The Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Your Statement of Purpose

One of the documents you will require if you want to study abroad is a Statement of Purpose (SoP). In response to one of the  Frequently asked questions and Answers about Study Abroad, on The Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Your Statement of Purpose, we are writing this article.

Prospective students must realize that the Statement of Purpose is one of the deciding factors for admission.

What is a Statement of Purpose?

statement of purpose (SOP), sometimes referred to as a personal statement, is a critical piece of a graduate school or scholarship application that tells admissions or scholarship committees who you are, what your academic and professional interests are, and how you’ll add value to the graduate program you’re applying to. In terms of scholarship, SOP tells why you are the right person for that scholarship, etc.

A Statement of Purpose has a logical structure and development, and its purpose is to simultaneously show why you are the best candidate for a given course or grant, and why this course or grant is the most suitable one for you.

Jared Pierce, associate director of enrollment services at Northeastern University, says a strong statement of purpose can be the deciding factor in a graduate student’s admission.

“Your statement of purpose is where you tell your story about who you are and why you deserve to be a part of the [university’s] community. It gives the admissions committee the chance to get to know you and understand how you’ll add value to the classroom,” he says.

If you write a good SOP your chances of creating a favorable impression in the minds of the admissions committee members is very high, thereby increasing your chances of obtaining admission. Meanwhile, you can also read Top 8 Scholarship awarding bodies/organizations you Need To Know 

How Long is a Statement of Purpose?

“A statement of purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words,” says Pierce. He advises that students use a traditional font at a readable size (11- or 12-pt) and leave enough whitespace in the margins to make the statement easy-to-read. Make sure to double-space the statement if the university has requested it, he adds.

How Can Your Statement Of Purpose Stand Out From The Crowd?

How do you write a great statement of purpose that sounds original, but at the same time gives the admissions committee what they are looking for? Simple.

Basically, every university expects a student to answer some basic questions that the admissions committee has.

They may not ask you openly, but these are generally what they expect you to answer:

  • What do you want to study at graduate school?
  • Why do you want to study only this degree?
  • Why do you want to study at this particular college?
  • What do you like about us?
  • Why did you choose to study in this particular country?
  • What do you like about it?
  • How much and what kind of experience you have in your field?
  • Is your experience related to your choice of degree?
  • If you are already experienced, what additional skills are you planning to gain from the degree?
  • What you plan to do with your degree after graduation?
  • Would you choose to end up with a job or take up research?
  • What are your expectations from both the graduate program and the university?
  • Would you like to study or do research under any particular professor?
  • If yes, why only them? How can you contribute to our university and our program?
  • What specific skills do you bring to the table?
  • Apart from work and education, what are your hobbies, interests, and habits?
  • What are you like, as a person?
  • What do you understand about our student community and culture?
  • Why do you think you will fit in?
  • What is that one unique aspect/characteristic about you that we should know?
  • Why does it matter to us or to the fellow students of your class?
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Now, these are the questions you will have to consider before starting off with your statement of purpose.

Write down answers separately to each of the questions asked above, and try to build a story that the admissions committee would love to read.

Remember, unlike an MBA program, you won’t be having any personal interviews for a graduate program, so the only way to impress the admissions officers is by telling your story through the statement of purpose.

You will have to convey your story in the best possible way, such that the committee finds you interesting enough. And if you are interesting enough to them, you will end up with not only admission but also a decent scholarship as well.

Here we list some of the Do’s and Don’ts which you can be followed to make sure that you have a reasonably well-prepared Statement of Purpose that will help you in securing admission.

