Writing Suggestions for Your Statement of Purpose



Updated June 8, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Admitted by Soundarya Balasubramani. Written by an Ivy League graduate from India, this is the proven guide for students worldwide looking to pursue undergraduate or graduate study abroad in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Purchase for instant access to the guide and other exclusive resources—including sample SOPs, sample resumes, scholarship lists, and a private community with other readers.

While those two core principles are most important, here are a few more suggestions:

  • Use a formal and conversational tone. Convey enthusiasm and interest without coming across as sarcastic. Jokes can easily be misunderstood.

  • Stick to the specified word limit. If no limit is mentioned, write 750 to 1000 words in a 12 point font with a 1–2 single space between the lines.

  • Avoid using acronyms which will be unfamiliar outside your home country. It’s also wise to avoid non standard punctuation or formatting, such as heavy use of italics, quotations, em dashes (—), or semicolons (;).

  • Simplicity is underrated. Although you might have stuffed your brain with words learned for your GRE exam, the essay is not a playfield to use all of them. Keep things simple.

  • Brevity is better than verbosity. The busy professors and administrators who read your essay will appreciate clear and concise sentences.

dangerFinally, at all cost, avoid typos and ungrammatical sentences. Before submitting your essay, be sure you’ve done this basic level of editing. This is a great place to take advantage of the many software applications that can do this for you.*

Hopefully, that has given you enough ammunition to begin writing. Although we showed you excerpts from essays in this chapter, we suggest you write your first draft without looking at more examples. Your first draft must be impulsive; let your subconscious mind take over and blurt out all the thoughts you have on paper so your mind is set free.

Daniel Kahneman,* a renowned psychologist and economist, proposed in his bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, that we all have two modes of thinking: System 1 and System 2.* System 1 is the more impulsive, automatic, and involuntary part of your mind. It is what helps you jump off a curb when you see a speeding car or locate the source of a sudden noise. On the other hand, System 2 is the more deliberate, slow, and voluntary part of your mind. You were able to write your final thesis and solve complex algebra thanks to System 2. It requires you to devote your attention and think deeply about a topic.

Each system has strengths and weaknesses. We recommend writing your first draft using your System 1, and conducting subsequent edits with System 2.

Glad you asked! We recommend doing the following:

  • First, review it yourself by going through some good samples.

  • Second, get it reviewed by alumni in your field of interest.

  • Finally, get it reviewed by alumni and friends who aren’t necessarily in your field but have great command over the written word.

Review It Yourself

Writing a stellar essay requires reading dozens of stellar essays. You can start with the Resources folder, where we’ve added a few samples. Beyond that, there are many publicly posted samples out there that will stimulate your thinking.*

actionWhen you find a sample that catches your attention, open it in a document format, where you can begin adding highlights and comments. In fact, we would even recommend printing out these essays and doing it the old-fashioned way, using a highlighter. Write down the parts you liked about the essay, and why you think you liked them. Was it the choice of words? Was it the depth that the candidate went into while describing a concept? Was it an interesting life experience? Write it down and go back to your essay to find ways to incorporate the same.

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