Programs

Statement of Format: Samples, Format, Writing Guide with Examples

As the name suggests, an SOP is written by the applicant to elaborate on their purpose for applying to an institution. It summarises their achievements, goals, traits and, most importantly- their academic background. 

So, you have to write about yourself. What could possibly go wrong? Well, a lot of things. Poorly written and monotonous SOPs are more common than you think. The main lookout of an SOP format is to introduce oneself and be fluent. The essay must hold the reader’s attention to the very end. 

In this article, we will learn how to format an SOP, explore the writing guidelines and look into some SOP samples to assist you in how to write SOP for yourself!

Why is an SOP Necessary?

The admission committee and concerned authorities need to know you before deciding whether to proceed with your application. Every institution has specific objectives and criteria to adhere to during the admission procedure. Your SOP could either be the game-changer or the game-spoiler. 

An in-depth assessment of your vision and knowledge, as expressed in the SOP, will influence the admission committee’s decision. Although it is not the sole criterion for admission, your academic records and extra-curricular achievements play a significant part in securing you a seat. However, with the help of an excellent and original SOP, you can highlight your strengths to overshadow the lows in your record.

Format of an SOP

Knowing how to write SOP is a piece of cake once you know the correct format. The format for an SOP varies according to the institution, country and course, but the basic fundamentals and rules remain the same.

  • The SOP should be divided into small paragraphs. The essay must be sectioned concisely- such that it is easier for the reader to gauge your track record at different points in your life.
  • An SOP is generally written in 800-1000 words. It is expected to be nearly one-and-half to two pages long, typed in 12-size fonts with double spacing and normal margins.
  • The format prohibits the use of images or font colours other than black.
  • Always write your SOP in an active voice. Passive voice is monotonous, takes up more space and disinterests the reader quickly.
  • Use an interactional and formal tone.

SOP Writing Guide

Now that you know the format, let us look at how to place the information. The entire essay must comprise 5-7 paragraphs of 125-150 words each. The question is- where do you ideally start?

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Introduction:-

An introduction must be compact, concise and direct. It should grab the reader’s attention at once and introduce your academic aspirations and vision. The introduction does not need your name, age or residential address- but it needs to explain why you are writing an SOP to the institution and what interests you about the applied course.

Background:-

This section is to list your academic pursuits and reap through your achievements. Mention any hands-on training experience or internship, if applicable. If you are writing an SOP for an undergraduate degree course or an MBA course, you must include your extra-curricular interests.

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Purpose:-

After stating your background, you must talk about the course and what interests you. State how it aligns with your strengths and is relevant to your background and vision. Draw special emphasis on the curriculum to indicate you are well aware of the course and how it would be an opportunity to upskill yourself. Talk about other relevant courses briefly and why this course was the final choice over the others.

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Aim:-

This section will talk about your final career goals pertaining to the applied course. Here you explain the career path you want to take, your short and long-term goals and ultimately- the change you aspire to bring about in length. 

Institution of Interest:-

This is where you discuss selecting the particular university/college. Talk about their notable alumnus- especially those admitted to your course. Stress on the extra-curricular activities and upskilling opportunities the institution provides. Describe how you closely relate to the institution’s motto and will strive to uphold its glory.

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Conclusion:-

To conclude your SOP, summarise why you will be an asset to the university and highlight the skillset that sets you apart from other applicants. This section should be brief, as you have already stated your case in the previous paragraphs. It must not have a pleading or arrogant tone but must be confident enough to attract the admissions committee.

Do’s and Dont’s of SOP 

Do’s:-

  1. Your SOP must be original. Generic SOPs visit the trash can very often, and copying someone else’s SOP will directly mark you as a black-listed candidate. 
  2. Use anecdotes where applicable. Don’t make them too unrealistic.
  3. If you are applying for a Master’s program, focus on the long-term goals. If you are applying for an undergraduate program, focus more on the extra-curricular activities and the aspect of a dynamic personality.
  4. The SOP must be one-tracked. Your goals must align with the course you are applying to, and your academic record must back this in the field. 
  5. If you have matching interests to your applied course, it’s definitely a plus point. If not, you can talk about how harbouring interests in a different vertical than your ultimate goal has led you to master multi-tasking and increased your concentration levels. 
  6. Present yourself as an asset to the university. Talk about your failures, but back them up with lessons you have learned and turned into successful endeavours. Everybody values a learner. 
  7. Browse through the university website and learn about the qualities they look for. Structure your SOP accordingly and see if you have accolades to hit a home run on the list of desirable qualities.

