Statement of Purpose (SOP)
SOP is a statement, typically one or two pages in length, that indicates to the university why is it that you are interested in the program. It also indicates what makes you qualified and motivated to complete the program. Essentially you are trying to “sell” the university, you are trying to convince them to accept you over the thousands of other applications they’ve received. Apart from the factual details such as courses completed, projects accomplished, it is better if you include some of your personal experiences. Share experiences that motivated and affirmed the belief in you that further studies are the best approach for you.
Letter Of Recommendation (LOR)
Letter of Recommendation is a letter from few relevant people that can confirm your qualifications and recommend you for this next step. Typically the letters are written by professors and other industry personnel that you have worked with.
LoR, SOPs give students an edge over others
In the quest to pursue higher education abroad, there are a number of students who fret about not getting enough or better scores in the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and Test for English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Some, despite having a good academic record in Intermediate and four-year engineering course, tend to throw-in the towel and do not apply to foreign Universities, just because of their average GRE and TOEFL scores.
Experts, however, point out that the admission committee in foreign universities are not going to reject a student’s application just because their GRE scores are less or they have less percentage in engineering degree. Industry veterans point out that scores in TOEFL, GRE and percentages in engineering only reflects the academic strength of the student and do not provide the student’s overall profile.
In the race to get good scores in GRE and TOEFL, students tend to overlook the importance that a Letter of Recommendation (LoR) and Statement of Purpose (SOP) play in impressing the admission committee of university and getting a seat.
“There is literally a race between Chinese and Indian students to get into universities in US, Germany, UK and other European countries. For a single seat in a programme, at least ten aspirants from China and India compete. They have same academic records and the only way out for Indian students is to differentiate themselves from others by making their profile more balanced. This is where, SOPs and LoR come into picture,” says Arul Joseph, Global Education Head (R&D), Head, Visu Consultants.
An expert in foreign education, Mr. Joseph gave an insightful presentation during a workshop on ‘Global Education’, which was organised by The Hindu Education Plus in collaboration with Visu Academy on May 26 at Keyes High School. The global education experts said that there is no need for students with average TOEFL and GRE scores to lose heart.
“Even if your TOEFL and GRE scores are less, your fundamentals might be very strong. You might have pursued your education in a well known institution and have a very good academic profile. You might have done some research and written scientific papers and got published in peer review journals. In such situations, an excellent letter of recommendation will pave the way for admission,” Mr Arul said to the students.
Such aspects of the aspirants, other than academic performance, if highlighted properly will go a long way in enhancing the overall profile of the students. “Academic percentage, GRE and TOEFL scores are basics of a profile. The LoR and SOPs are the tools that give the student an edge over others. I would suggest students to take these two very seriously while applying for admissions to universities abroad,” he suggested.
So what role exactly does the LoR play?
Indian students, who have applied for a particular programme, will not be present physically in front of the university admission committee during the interview. The committee members will not know anything about the student unless they showcase themselves. Apart from academic skills, the committee will look for other qualities like leadership skills. Since the student is not present in person, the committee will thoroughly go through the LoR of the assistant professor, dean or principal under whom the student has studied.
Senior academicians such as professors are respected a lot abroad and their views are held in high regard. Students must speak and request their professors to given them a LoR.
There are two types LoR that include online and offline. In online LoR, students provide the email ID and designation of the professor in their application to the university.
The university officials, on their part, will send the details of the student directly to the professor who has to fill-in details of the student in a format and send it back to the University. The students have the option of tracking their online LoR.
Offline LoR are paper based in which the university provides a format and the professors will have to answer the questions in their letterheads with signature and seal of the college. The format in LoR usually talks about the student’s leadership skills, whether they are attentive in the class, takes part actively in project works, the professor’s impression of student, extra curricular activities, participation in seminars, project works, NGO activity, social service, which will give a boost to the student’s overall profile.
Importance of SOPs
SOPs have the potential to make or break the student’s application. There are instances when engineering students have very good marks in three years and suddenly their performance dipped for just one-year. There could be genuine reasons for the dip such as accident, illness or bereavement in the family. SOP will help the student to justify the backlogs.
“In the applications of foreign universities, they have a column that asks is your academics your real strength? In this column, you have to justify your backlog in just 200 to 300 words that the marks do not reflect my actual intellectual capability and I can do better than this,” Mr. Arul said. In the SOP, the students can talk about how focused they are, discuss their short-term and long-term goals. You have to write about your goals, objectives, benefits and desires in life. Students should talk about how they are going to contribute and how they are going to benefit by studying in that university. Basically, SOPs are the place where students can pin down their thoughts about their academic educational struggles.
They can talk about how they overcame the challenges and are looking forward to pursue MS degree in US.
These things may look trivial but they add value to the profile and are meticulously seen by the admission committee during granting admissions.