How Not to Write Statement of Purpose

Following tips was posted by Nitin at Sample Statement of Purpose

I just checked out the CS SOP, IMHO its a guide to how not to write an SOP!

SOP is meant to be nothing but the statement of purpose, the purpose of why you are interested in the program offered by the university!

Ideally, the SOPs should be as short as possible (some winning SOPs for law schools are as short as three paragraphs, three lines each paragraph)

How Not to Write SOP

I’d rather not say how to write an SOP, but here are my how to “not” write an SOP hitlist:

  • DONT keep a goal of 2/3 pages of SOP. This often leads to junk getting filled into a an awesome SOP (I did this, and I regret doing it after seeing some real good short and sweet SOPs)
  • DONT try to be melodramatic in any way. No emotional statements/atyaachaar. Most students from India (like me) have a habit of painting a rosy picture, but, think of SOP as a sketch or a wireframe (but not a photograph) that tells the reviewer what your intent is. It should not tell anything other than that (I did it, by almost writing a melodramatic story of a kid from a village aiming high in the sky ;)
  • DONT use rare/exotic words, or DONT go looking into the thesaurus to add intelligent (sounding) words to the SOP that make you “sound” sophisticated. It is one sure shot way of letting the reader know that you are faking it (I used something like “for your perusal”, which was the first time I had ever heard of that word!)
  • DONT go to a consultant for SOPs. YOU can write the best SOP for yourself.

Here are some DOs that I’d suggest:

  • DO mention how your qualifications are well suited, or how you got interested into the program you are applying for
  • DO research the courses offered by the university for the program that you have applied for, after which, you can mention how certain courses being offered by the university are in line with your goals of learning. Although no one expects you to know your future, you can convey how you and the university can help you reach your goal.
  • DO (YOU MUST) use correct english, with no spelling/grammatical mistakes. Consultants who take Rs 15K or Rs 30K need not be the ones with the best english capabilities. Just find a person who can fix all your mistakes, get your version read by any/every person you trust.
  • DO keep it short and simple
  • There’s no reason to have multi page resumes, and the same holds true with SOPs and Cover letters. Even though I had people telling me most of these points, I found it hard to accept these suggestions.
  • Wish I could catch hold of my own SOP (which was much worse than the one posted here) so that I could show it to prospective applicants and tell them how “not” to write an SOP!

PS: If you are wondering why I am so bothered to write such a long comment: I got 10 rejects out of the 11 univs that I applied for, and I can certainly say that my Rosy/TypicalIndianStudent SOP/Essay was among the main reasons to get these rejects. I did everything I have listed in the DONT section, and yet I managed to get into that one university. I lucked out.

Above tips was posted as comments by Nitin (check out his personal blog)

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  1. GREAT, even i got cal from 2 universities,,, got rejection from 5
    I havent used any difficult words in SOP. my frnd did this mistake,,, even though her GRE n TOEFL score was higher than me, still she got rejections from all universities.
    PS- we applied to same universities for same subject.

  2. Doubt of the Century ;)!!!
    What if we want to apply for “n” Universities… We cannot use the same SOP for those “n” universities… The course structure differs from university to university.
    Want some sample Resume’s!!! My Resume is 2 pages :'(
    A tip for everyone. Take it or not. I have registered for OUCIP. 😀 An organisation which is controlled by the US Consulate. There was a seminar on SOP editing.
    The best tip I’ve liked is-
    “Precisely write your SOP to 450 words! Not more than that!
    and other one is, always write an interesting story, not an emotional one :P”

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