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How to write a winning SOP

By Rituparna Roy Chowdhury
October 03, 2005 12:51 IST
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The first application deadline for admission to the Fall 2006 session of various universities abroad is drawing closer. This makes it essential that you start framing the most important component of your application -- your essay and Statement Of Purpose.

There are usually two or three deadlines before which you have to apply for admission; the first deadline runs between November 15 and December 1 and the last dates extend even up to March.

You must stick to the first deadline if the university of your choice offers two options, or you must submit your application within the first two cut-off dates, if there are three such deadlines. This is because your chances of acceptance by the university are almost negligible if you depend on the last submission date. So hurry up!

3 common mistakes

i. Using flowery language

Your essay/ statement of purpose is primarily meant to help the university get an insight into your personal and professional traits and your degree of flexibility in adjusting to varied circumstances.

Unfortunately, many applicants use flowery language in an attempt to impress the admissions committee. They don't realise that, in the process, they could be missing out on their strengths.

ii. Writing general essays

No matter how well composed it is, your essay must have a personal touch if it is to make a mark. Else, it will not allow the admissions committee to really know you and you could lose out.

iii. Failing to depict one's vision

Candidates often fail to say how/ where they would like to see themselves in the future, which makes it appear as if they lack a vision in life.

This seeming failure does not work in the candidate's favour as far as the selection committee is concerned.

10 winning mantras

i. Portraying the best picture

The secret of an excellent SOP is how convincingly you are able to portray yourself before the university's admissions committee.

ii Who are you?

The primary purpose of an essay is not to test your writing ability, but to find out who you are. Therefore, you should try to make it as personal as possible by using incidents from your life to illustrate a point instead of drawing general conclusions.

iii. Depicting your strengths

Vividly express your strengths by showing how you have overcome stiff hurdles in the past or outgrown your restricted circumstances.

iv. Moving up from the grassroots

If you can show you have risen from the grassroot levels, it would prove you are capable of dealing with hurdles and adjusting to new lifestyles and work processes.

Again, if you can recall past incidents that show the flexibility with which you approach any situation and how you have adapted to varied circumstances, it would demonstrate how you could outscore others.

v. Passion for your subject

Your extreme sense of oneness with your area of study should reflect overwhelmingly in your SOP and essay. The dreams you have woven, with respect to your area of study, should be evident. 

The degree of love and passion you have for your subject is directly proportional to your future success potential.

vi. Leadership attributes

Your ability to inspire others and be their guiding force should project you as a leader who is both far-sighted and visionary, which makes you unique from the rest. Always include incidents where you donned the mantle of the leader to show others a new path.


One's association with designing new projects is the best way to portray your progressive inclinations. Therefore, describe the various projects you had undertaken in the past. Don't forget to include the 
relevant technical details.

This will help you demonstrate your drive for creating the new, instead of following the new. You must also include projects associated with your intended area of study, otherwise the purpose of mentioning projects you have been involved with loses much of its significance.
viii. Non-bookish abstract learner

Try to show you are not bookish; attribute your academic success to intuition, correlating various phenomena and using general intelligence by perceiving things in abstraction and totality rather than by studying for hours.

Indicate that you believe one can learn academically, but things have to be perceived in abstraction if one wants to excel. 

ix. Not just a degree, but a goal

Create the impression that your intention behind studying further is not just the degree or the University tag. It is primarily because you have an extremely innovative bent of mind and are determined to contribute something new to society by utilising the opportunity of learning.

For instance, think of a problem that plagues your domain of study and come up with a suggestion as how to solve it.

x. Show your orientation towards research

This will go in your favour because it will prove you really have a research-oriented mindset.

For instance, you are opting for an MS in Networking, and clogging of networks is the biggest problem facing the industry, you could come up with a suggestion as to which method of research holds promise when it comes to finding a solution to this problem.


Rituparna Roy Chowdhury specialises in helping aspiring students frame essays/ SOPs and edits thesis for PhD students, conveying their themes with better communication skills. He can be contacted at

Next: A model Statement of Purpose

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Rituparna Roy Chowdhury