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Statement of Purpose (SOP): What to Include and What Not to Include in 2023

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A Statement of Purpose (SOP), which serves as a personal statement for the admissions committee, is required when applying for admission to a foreign college (AdCom).  In this case, You have the opportunity to impress the committee by presenting your profile as an essay outlining your personality attributes that aren’t covered by your academic credentials.

This post will explore the topics listed below in our conversation.

  • Strategies for Writing Impressive 
  •  Strategies for Writing Impressive SOPs 
  • Common SOP Errors to Avoid 
  • SOP Significance 
  • SOP Word Limitations
  • SOP Samples for various courses: UG, MS (Engineering), and MBS
  • SOP Samples for various countries: USA, UK, Canada, and Australia
  • Items to include and exclude from SOPs 
  • SOP Questions

What exactly is SOP?

SOP is a lengthy essay required by institutions throughout the world (and, increasingly, by certain US, and Canadian universities) during the admissions process. The full form of an SOP is a Statement of Purpose, and it is intended to showcase a student’s motivation for applying to a certain program at a specific university. SOP attempts to comprehend a candidate’s biography and motivation for his or her chosen professional path and ambitions. This essay summarizes what you have done, what you are doing now, and what you want to accomplish in the future.

What is the significance of SOP?

Although your academic record, test scores, academic credentials, and backlog records are all objective, your SOP is the only component of your application that is wholly subjective. Also, SOP enables you to express to the admissions committee your future goals and objectives, which aids in their evaluation of your suitability for a certain institution.

SOP Structure

Most colleges throughout the world adopt a uniform format. Nevertheless, the substance of SOP differs depending on the course. Learn how to write SOPs for several courses here:

 Youthgro SOP Drafting Guidelines

While there are several forms and templates for an SOP that candidates may use online, choosing the right format may be challenging. Moreover, a flawless SOP does not exist. Due to the subjective nature of this document, the admissions committee may draw different conclusions from the same SOP.

To help students comprehend the components of a statement of purpose so that it may be correctly written, Youthgro provides its own rules for an SOP. You may learn all you need to know about the appropriate context and form of an SOP from the Youthgro SOP standards.

Examples of SOPs and their formats for MBA, MS, UG, and Ph.D. programs

Each course’s SOP application has a different structure. Check out the course-specific Sample SOPs.

Is it necessary to put your name in your Statement of Purpose?

In a typical SOP, you are not required to mention your name or your course details anywhere. SOP is a component of your application/student profile, therefore it will by default contain your name and information about your courses. Yet, it’s possible that certain colleges or schools will insist that you include your name in your SOP. These universities will provide you with specific instructions on how and where to write your personal details. Thus, you need to follow their instructions thoroughly.

SOP Formats for USA, Canada, UK, Australia, and Others

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. Here are some SOP samples based on different countries:

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, your SOP must be crisp and precise, and must clearly reflect the uniqueness of your profile. Here are a few things that the college review committees 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; at the same time, a strong vocabulary does help in leaving a positive impact. Make sure not to use too many “heavy words” since their usage might feel forced.
  • You must highlight those qualities that make you stand out from the rest of the applicants; these might include your academic achievements, your involvement with society, your extracurricular achievements, etc. 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.
  • Try to mention how you can contribute to the University, college, or department. Consider the following points for the same:
  • If you receive an admission letter, your career will get a kick-start. It is obvious that you will reap some benefits from that course. At the same time, the University/ College/ department must also receive some benefits from your admissions (besides the tuition fee, of course!).
  • It would help if you mentioned how you can contribute to the community, be it through sports, community services, societies, clubs, etc. To put it in simple words, you must be able to convince the admissions committee that you can become an ambassador for the University or department.
  • Familiarity with the University facilities and curriculum will convey that you have done your research and that your application is not random. You need to be aware of the University’s achievements, student programs, faculty, internship opportunities, student facilities and societies, traditions, etc.
  • Your motivation or inspiration to pursue a particular course should be clear, evident, and justified. Adcom does not approve of bragging sentences in the SOP. Hence, you must keep it original, real, and free from any overbearing or arrogant statements.

How can you 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 thousands of applications. There are certain basic principles about SOP writing, which provide clarity on various aspects such as word limit, format, etc.

It is important for you to focus on the course that you wish to pursue. For example, if you are talking about studying Computer Science in a country, you must discuss all your encounters, experiences, and learnings in Computer Science. Make sure that you do not miss any important facts/achievements/experiences related to that course. Evidently, SOP for an MBA application will be different from an SOP for MSc in Computer Science. Similarly, SOP for a Bachelor’s degree will be different from that for a Master’s degree. 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 and everything must be put together in about 800-1000 words; however, the length may vary as per university requirements. Some Universities put a cap on the word limit, which might be as less as 200 words. Most universities accept 800-1000 words SOP; however, in most cases, it does not go beyond 1200 words.

It is relatively easy to write a story of your life explaining the importance of each incident that has helped shape your personality. However, it becomes challenging to write an SOP within a specified word limit, and that too when your admission is at stake.

