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Difference between SOP and Personal Statement

Updated on 09 November, 2023

Akansha Semwal

Akansha Semwal

Study Abroad Expert

Most reputed universities ask for a statement of purpose (SOP) or a personal statement. Although the Statement of Purpose and Personal Statement contain different information, the two are very alike. A student must know the difference between a personal statement and a statement of purpose if they plan to study overseas. It will help them to answer effectively according to the university’s requirements, which can increase your possibilities of selection into the university. Thus, a student should know the difference between the two before drafting one.



In the SOP (Statement of purpose), a student needs to tell the admission committee about their intention of pursuing a particular program and how they make the right fit for the program. It is indispensable to understand a student’s academic interests and evaluate their aptitude and preparation for graduate work, as well as their fit with the proposed program of study. It is also used to assess their ability to write convincing and coherent prose.

A well-written SOP could convince the admission officers to accept their applications. Additionally, to make an impeccable SOP, a student must include the following aspects:

1) Career goals

2) Academic excellence

3) Education background

4) Professional recognition

5)What is their purpose when applying for graduate study in a specified program? A student’s area(s) of interest, including any subfield(s) or interdisciplinary interests.

6) What experiences have prepared you for advanced study or research in this degree program? What skills have you gained from these experiences? 

7) Share essential past experiences that may aid the selection committee in examining a student’s preparation and aptitude. 

8) Long-term and short-term goals after acquiring the degree 

9) Why that particular country (for undergraduate students

Statement of Purpose (SOP) with respect to countries
SOP for AustraliaSOP for GermanySOP for Canada

Personal Statement

A personal statement is an opportunity for a student to mention additional details that may aid the selection committee in examining their aptitude and preparation for graduate study. In a personal statement, they need to explain why they are the right applicant for the particular course. In it, they need to prove their readiness for taking admission to particular courses. They need to demonstrate their enthusiasm for the field they are applying for.

A few details they need to add to their statement include

  1. Are their economic, personal, educational, cultural, or social experiences, not mentioned in their Statement of Purpose, that have shaped their academic journey? If so, elucidate. Have any of these experiences provided unique perspective(s) that they would contribute to their program, field or profession?
  2. How have their life experiences and educational background informed their understanding of the barriers facing groups that are underrepresented in higher education?
  3. Describe predicament(s) or barriers they have faced in pursuing higher education. What was their motivation to persist? And how did they surpass those challenges? Share the evidence of their progress. 
  4. How do they intend to engage in scholarly discourse, creative efforts, research, teaching, and/or community engagement during their graduate program that has the potential to advance diversity?

Understanding the Difference between SOP and Personal Statement

1) The statement of purpose is all about what you want to achieve in your career and is more focused on your academic/ professional qualities while the personal statement is about your present achievements and personal motivation that make you the right candidate for the program.   

2) The statement of purpose consists of educational excellence, career goals, and how well you fit in the program while the personal statement expresses your motives for applying for the specific programs and any other major challenge or accomplishment you have faced till now. 

3) The SOP is a forward-looking essay in which admission officers are keenly watching every detail you present to them related to future career plans and research goals. On the other hand, the personal statement is a reflection of your happenings which is more concerned with your prior studies.

4) SOP can be a two-page essay, a much more detailed version. While a personal document is usually a crisp and one-page essay.

Understanding the Key Similarities between SOP and Personal Statement

Although an SOP and a personal statement share a common goal, still, both essays dictate how meritorious a student is to get success in the program. In both essays, a student needs to carefully read all the directions, use a professional tone, be honest, and proofread many times. Both types of essays need to be written between 1-2 pages. Moreover, students should ensure to avoid cliches while writing both. 

SOP or Personal Statement: Which One to Write?

Choosing the right essay completely depends on the conditions of universities as some institutions would want you to write an SOP while others would instruct you to write a personal statement. Some global grad institutes ask for separate statements for admission while some combine the qualities of both essays and want applicants to write a comprehensive essay. For instance, a combination of SOP and personal statement is like talking about the academic and professional goals with a personal touch of successes and motivation. To find out which essay a student needs to write, check the website of the university, they will find the details on the program application requirements page. 

Course wise Statement of Purpose (SOP)
SOP for PhdSOP for Undergraduate
SOP for Business AnalyticsSOP for MS in electrical engineering
SOP for Data Science

Tips to write an impactful personal statement

Plan the structure:

Students should outline the structure before they start writing the personal statement. Write down their thoughts in an organized manner and ensure that the essay flows smoothly. 

Write their motivational instances:

They should specify the personal reasons that motivate them to apply for the particular program. Spend time checking what motivated them and to apply for the course specifically. 

