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Statement Of Purpose

If you are applying for a postgraduate degree in the US you will usually be required to write a statement of purpose (SOP). The SOP is a fairly long essay (600-1000 words), in which you give an honest and carefully considered presentation of your goals. You also need to show that you have an aptitude for the subject you have chosen, and have a background that fits you for the subject and level you are applying for. The statement of purpose should also give a good indication of the type of person you are.

In all SOPs the way you analyze your experiences is more important than the experiences themselves � you don't need to invent exciting experiences. You just need to show that you have introspected about the events in your own life, and know how you have been shaped by them. You should cover something of your educational experience and interest in the subject. You might choose to write about a particular project, internship, book, etc. that reveals your passion for your area of study. You should explain the reasons behind the choices you have made, especially the choices that have led you to the decision to pursue a Master's degree.

Students often make the mistake of writing too much about the past. The 'purpose' in statement of purpose refers to your goals. Why do you want the course you are applying for? Why now? What will you do after the course? What do you want to do in the long term? These questions must be answered clearly. If you cannot explain how the course of study will help you get closer to your goals, then you have probably chosen the wrong course. The admissions committee wants to know that their college or university will be the right place for you and will be able to help you achieve your purpose.

While you will want to show that you know all about the course and college you are applying to, resist the temptation to tell them what they already know. Try to show what particular courses, clubs, and other experiences you are looking forward to, but avoid general statements such as "your university is renowned for the quality of its teaching and facilities". In general, things that everyone could write have no place in your own SOP.

Before submitting see that you have covered all the points in the checklist. The points on our writing a statement of purpose tips page and the example statement of purpose page will help you get the right approach and style.

Finally, remember that a statement of purpose is not an exercise in creative writing - stylistic tricks such as direct speech or dramatic openings annoy the reader. The admissions committee will want to see that you can put your ideas forward in a logical manner without wasting words. They have many applications to go through and appreciate short, well-expressed essays.

Additional SOP Information

Checklist

Have you included all the relevant points?

  • What you are doing now
  • What course you are applying for
  • Your aptitude for the chosen course
  • Significant educational / work experiences
  • Your short term goals (2-3 years from now), and long term goals (5-10 years from now)
  • Why you have chosen this specific college/university, and why this particular course
  • Significant extracurricular interests, social service, etc. (if relevant)

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