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How to write an SOP
Gayathri Gopakumar

Meet Gayathri - a Content Editor at Hotcourses India- an IDP company. A once-international student herself- she loves to research & give insights into the world of global education through her writing. When she isn’t working, you'll find her playing, travelling or binge-watching just about anything.


28 Feb 2021 111K Book icon 5 mins Share

How to write a convincing SOP for studying in universities abroad

Writing an SOP is one of the arduous tasks dreaded by students planning to study abroad. Let’s make it easier for you. Here are our exclusive guidelines on structuring the statement of purpose.

28 Feb 2021 111K Book icon 5 mins Share
How to write an SOP

Did you know that your SOP (statement of purpose) could be the gateway to your dreams? Having a few hiccups with your SOP writing? Have you been surfing the internet for tips on how to write an SOP? You’re in the right place! With our services and guidance, you can pen that perfect SOP. When in doubt, you have our experts to reach out to.

What is an SOP?

A statement of purpose — popularly known as an SOP — is an integral part of your international admissions process. While your academic certifications quantify your credentials, an SOP gives universities a glimpse into your personality and helps them gauge your interests and strengths. Basically, it’s your chance to convince them to accept your application.

Now, there are different ways to go about writing an SOP – primarily because the process varies with the country you choose to study in. For example, Australian and New Zealand universities require your SOP only during the visa process, while UK, USA and Canadian universities require it during the admission stage.

Regardless of what your study destination is, we have experts to guide you on how to write an SOP.

*We have some SOP samples and must-know guidelines for you – so stick around till the end.

The art of writing an SOP

Remember, when you apply for a specific programme in a particular international university, you’re competing against thousands of other talented students from all around the world. In order to be successful, you need to stand apart from the rest. This is exactly what you do in your SOP.

Besides SOP, letters of recommendation (LOR) from your lecturers/reporting managers also play an important part. There have been numerous cases where applicants with good academic scores and glowing recommendation letters were rejected by the institution, owing to a poorly written SOP. So drafting an SOP calls for extra care and effort — it could make all the difference to your admission status. We advise students on what factors to consider while writing a strong SOP.

10 quick tips to help you write an SOP

  1. Write a couple of drafts, read, edit and then work on the final SOP
  2. Explain your academic credentials
  3. Reason out why you chose this programme. In particular, why you choose that country and university
  4. Give demonstrative examples of academic brilliance or professional competence, instead of making vague statements
  5. Paint a clear picture of your aim and your aspiration
  6. State your career plans for the future – be it higher studies or a job
  7. Stick to the word count specified by the university. Never exceed - more is not better here. Choose a readable font type and size.
  8. Understand the do’s and don’ts of writing an SOP. Use simple and clear language; do not over-complicate the SOP
  9. Do not be repetitive
  10. Be sure to do a spell-check

Do check out more tips for writing an effective SOP.

Guidelines on how to write an SOP

What are the points to be included in an SOP?

You might be confused as to what can be included in an SOP and what cannot. It would be good to reflect on the different activities that you were part of, during the school or college days and then analyse whether to include those in your SOP. Here are some points that you can and should include in your SOP:

  1. Purpose of choosing this programme
  2. Your family background – only if it influenced your academic/career plans
  3. Brief academic background - schooling/undergraduate study, distinctive academics/extracurricular achievements
  4. All relevant industry visits, internships, projects, workshops, dissertations taken up during your period of study. If possible, try linking them to the programme that you’re applying for.
  5. Connect relevant work experience (if any) with the proposed programme of study and include awards/achievements at work (if any).
  6. Community service, charity work, interests, social clubs, hobbies, sports, etc.
  7. If your education will help run your family business better, be sure to emphasise on the scope and application of the programme knowledge on the family business.
  8. Your career plans for the future with respect to the programme and after graduation. Additionally, explain why an overseas education will help you achieve your short term and long-term career goals.
  9. Justify the choice of your university/country
  10. Conclusion

How should you structure your SOP?

There are several crucial points of information which explain how to structure your SOP - right from an impressive introduction to an effective background and a promising conclusion.

  • Begin the SOP with an anecdote (meaning an instance/example) on what motivated you to pursue further studies in this particular subject.
  • Mention your source of inspiration or an incident or a story related to it. In order to achieve this, you’ll have to go back in your memory to an important event or a personal experience that influenced your academic or career choices. Select a suitable story which is significant to the theme of your programme.
  • Provide a background to what you learnt at college – through practical experiences and projects that show your competence in the subjects. Explain how all of that motivated you to take up advanced study in that field.
  • The SOP should include details on the purpose behind pursuing further education in this particular subject at this point in time. Mention a research area or a topic of specialisation of your interest (if any).
  • Talk about the skills you would like to develop through this programme and how pursuing this programme will help you accomplish your career goals.
  • Mention your short-term career goal. Elaborate on your plans right after completing your programme; the kind of work profile you’d like to take up; the type of company; and industry you plan to be involved in.
  • Mention your specific long-term goal. Elaborate on your career plans 10-15 years from now; and how you plan to contribute to the industry then. You must be very specific as the SOP is all about providing specific information.
  • Explain the reason behind choosing this particular country over your home country or any other international destination.
  • Explain the reason behind choosing this particular university. Mention the distinctive features of the university that fit your requirements. State the name of the faculty that offers this programme and their research areas (if applicable). Talk about how the university’s research centres/labs, events, clubs and subject areas/electives align with your study goals. Make sure to thoroughly research the university website to produce these details.
  • Elaborate in a paragraph about your volunteer work, community service or any extracurricular activities; and explain how these experiences have helped you grow. You can also explain how you would be able to contribute to the university’s student organisation.
  • Conclusion – Warp up the SOP with 2-3 lines of conclusion.

We thought you should have quick access to it anytime. So here is our downloadable *SOP guidelines document- free of cost and just a click away. We also have a few *sample SOPs for your reference. We also have a complete guide on writing SOP where we elaborate on the above points.

ATTENTION: Universities are very serious when it comes to checking for plagiarism in SOPs. They usually have a specific plagiarism checker to spot copied content. So do NOT PLAGIARISE! Instead if you need help, come to us. We have an expert editor to support you and guide you with your SOP needs.

To conclude, remember that you need to sell yourself through your SOP – pitch your strengths and explain how you’ll be an asset to the university. Explain how this programme is in line with your career aspirations and interests and establish why you chose not to do the same programme in India or any other country.

LOR Assistance

Besides the SOP, letters of recommendation (LOR) from your lecturers/reporting managers also play a crucial role. We advise students on what factors to ask their professors or managers to include to help them nail a winning LOR.

The SOP and LOR both help paint a personalised picture of you to universities- the kind of edge you need to outshine your competition from thousands of students from around the world. If you need help on these, reach out to us. Our services are personalised – we offer tailored guidelines and specific instructions on what to include - based on your academic profile and destination of study. All the best for your study abroad journey!

Looking to study abroad?

Siddharth Singh Siddharth Singh,
IDP Expert
We can help you. Request a call from us and get FREE advice to study abroad.