SoP: The Structure

An SoP should be your mouthpiece, that should look like your CV, but should also talk about your interest and career plans after completing the course. It is important to understand that when the university is reading your SoP, they are essentially browsing through your personal, academic, social, and professional profile. Therefore, your statement should be capable enough to make a good impression on all fronts.

Here is a general structure of a Statement of Purpose that you should follow.

Although writing your own statement is not easy, it is not the most difficult thing to do as well. What you need to understand is that your SoP should address the following major points:

  1. Why do you want to pursue the course
  2. Why do you choose this university
  3. What are your long-term goals and how does the course help
  4. What are your related achievements/what makes you stand out from the rest

Once you have these questions addressed, then you can easily create a structure that blends all of these points in the most impressive way. Let us proceed to understanding the general structure of our Statement of Purpose.

The Beginning

You should start by answering the simplest question that the university would want to ask you on your application: “why do you want to pursue this course?”

Now, there are several ways that you can answer this. You can start by saying, “I want to pursue this course because I like it…” or “Since I am passionate about the course, I have always had a desire to pursue it from…”. Although these statements do the job of answering the question in consideration, they do not come off as unique and impressive. Therefore, you need to take an alternative path here. Ask yourself why indeed do you want to pursue the course? What are your motivations behind it? Are you passionate about it? Do you have a specific career goal in mind?

Think about your own reasons of pursuing the course, and that is where you will find the answer to this question. Once you do have a clarity on that, you can simply go on and say, “My fascination for this course knows no bounds. I remember doing this tiny project in school/college where I first came in contact with this discipline. Ever since then, I have been wanting to explore further into the _____.” It would be helpful if you actually get into the detail of the specifics of the subject.

For instance, if you were to pursue History, then I would encourage you to write certain aspects of history that have always caught your attention. So, if you happen to like the Russian Revolution, then you can simply write, “I remember reading about Russian Revolution when I was an impressionable kid of 17. Ever since then I have been attracted to understanding the history behind that and several other revolutions. I believe that it is those revolutions that have grown birth to the contemporary ideologies…”

The idea is simple. You show that you are passionate about the subject. You relate that passion with a project you undertook in the past. You show that that project sparked interest. You reveal the inherent connection between you and the subject.

Does it have to be philosophical?

No, in fact, it needs to be realistic. The only reason why I am saying that you should show that you are passionate about the subject is because it does make an impression. You might want to do a subject like Finances, or Law, and might think, “How can I be passionate about that?” But then in that case I will tell you that you do not have to be extremely wedded to your subject. But you do need to show that there is something specific in that subject that sparks your interest deeply. Because, remember, there are thousands of students out there who really wish to pursue that subject.

Throw in your past achievements and/or career goals

It is your past achievements that have ignited the flame of desire for the course. Or, it is your ultimate goal that has guided you to take up this course. Or, it is both these cases at once. You need to show in your statement that you have an underlying motive behind your decision of further education. And what is that underlying motive? It could be anything. Perhaps you want to start a business in that sector, or want to take up a career in academics, or perhaps want to help other people by gaining that additional skills. It could be anything under the sun.

What if you don’t have a rigid plan of what you want to do in mind? What if you are deeply passionate about pursuing the course but still haven’t decided exactly what you are going to do in the future?

It is completely fine in either case. You do not need to have a million-dollar plan of action ready that you need to present in your SoP. In fact, you can even say that “I am confused in deciding between either of these two career choices:___. But I am hoping that informed conversations with Professor ___ will help me in finding the right path for myself.” As long as you are able to show the confusion that you have, as well as, show what steps you have decided to overcome that, you will make a good impression.

Have a story

Just imagine if you were taking interviews for positions at your companies. How would you react to an interviewee saying, “My name is___. I am very good at _____. I am still improving at____. I am the perfect fit for your company.” If there are ten interviewees who give their interview in this manner, you would probably feel bored after sometime, right?