Do’s of writing a statement of purpose 

  •  Choose what you want to discuss and the order in which you want to discuss it
  • Be organized. Most universities prefer a typed SOP over a handwritten copy.
  • Answer the question if the university has instructed specifically why to want to study there.
  • Use concrete examples from your life experience to support your thesis and distinguish yourself from other applicants.
  • Make sure your SoP is specific and segues in well with your interest and chose field of study.
  • Explain properly your strengths and any weaknesses in your application and try to explain how that can turn into an advantage.
  • Write your SOP all by yourself.
  • Write the SOP in the first person.
  • Prepare several drafts before you make the final copy of your statement to ensure that you include all details that are important.
  • Use concrete examples from your life experience to support your thesis and distinguish yourself from other applicants.
  • Write clearly and succinctly. Your statement must be neat and error-free.
  • Be specific, not general. Let your personality and individuality come through. Give insight into your hopes, goals, motivations, and dedication.
  • Give reasons. Provide enough reasons why you wish to pursue higher studies in that particular field you have applied for.
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Don’ts of Writing Statement of Purpose (SoP)

  • Your statement should not be more than 1,000 words in general.
  • Don’t write a complex Statement of Purpose which does not explain your reason to choose the course or why you want to study that particular course.
  • Don’t copy your SoP from somewhere else and if your SOP is not an original piece of writing, you may be certain of not getting admission in the university.
  • Don’t list your hobbies in your SoP. If you think it helps you make your point better use it as an anecdote rather highlighting the hobbies.
  • Don’t list achievements or work experiences. Instead, reflect on those experiences.
  • Don’t prepare your SoP in a hurry and send in a rushed copy.
  • Don’t include information that doesn’t support your thesis.
  • Don’t start your essay with irrelevant personal information.
  • Don’t try to impress your reader with jargon unnecessarily.
  • Don’t rely exclusively on your computer to check your spelling.
  • Don’t provide a collection of generic statements and platitudes.
  • Don’t give weak excuses for your GPA or test scores.

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Steps for Writing a Strong Statement of Purpose

Now that you understand how to format a statement of purpose, you can begin drafting your own. Getting started can feel daunting, but Pierce suggests making the process more manageable by breaking down the writing process into three, easy steps.

Step 1: Brainstorm

First, he says, try to reframe the task at hand and actually get excited for the opportunity to write your statement of purpose. He explains:

“Throughout the application process, you’re afforded few opportunities to directly address the committee. Here is your chance to truly speak directly to them. Each student arrives at this process with a unique story, which includes prior jobs, volunteer experience, or undergraduate studies. Think about what makes you and start outlining.”

When writing your statement of purpose, he suggests asking yourself these key questions:

  • Why do I want this degree?
  • What are my expectations for 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?

Jot these responses down just to get your initial thoughts on paper. This outline will act as your starting point that you’ll use to create your first draft.

Step 2: Write the First Draft

When you begin drafting content, make sure to:

  • Provide insight into what drives you, whether that’s professional advancement, personal growth, or both.
  • Demonstrate your interest in the school by addressing the unique features of the program that interest you most. For Northeastern, he says, maybe it’s experiential learning; you’re excited to tackle real-world projects in your desired industry. Or perhaps it’s learning from faculty who are experts in your field of study.
  • Be yourself. It helps to keep your audience in mind while writing, but don’t forget to let your personality shine through. It’s important to be authentic when writing your statement to show the admissions committee who you are and why your unique perspective will add value to the program.
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Step 3: Edit and Refine

Before you submit your statement of purpose:

  • Make sure you’ve followed all directions thoroughly, including requirements about margins, spacing, and font size.
  • Proofread carefully for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Remember that a statement of purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words. If you’ve written far more than this, read through your statement again and edit for clarity and conciseness. Less is often more; articulate your main points strongly and get rid of any “clutter.”
  • Walk away and come back later with a fresh set of eyes. Sometimes your best ideas come when you’re not sitting and staring at your computer.
  • Ask someone you trust to read your statement before you submit it.

How to write a conclusion for a statement of purpose?

The conclusion should be a summary of the highlights of your statement of purpose. The conclusion should contain the main points of the statement of purpose.

The conclusion should be as well constructed and grammatically correct as anything else in the statement of purpose.

The purpose of a strong conclusion is also to use the details and information contained in the statement to confirm the progress of the topic from the introduction through the main body of the essay to the conclusion.

The details in the main body of the essay should support the conclusion. The Conclusion of the Statement of Purpose can be adapted in an informative way to vary the ideas presented in the introduction.

Conclusion

Your statement of purpose can leave a lasting impression if done well, says Pierce. If nothing else, stay focused on what you uniquely bring to the classroom, the program, and the campus community. If you do that, you’ll excel.

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