What is an SOP?
All that you have to answer is:
1. Your purpose in graduate study. This means you must have thought this through before you try to answer the question.
2. The area of study in which you wish to specialize. This requires that you know the field well enough to make such decision.
3. Your future use of your graduate study. This will include your career goals and plans for your future.
4. Your special preparation and fitness for study in the field. This is the opportunity to relate your academic background with your extracurricular experience to show how they unite to make you a special candidate.
5. Any problems or inconsistencies in your records or scores such as a bad semester. Be sure to explain in a positive manner and justify the explanation.
7. You may be asked, "Why do you wish to attend this school?" This requires that you have done your research about the school and know what its special appeal is to you.
8. Above all this, the statement is to contain information about you as a person. They know nothing about you that you don’t tell them. You are the subject of the statement.
And it is you alone who have the best answers for the above questions – So Don’t rely on others SOP.
Check these points in your SOP:
Is your SOP demonstrating: Your interest in the subject, Your plan and careful thought further studies, A rounded personality, Focused point and the depth (not breadth), your individuality
Is it answering the questions like: What areas are you interested in and why, How well defined your interests are, Are these interests based on experience (academic or on the job) that the school may find useful, Where do you see these interests taking you, How do you think graduate school will help you, What experience have you had that will help.
Common Dos and Don’ts:
§ First and foremost - Do write an essay that only you could honestly write;Tell the truth
§ Do convey a positive message overall
§ Do strive for Depth, not Breadth; Be succinct and remain focused
§ Do be interesting: but more important, be yourself
§ Do write about what you know and what you have observed or experienced firsthand, not beyond the things that are beyond your personal development
§ Do write about something you feel strongly about
§ Do use short forceful sentences to end your essay
§ Do Understand the words you write
§ Do use the “active” voice instead of “passive” voice
§ Do use logical paragraph breaks to provide a visual break for the reader and to indicate a change in the direction, train of thought, or idea
§ Do use short sentences than long ones
§ Don’t let others decide for you what to write
§ Don’t appear overly idealistic
§ Don’t waste your essay opportunities to explain blemishes or deficiencies in your application
§ Don’t write an essay that reads like a newspaper editorial
§ Don’t write anything that may embarrass the reader or make him or her feel uncomfortable
§ Don’t repeat or sum up in any way
§ Don’t end your essay with a quotation
§ Don’t use slang and superfluous words or phrases
§ Don’t start too many sentences with the word “I”
Writing a reasonably good Statement of Purpose is not an impossible task. It requires care, attention and patience. If you plan correctly, you can give yourself enough time to submit a well-written, thoughtful, polished essay that will boost your chances for admission. The SoP alone can bring out your uniqueness. And therefore make or break your application. An applicant who does not take the essay seriously is throwing away the best opportunity available. Don’ t ever try to be something you are not. Don’ t try to tell the admissions committee what you think they want to hear. Be honest, look inside yourself and do your best.
Most of us work hard for the standard tests - the GRE, GMAT, TOEFL and others. We attend classes or peruse study aids. We give practice tests and do everything within our power to aim for the highest possible score. Because we know that these test scores, while not a perfect tool, are crucial to our chances of gaining admission and even a scholarship or assistantship. The SoP or essay, on the other hand, is put off till the last possible moment. It scares us when we look at those oh-so-perfect essay examples in the admissions guidebooks and wonder how we can ever write so well. Or wonder what shining instance we can pick out of our normal, average lives to show that we are unique and remarkable. Or how to pick our way through the minefield of endless Do's and Don'ts. Or, after overcoming all these obstacles, we falter at the seemingly endless revisions, wondering if this latest draft is good enough (If I read that essay once more, I'll scream!). Finally we write something, because time's a-pressing and we have to meet the application deadline. We do our best, juggling the writing process with the last-minute paraphernalia of applying-checking forms for errors and completeness, collating the application packets, making sure transcripts, recommendations, work samples and resumes go in their right envelopes, worrying about transit times. We feel thankful when the essay is over, do a quick scan for obvious mistakes, and send it on its way.
If you do it this way, you are practically throwing away your chances of admission. A good SoP will certainly improve your chances of getting admission to the school of your choice, and even compensate for weaker portions of your application such as less-than-perfect grades. A bad SoP, on the other hand, has the potential to drag down an otherwise strong application.
If you plan correctly, you can give yourself enough time to submit a well-written, thoughtful, polished essay that will boost your chances for admission. Equally important, this is a great opportunity to look inside yourself and be rewarded by a better understanding of who you are.
Writing a reasonably good Statement of Purpose is not an impossible task. It requires care, attention and patience. And enough time for you to be able to write several drafts, show them to people and polish the essay till you get a version you are happy with.
Done right, this will even turn out to be an enjoyable process. And you will be the richer for it.
Thanks to i20fever TEAM member Kiran Kilaru for building a good write-up on Statement of purpose. Kiran is starting her PhD this fall (2005) in Physics/Optics at the University of Alabama Huntsville.