Statement of Purpose (SOP): All You Need to Know!

Statement of Purpose (SOP): All You Need to Know!

24 mins read2.4M Views 316 Comments
Rahul Singha
Study Abroad Expert
Updated on Apr 17, 2024 18:27 IST

What is Statement of Purpose (SOP): When applying for admission to a foreign university, you must submit a Statement of Purpose (SOP) that reflects your personality to the admissions committee (AdCom). It gives you the chance to impress the committee by outlining your profile in an essay format (SOP) that highlights personality attributes that aren't included in your academic papers.

Statement of Purpose (SOP)

In this article, we will discuss:

  • Statement Of Purpose Samples, SOP Formats, Templates, and Guidelines for SOP Writing
  • How to Write a Statement of Purpose for a University
  • Tips for writing impressive SOPs
  • Common Mistakes to Avoid in SOP
  • Importance of SOP
  • Word Limits in SOP
  • Statement Of Purpose Samples for different courses:
  • Statement Of Purpose Samples for different countries:
  • Things to and not to include in SOP
  • SOP FAQs

What is a Statement of Purpose (SOP)?

SOP, or Statement of Purpose, is a long piece of writing that international colleges require (and currently by some Indian universities) as part of the application process. The Statement of Purpose (SOP) is a document that students prepare to demonstrate why they are applying to a specific course at a specific university. SOP aims to comprehend a candidate's background, reasons for choosing a particular career route, and objectives. This essay gives a general overview of your past actions, current activities, and plans.

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What is SOP Full Form?

The SOP's full form is the Statement of Purpose(SOP) and as you will learn from this article, an SOP is an important document and an integral part of your application procedure for Indian and international students looking to study abroad. 

Why is a Statement of Purpose (SOP) Important?

Given that it shows your qualifications for the program and distinguishes you from other applicants, a statement of purpose is one of the most significant application materials when it comes to admissions to programs abroad. The selection of a candidate is based on several variables, and a strong SOP is one of them. While the academic record and other exam scorecards/ academic transcripts and backlog certificates are essentially objective, an SOP is the only truly subjective aspect of your application. Moreover, your SOP allows you to present your future goals and aspirations in front of the admissions committee, which in turn helps them decide whether you are suitable for a particular programme or not.

What is SOP Format?

Most universities across the globe have a standard SOP format/ template that they accept. However, the content in SOP (statement of purpose) varies for different courses. A Statement of Purpose (SOP) format is similar to an essay typically written in exact paragraphs. Typically, the SOP is two pages long, single-spaced, written in 11-point typefaces, and broken up into five to eight paragraphs. Your overall narrative should be organized logically and coherently, with each paragraph addressing a particular topic or theme connected to your academic and professional ambitions.

Your background, motivation to pursue the course, and brief short-term career goals should all be covered in the first paragraph of your SOP. The following paragraphs should go into greater detail regarding your academic and research experience, extracurricular activities, and other noteworthy experiences or accomplishments. You should highlight your qualifications for the program you are applying for and restate your main points at the conclusion. Additionally, you must show your enthusiasm for the initiative and your readiness to help make it successful. You may refer to an SOP for the MIM Programme here. Check out the sections below for a detailed understanding of the statement of purpose examples country and course-wise depending upon the countries. 

Statement Of Purpose Samples for MBA, MS, UG, and PhD Courses

Every course has a different way of writing its SOP application. Check out the course-wise statement of purpose examples.

Sample SOP for MBA Courses

Format SOP for MS Courses

Sample SOP for UG Courses

Format SOP for PhD Courses

SOP Formats for Australia, Germany, Ireland, and New Zealand

There is no fixed format followed in writing an SOP for a particular country. However, a University may provide you with a set of guidelines based on which you may need to write your SOP. Here are some SOP samples based on different countries:

Sample Format for Australia SOP

Sample Format for Germany SOP

Sample Format for Ireland SOP

Sample Format for New Zealand SOP

How to Write a Statement of Purpose for University?

An SOP needs to be written carefully as it is important for your application. Some of the SOP writing tips are given below:

  • Think: This procedure is referred to as introspection. We surely do not mean philosophical reflection when we talk about introspection (especially in this context). You need to consider all the important events that shaped your personality and contributed to who you are today. You can start by considering your academic successes, professional experiences, volunteer activities, the reasons you chose a certain line of study, and your long-term objectives. You may have some life-altering incidents throughout this process, such as being publicly criticized for your academic performance, which caused you to take your studies more seriously. Make a list of everything, then get a plan together. Keep the important points and remove the insignificant ones.
  • Research: Do thorough research on the course, the university, its accomplishments, any ongoing research, and more. You must be certain of your motivations for pursuing your chosen field of study and selecting that specific university. There must be a logical justification for changing your academic field, even if you only intend to do so after earning your Bachelor's. Your SOP must show the research you have done on the course and university, and your justifications must be clear.
  • Draft: Prepare a proper structure and then fill in the details. Here are a few points to consider:
    • Professional and personal background and interests,
    • Relevance of the chosen course and University,
    • A logical connection between the above and your future goals and aspirations,
    • Intention to contribute to the University, community, and society at large.
  • Review: Once you have drafted your SOP, the final step is to go through it carefully and make changes accordingly. Go back to the list that you created in the beginning and check whether you have covered all the points in your SOP or not. Remove the unnecessary details that are not relevant to your admission. It will take multiple readings and reviews in order to come up with a final draft. Before taking professional services, make sure to get your SOP reviewed by an unbiased family member, colleague, or friend.

