Thursday, 8 October 2015



SOP – Statement of Purpose is an acronym that is commonly used in reference to a student’s application. We jocularly remark that SOP actually stands for, “Story of Prospective” student, but that is not far from the truth. Ideally, an SOP should be regarded by every applicant as an opportunity to fashion a personal story that provides crucial insight that cannot be ordinarily gleaned by studying transcripts and letters of recommendations.

The fundamental difference between a reasonably well-written SOP and an exceptional SOP is the manner in which a student approaches the task, organizes his material and presents it in a refreshingly original manner

In short, an SOP is a highly personalised narrative that attempts to give the reader a unique glimpse into a student’s character, intellect, formative experiences and future ambitions, both academic and professional. An interesting and well-written SOP encourages an Admission Officer to take a closer interest in a student, understand his motivations for applying and, if the story is compelling and original enough, it boosts a student’s chances of admission to a college of his /her choice. Deconstructing a typical SOP, reveals how most students can write effective SOPs by sticking to six segments.

In essence, it needs to be an engaging story, but invariably, the word restrictions (it normally ranges between 500-800 words) sometimes do not allow students sufficient “elbow room” to fashion a comprehensive life story. Writing your story within the specified word limit is one of the most challenging tasks faced by students. Achieving this is usually harder than it appears, but most students can create interesting SOPs if they adhere to certain basic rules. 
Honesty, that much-invoked term, is the most effective route to achieving this goal.

Although it is not mandated to follow the “six segment” rule, it is highly recommended that every student follow a chronological timeline and write in an easygoing manner, without trying too hard to impress in terms of language or accomplishments. More importantly, there should be no fabrication or embellishment of facts and incidents, in an effort to portray oneself as exceptional.

The first segment should introduce you as a person and also include some hint of what you might write in the latter part of the SOP. Your introduction needs to be precise and should encapsulate your character and ambitions in a few short sentences.

It should be borne in mind that the quality of writing or ideas expressed in the introduction will encourage Admission Officers to delve deeper into a student’s SOP. If the introduction sounds formulaic or lacks originality, most Admission Officers are likely to cast it aside and return to it once they have sampled other interesting essays.

Segment two should provide a brief description of your academic or professional goals. You need to explain why you have a particular goal in mind and its relevance to you. More importantly, it would be useful to describe your long-term career goals and the role you would like to play after acquiring sufficient experience.

Segment three should provide a detailed character-and-goals sketch. You elaborate about your coursework / research work / professional career. Talk about why you chose this coursework/research work and the type of knowledge you have gained from these courses and internships. Also mention how this coursework / research work is essential towards achieving your career goals. Working professionals need to describe their skill / knowledge base and their professional accomplishments. They can also expand a bit on their worldview, especially the cultural and personal insights they have gained during this period.

Segment four is considered one of the most important sections of your SOP. Here you explain why you require pursuing the specified education program. You have to write in detail about the need to acquire advanced, theoretical knowledge in a particular academic area in order to contribute to the issues mentioned earlier. Also mention about how your education will be beneficial on a broader sense for people or organizations such as, your society at large, country, etc.

Segment five requires you to expand on how you have chosen a particular program or college. In the course of this paragraph, you can expand on the benefits of applying to a particular college, namely, curriculum, research opportunities or teaching methodology. The key here is to correlate the college and the program to your goals. This would require extensive research of the college and undergraduate / graduate program. You also need to demonstrate your natural inclination towards the program and how the college’s existing student population will be benefited by your admission.

In other words, you should also make a case for your admission by portraying yourself as more than just a bookish one-dimensional person. The more varied your skill-set, chances are, the college will regard you as an exciting prospect, one worthy for admission. If you can portray yourself as an asset, most colleges would be vying with each other to get you on board.

The sixth and the final segment is the much-neglected conclusion. You should use this as a forum to summarize your personal talents and highlight the contributions you are likely to make, once enrolled in the program. Also, reiterate how the program will enable you to achieve your future professional goals. 


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