Statement of purpose – SOP – is an essay written by an applicant applying to a college, graduate school or college. Statement of purpose is part of the documents required by many universities during the admission process. It tells the school who the applicant is, your motivation for picking the school and the course of study and long term goals. Statement of purpose is variously referred to as SOP letter, application essay, personal background, objectives of the study.
Statement of purpose is that one document that convinces the reader(the admission department) that you have the right credentials and should be picked before other applicants.
Statement of purpose should state your personal traits, work experience that is relevant to the application. It should also highlight certain situations where these traits have helped overcome situations and how you intend to give back to the community. It should clearly state your motivation for applying, this motivation should not be a general one but should be specific.
Statement of purpose should highlight your long term goal, how your current goal keys into your future goal.
Why do you need a statement of purpose?
Statement of purpose is the only document that allows you to directly sell yourself to the admission board. It is also used to test your writing since graduate school involves a lot of writing, it should therefore be free from grammatical and spelling errors, be in a formal language, concise and clear, avoid cliches and repetitive language and be in a confident and positive tone.
It helps the admission office gauge what your personality look like, it helps in determining if you are a cultural fit for the program.
How to write a statement of purpose
Writing a statement of purpose letter follows the convention of formatting official documents: 12 points Times New Roman font, the 1-inch margin on all sides and 1.5 line spacing.
How to Structure Your Statement of Purpose Letter
- Part 1: About yourself (introduction)
This is the first paragraph in a statement of purpose letter, it introduces who you are as a person, your current career goals and objectives in relation to the program. The introduction should be relevant to the specific program you are applying to. And information stated in the introduction should be relatable to a specific part of the program. The introduction should not include information about childhood or education or work experience not relevant to the program.
- Part 2: academics and your reason for doing it
2nd paragraph: This should highlight your academic background; what you have done so far, what you are currently pursuing, academic strength, projects and relevant industrial exposure. This section should explain how you developed an interest in that your specified area. This section makes it clear that you have a background in your specified area.
You should also state defining reasons that explain your interest in the program.
- Part 3: why you are the right choice
3rd and 4th paragraph: The third paragraph should focus on the relevant experience you have had in the area of study this should include internships, volunteering experience or professional experience you have had. Always make sure to emphasis on how this experience relates to the program. In cases where you don’t have experiences that directly relate to the program always pick the ones that closely related and make emphasis on how it is relevant to the program.
The fourth paragraph should focus on any other experience that helped in deciding your chosen course of study. Any other relevant information that might interest the admission office can be included in this paragraph, this information should be explained in ways that it will further reinforce that you are the best candidate.
- Part 4: Why I choose this program
5th paragraph: This section should emphasize why you choose a particular school. Is the school famous for a particular course or a particular event or sports activity, this shows your knowledge of the school history and reputation to the admission office. For international students, you can include how a country’s culture will improve your learning experience.
What do you want to do in the future?
- Closing paragraph
In this paragraph, you should describe your long term career goals. They should be very clear and specific. The closing paragraph discusses Where you want to be years from now, what are your plans? What is your intended career path?.
In the closing sentence, thank the admissions officers for taking the time to review your application. Showcase your enthusiasm and excitement for a new chapter in your life.
How long should Statement of Purpose be?
Some schools put a limit on the number of the word for the statement of purpose but most do not. In cases where there is not a limit on the number words, it is best to keep it under 1 or 2 pages at most with the word count between 800 to 1000 words. This because admission officers review thousands of applications, so it is best to keep it within length they can quickly read through.
Should Your name appear on my statement of purpose?
Your name doesn’t need to appear on your statement of purpose. The reason is that your statement purpose is part of the series of document used for your application which all already carry your name. If the application specifics that it should be included you have to include it.
Things you should not do when writing your statement of purpose
- Beginning your letter with a flattering statement about the university you are applying to.
- Telling your whole life history. Always limit it to the relevant parts.
- Starting by explaining how you heard about the program. Unless it is relevant to the application leave it out.
- Providing personal information that can be found on the CV. E.g Age or place of birth
Elements of a Good Statement of Purpose
- Personal background
- Financial background
- Academic background
- Interest and hobbies
- Work experience
- immediate and long term goals
- Demonstrate Interest in School
- Present genuine, concise reasons for your interest in the chosen field.
- Published works, if available.
- Be original and creative.
After you have finished writing your statement of purpose check through for grammatical errors, formatting mistakes. Sit back and read through it like an admission officer, correct and remove any irrelevant parts. Share with colleagues to help read through it, listen to their feedback and make corrections where appropriate.
You can use Grammarly to edit check for grammatical and spelling errors