The same goes for the university. The person who is reading your statement is probably reading hundreds of other statements as well. And, if your statement does not have a story, is quite boring, monotonous. you are more likely going to lose their attention. Therefore, ensure that your beginning has an interesting story.

For instance, you can say that…”While conducting this experiment at my science lab when I was 16 years old, I wasn’t wearing the surgical gloves and…” Even if it is the simplest of the stories, it is good to put it out there in the first paragraph. The reader will then know that you have put in some effort in your SoP.

But what if you are not creative and cannot write something interesting or funny? You do not have to be creative. You have to be yourself. Remember that there are much better applicants than you are at any given time. Therefore, the more you try to fake it, the more you will fail. Just be yourself, and try to write your statement the best you can. Make it as interesting and fun to read as you can. Don’t overstep.

For instance, in my case, I couldn’t write a funny SoP. In fact, my statement was probably one of the most statements that you would read. However, I did have a story of my growing passion for literature, and how deeply I was influenced by it.

Your Long-Term Goals

This is the most crucial aspect of your statement’s first paragraph. Although everyone has different ways of approaching this, I believe that you should very briefly yet specifically describe your long-term goals within the first paragraph. This just gives the impression that you have a specific long-term goal in mind.

For instance, if I were to write my SoP, I would write that “I believe this Master’s will help me move one step closer to my long-term goal of being an academic in Renaissance Literature and understanding the literary myths behind the writings of…” I would present a very specific goal in my statement, which is to uncover the literary myths of certain writers of the Renaissance. This would give the impression that I have a plan after completing the course as well.

Now, since the immigration side of things have now changed, you do not have to worry about writing how you wish to come back to India after finishing your course. In fact, you can simply write, “My research has revealed that after getting a degree from your university, I would be able to apply for jobs in ____ sector with high-level roles. This is what I have set my eyes on.”

You do not need to expand on this here.

The Middle

This is the backbone of your statement. Everything that you have touched upon in the beginning paragraph needs to be explained in the middle. Additionally, you also need to add what are your related achievements, and more specifically, what are the key aspects of the subject that motivate you the most. I understand that this can be a little daunting to write, especially when someone is not very good at expanding their points.

Treat this like a junction between the Beginning and the Conclusion of your statement.

Your passion for the course

You talked about your passion for the course in the Beginning. Now is the time to expand on that. Talk about the first project that you took in that course/field, or perhaps about the first time you encountered a book where you read something interesting about it. For instance, when I was writing my SoP, I talked about how reading Indian literature during my first year at Delhi University gave me an entirely new perspective on how I treated literature. Sooner, I simply felt a stronger connection towards the subject as and when I read and discovered more. Therefore, it was a combination of all of that which kind of helped me cement my understanding in literature.

So, you need to talk about similar things. You dont need to have a story about how you “magically” arrived at the subject, or how you suddenly felt a stronger leaning towards it. In fact, you just need to pick up a significant aspect of your own life where you felt a stronger connection with the subject. It does not have to be anything crazy, dramatic or magical. It just need to make sense.

Your related achievements

Continue on with the achievements that you talked about in the Beginning of the statement. Talk about any major achievements.

Now, there are essentially two types of achievements that you can talk about: awards and personal accomplishments. I was never awarded with outstanding marks, or for that matter with any certificate in anything. Yes, I was the president of the creative writing society of my college, but beyond that I was nothing more. I had never scored anything above 70% in any of the subjects that I pursued in literature. But, still, I was audacious enough to put forth my love for the subject.

My personal accomplishment in the subject was me experimenting with various forms/types of literature. That itself was definitive proof of a) my love for the subject, and b) my personal accomplishments. I may not have been rewarded for it, but still, I was proud of what I had done. And I put forward that as an achievement, or a step forward.

What I am saying here is that you do not need to have been awarded prestigious certificates or trophies in order to put forth your own accomplishments in the subject. It all depends on how you treat your own accomplishments and how you present them.

However, if you do have those shiny trophies or certificates, this is the time to flaunt them.

