Is the SOP really important?
Students often neglect their Statements Of Purpose (SOPs as they are commonly called), because they often believe that the person in charge of the application process would not have time to go through all the SOPs that are submitted to them.
This is far from the truth.
Admission committee members have said time and time again that at least two people go through a single SOP, and that it is often the SOP that is the deciding factor while considering whether a student should be accepted by the university.
What are they looking for?
As SOPs are the only part of your application that you can fully control, taking your time to write an excellent one can only help your cause.
When committee members read your SOP, they are trying to put a face to your application.
This is where you tell them your story, tell them about the person that you are, while explaining why the program at their university is crucial for your career and future goals.
Most committee members agree that when they read a statement of purpose, they are trying to assess whether the candidate is competent and gauge his/her personality. They also pay attention to whether there is a disconnect or connect between the SOP and the letters of recommendation. An important theme of any SOP is the candidate’s enthusiasm to learn.
According to Harvard University, the SOP is an integral part of any application and is evaluated with great care by the admissions committee. They want a student’s SOP to include a background, which includes education details, work experience, volunteer work and relevant personal experiences, if any. They also want to know how this background has prepared the student for further education at their university.
It is, of course, important to keep in mind that most universities specify what they are looking for in a Statement of Purpose. Reading these guidelines is essential.
When students write general SOPs that can be used for different universities, this often puts off committee members, who often reject the student.
First impressions count!
As universities receive a large number of applications, it is important to make a strong first impression, so that the faculty member reading your SOP will pay attention to what is said throughout, thereby giving you a higher chance of consideration and acceptance.
What not to do
According to Amit P. Sheth, who has over 20 years of experience serving on an admissions committee and is presently the Director of Kno.e.sis at Wright State University, he always tries to assess whether the candidate’s SOP is original.
After years of reading SOPs, he says most committee members know whether a Statement of Purpose has been written by a student. He does this because it gives him a good indication of the candidate’s communications skills, which he believes is all the more important for MS/MA/MBA students. He then looks at whether the candidate has done his/her research on the university, the course and the faculty. Very often students write a generic essay that can be used for many universities, which makes him lose interest.
Filling in the blanks
Another purpose of a Statement of Purpose is to help the faculty fill in the blanks of your profile. For example, if you have scored badly in a subject and you have a good reason for it, you can mention it in your SOP.
Committee members have often said that personal details can sometimes make a world of difference when they arrive at a decision. A candidate with a troubled past, poorer financial background, etc., will be weighed differently from a candidate without any of these problems.
SOPs can also be used to explain incidents that played a pivotal role in your life and made you become the person that you are today.
While achievements and extracurricular activities would be mentioned in your CV, a Statement of Purpose can be used to discuss interesting experiences further.
To summarize, students who write original, honest essays, which intelligently connect their own research interests with those of the university, have a better chance of being accepted or taken seriously by the admissions committee.
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