Guidelines on how to write a sop
A well written statement of purpose (SOP) is extremely critical to your admission. Needless to say, there are several aspects of your application that are inspected before coming up with a decision. While academic records and other examination score cards are essentially objective in nature, a SOP is the only truly subjective aspect of your application. A SOP is the only document in your application that gives you a chance to prove that you have something unique which will make you stand out from the rest. As such, it is the only document of your application docket which can highly determine your admission. A SOP is a fairly long essay that is between 600 and 1000 words in which you must give a clear and honest presentation of your objectives. You are also required to demonstrate an aptitude for the subject that you intend to pursue, and have a background that will make you suitable for the subject and level you want to apply. The SOP must also give a good indication of the type of person that you are. The contents of a SOP include:
- Content: A SOP is a short essay that should be customized for every program you apply to. It is evaluated by the graduate program faculty, so you need to present yourself as someone who will be a perfect fit for the program.
- Introduction: An introduction contains the degree that you want to pursue and the field that you want to study. In an introduction you must explain your research and how the institution will help you reach your career goals and explain the contribution you will make to the program.
- Accomplishments: This is a summary your previous achievements which should include research projects, lessons or work that stimulated your desire to advance in your course.
- Referrals: If you received encouragement from the professors in the program you intend to join, mention that as well.
- Format: Modify your SOP for every application you submit through carefully following the instructions and guidelines which tend to vary from program to program.
Mistakes that should be avoided when writing a SOP
When learning how to write a sop, you must also learn about the mistakes that you need to avoid. In every SOP, how you analyze your experiences is very important than the experiences themselves. There is no need to invent exciting experiences. All you need is to demonstrate that you have introspected about the events in your life and that you know how you have been shaped by them. You have to cover your educational experience and your interest in the subject. You may as well write about a particular book, internship, project, etc. that shows your passion for your field of study. You have to explain the reasons why you made your choice, especially those choices that will have led you to the decision to pursue an advanced degree.
Some students often make mistakes when writing a SOP by writing too much about their past. The main item in a SOP should be your goals. For instance, why do you want to pursue the course that you are applying for? What are you hoping to do after the course? What will you like to do in the long term? All these questions must be answered appropriately. If you are not able to explain how the course will help you achieve your goals, then you may have probably chosen the wrong course. All that an admission committee wants to know is if their university or college will be suitable for you and that it will be able to help you to achieve your goals.
And while you want to show that you know everything about the course and the university or college that you are applying to, resist the temptation to write about something that they already know about. Try to show the other courses, clubs and any other experiences you are looking forward to, but avoid general phrases like; your institution is famous for the quality of its facilities and teaching. This is to say that there is no need of writing about things that everyone else can write about. And in the end, always remember that a SOP is not a creative writing exercise. You must avoid stylistic tricks like direct speech or dramatic openings. The admissions committee only wants to see that you can explain your ideas in a logical manner. They have so many applications to go through and they will appreciate short and properly expressed SOPs.
Tips for writing a winning SOP
There are various tips that determine how to write a sop effectively. The first tip is to know your audience. Your audience is the faculty in the course which you are applying. Treat your SOP as an application to work with the professors in that department. Different institutions have different prompts but they are all asking for the same information. The information includes, the course you want to study, why you want to study that course, what experience do you have in that field and what you intend to do with your degree once you earn it. Admissions committees are interested in candidates who have clear and well defined research interests that are acquired from experience. Having that in mind, your SOP should demonstrate that you care deeply about the discipline you have chosen and that you have the background that will support your sentiments and ideas. It must also demonstrate that you are diligent and that you will remain committed for the long haul. When writing your SOP always answer the question asked of you in a substantive and direct manner and not in a creative or flashy manner.
The second tip that determines how to write a sop effectively is being selective. Higher learning institutions do not care that you make a wonderful chicken casserole or you are an expert in playing intramural bocce ball. They only care about the activities that speak to your suitability for the course that you are applying for. You may be called upon to do difficult coursework and perform research. You may also be asked to teach undergraduates under your field of learning and conceivably even design a course. And you will also need to get along with a diverse group of students who may at times work very closely with you. If you have any experience from learning, working or from some extra curriculum activities which demonstrate those abilities, you should talk about them.
Another tip for writing a winning SOP is uniqueness. While it is important to focus, you do not have to be boring. To make your SOP stand out, include unique but relevant information. You can achieve this by discussing briefly about an idea in your field which turns you on intellectually. This is an effective SOP opener, which allows you to write about something besides yourself. Bear in mind that the idea that you choose to talk about can tell the admissions committee a lot about you and that it demonstrates your interest in the course rather than just describing it.
You can also come up with a winning SOP through asking for feedback. Show your SOP to someone you respect, preferably one of the professors who are writing your recommendations. Have someone else proofread your SOP for grammar and spelling mistakes. A fresh set of eyes is capable of picking up something you missed. And avoid reusing the same SOP for each institution to which you apply. You can use the same information, but ensure you change the presentation to fit each institution’s individual program. In your conclusion, it is important to convince the academic committee that you have considered all aspects and done an extensive research carefully before selecting that institution over hundreds of choices available. Also note that plagiarism is a serious offense and ensure that you do not indulge in it at any cost.
In summary, what the admissions committee reads between the lines is competence, self-motivation and your potential as a graduate student. Ensure you emphasize everything in your SOP from a positive perspective and write in an active and not in a passive voice. Demonstrate everything in your SOP by example, avoid saying directly that you are a persistent person but demonstrate it. If there could be something important that may have happened to you that affected your grades, like illness or poverty, it is good to mention it too. Write it affirmatively, demonstrating your perseverance despite obstacles and ensure that everything is linked with focus and continuity. Unless the program that you are applying for says otherwise, be concise. An ideal SOP must say everything it has to with brevity. Around 500 to 1000 properly selected words in 1-2 single space pages with a 12 point font is better than so many words which have less clarity and poor organization.
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