Guide to writing an SOP that will get you noticed

No masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist! Get ready to design and ideate your chance to communicate your instinct, eagerness and diligence with the admissions committee through your masterpiece – The Statement of Purpose. The most important aspect of the application process is the Personal Statement, also called the Statement of Purpose (SOP). It reflects our personality, characteristics, past activities, and future plans.

A well written SOP is important because it is the single opportunity to convey yourself, your aspirations, and your motivation for participating in the particular programme. It is the single document in your application that allows you to demonstrate how your capabilities set you apart from the competition. While writing the SOP, keep the following points in mind:

  • Avoid plagiarism

  • Write in a structured and cohesive manner

  • Avoid spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors

  • The flow of content should be logical

 

What should be included in the personal statement?

Paragraph 1: Begin with a quote or a personal anecdote to pique the admissions committee’s interest. Make sure to tie your tale together by subtly stating your academic interest in the subject for which you are applying. This is your chance to pique the reader’s interest, so make sure to tie the story together.

 Paragraph 2: This paragraph should describe your inspiration or motivation to pursue a specific course in order to achieve future success. Mention what drew your attention and prompted you to enrol in this particular course. Always state the course’s relevant topics and debates. Have you ever visited a rehabilitation centre and been so moved by their plight that you decided to pursue a career in psychology or social work? Whatever your source of inspiration is, make sure it’s unique to you and relevant to your programme.

Paragraph 3: Think about the experiences and intellectual ideas you have showcased as a result of the opportunities undertaken. At least 80% of your SOP, or a significant portion of it, should be devoted to your scholarly interest in the subject. If you are applying for a combined degree programme, you are required to demonstrate that both areas interest you; a statement focused solely on one component of the degree would be meaningless.

 Paragraph 4: Universities in countries abroad give significant value to extracurricular activities, therefore this is your chance to show them that you can be an asset to them. Include any extracurricular activities, employment experience, internships, and volunteer activity that you think will help you succeed in school. Around 20% of the statement may be devoted to extracurricular activities. One is not required to list every single achievement of their life. Instead, focus on past experiences that you believe are relevant, and how those qualities help you stand out as a strong university candidate.

 Paragraph 5: The final paragraph should include a general conclusion that gives the admission committee reasons to consider your application. You can organise the paragraph in two ways, depending on where the SOP is being sent:

  1. Sending your SOP directly to a specific university: In this case, talk about why you chose that university and what you like about it. This is an excellent way to demonstrate to admissions staff that you are familiar with the school’s history and reputation while also expressing your dedication to the university’s future development. Mention something distinctive about the university, such as its cultural diversity or an entrepreneur empowerment program. Discuss the course format, surroundings and comfort of the country. 

  2. Sending SOP through UCAS: You can apply to any of the UK’s five colleges using UCAS (University and College Admissions Service). It is therefore not a good idea to mention the university name if you are applying through UCAS.

 

What ‘not’ to include in a personal statement?

EXAMPLE 1: “I have always dreamt of coming to [name of the university]  since I was young. It has been a dream of mine to study at this institution, which is well renowned for its courses. 

I am currently studying History, English, Psychology, Political Science and Geography. I want to study History because I want to be a world class Historian, and feel that this degree will help me. I am especially interested in Ancient History, particularly the history concerning the Roman Empire. I am fascinated by the way in which the empire was run, and the events that led to its downfall.”

 The candidate has expressed an interest in history, but has not elaborated on it or demonstrated a deeper understanding of the subject. Where the candidate does cover history, it is brief and limited to ancient history, which the university may not even teach as part of its history curriculum. The applicant has stated the university name particularly, which is likely to be unappealing to their other options (unless they submit unique SOPs to every university), and has wasted space stating their disciplines, which would be displayed in the qualifications section. Rather than describing what they hope to learn throughout their history degree, the candidate has stated how a history degree will help them get the job they want later.

  

 EXAMPLE 2: “I was the captain of the school basketball team, and this has taught me the importance of working together as a team, and allowed me to prioritise my time between my studies and basketball practice. I feel that this has provided me with the experience to successfully balance my academic and social life, and I plan to continue this balance whilst at university. 

It is my dream to become an alumnus of the School, and I am sure that as I am the top student of my class, you will offer me a place.” 

The applicant has considered the transferable abilities they have acquired as a basketball team lead. This is admirable, but the same level of attention should be extended to academic interests as well. The candidate has addressed basketball more than the course they are applying for.

To get started, these are a few questions you may consider to structure the content in your personal statement: 

  • Why did you choose this particular course? 

  • What drew you to the topic in the first place? 

  • Which components of the subject have piqued your interest to the point where you wish to pursue a degree in it? 

  • Is there a particular aspect of the issue that you’d want to concentrate on? 

  • What are the major issues in the field, and what about them fascinates you the most?

  • Did you ever pursue your passion for a subject outside of school?

  • Have you tried reading extra to extend your knowledge of the subject? For example, have you undertaken any additional reading to broaden your knowledge of the subject?

  • What did you find most intriguing in your reading/lectures, and what are your perspectives on the themes discussed? 

  • Have you learnt any abilities from your other school subjects that will help you study your chosen topic more effectively? 

  • Have you had the chance to gain appropriate job experience for your application? If so, how did it help you have a better knowledge of the things you’ll be studying at university? 

  • Have you participated in any summer schools, Saturday schools, or other events at the colleges to which you are applying (or that are in the same league)? What did you take away from them? Have they broadened your understanding or piqued your curiosity in your chosen field?