Think of your statement of purpose as the heart of your college application. This is your ONE AND ONLY chance to get your voice heard and to make your case. Writing a well-crafted SOP is even more important than your grades, GRE or GMAT scores.
But there is a difference between writing a statement of purpose for master’s program with coursework only, a master’s program with research and a Ph.D. program. Check out this link here.
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So what are the 7 must-haves in THE statement of purpose?
Read the title again. I didn’t say best or perfect. The perfect SOP will take months and months of revisions and re-revisions and even then you might not be there. Let’s get started:
- Think about what you want when you’re reading a novel. You want it to start off interesting. You want it to draw you in or you’ll drop it for the next book. Same with a movie, no? That’s called “the hook”. After reading thousand SOPs, you want the admission committee to carry on reading your SOP with the same eagerness that you have when you read an exciting novel for the first time. You want them to have that craving to read the next word and the next paragraph. So start off with a personal event that caused you to take the path you’re currently on.
But please, please don’t start off with – I have always wanted to become a computer engineer, ever since I was born – no one will believe that, I know you don’t either.
- Show that you’re currently working on your passion, that the degree you’re applying to is what you want to do moving forward. Convey this through the story, not just by saying that you’re passionate.
Don't even say that you always wanted to do mechanical engineering ever since you chewed on the screwdriver that one time when you were 2.
- Your background in the field. What have you accomplished? What relevant courses have you taken? What relevant work experience do you have?
- Talk about your research interests. Include a research idea (if you have one) that you would like to work on. Even if the idea is a little out there and it may not be possible at the moment. It shows that you have the imagination and creativity needed to succeed in research.
- Identify and name in your SOP one or two professors within that grad program whose research interests you and would like to conduct research with. The idea that you are pitching (see above) is for them to take the bait on. Once they realize that you’re the missing piece from their research group, you’re halfway through the program. Maybe more.
- Why, out of all the other 50+ great university programs have you applied to this particular grad school. “Because they are in the top 20” isn’t a good reason. Everyone will use that; think about what’s unique about their program in your view. You want your SOP to stand out. Show them your genuine appreciation for their program through your unique voice.
- Through the course of your SOP, show that you have what it takes to join this grad program, show them how they would benefit from having you as their student. Talk to them about your future, once you graduate, and how that would benefit their program.