Sunday, August 22, 2010

Statement of Purpose

Q. Could you give me tips on writing a good statement of purpose (SOP)?


You can find tons of resources on the web about writing SOPs and even find a lot of sample SOPs. However, try not to read another person's SOP (or sample SOPs you might find on the web) and derive from that. At least don't look at them before you have written your very first draft by yourself. Looking at someone else's SOP at the very beginning might bias you to write your own SOP in a way, which was probably suited to the other person's profile, but might not work so well in your case.

You should do multiple iterations over the SOP and sometimes it might be necessary to give some idle time between iterations. You can ask peers, seniors and/or professors to review it and give you suggestions on improving your SOP.

I won't talk a lot about SOPs because of the abundance of information already available on the internet on this topic. But do read section 3.4 of DAGAP for further discussion on what a SOP should and should not be.

Some useful links:
http://www.ece.cmu.edu/~mabdelm/statement-of-purpose-tips.html
https://www.cs.umd.edu/grad/writing-statement-of-pupose

12 comments:

  1. Hi
    Thanks for the tips.
    I have always been told that SOPs should only mention research-oriented work, internships or relevant work experience. I understand that research potential is the single most important factor for PhD application.
    Was wondering if it's as true for a Masters app? Should I mention my extracurricular achievements that show leadership,initiative or creativity even if they are not directly related to Comp Sci? e.g. Does starting and running a LinuxUserGroup on my undergrad campus count? Does my winning a national level debate championship count at all?

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  2. Even though not as crucial as for PhD applications, talking about projects/past work that shows research potential will definitely set you apart from your fellow applicants. About mentioning other extracurricular activities - it's all about using the allowed space you have judiciously. Sure, do mention about them - but that shouldn't be at the expense of describing in detail a cool project that you did and is relevant to what you are applying to. SOP is about picking out the few important points out of your resume and talking in detail about them - so that even if the committee skims (or completely ignores) your resume, they still know about the most important things that you want them to know and can help in strengthening your case.

    The examples you mentioned will "count" to an extent, but by no means will they be the clinchers.

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  3. It's great to see this informative post.

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  6. Is it advisable to use Bold face and Italics in SOP ? Why or Why not?

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  9. At least don't look at them before you have written your very first draft by yourself. - I definitely agree that it is better to write a draft of your own statement of purpose firstly and only then take a look at sample. This Stanford statement of purpose is pretty helpful because it shows how to highlight your strengths and not to focus too much on your weaknesses. Also, a good advice is to read out loud your writing; it helps not only with spotting mistakes but with improving your writing style as well. Hope this helps! Best of luck with admissions!

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