be given an essay prompt/question along with a word limit or they would simply ask for an SOP stating the reasons why you think you deserve this scholarship and/or what makes you unique from the rest of the candidates? Thus, a generic SOP is different from a scholarship SOP.

In a scholarship essay/SOP, you will be required to highlight your unique selling points, major accomplishments, any quality/skill that makes you different from other candidates, and so on. You can read more about writing a scholarship essay here.

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Statement of Purpose vs Personal Statement: Know the Difference

Apart from a few aspects, a Personal Statement seems similar to a Statement of Purpose. While SOP includes a two-page essay about your motivation, goals, experience, extracurricular activities and so on. On the other hand, a Personal Statement is a crisp one-page essay about your motivation, inspiration, goals and achievements. A Personal Statement is more personal than an SOP so a Personal Statement should be elaborate about your aspirations and motivations. An SOP is a much more detailed version of the Personal Statement. For a detailed view on this, visit Statement of Purpose (SOP) vs Personal Statement.

SOP vs Letter of Motivation or Motivational Letter

A Letter of Motivation is a letter directly addressed to the admission committee/department faculty explaining your objectives, motivation and goals related to the course. The SOP is not addressed to any specific person or department, it is drafted in an essay format, whereas, the motivational letter is always addressed to a professor or department under whose guidance you will be studying. To know more about a motivational letter, read: How to write an impressive Letter of Motivation?

Statement of Purpose (SOP) FAQs

Q. Do LORs and SOPs need to be attested?

A. Only your LORs need to be attested by your college or company. An SOP need not be attested/self-attested until and unless specified by the university. If you take a LOR from your college professor/school teacher or a Principal/Dean, then that LOR needs to be signed by the recommender along with the college/school stamp and letterhead. Similarly, for professional LORs, they need to be signed by their respective recommenders on the company’s letterhead and company stamp.

Q. How do I write a perfect graduate SOP?

A. One can only follow certain guidelines to write a good draft of SOP and the rest is up to the Adcom to review and accept your profile. However, if you are looking for just the guidelines for graduate (MS) SOPs, you may refer to Writing SOPs for MS Courses with samples.

Q. How do I polish my SOP?

A. Once you have finalised your SOP draft, give it a double-check for grammatical and formatting mistakes. Your next step should be to analyse and critique your essay. Look at your SOP through the eyes of the Adcom and see what you find lacking. For more effective inputs, you can show your drafts to your friends and family and see how they react to them. Accordingly, you can make some changes but do not overdo it or deviate from the format. Lastly, check for spacing errors and save the final SOP which you will be using for the application process.

Q. Should I explain the low grades in my statement of purpose?

A. You should avoid mentioning any low marks or shortcomings about yourself in any of the application documents, including SOP. There are very few universities that ask you about your gap year. For them, you can mention the reason for the gap between your studies. Generally, no university asks about low grades during your study period as your selection depends on various criteria like exam scores, student profile, financials, and so on. Thus, it is advised against mentioning any flaws or low marks.

About the Author
Srishti Chatterjee
Study Abroad Expert

Srishti has spent six years in the Education industry helping study abroad aspirants draft their application documents for their dream universities. Experienced in creating impressive SOP, LOR, and Essays, she knows... Read Full Bio

Comments

(305)

H

Heena Gohil

22/02/22

Can you please guide me to write sop for public health in uk

Reply to Heena Gohil

7774326

Srishti ChatterjeeStudy Abroad Expert

24/02/22

Presently, we do not have any specific sop sample for this course. However, you can refer to https://studyabroad.shiksha.com/sample-sop-for-uk-applycontent11439 and https://studyabroad.shiksha.com/sop-for-ms-in-uk-applycontent12947

i want to apply for msc in physiotherapy .a samplev on this type of sop will be appreciated .please mam

Reply to Mubaraka Mithaiwala

7774326

Srishti ChatterjeeStudy Abroad Expert

12/02/22

Presently we do not have a sample for Physiotherapy courses. You can refer to these MS samples: https://studyabroad.shiksha.com/sample-ms-sop-applycontent11421
https://studyabroad.shiksha.com/sop-for-ms-applycontent1714

I want to apply for a scholarship for the LLM in UK .A guide on this type of SOP will be appreciated. Thank you

Reply to Prachi Sheth

I want to apply for a scholarship for the Master in Czech University.A guide on this type of SOP will be appreciated. Thank you

Reply to Ajay Krishnan

Hi, here's a follow up to my previous question on SOP format. My graduate course is in Law, but i'm transitioning into a course in International Business Management. A guide on this type of SOP will be appreciated. Thank you

Reply to Hannah Umaru Precious

7774326

Srishti ChatterjeeStudy Abroad Expert

10/01/22

We do not have course change SOP samples. But you can refer to the samples shared below and these:
https://studyabroad.shiksha.com/shiksha-guidelines-for-sop-applycontent11497

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