Tips to write better SoP
Last week, we looked at broad objectives of a Statement of Purpose (SoP), mechanical aspects of its presentation, and the some pre-writing questions....
Last week, we looked at broad objectives of a Statement of Purpose (SoP), mechanical aspects of its presentation, and the some pre-writing questions. This week, let us consider the actual task of writing an SoP
What is an SoP? It is an essay about the purpose of applying to a graduate school in the US for admission into MS/MBA/PhD. The key word in the definition is 'essay'. So, the SoP should be written like an essay and it should have all the characteristics of a well-written essay namely-cohesion, flow, and clarity. To write anything which has those three qualities, the process should follow these four stages: Think (about what you want to write), Read (but NOT copy what other have written), Write (and NOT copy and paste), and Revise (what you have written).
Getting started First, write your résumé so that you don't repeat the information in the SoP. Use the SoP as a complement to the résumé and to give additional information. Second, search and shortlist universities you want to apply to. Third, find out about their strengths and match them with your interests. (Not all universities are strong in all the disciplines. So don't go by their general reputation but find the university that best matches your own interest). Fourth, find out their admission procedures and requirements. (Again, choose a university where you have a reasonable chance of getting admission). Fifth, find and read sample SoPs. (They may be of your seniors or those available on the net. Read as many as you can but always write your own because the SoP should present your own personality, not a borrowed one).
- Illustrate and explain how and when you became interested in the field
You may include an anecdotal and personal example from your formative years that illustrates a long-term interest in the field and personalises the essay. But avoid statements like "I have always wanted to be a chemical engineer".
- Summarise your academic background, focusing on your undergraduate experience
Note that you have to 'summarise' and not list or narrate your educational background. Mention specific courses, important projects, and skills you have learned. Highlight what might be most important for graduate school. Identify specific areas of interest (don't write 'I am interested in engineering') and show your understanding and your knowledge of disciplinary-specific methodologies.
- Discuss work, internship, and research experiences relevant to your field or course of study
Briefly describe your project, your duties or responsibilities, your mentors, your writing experience, your skill sets, and your leadership qualities. Again, don't just mention what you did but explain what you learned from that experience. Always remember: analyse and not narrate, and do it without lecturing to a reader who knows more than you.
- Include special achievements
Awards, academic honors, grant proposals, fellowships or internships, poster presentations, and published research.
- Explain why you have selected a specific programme
Show why you would be a good fit for the university and the specific programme. Explain your research interests and link them with the core strengths of the university. This means learning about the programme and familiarizing yourself with the university's areas of interest.
- Discuss your future goals
Explain why you want to attend graduate school and how the degree will help you reach your future goals. Be honest about your interest and always be sincere. Link your interest to a genuine purpose, cause, issue, or concern, which may be rooted in personal or familial experiences.
Avoid grand statements like pursuing knowledge for its own sake or knowledge as an end in itself with no ulterior purpose other than satisfying your intellectual curiosity.A So, write the SoP like you write an essay about yourself, and you can write a successful one if you are honest with yourself. Good luck!