Students need to know the top SOP questions before moving on to the SOP guidelines.

Read: Work Experience Certificate for International Students

Shiksha Guidelines for SOP Writing

While there are several formats and samples available online for an SOP that aspirants can use, it becomes confusing to choose the right format. Moreover, there is no such thing as a perfect SOP. Owing to the subjective nature of this document, the admissions committee can infer different things from the same SOP.

Each SOP should be unique and thus, Shiksha has its guidelines for an SOP to help the students decipher the parts of a statement of purpose so that it can be drafted easily. To know all about the correct formatting and context of an SOP, you can read Shiksha Guidelines for SOP.

Detailed Strategy to Write a Powerful and Convincing SOP (Statement of Purpose)

How to Write a Statement of Purpose for University: A powerful and convincing statement of purpose is focused throughout, and each point is connected to the subsequent point through logic and reason. Starting from your academic and professional background to your career aspirations, you need to connect all the dots logically. There needs to be a flow in the events and things must not pop up randomly.

Always flow from past experiences, current involvements, and plans in your SOP essay. One thing to keep in mind when creating your SOP is to break it up into paragraphs that cover each pointer. The SOP could be written as follows:

1st Paragraph: Introduction of SOP

This paragraph is often confused with self-introduction. It should not introduce you but should discuss what you are about to discuss in your SOP. You can adopt the following approaches:

  • Discuss your long-term goal and connect it with your idea of pursuing the course you are applying to,
  • Present your understanding of the chosen field and write how you want to contribute to that field,
  • Explain your background in 2-3 lines and connect it with your future goals,
  • Write about an anecdote that helped you realise your professional interest in the chosen field.

Note: Students often make the mistake of introducing themselves or their childhood in the first paragraph of SOP. In some cases, students tend to forget about the purpose behind writing an SOP. Check out the Common Mistakes to Avoid in an SOP.

2nd and 3rd Paragraphs: Academic Background and Professional Experience

Your academic history in SOP must be included in these paragraphs, including what you have accomplished thus far (projects, experiences, etc.), what you are currently pursuing, etc. After highlighting your academic accomplishments, you might discuss your professional experience. This aids in charting your professional development.

4th Paragraph: Why This Course?

In this paragraph, you should discuss why you want to join that particular course and what modules would you like to study in SOP. It should also cover the possible skills and exposure that you might acquire that would help you in fulfilling your goals.

5th Paragraph: Career Goals

This is the most important paragraph of SOP, where you should discuss your short-, mid-term, and long-term goals. Your immediate goal (0-5 years) would be where you would want to work right after completing this course. You should be able to name some companies within India along with the designation you see yourself working at. This should explain the kind of job profile you would be working on.

In your mid-term goals, you should write what you wish to achieve within 5-10 years of completing the course. 

Then comes your long-term goal, wherein you should mention where you see yourself from 10-12 or 15 years down the line in your SOP. This may include your desire to work at the CEO/CFO/CTO level or maybe pursue entrepreneurship. It may also include your dream of expanding your existing family business overseas. You may also be interested in further studies such as a PhD. You may also express your desire to become a professor or researcher.

You should talk about your objectives, guiding ideas, and values, as well as how you plan to inspire potential students. Keeping in mind the current industry conditions and developing trends, you should be able to demonstrate how you desire to contribute to the industry or society.

6th Paragraph: Why This University?

Here, you should try to convince the university as to why it is suitable for your goals and why you fit well into its vision and mission. You can discuss the course curriculum, research work, faculty names (important aspect), as well as university-specific activities. Moreover, do go through the vision and mission statement of the university to craft a well-researched university-specific paragraph.

7th Paragraph: Conclusion

This paragraph should conclude your desire and readiness towards joining the chosen course. This being the final paragraph, you should sound determined and equipped to face any obstacles that may arise. Additionally, it should demonstrate your potential for success and demonstrate your belief in your ability to change the business with the aid of the program you have chosen and your university.

What do Colleges Look for in an SOP (Statement of Purpose)?