Some foreign universities do not require SOP; rather, they ask you to answer an Essay Prompt in a specified number of words. In order to understand 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?

The content of your SOP will solely depend on the University’s requirements. The mantra is to stick to the statement/ question provided by the University. Universities can 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 important in an SOP include personal motivations that led you to choose the university/ course and how you intend to use it to achieve your goals.

While understanding how to write an SOP, we come across various questions. To sum up your entire life and career in 1,000 words can be a tiresome exercise.

What not to include in an SOP?

Remember, there is no exhaustive list of topics that you can include in an SOP. At the same time, it is equally important to understand what you must not include in your SOP. For instance, your family life, your school life, all the extracurricular achievement, etc. Visit the page in order to know what not to include in your SOP.

How to write SOP?

An SOP needs to be written carefully as it is important for your application. Some of the SOP writing tips are given below:

  • Think: We can call this process introspection. When we talk of introspection, we definitely do not mean philosophical introspection (particularly in this context). You need to think of all the significant events that have influenced your personality and made you who you are today. As food for thought, you can start with academic achievements, work experience, volunteering experiences, reasons for pursuing a particular course, and your future goals. In this process, you might come across certain life-changing events as well (for instance: being publicly rebuked for your academic performance, an event that made you take your academics seriously). Make a note of everything and then prepare a structure. Retain the relevant points and eliminate the trivial ones.
  • Research: Make sure to do sufficient research about the course, University, University achievements, any ongoing research, etc. You must have clarity about the reasons for pursuing your targeted course and choosing that particular University. Even if you plan to change your academic field, as opposed to your bachelor’s, there must be a logical reason behind it. Your reasons must have clarity and your SOP must reflect the research you have done about the course and University.
  • Draft: Prepare a proper structure and then fill in the details. Here are a few points to consider:
  • Professional and personal background and interests,
  • Relevance of the chosen course and University,
  • A logical connection between the above and your future goals and aspirations,
  • Intention to contribute to the University, community, and society at large.
  • Review: Once you have drafted your SOP, the final step is to go through it carefully and make changes accordingly. Go back to the list that you created in the beginning and check whether you have covered all the points in your SOP or not. Remove the unnecessary details that are not relevant to your admission. It will take multiple readings and reviews in order to come up with a final draft. Before taking professional services, make sure to get your SOP reviewed by an unbiased family member, colleague, or friend.

Detailed strategy to write a powerful and convincing SOP

A powerful and convincing statement of purpose is focused throughout, and each point is connected to the subsequent point through logic and reason. Starting from your academic and professional background to your career aspirations, you need to connect all the dots logically. There needs to be a flow in the events and things must not pop up randomly.

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

1st Paragraph: Introduction of SOP

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. You can adopt the following approaches:

  • 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 realize 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.

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

These paragraphs must contain your academic background: what you have done so far (projects, experience, etc.), what you are currently pursuing, etc. You can mention your professional experience after your academic achievements. This helps in establishing your career progression.

4th Paragraph: Why This Course?

In this paragraph, you should discuss why you want to join a course and what modules would you like to study. It should also cover the possible skills and exposure that you might acquire that would help you in fulfilling your goals.

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 your country choice 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 10 to 12 or 15 years down the line. This may include your desire to work at the CEO, CFO, or CTO level or maybe pursue entrepreneurship. It may also include your dream of expanding your existing family business overseas. You may also be interested in further studies, such as a Ph.D. You may also express your desire to become a professor or researcher.

It is suggested that you discuss your aim, principles, and values, and how you can influence the prospective students. You should be able to portray how you wish to make a difference in the industry or society, keeping in mind the current industrial scenarios and emerging trends.

6th Paragraph: Why This University?

Here, you should try to convince the university why it is suitable for your goals and why you fit well into its vision and mission. You can discuss the course curriculum, research work, and faculty names, as well as university-specific activities. Moreover, do go through the vision and mission statements of the university.

7th Paragraph: Conclusion

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 might come your way. It should also show that you have the potential to succeed, and with the help of the chosen course and University, you will definitely make a difference in the industry.

Additional tips on how to write a good Statement of Purpose

In order to write a good SOP, follow the tips given below:

  • Mention your achievements, professional and academic, in the form of a story rather than statements.
  • An SOP is a reflection of your personality; make sure it is clear and understandable.
  • Mention strong reasons as to why you want to pursue a particular course.
  • Be very clear about the timeline of your achievements.
  • You can also mention your mistakes. But, also give instances of how you tried to rectify them.
  • Proofread and edit the SOP time and again so that it can appear crisp and concise.

Mistakes to avoid while writing SOP

If you want to write an outstanding statement of purpose, listed below are some of the common mistakes that you should avoid:

  • Writing an SOP without any planning or roadmap.
  • Writing a vague introduction and conclusion.
  • Use of short forms, slang, and informal writing.
  • Exceeding the word limit or writing too less.
  • Making the SOP appear very flattering.

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