How to Write a Killer SOP – Part 3

Yashwant Kale Career Guidance, General Leave a Comment

In this article we shall present to you the things to avoid in your killer SOP, the general format and also some scientific thoughts and practices to follow to add that flair of magic to your essay. This is the third and final part of this installment and is divided into two parts. If you haven’t read the previous articles, you can do so by clicking here.

Things to Avoid When Writing a Statement of Purpose

1) Errors, misspellings, poor English
2) Submit a handwritten essay (unless requested)
3) “Talk down” to your audience. Your audience does not need to have basic terminology defined for them. Be mindful that they are already experts in the program that you are applying for.
4) Be too personal in your essay. Do not focus on deep personal problems or excuses for past performances or experiences.
5) Be repetitive or too general in your statements.
6) Criticize other school programs
7) Use uncommon words that look like they came from a thesaurus.
8) Write an autobiography. You want to give the committee a sense of who you are but they do not want to hear about your entire life story. Be specific and mindful of your personal details.
9) Submit untruthful or irrelevant information in your essay.
10) Plagiarism. You do not want to copy and submit another student’s letter of intent.
11) Be overly informal.

General Formatting for a Statement of Purpose

We encourage the following:
Maximum Page Length: 2 (do not exceed the limit)
1-inch Margins
Times New Roman 12 pt. Font (preferred)
Check with the department you are applying to for specific guidelines.

Some scientific tools to keep in mind when writing the SOP to make an impression on the admissions committee

– The SOP describes your “brain,” and the scientist you have become and will grow to be. You are now the scientist and any personal information should be related to your scientific approach and how you will enrich the scientific world. This is what the admissions committee look for.

– Your Research Is Your Purpose. Write about the research you are interested in and your experience in the field. Avoid Childhood, Kindergarten – High School trivia.
– Who Reads Your Application? Many students wonder this question. The answer is each department has its own review process. The faculty in-charge of admissions does this. They are your future community.
– Who Should Proofread Your Application? This is another question taunting students. You should consider the following persons: Advisors and Professors, Faculty letter writers, People from different disciplines. Remember the stronger they are, the stronger you are.

– Important Writing Strategies:
When you start writing, remember this – Trust Yourself & Dream! You are supposed to celebrate your work in your SOP!

– Be Free and open
Do not expect your first draft to be perfect. Keep writing, put it away for a few days, and edit later. This is the sutra for success. Also be forgiving about yourselves.

– The Format / Content. Remember:
• You must think of yourself as a scientist.
• Every paragraph should somehow be related to your research area, interest, experience and future.

– Metaphors / Themes to link ideas. Connect the dots. Let images that flow throughout your SOP.
• Steps to Success…The chemical structure of water…Themes…Linked Images…
Everything should be related to your interests and research.

– Personal Information. Should I write it or don’t?
Personal information should be minimized, if not eliminated, if not relevant to research. Also bear in mind not to compare the content of your SOP with that of your friends.

– Should I write about the deficiencies in my academics?
Limit the writing about extenuating Circumstances. Extenuating circumstances that may have resulted in less than ideal academic credentials for graduate school should be written in brief and also mention the steps you have to taken to cope up.

– What to Include – Weak vs. Strong
When writing about weaknesses always avoid excuses. Lame excuses such as – I had to work two jobs to support my family because my father was injured. My grades suffered. NOTE: Someone always has a more painful story.

– How to stop bragging and inspire?
I love science. I love to study it, to breathe it, to be it. Science is the foundation for all that we are. I have worked long hours pursuing my goal to become a Ph.D.
This is called the Yawn Effect and has no effect on the admissions committee. So, stop writing such lame sentences. Don’t tell the admissions committee you are passionate and a hard worker. Show them how you are and what you did. Actions speak volumes, mention such instances.

The next part is continued in our next article. You can read it here.

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