How do I write a perfect graduate SOP?

posted at Aug. 8, 2019, 1:40 p.m.

Statement of Purpose

The name itself is self-explanatory. This is a very simple document which asks for a very straightforward narrative. The word purpose here is the most important. The biggest mistake students make is that they keep highlighting their own achievements and lose focus on the long term goal/purpose that is being conveyed in the essay. The key is not to impress, it is to convince. Keep these broad points in mind while writing an SoP; ensuring the following is critical!

Be clear on where you want to be 5–10 years down the line.

An essay without a goal doesn’t serve any purpose. Your goal needs to be conveyed preferably early on or in the first paragraph of the SoP. Every other project/work experience you talk about has to be related to back to the goal. The Strongest SoPs constantly show how the applicant’s experiences have shaped the goal.

Your goal needs to be clear in terms of the role you see yourself playing and the area you want to be working in.

You can’t be vague with your goal. “I want to be a leader driving advancements in Artificial Intelligence” is not a convincing goal at all. It reflects a lack of clarity and thought. If you are applying for a computer science masters, you have to clear on the area you want to specialise in be it Data Science, AI or ML. Also, you have to mention what problems you wish to solve using these skills. Do you want to leverage the power of AI in the healthcare sector in the entertainment sector? Similar examples can be given for management and other programs as well.

Your goal and your projects have to be technically correct!

The technical correctness of the projects you have done so far and their future implications are very important. Simply throwing in buzz words isn’t going to impress admissions committees. Admissions committees likely have subject matter experts reviewing applications, especially for technical masters programs. You have to ensure that your vision is conveyed correctly with less emphasis on trying to impress the reader.

The projects you’ve taken up must be aligned to show that you have been working towards your goals.

It is often beneficial to ignore projects that do not fit into the narrative that shows you are working towards your goals. Certain projects may feel like they are too impressive to ignore, however, if they are not relevant to your goals, you are better off using the space to elaborate on your relevant work. For instance, when applying to engineering management programs, if you have “heading operations at an FMCG company” as your long term goal, it may be best to leave out your amazing marketing strategy project. The narrative is key and anything that disrupts it should be avoided.

Make sure to write the results of the projects you’ve taken up very clearly!

Another mistake applicants make is introducing too many technical terms in the SoP, while talking about projects. The process and technical skills you have used to solve a problem as part of your project are important. However, it needs to be explained crisply with minimal technical jargon. Emphasis needs to be laid on the end results of the project. This is your opportunity to impress the admissions committee! The results of your projects could be two kinds. The first is the benefits the projects have brought about. Was there an improvement in efficiency? Reduction in cost? Reduction in processing time? If yes how much/what percentage? The second result you can talk about is the implications of the project on your long term goals. What did you learn from the success or failures of this project? Did you discover strengths which shaped your goals? Or did you find weaknesses that a master’s degree will help you overcome?

Justify the need for the master's degree at the university!

This is where you show the reviewer that you have really thought about this program. You have to show how specific courses and research opportunities will help you fill the gaps in your profile that will help you reach your long term goals. Writing generically by listing 4–5 courses offered by the university, without justifying how each of them will help you specifically is a pointless exercise. You have to be clear how each course and aspect of the university will help you specifically!

In summary here’s what an SoP is all about. What do you want to do in your life? What experiences shaped your decision of career choice? How have you worked towards reaching your goals? How is a masters degree the right step for you in order to reach your goals?

Answer these broad points and you have a good SoP. Also flowery sentences and language are not required. Of course, grammatically correct sentences and good sentence structure are important but you needn’t impress through creative flair. Do explore our website! We have mentors who are current students from the finest universities all over the world. They are pursuing a variety of master’s degrees at the best global universities and will help you out with drafting and editing your SoP. At Gradvine, we’ve had admits to universities like Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Cornell, Columbia, UPenn, Dartmouth, Duke, Purdue, USC among many more, with 98% of our students making it to a top 50 university for their program.

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