In an analysis of 500 SOPs, we found that at least 150 SOPs had the word “passion,” and nearly 400 of them started with a quote. Why would you mention a quote? Let’s think about that.
A statement of purpose should be forward-looking. It is not meant to be, to paraphrase Wordsworth, “recollections of early childhood.”
The admission committee doesn’t care why you decided to study mathematics when you were seven years old, nor do they care about some generic quote from a scientist that inspired you. They want to know what you might want to study masters or a Ph. D and why you are motivated to study that specific subject?
If a famous scientist said something relevant about your proposed project, that’s a different story, because it’s significant to what you want to do in the future. Otherwise, leave it out—it just annoys most of the referees who will eventually read it.
Let us discuss five common mistakes that you should avoid while writing the essential document in your admission process, i.e., the Statement of Purpose.
Mistake No. 1: Thinking That SOP Can Wait Till My GRE
If you are one of those who believe that writing one statement of purpose can sail you through your admission process, then you are more than wrong. This is simply because a lot of research goes into one university if you want to make your SOP unique for that particular university.
For example, Cornell University asked you to highlight the skills that you have learned from academic, lab, and research experiences. At the same time, Texas A&M university asks you to highlight your career goals. Now the question is, how to cover all of these? The answer is simple. When you begin to write your SOP for the admission process, invest a big chunk of time to make a master draft of your SOP.
Now, this master draft has to answer five main questions which are:
- What are your career goals?
- Why this graduate degree?
- Why this university?
- What are your research experiences?
- What are your academic interests?
Mistake No.2: Not Being Aware Of Admission Committee’s Expectations
How many times have you wondered the best way to frame my SOP? To begin it with a quote or a culinary story? So it is essential to be aware of the parameters that the admission committee uses to rate your SOP. This will help to eliminate all the confusion. Your SOP is mainly rated based on the following:
Have a clear understanding of who will read your SOP and what they want to take away from it. It is usually the professors of your department who are wanting to understand your background and your intentions to do a master’s degree.
Mistake No.3: Listing Every Activity
Listing every activity out in the SOP is not recommended. You can highlight the learnings that you gather from the projects or work experience and so. An important point to be noted is that you should always keep the passage in the first-person perspective to make it feel more personal ( ex: I pursued, My understanding, Helped me ). When it comes to the content, do not talk about individual projects or activities.
Here are two expert strategies that you can use while writing about the activities in your SOP:
Convey how you got your career goals by explaining your experiences and building a background in a fashion of all through undergraduate to now. You can exclude school activities because they don’t hold a lot of relevance.
If you have a lot of similar experiences like multiple projects in the same field, then what you can do is find a common link to them and then highlight the learning in your SOP.
Mistake No.4: Starting With A Childhood Story
Your SOP is going to be read by an experienced professor in your department. You do not want to bore him with your childhood stories. For instance, ‘Got interested in automobile engineering because you worked in the Formula One Student Club of your university’ sounds much appealing than ‘Got interested in automobile engineering because you played with cars as a child.’
Here are a few things that need to be kept in mind while writing to the admission committees:
No Technical Details: You do not have to write the technical details of your experience, they already know it.
No Big Words: You do not need to use big words. Just keep the words natural and contextually appropriate.
Thinking Process: The professors assessing your SOP wants to know what’s your way of thinking. Be precise about your career goals and pursue a master’s degree fits in your overall career plan.
Present Problems and Solutions: Presenting both problems and solutions from your inexperience enables the professors to understand that your masters’ exposure will help you solve future problems.
Mistake No.5: Writing A Summary For The Conclusion
Do you know where you have to summarize in your SOP? It is actually in the introduction. Let your professor know in the introduction itself, when and more importantly, why the interest began towards your interested field. It would help if you made it very apparent precisely what you are going to be covering in your SOP within the first few lines itself.
Let us analyze a general introduction of an SOP stating, “I am passionate in the field of Data Analytics and want to pursue Masters in that field.” Now, this introduction does not emphasize why or how the student got interested in the field of data analytics.
Now let us see an alternative introduction creating a better impact. “Though I’ve long been aware of how an organisation like Facebook have used user data to generate ad income, it was only after I gained deeper insights into the field of Data Analytics during my career at XXXX that I decided to pursue a career in this field”. So it is clear that this introduction reveals what interested the student to pursue this field and gives an idea that he will be elaborating more about his experience in the SOP later.
Keep not only the opening statement but the entire introductory passage compelling. This will help the reader to gain an interest in your SOP. In your conclusion, you have to mention why you want to pursue a master’s from this university instead of making it a summary.
To wrap it up, you can include some well-researched points about the Courses you want to take up at this university, Professors you want to work with, and even the Testimonials of Alumni that have persuaded you to pursue your masters in this university.