How to write an SOP

Many students are so fearful of writing an SOP (statement of purpose) that they often ask help from others to write their SOP for them. Is it reasonable to expect an unknown person to document the being that you are?
The SOP is simply a statement that gives you an opportunity to talk directly to the admissions tutor, and to let him know everything about yourself, the unique personality you are; all the things that you aspire to do, wonderful things that you have done, whether these are mistakes or are achievements and what you have learnt from these experiences.

The SOP is your chance of letting the admission tutor knows directly why you are so interested in this program, what you expect to learn from it and why he should admit you to the program that you are applying for. Therefore, your statement of purpose is the most important tool you have in your armory apart from your prior grades and references.

Of course the SOP does test your communication skills, your ability to use language, phrases, grammar, sentence structure and your expression of thought.

Your SOP will also force you to have clarity of thought for the program that you have applied for and perhaps think seriously about why and what you seriously wish to achieve from this?

So what is that makes a good SOP?

First of all the style of writing does not have to be very formal. It should be as in a conversation, not too formal or too casual. The other thing I would like to add of course is those do not ever make up stories, give the details as they are, be truthful. The SOP is about you and your experiences, not somebody elses.

Start off your SOP with a focus on the program and an explanation as to why you have a passion to study this program. It is important that your introduction is so interesting so that this immediately catches the readers attention.

Once you have completed the introduction, you need to perhaps give some examples as to what has led you to study this program and this is the time when you need to analyze the source of inspiration for this. The inspiration could be from a family member, a professional, historical or thoughts about what purpose you wish to achieve. Do not just pick up movie stars.

Next area you need to elaborate upon is the program you wish to study in more detail so that the tutor is communicated that you have a good understanding of the course and how studying this will help you with your future plans. You can also link this with your current studies, achievements and any experience that you may have related to the program you wish to study.

Remember the SOP is not just about your academic ability; it is about who you are and all the other dimensions of your personality. Your interest in other things such as work with NGOs that you may already have done or areas how you wish to make a contribution to society, environment, and community are always well looked upon. Truly speaking the world needs people who are contributors and not just takers, so be sure to mention these aspects.

Having explained the reasons for your program and how the aspects that have led you to study this, it now important to highlight your extra-curricular activities that you have partaken in. These are those that you are good at and not something you did as a 5 year old. Every activity that has also helped you to learn from it e.g. drama and debates; development of oratory and public speaking skills, sports; leadership and team player skills, active work in different societies at school; administrative and organizational skills

The final paragraph needs to summarize all that you have said in just a couple of lines. Please dont write words like esteemed university or that it will be a great honor, as these statements do not impress the tutors. They want facts and why you want admission, how you will benefit, and what impact this will have for your future and the contribution you will make to university life.

Once you have outlined the basics, you may wish to seek advice from a professional. Expect to have to put in a lot of effort as you may easily have 5- 10 drafts before it is finalized. Well, good luck and you will do well.

The writer is Natasha Chopra, Managing Director of The Chopras, a leading education consultancy. She can be contacted on: [email protected]

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