Dont’s:-

  1. Don’t lie about your SOP. Even one single lie is enough to get your SOP cancelled.
  2. Do not write an SOP longer than two pages. Remember- they already have your certificates and mark sheets; they just need a quick, readable essay to know if and why you are the right fit.
  3. Do not talk about your personal background.
  4. Do not make it hard to read. The essay must use words that come naturally to your everyday vocabulary. Using words that are too difficult to comprehend does not give your SOP the edge you think it does.
  5. Do not use one single SOP for all universities and courses. Universities judge you based on your effort in SOP to show them that you are a good fit.

Statement of Purpose Example

Below is a statement of purpose example based on the following assumption:

The student has passed their undergraduate in English and wishes to pursue a Master’s degree in English Literature from XYZ University.

“The world of imagination has always attracted me that writers so skillfully portray. To know more about them and explore the socio-political background of English classics inspired me to opt for an undergraduate degree in English in college. The more I read, the more I fell in love with the curriculum and harboured the interest to follow up with my passion with a Masters in English Literature. This has led me to maintain a stable academic record and secure a gold medal at the undergraduate level.

My undergraduate curriculum has helped fuel my interests outside of the Romantic and Georgian ages and explore contemporary literature. Through my internship with ABC Publications, I have been gifted with the chance to read hundreds of manuscripts. This has motivated me to commit to writing regularly and maintaining my blog- www.litliteraria.com. The blog has grown to have 6000 subscribers in just 2 years. During college, I frequently participated in, hosted and organised quizzes, national debates and book club events. I was the secretary of the cultural society in the college and became the General Secretary in my last year.

A Master’s degree in Literature will help me better analyse further readings into the vast sea of English literature over the different periods and understand how each writer was shaped by the elements of politics and society around him. With my interest and achievements in debates and Model United Nations, literature will broaden my horizons of thought and inspire me to be original yet extraordinary in all my endeavours. The curriculum of Masters in English Literature encompasses Asian Writings in English alongside the British classics, which digs into the contradictions of ethnicities and how they influence thoughts on similar genres. This particularly aligns with my interests in post-colonial literature, which I wish to research further, given the opportunity.

I aspire to take up teaching as a profession and share my opinions on different pieces, genres and English literature writers with my co-learners. A Master’s degree in English Literature will bring me closer to this goal while directly opening a pathway into the next chapter I wish to move into- a PhD.

The chance to pursue my Master’s at XYZ university will not only enrich me academically but also give me an opportunity to upskill myself with different co-curricular activities- especially with the drama, literary and poetry clubs. A chance to study at the same university that has birthed writers and renowned academicians like- Henry Morrisson, Eva Grants and Christopher Nile would be a prestige. 

I hope the University will grant me the privilege of making a mark while upholding its objectives of service, gratitude and honesty in all my future endeavours. As John Maxwell once said, “Great readers are great leaders,”- and the strength, determination and confidence of a leader are what I hope to achieve at XYZ University.”

Conclusion

Students often struggle with how to write SOP and are baffled by the many SOP samples available on the Internet. It is necessary to use your discretion to identify which SOP best suits your purpose/course and take notes on the format of the same. Such as, if you are interested in upGrad’s Global MBA Degree from Deakin Business School, you must go look for SOPs targeted towards an MBA program.

The format of SOPs varies according to the curriculum and, sometimes, the university. Students must always try to write original SOPs as copy-pasting from different Internet sites, or paraphrasing SOPs is easily traceable by admission committees and ultimately does not yield anything in the long run.

Should an SOP be signed?

As most applications are submitted digitally nowadays, you will already be logged in to the admission portal before you submit your SOP. In that case, it makes no sense to sign it. However, it is advisable to check with the Office of Admissions of the university for surety.

Can I change my SOP after submission?

Most universities allow applicants to revisit their applications and make changes within a stipulated period of time, after which no corrections are permissible. Check the university website for more details and if you can update your SOP, then go amp it up with the tips you just mastered.

Can an SOP contain images?

Ideally, no. If you are applying for the course of a graphic designer or anything of the like where you think showcasing your previous work will help, you can attach your portfolio separately.

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