This blog focuses on masters and Ph.D. students. Undergraduate personal statements are much different in vocabulary and writing style and are crucial for admission. What is a statement of purpose? Well, it’s a statement provided by you that discusses and defines your intent to do a specific task. In this case, the purpose would be to come to a Grad school.
We’ll tackle the following questions in this blog.
- What is an SOP, how is it different from a personal statement?
- The challenges you shall face while writing it?
- How to write a winning SOP?
- How to proofread it and make it better?
- How to make your SOP interesting? I am pretty boring in general.
For everyone who is confused right now, we assure you, it will all come in place. Just keep reading.
There are three cohorts.
- Undergrad students – Personal statement – While you are in school, you do more general tasks and try doing them even better. That’s why universities are trying to understand you more as a person rather than an academic guy. They know that you will do well by looking at your grades and SAT scores, but they do not know if you are the right cultural fit in their university or not to create a class of diverse students.
- Masters student – statement of purpose-specific – Master students have more clarity in what they want to study. The university folks are academic people looking for ideas and research work to keep their department going. This statement of purpose will focus more on your work and research activities and how you use your talents to flourish in the department.
- Ph.D. – SOP – particular – this pertains to a specific field. They want to understand why you want to research in the field you are planning—the ultimate reason behind your research and how it led you to plan something now.
Keep this in mind. An SOP is not your CV.
Here are the grammar rules to write it. Every university mentions the font, acceptable size, etc. But here are some of the general rules:
- Font should be Times New Roman, size 12.
- Spacing between lines should be 1.5-2
- Margins – normal
Here are some of the mistakes you want to avoid.
- Don’t make an embellished resume
- Avoid using words that you wouldn’t use on a day-to-day basis.
- Grammar check
Stage 1 – Brainstorming.
Take a sheet of paper and write everything that you have done until now. It could be as big or as small, an event or just something which you think might be interesting about the branch.
Alright, let’s do this exercise. Below are some of the points which I would expect you to write about!
- Academic related questions
- Why do I want this degree?
- What are my expectations from this degree?
- What courses or program features excite me the most?
- Where do I want this degree to take me, professionally and personally?
- How will my unique professional and personal experiences add value to the program?
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
- How did I get interested in this degree/research?
- Personal questions
- What pushes you forward every day?
- What are some of the life experience which has affected you deeply?
Also, collect all of the information such as
- Exchange semester
- Research topics you covered
- Details about online courses. (Udemy, Coursera, etc.)
- Details about internships
Once you have all the above information and have appropriately answered the questions above + the questions specified by the university, rate what you think you can and what you cannot edit:
1 – Removable according to university
2 – Need it across multiple universities
3 – Constant throughout all applications
The easiest way to do the above exercise is by writing paragraphs about your achievements, internships, research project, any unique ideas you would want to include, individual incidents which help or hinder your application, etc.
Rate all these paragraphs one by one and keep them aside.
Stage 2 – First Draft
By now, you already have your first draft ready. I put stage 2 as the first draft to organize those thoughts better and more efficiently now.
Follow the format below. Remember, this format could vary for different schools as per their requirement. You can always modify your research and information and what you would like the readers to focus upon the most.
- First Paragraph – Your introduction, industry introduction, and letting them know that you want to pursue a graduate major.
- Second Paragraph – Introduction to undergraduate and how it improved your skills. Mention the academic background that made you pursue this major.
- Third Paragraph – Your academic projects
- Fourth paragraph – Internships
- Fifth Paragraph – Any other research works, achievements, or extracurricular.
- Sixth Paragraph – Final note mentioning how their graduate program helps you and the professors you want to work under, how their research interest inclines with yours, and thank them for considering your application.
Think about your SOP as a sandwich. The bread is your introduction and closure, whereas the veggies, cheese, or meat you put in the middle is the content. Bread is bread, but meat is what everyone wants to get to.
Write your experiences and academia in a way it shows you have contributed to the company. We need to find a perfect balance between professional and personal. To simplify the above order, It’s this.
Academia, internships, extracurricular
Remember, SOPs take a lot of time, start early and take your time with it. It’s a process of iterations and can take up to 2 months for a perfect application.
Stage 3 – Second Draft
Clean up your statement of purpose, and by cleaning up, I mean the following things.
- Use positive, uplifting language to describe yourself.
- Give details. People love details. They don’t want you to scrape off a specific topic.
- For example, do not just tell the topic of the paper you wrote. Go in details. Give them intricacies from the piece, which will hook them, leaving them wanting to know more about you. If you have a job experience or a mentor you had there, share it and what you learned from him/her.
- Give spacing to your paragraph.
- Do not use words you generally wouldn’t in daily conversations.
- Have a strong opening and closing paragraph. Thanks to the admissions committee for their time and consideration. You can modify this paragraph and use it in your statement of purpose.
- My goal is to help the community and help the growth of research in areas of _______. XYZ University has the perfect blend of research and innovation, helping me grow and develop as a competent researcher. I was backed by an excellent academic record, practical exposure through internships, and a research experience during my final year thesis. I am confident that I will take up the challenges and hardships of graduate research and coursework and contribute meaningfully to all endeavors at this prestigious university.
- Remember, do not repeat yourself. A Statement of Purpose is a concise document. You have to use your words carefully. Each of them should provide some value. Do not fluff them up.
At the end of the second draft, ask your friends and colleagues to look at your SOP, revise and edit. Sometimes when we are looking at documents too closely, we miss things over and over. I would even recommend you send it to professors for review. It does not hurt to ask.
That’s it. I know you cannot be 100% sure of how good your SOP is, but you tried your best, and we can only hope for the best!