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10 Steps for writing a persuasive SOP

The application procedure for applying to different universities is simple, as long as you do it right. It doesn’t matter if you are applying for studies in Germany, USA, Australia, Canada or just any other country in the world, to assess your application, most often than not the universities ask for a Statement of Purpose. Some students also address SOP as Letter of Motivation, but these two are separate things. The difference between these two will be explained in another post but for now, without wasting any time, let’s take you to the 10 steps that you absolutely need to take care of, if you want your application to successfully get you an admit rather than making it land in a trash bin!

Step 1: Who are you?

If you would be reviewing the same number of applications that the professors review everyday, you will even stop caring that these letters in your hand are telling a story. The reason, the professors or the admission committee get so used to this is because most of the times, students find a sample SOP online, copy paste everything and don’t really understand that this is not something that you should be taking so lightly. This is not something you can copy and paste and edit a bit to add in your details.

This is the chance for you to tell a story. This is a chance for you to tell YOUR story. That’s what the professors are interested in, that’s what the admission committee is interested in. They want to get to know you as a person and this is your absolute chance to bring you out as person and let them to meet you through a paper. Take some time and think, why you are applying to this university, what motivated you and what was the important events or experiences that you had in your live, which turned you towards this university.

Step 2: The Impressive 'Firsts'

We call this rule the Impressive ‘Firsts’ because this is what kicks the professor out of his normal routine of reading the same kinds of openings. To make a good starting paragraph of 5-6 lines is very important, otherwise it will be hard for a professor or an admission committee to give you the same amount of attention and consideration as they gave to the first application they picked up this morning at 9.00 am. Remember an interesting story or an event that happened in your life which was influential in shaping your academic life or professional life with a small hint of why they (university) should be concerned with it.

Step 3: Tell Them Your Story

This is your chance to tell them your story and let them decide, if you really want to be in the university and work hard during the studies. Write about the events which changed your perception of how you thought about a specific thing in the field you studied in your Bachelors. If you are applying or computer science, screwing up your computer just because your curiosity of how it works is not a bad idea. If you are a civil engineer and you got the motivation of studying this from playing bridge games online, don’t hesitate to mention it either. What should be checked is, the degree of freedom of speech you are taking. Don’t write like you are talking to your buddy, but also don’t write like you are writing to the Vice Chancellor. 

Step 4: From School to University

Once you have told your story about the relevant things that you have done in school, move towards why you chose to study the course that you did in your Bachelors. This is a very important paragraph to start building your flow and start hinting towards the university that you are applying to.

Step 5: Extracurricular Activities

Never underestimate the pinch of taste some extra curricular activities can bring to your SOP. If you are applying to the university, everybody knows that you studied before but they also want to know, how you are as a human being? Do you play some sports? Were you a part of a charity or an NGO? Have sincerely pursued your passion of playing a guitar and showed it off in a music band or did you tried your hands in arts? All of these are very interesting things that professors would love to hear about BUT don’t make it too long. Always keep in mind that you are writing it for academic purposes.

Step 6: Everyone has a Degree

Even though extracurricular activities are appreciated, emphasis should be put towards the practical problem solving experiences that you had because of your studies in Bachelors. It could be a project that you did in the university under a professor or it could be an app that you build to test your skills, mention everything that has a technical orientation and was relevant to your studies. This is something that makes you stand out from others. Everyone has a degree but what extra do you have that others don’t? What makes you feel proud about yourself for taking the decision of studying your Bachelors in your old university?

Step 7: How did you find out the University?

The professors are not interested or are looking forward to you telling them ‘HOW’ you found out the university. What they want to know about is a bit of a background on how did you hear about the university and what was your experience when you then went and did your own research about the university and the things that you found out!

Step 8: What exactly interests you in the University?

Everybody can write ‘Why I want to join blah blah university is because it is one of the most reputed universities in the world in the field of blah blah field’. NO! This is something they read every single day and they are not concerned about it at all!
Go to the Institute’s website to which you want to apply to and read about the researches and projects that are going on right now. By reading we are not referring to you just reading the headlines, we actually want you to go and read about the separate researches and see what’s inside it. It is possible that you don’t understand what’s going on in the research but you will definitely get a good idea about which field it is related to and now, you have one more impressive thing, one extra bit of effort that you put inside and others didn’t, which will bring you further in the application process. Mentioning the name of professors and the researches that impressed you is not a bad idea at all. 

Step 9: Ending

Ever seen a movie where you were actually expecting a good ending but all you received was a blunt cut without any closure? Remember how ‘genervt’ you felt? Don’t let this happen to your own story. After going through all the points stated above, start landing down on the runway. Keep the transition from you telling them about what interests you about their university to why they should choose you, very fluid and seamless. Don’t forget to write in the end that you are looking forward to stay associated with the university for a long time. This leaves your story at a positive note and will show that you are an optimistic person, but you also put enough efforts inside to do what you say.

Step 10: Language and Tone

Throughout your story, be careful that this is still an academic text that you are sending to your future university. For the same reasons, try to avoid disrespectful tone. Be humble but be confident. A pinch of lighthearted phrase, experience or incidents are also not always a bad idea. 
Once you are done with writing the draft, keep going it over and over again until you confident to let it fall in the hands of the professor who is going to decide if this Statement of Purpose was good enough to make him let you in.