Six segments to an effective statement

Nail The Point

Six segments to an effective statement

Word limits and the bursting need to express one’s achievements often clash while writing a statement of purpose. Rohan Ganeriwala gives you some insight into how you can avoid this conflict

SOP – Statement of Purpose is an acronym that is commonly used in reference to a student’s application. We jocularly remark that SOP actually stands for, “Story of Prospective” student, but that is not far from the truth. Ideally, an SOP should be regarded by every applicant as an opportunity to fashion a personal story that provides crucial insight that cannot be ordinarily gleaned by studying transcripts and letters of recommendations.

The fundamental difference between a reasonably well-written SOP and an exceptional SOP is the manner in which a student approaches the task, organises his/her material and presents it in a refreshingly original manner. In short, an SOP is a highly personalised narrative that attempts to give the reader a unique glimpse into a student’s character, intellect, formative experiences and future ambitions — both academic and professional.

An interesting and well-written SOP encourages an Admission Officer to take a closer interest in a student and understand his/her motivations for applying. If the story is compelling and original enough, it boosts a student’s chances of securing admission in a college of his/her choice. Deconstructing a typical SOP reveals how most students can write effective SOPs by sticking to six segments.

In essence, it needs to be an engaging story, but invariably, the word limit (it normally ranges between 500 and 800 words) sometimes do not allow students sufficient “elbow room” to fashion a comprehensive life story. Writing their story within the specified word limit is one of the most challenging tasks faced by students. Achieving this is usually harder than it appears, but most students can create interesting SOPs if they adhere to certain basic rules.

Honesty, that much-invoked term, is the most effective route to achieving this goal. Although it is not mandated to follow the “six segment” rule, it is highly recommended that every student follow a chronological timeline and write in an easy going manner, without trying too hard to impress in terms of language or accomplishments. More importantly, there should be no fabrication or embellishment of facts and incidents, in an effort to portray oneself as exceptional.

First impression

The first segment should introduce you as a person and also include some hint of what you might write in the later part of the SOP. Your introduction needs to be precise and should encapsulate your character and ambitions in a few short sentences. It should be borne in mind that the quality of writing or ideas expressed in the introduction will encourage Admission Officers to delve deeper into a student’s SOP. If the introduction sounds formulaic or lacks originality, most Admission Officers are likely to cast it aside and return to it once they have sampled other interesting essays.

Goals galore

Segment two should provide a brief description of your academic or professional goals. You need to explain why you have a particular goal in mind and why it’s relevant to you. More importantly, it would be useful to describe your long-term career goals and the role you would like to play after acquiring sufficient experience.

In depth

Segment three should provide a detailed character-and-goals sketch. You elaborate about your coursework/research work/professional career. Talk about why you chose this coursework and the type of knowledge you have gained from these courses and internships. Also mention how this coursework is essential towards achieving your career goals. Working professionals need to describe their skill/knowledge base and their professional accomplishments. They can also expand a bit on their world view, especially the cultural and personal insights they have gained during this period.

Now the purpose

Segment four is considered one of the most important sections of your SOP. Here you explain why you require pursuing the specified education program. You have to write in detail about the need to acquire advanced, theoretical knowledge in a particular academic area in order to contribute to the issues mentioned earlier. Also, mention how your education will be beneficial in a broader sense for people or organisations such as, your society at large, country etc.

Being the fit

Segment five requires you to expand on how you have chosen a particular programme or college. In the course of this paragraph, you can expand on the benefits of applying to a particular college, namely, curriculum, research opportunities or teaching methodology. The key here is to correlate the college and the programme to your goals. This would require extensive research of the college and undergraduate/graduate programme. You also need to demonstrate your inclination towards the programme and how the college’s existing student population will be benefited by your admission.

In other words, you should also make a case for your admission by portraying yourself as more than just a bookish one-dimensional person. The more varied your skill-set, chances are, the college will regard you as an exciting prospect, one worthy for admission. If you can portray yourself as an asset, most colleges would be vying with each other to get you on board.

To sum up

The sixth and the final segment is the much-neglected conclusion. You should use this as a forum to summarise your personal talents and highlight the contributions you are likely to make, once enrolled in the programme. Also, reiterate how the programme will enable you to achieve your future professional goals.

These six steps are bound to lay the framework, if not complete, of an exceptional statement of purpose. 

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