Tips on Writing Statement of Purpose

Published On: 17 Mar 2009

 | Last Updated On: 16 Jul 2012

Among the many processes involved in studying abroad, one of the things students find extremely challenging is writing the Statement of Purpose or SOPs as they are popularly known. The SOPs are an integral part of applying for universities abroad. This truly can be the deciding factor between acceptance and rejection to a university. Here are a few pointers that will help in writing a winning SOP.

The Ideal Structure
An effective SOP may be written in about seven to ten paragraphs, with a word length ranging from 700 to 1000 words, unless otherwise specified by the university. This presents a comprehensive picture and maintains readability. Broadly, one's SOP should be written in the following sequence: a brief introductory paragraph, academic background, interests, short /long term goals and a concluding paragraph.

Follow A Sequence

Ideally, begin the introductory paragraph with a quotation or a recent news caption or your beliefs or major influences or your background. This charecterises your personality and your values.

Information about ones academic background should be mentioned in no more than three to four paragraphs. Focus on academic development. Ideally, devote a paragraph each to of your undergraduate studies, seminars presented and projects done, internships and training taken up. Undergraduate studies should specify your field of study (e.g.  BTech in Mechanical engineering etc.), the college you attended and the year. It is good to leverage the brand equity of the course or the college here, if possible. Mention special subjects studied, your GPA or rank, if any. Emphasise the fact that the medium of instruction is English, if the case may be. This makes a lot of difference.
Highlight the seminars presented, as well as the projects undertaken, individually or in teams and go on to state the skills and insights you developed as a result of this exercise. Give broad details of internships, summer projects and practical training received.
Listing briefly the interests, skills and talents you have developed alongside your academic curriculum will present you as a well rounded personality. You may also mention memberships and volunteering activities.
It is advisable to mention your short and long term goals. Explain what you intend to study and specify the areas of interest by identifying your strengths in the relevant areas and market yourself. Also state why you wish to study your chosen subject from a specific university. Long term goals forecast your professional plans such as getting into entrepreneurship, work as research faculty or management etc.

Writing Dos and Don'ts
  • Use objective style of writing (no GRE/TOEFL vocabulary needed). Write in the first person and use the active voice.
  • Strike a balance between the past and present tense, especially while transitioning from the achievements of the first three to four paragraphs to the supposed intent in the subsequent paragraphs.
  • Have a main topic sentence for each paragraph with support sentences which illustrate, explain or strengthen the main points.
  • Be precise and focused by using quantifying words. Use strong verbs as they show the concerned action. Be confident, especially in the concluding paragraphs by stating affirmatives with words such as I believe, I can ensure etc.
  • Do not be sentimental or subjective (e.g. my parents dreamt of this career for me!).
  • Never include irrelevant academic or other information. Stay linked to your purpose. Steer clear from undue praise. (e.g. Your esteemed university is the best place for me - they know it!)
  • Never be negative or unsure. Instead of saying, 'If offered admission, I will do my utmost,' say "On a confirmed admission, I can display my ability-'
  • Finally, write, rewrite, get it checked for substance and style, word process, mail the envelopes and watch your purpose fly to its destination.

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