The discussion started when one of my colleagues got an interview call from IIM Bangalore for their prestigious two year full time PGP program and he asked me to help him with his SOP. Since I have been exposed with both sides of the table attending and conducting interviews; the idea floated that I should put some tips or pointers for people writing SOP.
1- Purpose– It is not called the Statement of Purpose for nothing. Decide on a theme which you think is most relevant and in line with the objectives you want to convey to the panel reading your SOP. The purpose should eventually relate to the type of course or job you are going to pursue. This theme is something which should be common and reflect in all your answers, attitude and the statement of purpose. It is always advisable to introspect deeply and find the reason why you’re applying to a course or appearing for a particular exam/job. The answer obtained out of such introspection would form a great theme for binding the entire SOP together.
2- Background, Education and Work Experience– Your family, the environment and places you grew up can be a part of the SOP; but ensure the context such that subtly the backgrounds relate to the underlying theme of the SOP while indicating its contribution towards the person you are and the choices you are making today. Illustrate your education and work experience in a fashion that it looks like a series of events occurring by your choice all with a rationale of underlying theme. Elaborate on some specific aspects of your education or work which will be of value in the course you are trying to pursue. Don’t mention this for the sake of it, especially if it doesn’t fit the theme they belong in your resume not in the SOP.
3- Future Plans– Delve deeper into the courses, subjects (if you haven’t researched, do it first) how they form the part of your long term and short term goal. This is the most important section of your SOP try to bring as much of facts on the paper and relate them with the theme and purpose. Any panel loves a candidate who knows what he is doing and why.
4- Hobbies-The SOP should include the extra-curricular interests and how they have developed you as a person. Relate these interests or hobbies very subtly if you can with the theme of the SOP.
5- Story– All the SOP in the end should form a small story of your life(past, present and most importantly future) subtly indicating that why the course you are pursuing or the job you are applying to is the most logical step in the story of your life.
6- 3Cs – Always remain Consistent, Clear and Concise while writing SOPs. Never contradict yourself in an SOP it is always a recipe for disaster. Avoid ambiguity of any kind, in a stress interview an ambiguous line might hijack your entire interview in a direction you never envisaged. Be concise, as a candidate you write one SOP and would like to showcase all your achievement.
Things not to do in an SOP-
1- Never use Slangs/SMS Lingo Phrases.
2- Use Quotations to glorify the SOP. It is not only weird to see quotes instead of candidates original words in an SOP but at times there have been instances when the interview went towards the author of the quote and his other works as he was the favorite author of a member in the panel.
3- Use very flowery vocabulary- If the panel wanted to test your vocabulary they would have done it in the entrance test; think of the plight of the person who has to read 50 SOPs in a day and he has to refer to the dictionary to understand what the candidate is trying to say.
4- No Spelling and Grammatical Mistakes
5- Avoid abbreviations- Apart from the common and well known abbreviations avoid the rest in your SOP. When in doubt prefer the complete word/phrase over the abbreviation
Is there anything else you feel should be taken care while writing the SOPs?
Disclaimer: SOPs are a very personal and intense document to write and prepare. The above Do’s & Don’ts are based on the author’s personal experience. The readers are advised to use their judgment and belief while writing the SOP.