How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Visa and University Applications?

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A well-written Statement of Purpose (SOP) is not just an option, but a strong requirement. The SOP is a story about you. Your background. Your interests. How serious you are about your plans, and whether you have thoroughly thought about your future.

Yet, what you might not know about this document as you focus more on strengths, is that it should reflect a true picture of your journey. This includes the gaps, backlogs, limitations and weaknesses as well. We are made to believe that these are core vulnerabilities that will lead to a negative impression or impact. That is only true in case you do not know how to represent it properly.

We understand that there are a million websites and tutorials that guide you on how to perfectly tailor your SOP, but so many guidelines can be confusing and daunting at the same time. Plus, what about VISA SOPs? Most of these portals are focussed on academic SOPs alone. Thus, this article is a one-stop solution for all your queries.

To help you write an SOP, we have divided the article below into three parts. It contains:

  • 6 simple steps for drafting an SOP.
  • 4 points on the right format of SOP.
  • 10 mistakes to avoid while writing an SOP.

Let’s start.

Six Simple Steps for Drafting a Good SOP.

Step 1: Introduction

The introduction of an SOP should start with a quote or story about your field of interest. It should include a few details about what made you apply for a university course or visa.

Make it interesting. Don’t pick the first quote you find on Google. Be creative! Look for something that represents either your interest or your personality, and then link it to the first paragraph instead of just leaving it as it is.

Step 2: Academic Background and Professional Experience

The second paragraph in your SOP must include information about your academics, especially any academic projects you did in the recent past. Don’t just mention what you did, shed some light on the skills you gained and then mention how those skills will help you thrive in the course that you are applying to.

If you are writing SOP for a Master’s course, then writing about your undergraduate achievements is a good idea. You need not write about school time achievements for a Master’s degree. However, if you are writing an SOP for an undergraduate degree, then including Class 10 and 12 achievements is important.

Further, the third paragraph of the SOP should include details about relevant internships or work experience. Again, don’t just cover the job responsibilities; show a growth curve. Tell them what you learnt. Show them that you have a natural inclination for upskilling.

Step 3: Write About Extra-Curricular Activities at School or College

Besides the academic background, your SOP must have information about the extra-curricular activities you participated in. These things matter a lot! You can avoid these in case the word limit is restrictive but if it is nearly 1100 words, make sure that you at least hint towards these. It helps show well-rounded development. 

Let’s say, for example, you are an extrovert who loved participating in college events. In this case, you can include information about organizing and coordinating the fest. You can write about your participation in events too.

Even if you think you did not have an active social life, you should still try including any valid experiences like Volunteering experience at an NGO, workshops attended, certificate courses, or other information on the same lines. An active person always makes a good candidate.

Step 4: Write about why the application is so important to you and why should you be selected among other candidates.

The authorities need to know why you are an ideal candidate. If you are applying to a university, link your core interests and skills with your reason for application. Use a subtle tone for explaining this in the SOP. Validate your strengths with a strong reason for your selection.

Do not limit it to your strengths alone. Mention how you plan to work towards contributing to various research or co-curricular initiatives at their institution. This will surely set you apart from most other applicants.  

For example, if you are Electronics and Telecommunication Engineer, and want to switch to Masters in Computer Science, you can write something like “My good experience of understanding the hardware part of things along with my rich knowledge about computer software, gives me an edge over other students who understand just the software part of things”

Step 5: Write about your short-term goals, dream projects, and long-term vision

To appear as a focused and serious enough applicant, it is important to mention your plans. Leverage your strengths in the process.

In case you are applying for a university course, you can include information about your plan for further studies, career goals, dream companies, and thoughts on contributing to society.

This gives the Admission Committee insight into the fact that you are not opting for this course just for the sake of gaining an international education or for amping up your resume. It helps them see that it is a part of a well-thought-out plan.

Step 6: Give a good conclusion to the SOP

Make sure that all the parts of the SOP are in sync along with the conclusion. Always end the SOP with a positive statement about the place.

For example, “An excellent educational institute such as <<XYZ UNIVERSITY>> will help me fulfil my career goals and long-term vision. The research-oriented curriculum at your reputed university aligns perfectly with my interests. Hence, I am excited about an opportunity to study at the prestigious <<XYZ UNIVERSITY>>.

That was all about the structure of the SOP. Let us now look at the 4 technical aspects to be considered while writing an SOP.

The Right Format of a Written SOP in Just 4 Points

  1. The font size and style must stay the same throughout the SOP. Use size 12 font throughout the SOP.
  2. The SOP must be divided into 6-8 paragraphs. Each paragraph in the SOP can be around 150-200 words. The ideal length of SOP is between 800-1000 words.
  3. Use double spacing for margins and single space paragraphs.
  4. Please check the grammar, punctuation, and flow of the SOP with a free online grammar checking tool such a ‘Grammarly’.

You have now understood the structure and format of an SOP. To make sure your SOP is properly drafted, let us now look at the 10 mistakes to avoid while writing an SOP.

“10 Mistakes that You Should Not Make While Writing an SOP”

1) Do not include any trivia or irrelevant information in the SOP. Or the person who is reading the SOP will get bored, confused, and lose his interest in reading the SOP. Be serious about the mentioned word limit

Tip: Select a theme for SOP and write the SOP as per the theme. A good and meaningful SOP has a good flow and well-connected ideas

2). Don’t write about yourself in the first paragraph itself. It is advised that the starting of the SOP should not be too direct. Instead, start the introduction on a generic note.

Write a story about your field of interest or a relevant quote.

3). Do not use bad grammar. The grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and punctuation in the SOP must be perfect.

Tip: The first impression is the last. Make sure that the first paragraph in the SOP is catchy, has perfect grammar, and an interesting flow of ideas.

4). Do not keep beating around the bush. Introduce the reason for your interest or what lead you to apply for the University course or visa with the first 5-6 lines

5). Do not write an SOP that reads awkwardly. Reiterating the importance of the good flow of content in your SOP. Since the SOP is essentially a story on you, your academics, work experience, strengths, and goals must be well-connected.

6). Do not use difficult words in the SOP unnecessarily. Use a good vocabulary but easy to understand language Filling your SOP with difficult words or jargon spoils the reader’s interest. Make sure the SOP is reader-friendly.

7). Do not use a wrong synonym for a particular word. A lot of people end up using the wrong synonym of a word in an attempt to make the content look more sophisticated. It is important to note that a wrong synonym can be a game spoiler.

8) Do not write your SOP in a hurry. Your SOP must be well-written, must contain well-structured thoughts, and must be free from any grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors. So please do not write the SOP in a hurry.

9) Never write about plans of staying in a foreign country for long. Instead, write convincing information about your good motives while staying there.

10) Do not make your SOP your resume. SOP is a story of yourself and your purpose. Kindly do not make it look like a resume that is only overloaded with information.

It is the single document in your admission application that allows you to demonstrate that you have something special that sets you apart from the competition. Overall, the statement is a written record that details the ambitions and values of the individual.

Most students treat it as if it were just yet another assignment where they have been tasked with writing about themselves and end up producing boring material that just doesn’t strike a chord with the Admission Committee. As the SOP will have a significant impact on your acceptance, you must give it all you’ve got.

Finally, edit and proofread your SOP thoroughly. Look at the SOP with fresh eyes after making the final draft. Check for scope for improving the language, tone, vocabulary, or grammar. You are good to start with the writing process now. All the Best!

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