How to write your statement of purpose (SOP)

Your SOP is one of the main deciding factors in the UK university admission process. In this article, we give the details, tricks, and tips to help you write a good SOP.

In this article:

What is an SOP? 

SOP or statement of purpose is a personal essay that most UK universities ask for during the admission process. In this piece, you will have to talk about yourself, your interests, achievements and the reasons that drove you to choose your course and university. 

Why are SOPs important?

Universities consider many factors like your grades, entrance exam marks etc. while admitting students. SOP, also a factor in the admission process is a little different because it is personal. It is an opportunity for you to advocate for yourself and explain why you are unique and why you deserve to study at their university. 

How to write a good SOP?

There are no rules or rigid formats that you need to follow to write a good SOP, but there are a few areas that you need to address. Make sure you include the following sections while you start out writing your SOP.

The do’s and don’ts of writing your statement of purpose 

Introduction 

The first few sentences form the hook of your SOP. Start with a bang. You can touch upon the following parts in this section:

  • Who are you, and what made you choose this course?
  • What do you intend to do in the future if given the opportunity to study?

Do...

  • If there is a specific incident in your life that pushed you towards this field, mention it briefly.
  • It is very easy to get a bit carried away while talking about your life and your passion, but make sure that you are crisp and to the point.

Don’t...

  • Give generic information.

Example – My name is X, and I am applying for the X course. I am really interested in this field, and if given the opportunity, I will work really hard to succeed. 

Why - There is no valuable information for the person reading the above sentence. 

  • Use clichés and cheesy sentences.

Example – I want to pursue this course because I want to change the world.

Why – It is plausible that you will go on to do some fantastic work after graduation and make the world a better place. However, there are better ways to express this.

Educational background and experiences

As a prospective student, this section is very important for you. Universities give a lot of attention to your educational performance and work experience. So, it would be best if you showcased your career highlights. Areas to focus on:

  • Undergraduate education / Postgraduate education / High School education.
  • Recent jobs that you held. 

Do...

  • Talk about specific experiences or challenges you faced at work or in the classroom that you feel is relevant to your story.
  • Mention important research projects, thesis papers or responsibilities you held at work.   
  • Briefly explain how this education or experience is going to help you with the course you are applying for and your career in general.

Don’t...

  • Include all the obvious facts and grades.

Example – I have completed my ‘course name’ with ‘grade’.

Why – Your SOP is a part of your application, and they already have your grades. Only mention grades if they are relevant and exceptional. 

  • Use negative terms while talking about your challenges.

Example – I found my research work very difficult, and so I quit.

Why – It is always better to have a positive spin on things. You can mention how that particular instance was challenging and how you learned from it. 

Academic interests and ambitions 

The final section seals the deal; you will have to justify your interests, ambitions and the reasons behind your decision to join this university and course. You can talk about: 

  • Why the university should choose you.
  • What your long-term goal is.
  • What you expect to gain from the course.
  • How you think the experience that you might gain from this university will help you achieve your long-term goals.
  • What you plan to do right after finishing this course.

Do...

  • Be realistic when talking about your goals.
  • Give rational reasons to explain how you will be able to achieve those goals.

Don’t...

  • Include complex terms and Jargons. The person reading your essay need not necessarily be proficient in your area of study. Make sure that your content can be easily read and understood by anyone at the university.
  • Only address the positive side of things. Talk about your weaknesses, challenges and your plan to overcome them.   

Additional tips for writing your Statement of purpose

  • Research before you write.

Research your intended university, course and subject area. This will help you avoid general statements and will make you seem knowledgeable.  For example, instead of just saying that you believe that you will be able to contribute and benefit from the university’s research department, you can additionally give specific research papers that they published recently and get your point across better.   

  • Validate your claims with examples from your experience.

Instead of baseless claims like, ‘I am hardworking’, ‘I am a problem solver’ talk about an incident in the recent past where you solved a problem or worked hard to achieve a goal. Always show, don’t tell.

  • Maintain a logical flow from the start to the end.

Look at your SOP like a story. You start with a short introduction, followed by your past achievements and experience. Then you move on to explain why you deserve the admission now and tell the university what you will do with this education in the future. 

You can definitely play around a bit without strictly following the intro-past-present-future format, but make sure that there is logical connectivity in your text. 

  • Be honest, do not lie or exaggerate anything.

Universities are well versed at identifying false information. Lying will not only create a negative opinion about you but might also lead to the university blacklisting you. Be positive and be yourself. Be genuine about your achievement and explain how you want to grow and improve from where you stand today.

  • Ask someone to proofread your SOP and provide feedback.

Do not submit your SOP before making someone read it. A third person will be able to notice the errors that you might miss. Get feedback from your parents or current professors. Try to incorporate their suggestions. Finally, check the spelling, grammar, and typo errors. Proofread your document thoroughly once again and pass it on to the university.  

FAQs on SOPS

  • What is the standard length of an SOP?

Some universities give specific instructions on the length of the SOP. Do check your university’s website before starting to write. Usually, 1-2 pages or 800-1000 words should suffice.

  • What is the best tone and format that I can follow while writing an SOP?

Try to be concise and use active voice instead of passive as it helps to hold the attention of the reader. Use a conversational tone but always remember to be respectful and formal.

Split your text into small paragraphs and space then evenly. Use an easily visible font size (12) and a standard font (Times new roman). Formatting your text neatly will make it easy on the eyes of the admission officer.

  •  Can I alter or update my SOP after submission?

Most universities do not allow you to update or alter your SOP after submitting your application. Make sure you double-check all the details before submission. 

  • Can I use the same SOP for multiple universities?

Your SOP has to be catered for each university. If you are applying to multiple universities, you can use the same SOP as a template but make sure to edit and customise.