Find unique qualities:

Students should talk to their friends and family members and ask them about their unique qualities. Sometimes, it is difficult to list down their strengths so it is better to ask their friends. Ask them if they remember any story and these situations will set you apart from other aspirants.

Tell about weakness or challenges that they succeeded in:

They can discuss their weaknesses or challenges that they overcame in recent years. They can talk about personal struggles they encountered during school or college. Despite any challenge, write a positive conclusion, in the end, that will tell the admission committee that they can tackle any challenge and get success in any field or situation.

Objectives of Personal Statement 

Let us look at some of the main objectives of a personal statement:

  • A student must demonstrate their writing skills personally when applying to a graduate program. Remember, their personal statement will help the authorities evaluate their nature and qualities as a person.
  • They must also discuss their career, personal, and educational goals clearly and answer general questions as laid down by the university’s admission committee.
  • They should gauge their analytical and critical thinking and their editing skills, writing, and general reasoning. Moreover, they need to share their work experience and educational qualifications.
  • Their writing must give an insight that will help the university’s admission committee to determine whether they are a good fit or not.

The personal Statement vs. Statement of purpose will give us a detailed understanding of both documents. It is important to understand their importance and topic of focus for best results.

Comparison: Personal Statement Vs. SOP

Difference between Statement of purpose and personal Statement:

 Statement of PurposePersonal Statement
PurposeA student have to show them that they fit well in the specific department they have chosen. They must focus on the qualifications and credentials.This will help the university’s admission committee have a better understanding. It will help them understand whether a student can blend in the cultural, social, and philosophical fabric. They must state their past experiences that will portray how it has shaped them as a person. 
RelevanceThe quality of this document will determine the possibility of rejection or selection.This document is necessary for students to apply for fellowships and scholarships.
How to writeSOP is more focused on the type of program a student wishes to pursue. They must write a detailed document on the subject.Students should foucs on the key areas of their past achievements that make them eligible for the couse. It is an additional document that would help them emphasis what makes them suitable for the role. 
FocusThis focuses on how eager a student is for the course and the contribution they will make to society after achieving the degree. They talk about their future aspirations.In the Personal Statement, they talk about their past experiences. And how it has shaped them to become a deserving candidate for this scholarship or admission.
Subjects to be coveredThey have to state their college education, relevant work, internship experience, additional training, an explanation of backlogs, research papers, future goals, and how they wish to accomplish higher education.They will have to mention their financial or cultural background, traditional attitude, international exposure, and own experiences. How they have learned other life values like perseverance, love, and hope for humanity and empathy through volunteering in social events. 

Personal Statement vs. SOP will help all new applicants to write them better and have a powerful impact on the admission committee of the universities.


Both SOP and personal statements are meant to influence the admission committee by presenting important information in the applicant’s words. The SOP is more formal, which highlights their academic or professional background, recognitions, realizations, future goals that tells if they are a worthy candidate for the program. In contrast, a personal statement is a document that focuses on their qualities as a person. Most grad courses require a personal statement or SOP or a combination of both, however there are some universities which require both.

For more information about writing an exceptional SOP, check out our other blogs. Leave your comments below!

Also Read:

Related Reads:
How to write an SOP for MIS with work experience?
SOP Samples for MS – Things to Include, Format & More

Frequently Asked Questions

What should you write in a personal statement?

A personal statement should act as a snippet of a student’ s past achievements and focus on their intent to pursue the course. Moreover, what more they can add to the field, once they complete the course. Now, let us look at the other elements that should be included or taken care of when drafting a personal statement:

  1. First of all, be yourself and focus on being as genuine as possible when writing a personal statement.
  2. Avoid using cliché statements to come across as real.
  3. Do not forget to proofread what you have written before sending it.
  4. You can use your personal experiences to create an impact and better your points of getting shortlisted. But do not make the whole document overly focused on your experiences alone.
  5. Use simple and easy-to-understand words. A student should be able to get their message across. 
  6. If a student is asked a question, they should answer it completely and confidently with specific examples and details. 
  7. Always write new unique experiences in your Statement for every college a student decides to apply to.

What is an example of a personal statement?

An ideal personal statement explains a student’s attributes as a deserving candidate for the institution. They must be able to explain in detail their past experiences and how it has helped them grow emotionally and mentally as a person. Human values are best learned through personal experiences, and thus it is important to show what values they hold to become a part of a specific social circle or community. For example, they can say, “I have attended various social awareness programs that discuss and work against sexual assault in society.” This experience has helped them understand the trauma a person goes through and how society reacts to it.

How do you write a personal statement?

Writing a personal statement that helps a student’s application stand out is not an easy job. Thus, one needs to focus on their reason for applying when writing a statement of purpose. They should elucidate intellectual & professional & research interest and the expertise they have gained. 

Did you find this article helpful?

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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