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Tips for Writing a Powerful Statement of Purpose (SOP)

Updated on 11 February, 2024

Akansha Semwal

Akansha Semwal

Study Abroad Expert

A Statement of Purpose (SOP) can be defined as an essay introducing the applicant and portraying their intent. It is an integral part of the application process for further education abroad. 

What Should Statement of Purpose Include

An SOP usually comprises a crisp but comprehensive discussion Engaging introduction 

  1. Personal background
  2. Financial background (if specifically asked by the university)
  3. Academic details
  4. Published works/papers submitted, if any (should be present when applying for master’s thesis or PhD)
  5. Professional experience (full/part-time, voluntary)
  6. Participation in extracurricular activities 
  7. Reason(s) for choosing the course
  8. Immediate and long-term goals
  9. Reason(s) for choosing the university
  10. Reason(s) for choosing the particular country
  11. Concluding paragraph

Note: Foreign universities expect applicants to highlight their interests and ensure that factually correct information is added. 

Getting admission into a prestigious university will impact your future, and writing an impactful SOP is the first step in that process. Moreover, putting time and effort into your SOP to generate satisfactory results is crucial. 

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Lean on the best practices to create an impressive SOP.  For writing a perfect SOP, there are multiple formats you can follow. Some of the commonly used formats have been mentioned below:


Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: Academic background

Paragraph 3: Career aspirations and prospects

Paragraph 4: Reason for choosing the specific course, university and country

Paragraph  5: Conclusion

This is the most basic format, which divides the SOP into five parts. Each part should mention only relevant information regarding the applicant’s background and intentions. Usually, such formats work for graduate programs where applicants just step out of school. Applicants looking to apply for master’s or doctorate programs must follow a more comprehensive format to intrigue their readers. The following structure will provide a better idea of writing an SOP for post-graduation or PhD programs.

Note: The SOPs are written in paragraph formats to maintain a sense of fluidity and wholeness throughout the essay. Maintaining coherence is vital when writing an SOP. Usually, an SOP is between 800 and 1000 words, requiring you to be direct and relevant.


Paragraph 1: Introduction and personal background

Paragraph 2: Academic background and professional experiences

Paragraph 3: Achievements and extracurricular activities

Paragraph 4: Future prospects and goals 

Paragraph 5: Reason(s) for choosing the specific course, university and country

Paragraph 6: Conclusion

This particular format allows you to be even more descriptive with your approach and include more about professional experiences and achievements. This will give the universities a better understanding of your abilities and qualities. Many colleges expect even more from an SOP to understand the applicant’s intentions regarding the course, university and prospects. It helps to delve deeper into the applicant’s ideologies, abilities, and personality.

Recommended Reads:

SOP for AustraliaSOP for GermanySOP for Canada
SOP for UK  

What do Universities Expect from SOP

If an applicant has a specific university in their mind, then they should mold their generic SOP as per the requirements of that university. 

The universities seek to assess the candidate’s writing ability.

  • The academic background and performance of the candidate are important factors to consider when selecting candidates. An impressive academic performance plays a big role in your selection.
  • Universities want to understand the candidate’s ambitions, career goals, and prospects clearly.
  • The applicant’s compelling reasons for enrolling in the university and studying in that country is vital for the admissions committee. 
  • Universities look to recognize and analyze applicants’ thought processes by understanding their portrayal of ideas.
  • Universities strive to discern the applicant’s x-factor that distinguishes the candidate from the competition. 

Guaranteed SOP Acceptance. Get free Counselling

Recommended Reads:

SOP for logistics and supply chain managementSOP for hospitality managementSOP Samples for MS
SOP for Civil EngineeringMechanical Engineering SOPLOR for PhD
Letter of Recommendation (LOR) for MBALOR for MS in Mechanical EngineeringLOR for MS in Computer Science
Common Mistakes to Avoid in a LORLOR SamplesSOP for Data Science

11 SOP Writing Tips and Guidelines

The guidance provided in this section can be considered as tips for writing SOP for MS, MA, MBA, PhD and other graduate courses.

