5 Common Mistakes to Avoid In Your Statement of Purpose (SoP)

Mistakes in your Statement of Purpose (SoP) or Personal Statement for a postgraduate programme can mar your dreams. For the past 1 year, right after entering grad school, I have reviewed over 20 SoPs. Time and again, I come across silly mistakes that candidates make in their SoPs which may hurt their chances. This article focuses on common mistakes to avoid and thus, bolster your stance of securing entry to your dream university.

1. Length

Mistakes in Statement of Purpose
Keep it short and sweet!

When the university gives you the liberty to write 2 pages on your motivation to join grad school, you don’t have to include every single achievement right from your high school. You need to draft your SoPs within 1000 words. Some European universities need it to be a maximum of 1 A4 page, which is around 700 words.

Tip: Improve your vocabulary to use words that can replace multiple words. For example, you can replace ‘The relevant courseworks made me feel confident about my understanding of robotic systems and their design’ by ‘Relevant courseworks helped me fathom the intricacies in robotics systems design.’

2. Missing Out on Important Questions

Statement of Purpose Mistakes
Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash

Any SoP you draft for your grad school needs to answer these 4 specific questions:

  1. What is your academic background and how it prepared you for your grad school?
  2. What is your work experience and what you learned from each experience?
  3. What sets you apart from others (your story of overcoming any obstacle or taking initiatives in things or you know how to manage your shit or something like that)?
  4. Why this university and course?

An SoP that tactically answers these 4 questions is likely to stand out. In fact, this is the expected sequence in an SoP.

3. Irrelevant Introduction

Introductory paragraph of SoP
Sample introductory paragraph of SoPs

Here are 3 sample introductions for your reference. The first introduction begins when the student was a high school kid. He presents his motivation to pursue engineering merely as a fascination. There is no relevant information about the specific area of his interest. Maybe he talks about it later. However, I would not call it an ideal start to SoP.

The ‘Intro 2’ and ‘Intro 3’ directly delve into their interest and reading these two introductory paragraphs, one can gauge their interest. Further, these two intros seem to have an interesting story, with the second one being slightly dramatic.

4. Speak Less On Irrelevant Extracurriculars

Your swimming talent may help in an undergraduate admit or scholarship applications but not much in a postgraduate STEM application.

Yes, the reviewers are looking for an all-rounded individual but the most important thing they look for is your ability to cope up in grad school. Extracurriculars matter for admission to an undergraduate programme in the US or Canada. However, for applications to postgraduate programmes, your research experience and academics matter the most. Including one or two such experiences strengthens your chance of a scholarship. You should try to relate your extracurriculars to any soft skill or interpersonal skill you learned from it. Elaborating this part beyond 200 words is not encouraged for MS application.

5. Abbreviations

Credits: Unsplash

Remember that SoPs are also read by non-technical people or people not related directly to your area of interest. So, do ensure to elaborate on the abbreviations you use in your SoP. This is a very common mistakes students make.

CAD may sound obvious to you but it is not obvious to reviewers that it means ‘Computer Aided Design’

I hope you find this article useful. Do share them with your friends who is set to apply for grad school.

SurajPanigrahi

Suraj is the founder of this EdTech website which publishes content regarding career, higher education, and student finance. After graduating in Mechanical Engineering from IIT (BHU) Varanasi, he is currently pursuing MS in Biomedical Engineering at RWTH Aachen.
SurajPanigrahi

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