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Statement of Purpose (SOP)

What is a statement of purpose and why do you need it to study abroad?

Statement of Purpose (SOP)

What is a statement of purpose and why do you need it to study abroad?

While applying to universities abroad especially for a master’s program, it is most likely that you will also need to submit an SOP as a part of your documentation. This helps the universities in knowing you further before they grant you admission.

What is an SOP?

Statement of Purpose or commonly referred to as SOP is a long essay document required to be submitted along with the documents while applying to foreign universities.  Also called a letter of intent, it is a document that introduces the applicant to the university admission panel and thus a great tool to make an impression on them. Ideally, it includes a short introduction of the student, talks about the career path taken by the student, the short- and long-term goals as well as the current achievements and experiences of the student. Apart from the grades which are all about numbers, this is the only document where the student can express and help the admission panel understand the underlying motivations and interests to take the courses applied for.

Why is SOP important?

A well-drafted SOP document is critical for the student to secure admission. Past academic and professional performances are most likely considered to filter the students from the many applications received and these shortlisted applications documents are reviewed by the admission team. SOP is a student’s chance to introduce and personalize the application. It can help a student not only highlight the academic achievements but also explain any educational gaps or any deficiency seen in the educational documents as well.

How long should the SOP be?

Although most universities do not mandate the length of the SOP, it is recommended that an ideal SOP length should be 800-1200 words. Some universities and colleges prescribe a maximum word limit which can be 200 to 500 words and in this case, it is best to stick to the college guidelines. It would seem difficult to complete the SOP in such a small paragraph, but it is then recommended to curate it with more precision. A word count of 800-1200 words may have 3-4 paragraphs each having a separate purpose.

 Things to include in the SOP

Following is a list of things that the student can include in the SOP.

  • Personal background
  • Financial background (only in certain cases)
  • Academic details
  • Professional experience (full/part-time, voluntary)
  • Immediate and long term goals
  • Reasons to choose the university/college
  • Reasons for being interested in the chosen field
  • About extra-curricular activities
  • Published works, if any
  • Papers submitted if any
  • Interests, hobbies

General SOP structure?

Whether applying for undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate program, the strategy of writing a powerful statement of purpose document would be to sound focused throughout. Starting from your academic and professional background to your career aspirations, you need to carefully connect all the dots between reaching your goals through your choice of school and course.

Here is a simple SOP structure that you may follow for the initial draft

1st Paragraph: Introduction:

This paragraph is often confused with self-introduction. It should not introduce you but should discuss what you are about to discuss in your entire SOP. There are multiple approaches you may adopt to go about this paragraph:

  • Discuss your long-term goal and connect it with your idea of pursuing the course you are applying to
  • Present your understanding of the chosen field and write how you want to contribute to that field
  • Explain your background in 2-3 lines and connect it with your future goals
  • Write about an anecdote that helped you realize your professional interest in the chosen field

2nd Paragraph: Academic or professional experience:

This paragraph should demonstrate your experience in the field of study and professional experience if any. It should highlight your major achievements, talk about career goals and discuss the need for further education

  • On selection of the desired course, how did it enlighten you
  • Roles and responsibilities during professional experience
  • Need for learning further arises
  • Leadership, research papers, and other academic or professional achievements
  • Any certifications for self-improvement
  • Career goals.


3rd Paragraph: Why the particular course and university:

This is the paragraph where you should discuss the course curriculum, research work, faculty names, as well as the university-specific activities that would help you in enhancing your profile. You should also write down the closing statements showing your desire and readiness towards joining the course. It should mention that you have the zeal and energy to overcome challenges and make a difference in the world.

Pro tips:

  • Mention and justify Education Gaps, if any
  • This is the best chance to explain if there are any low academic grades or performances
  • Highlight leadership, social or cultural activities that you helped organize or were a part of.
  • Extracurricular activities

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