Your Career Goals

Your career goals are what set you apart as a student. What you plan on doing after finishing the course speaks loads about how consciously you are making the decision of pursuing the course. There are all types of students who would be sending their applications to universities. There would be people who would simply “wish” to do the course, and then there would be people who would know why exactly they want to do it. You are not supposed to have everything figured out when you are sending your application, however it is advisable that you fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

In this case, I would be more than happy to present my own example. When I was writing my SoP, I simply had no idea what I wanted to do after completing my Master’s. In fact, I was one of those people who was going to the UK because I had a passionate desire to study literature from London. But, I did not let that confusion out into the SoP. In fact, I simply mentioned that I planned to come back to India after completing the course and taking up teaching at universities. Since I had talked extensively about my passion for the subject, it was quite easy for me to make the point that “I know what I am doing”.

What I am saying here is that you don’t necessarily need to know everything about your future. You might take a completely different direction after you have completed the course. And, it is completely fine to not have a proper career path. But, ensure that your SoP reflects that you have already planned a basic career path. Therefore, if you say that, “Although I am still exploring my options, I do plan to apply for jobs in this sector. I have been doing my research for jobs in this area and have figured that I am the perfect fit for jobs like ______…”

If you are able to provide that well-researched information about your career plans, your SoP will stand out.

Remember, be extremely specific about your career goals. Avoid statements like, “I might pursue this…” or “I am thinking this would be a good option…” Rather, you should use statements like, “I am quite convinced that a job at _____ would be a good career option. However I do plan to take advice from my professors at the university.”

This is just to ensure that your statement reveals that you have arrived at the decision post conducting some research. If you do research and then write something, it makes more sense than writing it without one.

Why did you choose this university

This, again, is a crucial aspect. You need to show that you are perfectly fit for the university. This is where your passion for the course and your related achievements will come in handy. Remember that the university is looking at thousands of students with each having something special of their own. Therefore. in order to stand out, you should invoke your achievements and passion to make a point that you are a unique student.

For instance, I specifically wrote about my own passion for the course, along with my unique perspective on how I treat literature as a subject. I said that I treat literature as a way of life rather than anything else. I talked about the fact that I consider literature to be an eye-opening tool more than anything. And, thus I was able to say that it is because of my unique perspective that I stand apart from everyone else.

You should make a similar point. You should talk about the things that set you apart from your fellow students, by constantly drawing to your own personality.

Talk about the university itself

This is crucial. Devour the university’s website for all the information that you can possibly find around studying there. Look around for information about the campus, the various socio-cultural societies/clubs, academic departments, and stuff like that. In fact, you can talk extensively about the academic department of the course you wish to pursue and say that you look forward to studying under particular professors, whose academic backgrounds seem appealing to you. Talk about the location of the university.

For instance, in my case, I talked about the fact since Queen Mary University is situated in the heart of East London, the prices of accommodation are cheaper and there are good connections to libraries like the British Library, the Senate House Library etc. This just helped to show that not only had I done research about my university but also about the city.

Similarly, you should research about the city, what are the various places closest to the universities? What makes that city special? What makes that university special? What, in general, helps to give a special significance to the university itself? When you talk about things like this, you make an impression that you are aware of everything about the university.

Moreover, your research about the university and the city simply helps to cement the thought that you essentially know what you are talking about.

How should you end this section?

Once you have entered all the information that you need to, as discussed above, you can very well decide to finish this section.

Conclusion

What you should be writing in your conclusion depends exclusively on what you have written in the above two sections. However, you are strictly advised to mention some important things in your conclusion, which you can find below.

Why did you choose this course

This is probably one of the most crucial aspects of your SoP. Now, once you have stated your career goals, your passion for the course, your acehivements and all the other relevant information you need to conclude why you think you are the perfect fit for the course. Therefore, you should use statements like, “I believe that in order to achieve my long-term goal of _______, the decision to pursue this course is one which i make with absolute conviction.”

Your conclusion should be an overall reflection of what you have been talking about until now.