How to write a winning SOP?

Reading Time: 5 minutes
How to write a winning SOP?

The most important aspect of your application, a Statement of Purpose (SOP) is an important requirement to fulfil when applying to study abroad. Its important to think how to write an sop. The SOP, short for Statement of Purpose, is an extremely crucial part of your application to a university. Also referred to as ‘Personal Statement’, it is an essay in which you introduce yourself to the university and make your first personal impression on them. Apart from grades and eligibility requirements, an SOP is your chance to stand out and make a good impact. International universities require you to submit your application with a statement that articulates your career path and goals, known as the SOP. This helps them find the right candidate for the courses offered.

What is a Statement of Purpose (SOP)?

A statement of purpose (SOP) is a letter that explains your intent to study abroad. Once submitted, it is reviewed by the admission panel and usually includes content related to your career path, interest, professional contributions, goals, and the reason that encouraged you to pursue a particular program. In simpler words, the SOP is your first introduction to the university as an applicant and it communicates your personality, intent, and goals to the selection committee of a university. It is usually written in the form of an essay but there are exceptions too, as some universities keep it question-based. It also becomes a deciding factor for admission into your preferred institution. Do remember, that an SOP is different from a personal statement.

Importance of an SOP

An SOP allows you to highlight your overall personality to the university. If you have a weak profile, a good essay compensates for it by highlighting your ambitions and future goals. The university assesses you on your present and plans rather than dwelling on your performance in the past. A well-written SOP also reflects how well you can express your thoughts using your writing skills.

How to write an SOP?  

 Statement of PurposePersonal Statement
Content-TypeAn SOP details more about your academic and professional background, highlighting your accomplishments, goals, and how you are a good fit for the program you’ve applied to.A personal statement demonstrates why you want to study at a university and program and what motivated you to apply for a course. It includes examples from your personal experiences, challenges, and accomplishments and sums them up in a short essay.
Writing StyleFormalInformal
Length6-7 Paragraphs in two pages1-2 paragraphs on one page
Word Limit1,000-1,500 words500-800 words

Here are the three major steps you need to keep in mind when writing your SOP

What is a good SOP structure?

Your content should be structured, well written, and develop a story. Here’s a perfect format for writing the SOP.

  • Introduction:
    Start with describing your childhood, what most interested you when you were a little kid and how it shaped you as a person.
  • Part1:
    Subtly talk about your undergrad achievements, also mention your current subjects that pushed you towards the course
  • Part2:
    Explain your projects, internships, training, and the learnings from them. 
  • Part3:
    Let them know what you like about their university e.g., Research, Faculty, labs, campus, courses etc.
  • Part4:
    Tell them about your long-term and short-term goals, like where you see yourself in 5 years.
  • Conclusion:
    In the end, add how you will be a valuable asset to the university and your home country. 
  1. Plan well Create an outline for your SOP and work accordingly. Sharing an anecdote that developed your interest in your subject is a good way to build your introduction. Create pointers and categories, list down your relevant achievements and expertise, and most importantly, your reason for choosing the course and the university.  
  2. Work on your draft Focus on sharing your learnings and knowledge during your education and industry experience. Limit the use of technical terms and use an active voice when writing your SOP. If there is a gap year or an academic issue, optimistically address them. Make sure your SOP has a clear introduction and conclusion. Remember, you should always write your SOP in reverse chronological order.   
  3. Must review before you send It’s important to review what you’ve written. Re-analysing will help correct the flow, vocabulary, sentence construction errors, long sentences, and other grammar issues. Get a second opinion, maybe from your professor, senior, or an IDP counsellor. Make sure you proofread properly and double-check before submission.

What is the word limit for an SOP?

While writing an impactful SOP try not to go overboard, you must keep in mind that the person responsible for evaluating your essay would be responsible for analysing the SOPs of thousands of other students who have applied to the same course and university as you. It is best to stick to the word limit. The word limit of an SOP is ideally between 800-1,500 words unless communicated otherwise by the university. You should choose your words wisely to be precise and write an apt essay that is easy to understand and does not repeat or exceed the word count. 

How do academic institutions assess an SOP? 

Universities and institutions anticipate your SOP to be unique to your own experiences, they will evaluate the information provided in your SOP by corresponding it to your academic details. Writing an SOP true to your own experiences would make a lasting impression on the admissions committee. If an SOP appears to be plagiarised or copied, it might get lost among other applications. Therefore, be authentic and creative while writing it.  

What to include in the SOP? 

There are no defined rules on what or what not to include in your SOP. The format may vary with the course you have opted for, your study level, the university for which you are drafting an essay or, the country you want to study in. Remember your essay needs to be original but at the same time, it should answer the basic questions that the admissions committee expects from you.  

Checklist of elements essential to writing a powerful SOP

  • Personal background
  • Academic Achievements 
  • Financial background
  • Professional experiences
  • Immediate and long-term goals
  • Reasons for choosing a particular institution
  • Why should you be selected for the applied course/university?
  • Why are you interested in a chosen study field?
  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Projects you’ve worked on
  • Papers submitted, if any
  • Awards and Achievements 
  • Interest and hobbies

Mistakes to avoid while writing an SOP

Now that you’ve learned how to write an exceptional SOP, you should also learn about the common mistakes students make while writing yours: 

  • Not writing a focused SOP
    Instead of detailing your background or history, write a precise SOP that gives a clear idea about your career goal. 
  • Not researching enough 
    Try writing an SOP beforehand as it gives you sufficient time to research. Rather than writing randomly, explain how you will benefit from studying on campus and with faculty and industry exposure from the course you have applied to.
  • Lying in your SOP or copying it
    This may lead to rejection or even permanent blacklisting, so ensure that you draft your SOP honestly and include experiences of your own instead of copying from someone else. 
  • Using of jargon or technical terms
    Writing SOP in a technical language is not suggested as it is possible that the person from the admissions committee reviewing it might not be familiar with the jargon. It is recommended to keep the language of your SOP simple and make limited use of technical terms just to explain your goals.  

If you still have any doubts or need help writing your SOP, you can get in touch with our international education experts who will guide you in writing a powerful SOP to help secure admission to the institution of your choice. Visit us for a free counselling session or walk into your nearest IDP office to discuss it in detail. 

SOP Writing Tips and Techniques

  • Depending on the course you wish to study, there are different ways of writing an SOP. However, the basic structure remains the same.
  • The SOP word limit should be between 800-1200 with concise and relevant information only.
  •  It needs to be clear, coherent and should read well in terms of the flow of thought.
  • It should be written in reverse order, i.e. starting with the present and going back to what you have done in the past.

Your SOP should have three parts forming a clear beginning (introduction), middle (body) and end (conclusion).

Share relevant information

An SOP needs to be personal without getting too intimate and revealing anything that seems irrelevant or excessive. You may add some anecdote or event from the past which triggered your early interest in the course. Mention your career goals and how studying a particular course at the university will help you achieve them.