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SOPpers stop

Applying for admissions for the Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 intakes? HT Horizons gives you a guide on writing the all-important SOP.

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:28 IST
Pooja Biraia

Ishant Khurana, 23, who is planning to pursue a Masters in Finance from the UK, is worried about not making it to the university of his choice this academic year, as he is still unsure if the statement of purpose (SOP) he has written, will make the cut, and guarantee him an admission. "I have all my papers ready, but it's just the SOP that's taking time. And top universities place a lot of importance on well written SOPs and sometimes even make admission decisions based on them." A month after he started with the first draft, Khurana, still doesn't feel he has come close to writing the perfect SOP.

Significance

Khurana's concern about the importance of a SOP - a student's personal statement essaying his academic achievements and career goals - is justified, as universities consider it to be an important tool of evaluation, that helps them in drawing a psychoanalytical sketch of the student when deciding upon his admission. Kanika Marwaha, India Representative, University of Warwick says, "The personal statement is one of the most important part of a university application as it lifts an application 'out of the crowd'. It fleshes out the factual sections of the form by providing a real feel for the individual - in terms of personality, attitudes, motivation, commitment and general outlook. It is a student's only Sopopportunity to impress an admissions tutor sitting so many miles away." Regardless of a student's grades and marks, work experience or test scores, the SOP is very influential at most institutions when determining his candidacy for admission as it gives the Admissions Committee a snapshot of the student's overall personality.

An SOP Skeleton must haves

* Five or six sections
* Why you have chosen a particular course
* Academic strengths and how they relate to your chosen course
* Extra-curricular activities, interests and sports - how they shaped your personality
* Any work experience or internships you did
* What will you contribute as an individual to the course
* Your career aspirations
* Legible font (such as Times New Roman) and paper-style margin standards (1" - 1.25") and font sizes (11-12 pt). Make sure it doesn't get wrinkled or stained.

Take note

* Start early and give yourself enough time to come up with your final draft. As you write and re-write it, you will get clarity of what to include and exclude all that which is extra, and invaluable information. March is the right time for those applying for 2012 admissions.

SOP* Have someone read your SOP before you submit it as you've written the SOP yourself and know what you've written, you will probably read it quickly and skip over the lines or read between the lines.

* Never say stop with just one draft, at least five to six drafts should be done before you conclude the final one. Revise, edit, be very concise and to the point.

* You don't have to use flowery language to impress the evaluators. Use simple English, in an easy to understand manner.

* The SOP should ideally be a maximum of two pages long.

* Use concrete examples to support what you are saying.

* Ask someone to critique your statement of purpose for you.

* Be honest, don't pretend.

* Don't make your SOP look like a resume or your biography. Communicate clearly and simply, and avoid forcing in words that you believe sound sophisticated.

* Write it yourself. Take help if needed. Ghost writing is easily identified.