SOP VS The Personal Statement: Two sides of the same coin?
All the aspiring students, who nurture the dream of going abroad for their higher education, know that the keywords associated with the entire process are, “The Statement of Purpose” and the “Personal Statement.” The important thing is to understand the difference between the two. Though both the statements are serving the same purpose, i.e to convince the admissions committee that you are the best fit for the program, the two are not the same.
In short, while the SOP is a draft highlighting WHAT you want to do, the Personal Statement is all about WHO you are. While the former is a testament to your academic strengths, career goals, research projects, internships, work experience, and your fit for the program, the latter describes your reasons/motivation for applying to a particular program and any major achievements or challenges you have faced along the way. The Sop is a more formal draft than the Personal Statement. The length of both varies (as per university requirements), but in most cases, it is anything between 1 – 3 double-spaced pages.
Which of the two do I write?
Students often get confused about which of the two to write to increase their chances of getting selected. The answer to this question is, that it depends entirely on what your university has asked for and how it defines the two. While some schools like the UC colleges have a well-defined difference between the two and require separate essays, some other schools do not distinguish between the two and often use the terms interchangeably. The details are mostly available on either the program’s application prerequisites page or the application. You can even contact the University directly via email or call to clarify if any doubts persist.
Useful information on how to write an effective SOP
Keep your future goals in mind
You should have complete clarity on your future career plans and these relate to your intended field of study. Also, make sure that you explain pointedly how your chosen domain will help you achieve these goals.
Have an insight into the program and the related professors
Mention the specific aspects of your intended program that ignite your interest. This includes names of professors you want to work with, the program’s impact, courses you hope to take, internships, networking events you are looking forward to, etc. It is better to avoid the acceptance rate of the program and the program’s ranking at this stage.
Emphasize how you are the perfect fit
Here talk about how the program is completely linked to your future goals and you can also mention professors whose areas of research align with your interests.
Chalk out your accomplishments
Elaborate on RELEVANT academic and professional achievements and try to be extremely streamlined about these mentions.
Pro tips on how to write a winning Personal Statement
Try telling your story
Since the Personal Statement is less formal and more personal, you have a freer hand to use your creativity and use language tools like metaphors, colloquialisms, and imagery. This is the place to share your unique story, even if it is an eccentric one. Only ensure that you do not go overboard with the informal writing methodology.
Drag attention to your own motivations
Write more about your PERSONAL reasons and convictions for having a keen interest in a particular program. Focus less on the undergrad/grad schooling in general and more on your chosen field.
They want to know ant challenges you overcame
Use this platform to divulge any weaknesses or challenges (personal struggles, monetary issues, school problems, health concerns) you overcame in recent times, but be smart to give it a positive spin. This will tell the admissions committee that you are a resilient individual who can overcome struggles with determination and hard work.
The Common Rules
There are certain critical things to keep in mind while writing both these essays:
Read and follow the instructions to the T
Specific details and try to quantify your outcomes
Always edit and do the proofreading before the submission
Education is enabling. We at Jitin Chawla’s Centre for Counselling and Career Development help you achieve your dream by guiding and mentoring you through your journey towards getting enabled. Your dreams are our aspirations. Keep dreaming big!!
Written by Ms.Anu Chopra- Jitin Chawla Team