  1. Provide only relevant information: Staying to the point while writing an SOP is extremely crucial. Comprehensive descriptions of your intentions, inspirations, and reasons for choosing the course and university need to be included to create the right impression.
  2. Check for the university’s guidelines: Adhere to the university’s SOP word limit and format guidelines. 
  3. Formal tone: Ensure you do not use a conversational tone, as it might be considered inadequate. A formal tone will keep the focus on the goal and portray a sincere attitude.
  4. Engaging SOP: Personal experiences and anecdotes can help make the SOP more engaging. It is an important requirement while writing an SOP. The impact of such experiences will convey a deeper understanding of your personality and abilities. 
  5. Keep it succinct: Usually, it is advised to avoid writing extremely long SOPs. Long SOPs tend to drift off-topic. It is important to clearly state your ideas and prioritize matters that will make a difference. Many universities provide specifications for the SOP regarding word limit, font, font size, formatting, and more.
  6. Be Honest: Providing false facts and lying on your SOP can have a detrimental impact on your final assessment. Under no circumstances should you resort to unfair means to boost your image. It may lead to disqualification or getting blacklisted from the university. Getting blacklisted may invariably impact your chances of gaining admission elsewhere.
  7. Proofread: Finally, before submitting your essay to the university, it is of utmost importance to proofread the SOP several times. Allowing others to review your essay and receive constructive input is a practical way to ensure the SOP’s quality and standard. Spelling and grammatical composition must be given top priority. Any mistakes within the SOP will generate adversities within your selection process.
  8. Use Active Tone: It is important to portray confidence as it bodes well with the admissions committee. Using an active tone is a good way to make your case. A passive tone may create the wrong idea about your personality. Mentioned below are some pointers showing how to maintain a confident tone:
  • Ending sentences like “passionately interested in the subject”.
  • Using words like ‘intelligent, practical, capable, logical, team player, innovator’, etc.

9. Focus on Your Strengths: By mentioning how you were academically and professionally well prepared. Also, talk about overcoming the challenges you faced in school or college. Do not provide achievements of a significant standard, illustrating your potential and capabilities.

10. SOP should reflect your holistic growth: Talk about your extracurricular involvement and achievements, which explain your personality and interests.

11. Write, Rewrite & Edit: Writing an impressive SOP would require multiple edits.  Try and get as much help as possible while writing your SOP. You can approach your professors to guide you through your SOP and provide feedback.


What should be included in my Statement of Purpose (SOP) for a study abroad application?

Your SOP should include information about your academic background, relevant experiences, career goals, and why you're interested in the specific program or university. Be sure to highlight your strengths and unique qualities, demonstrating a strong alignment between your aspirations and the goals of the program.

How long should my Statement of Purpose (SOP) be, and are there any specific formatting guidelines to follow?

The length of an SOP can vary, but it's generally recommended to be concise while providing sufficient detail. Check the application guidelines for any specified word or page limits. Additionally, follow any formatting instructions provided by the institution, such as font size, spacing, and file format, to ensure your SOP meets the application requirements.

What are the dos and don'ts when writing a Statement of Purpose (SOP) for studying abroad?

Do focus on your academic and professional journey, express genuine enthusiasm for the chosen program, and tailor your SOP for each application. Don't include irrelevant information, clichés, or submit a generic SOP. Avoid plagiarism, be honest, and proofread thoroughly to ensure clarity and coherence in your writing.

Akansha Semwal

Study Abroad Expert

Akansha Semwal is a content marketer at upGrad and has also worked as a social media marketer & sub-editor. Experienced in creating impressive Statement of Purpose, Essays, and LOR, she knows how to captivate the attention of Admissions Committee. Her research-driven;study-abroad articles helps aspirants to make the prudent decision. She holds a bachelor's & master's degree in Literature from the University of Delhi.

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