Many applicants already have impressive resumes, high GPAs and high test scores, making it difficult for admission committees to decide which candidates to accept or reject. For this reason, the admission committees of different universities use the Statement of Purpose to make their final judgement. The SOP presentation and structure are therefore vital to your application.
What is a Statement of Purpose (SOP)?
An SOP is your chance to awe the committee by presenting yourself through an essay that describes things such as your personality traits (these are traits not represented in your academic documents), your motivations for the chosen career path and your goals. You should discuss past incidences that have influenced your career path or life choices, where you aspire to grow if you join the institution, who you are and what you want to be, why you are applying to a particular course and how ready you are to pursue it etc. You write your SOP in reverse chronological order.
A well-written SOP is crucial to your admission. It is the only subjective aspect of your application and allows you to prove you outshine the other applicants. For this reason, it is the document in your application docket that can immensely influence your admission. Most universities have a standard format/template that is required. However, the content in SOP varies with different kinds of courses.
So how do you write an SOP well?
It is easy to drift off-topic, and therefore the first step should be to plan what your essay will entail. Which ideas do you want to include, and which do you want to omit? You ought to have a clear strategy of how you want your essay to look, and you can do this by first writing your life experiences that stand out on a paper. It will come in handy when you begin the actual essay. As you plan, you decide what order of events you want to express, your goals and which accomplishments go hand in hand with whatever you are applying.
Some of the questions you can answer as you plan:
These would include what you want to study and why, what you like about the school, why that country etc. You can find a comprehensive list of questions here.
The next step would be to start. The first thing you want to do is to capture the reader’s attention from the first lines. You want them to be curious to know more. A dash of mystery or directly stating your goals and making your intentions clear in the beginning can make for a captivating start. Build a story that the admissions committee would love to read with the planning material you already have from answering the planning questions.
Often students copy-paste and edit SOPs from their seniors or friends, making it sound even more generic or irrelevant to their applications. I am sure you have come across statements that start like this,
“I am applying to the Master of Science program in X Engineering at the University of X because I believe my technical skills will blossom at your program as it is a place where I will be challenged and where I can develop my scientific and technical knowledge.”
If you want the admission committee to remember your essay (after going through hundreds of them) and gain an edge over the other applicants, then your SOP will have to be great and original.
You can find guidelines on how to write your essay here.
The next step would be to compose your essay. You have to explain your interest in the program and institution and justify it with evidence from your life. You can provide a sneak peek into your life, giving the institution a fair idea of what makes you an ideal candidate for the program.
The areas you can highlight are:
- Your academic journey: You should talk about your Academic history and how your previous studies are related to the course you are applying for, including related projects or internships undertaken to show your focused approach towards your goals. In a situation where you are changing career paths, you should clearly explain why your interests have changed.
- Your reason for selecting a particular university and your contribution: Each University or program will have a way they want your SOP customized. You are required to research widely about the University, its curriculum, infrastructure, faculty and other opportunities. You can state what interests you about the University and how you plan to use your time there to benefit it and yourself.
- Your motivation for the program: The committee is interested in knowing why you are interested in the program you are applying for. Include subjects you have done related to that field and skills/knowledge acquired that show how you have built up your interest in that area.
- Your reason for choosing Australia: Stating your reasons for preferring Australia helps universities observe your regard for the country and assures them that you will make the most of your experience.
- Your work experience: When you have relevant work experience, it increases your chances of being accepted into a program especially at the graduate level. Your role, knowledge and skills acquired in professional projects are very important.
- Your non-academic interests/volunteering: Australian universities emphasize holistic learning and demonstrating skills through participating in co-curricular activities and volunteering. These give you a competitive edge over other applicants. You get to present other parts of your persona with these activities.
- Your accomplishments: You should highlight your meaningful academic and professional achievements as they will testify to your potential and credibility.
As you conclude your essay, you want to leave a lasting impression on the committee with a memorable conclusion. It is your chance to draw attention to your ambition, determination and motivation without leaving any likelihood for rejection.
At this stage, you also proofread your essay to make sure that there are no grammatical or spelling errors, typos and that the flow of thought is clear. You can ask other people to help you proofread and redraft until you have an essay you are satisfied with.
Tips to get that impressive statement
- Present your main idea clearly- make sure you are not mixing ideas as you write your essays
- Observe the word limit and use a formal style of writing- most SOPs range between 1000-1200 words, and the universities have prescribed guidelines.
- Do not plagiarize- copying someone’s SOP will lead to your application being rejected as most universities have plagiarism detection software.
- Keep a positive and confident tone- even if you have faced any challenges or failures in your life, positively mention them. Show how you learnt from failures, overcame the challenges and came out better.
- Provide evidence to prove your claim about various traits or skills you mention in the SOP.
- Do not wait to write your SOP last-minute- know the submission dates and plan to write and submit your essay before the deadline.
- Always research the program and its coursework thoroughly- make sure that what you write about directly relates to the specific details of the program description and include those points into your statement of purpose outline.
Note that a statement of purpose is different from a Genuine Temporary Entrant.