While drafting your SOP (Statement of Purpose), you need to keep in mind that the admission committee will be reviewing thousands of applications for the same course. Thus, your SOP must be crisp and precise, and must clearly reflect the uniqueness of your profile. Here are a few things that the college review committees generally look for in a student’s SOP:

  • Your writing capability is reflected in your SOP. Your SOP should be free from grammatical errors. The language should be lucid enough for them to comprehend; at the same time, a strong vocabulary does help in leaving a positive impact. Make sure not to use too many ‘heavy words’ since their usage might feel forced.
  • You must emphasize the qualities that set you apart from the other applicants, such as your academic accomplishments, your involvement in society, your extracurricular accomplishments, etc. Through your SOP, Adcom ought to be able to identify you as an individual. Their understanding of you as a person will be aided by your hobbies and objectives.
  • Try to mention how you can contribute to the University, college, or department. Consider the following points for the same:
    • If you receive an admission letter, your career will get a kick-start. It is obvious that you will reap some benefits from that course. At the same time, the University/ College/ department must also receive some benefits from your admissions (besides the tuition fee, of course!).
    • It would be beneficial if you described how you can benefit the community, whether it be through volunteer work, sports, organizations, clubs, etc. In plain English, you need to persuade the admissions committee that you can represent the University or department well.
  • Being familiar with the university's resources and curriculum will show that you have done the necessary research and that your application is not a spur-of-the-moment decision. You must be knowledgeable about the university's accomplishments, programs for students, and teachers, internship possibilities, services and organizations for students, traditions, and more.
  • Your motivation or inspiration to pursue a particular course should be clear, evident, and justified. Adcom does not approve of bragging sentences in the SOP. Hence, you must keep it original, real, and free from any overbearing or arrogant statements.

SOP for UG Courses vs SOP for PG Courses

A Statement of Purpose for an undergraduate application is different from that of a graduate (Master’s) application. An Admission Committee understands that a student applying for an undergraduate course will have a different background from a student applying for a Master’s course. The following table will provide a comparison of what needs to be included in an SOP for UG courses and an SOP for PG courses:


Statement of Purpose for UG

Statement of Purpose for PG


Academic achievements and challenges

Academic Professional achievements and challenges

Career goals

Reasons and vision for your intended career path

Short-term and long-term goals

Reasons to Pursue a particular course

Motivation or any field that you wish to explore

Must be tied to your background, interest, and career goals with the help of logic

Extra achievements

Academic assignments or internships

Research work, volunteering, or any project

Extracurricular activities

At the school level or outside the school

May include activities from school to the workplace

What to Include in an SOP (Statement of Purpose)?

The content of your SOP will solely depend on the University's requirements. The mantra is to stick to the statement/ question provided by the University. Universities can ask question-based essays or simply a general statement of purpose. Until and unless categorically asked, an SOP must include your goals and the career path you have taken up so far as well as your academic progress. Other elements that are important in an SOP include personal motivations that led you to choose the university/ course and how you intend to use it to achieve your goals.

While understanding how to write an SOP, we come across various questions. To sum up your entire life and career in 1,000 words can be a tiresome exercise.

What to include in your SOP?

What to include in an MBA SOP

What to include in an MS SOP

What to include in UG SOP

15 Tips to Write a Successful Statement of Purpose

Here are 15 tips for writing a successful statement of purpose:

  1. SOP writing must begin with a roadmap and an SOP structure. Otherwise, it might lead to an unstructured SOP that might confuse the admissions committee.
  2. Mention your achievements, professional and academic, in the form of a story rather than statements.
  3. An SOP is a reflection of your personality; make sure it is clear and understandable.
  4. Mention strong reasons as to why you want to pursue a particular course.
  5. Be very clear about the timeline of your achievements.
  6. You can also mention your mistakes. But, also give instances of how you tried to rectify them.
  7. Proofread and edit the SOP time and again so that it can appear crisp and concise.
  8. Write an attention-grabbing introduction and conclusion.
  9. Do not use short forms, slang, and informal writing.
  10. Never exceed the word limit.
  11. Do not try to flatter the admissions committee by praising the university too much. They are already aware of the achievements of their university.
  12. Whatever you write, make sure that there is a structure. You need to avoid random events that might break the structure of your SOP.
  13. Let there be a smooth transition from one idea or event to the other. Avoid abrupt ideas or events that may break the flow of your SOP.
  14. Be honest and do not write something that cannot be justified in the interview.
  15. Be original and do not copy someone else’s SOP.

How to Make Your SOP Stand Out from the Crowd?

Now that we have assessed how important your SOP is, we come to the important part—how to write an SOP that stands out amongst thousands of applications. There are certain basic principles about SOP writing, which provide clarity on various aspects such as word limit, and format, among others.

You must keep your attention on the path you want to pursue. For instance, if you are discussing studying computer science in a particular nation, you must talk about all of your encounters, experiences, and computer science-related learnings. Make sure you do not forget any crucial information, accomplishments, or experiences relating to that course. SOPs for MBA applications and MSc in Computer Science applications would undoubtedly differ from one another. Similarly, an SOP for a Bachelor’s degree will be different from that for a Master’s degree. Here is a look at how to write a winning SOP.

Can SOPs Help with Scholarships?

If you are eligible for any college-specific scholarships, then during the application process you will be required to write a separate essay/SOP. You will be given an essay prompt/ question along with a word limit. You might be required to provide an SOP that states your credibility for this scholarship. Thus, a generic SOP is different from a scholarship SOP.

In a scholarship essay/ SOP, you will be required to highlight your unique selling points, major accomplishments, any quality /skill that makes you different from other candidates, and so on. You can read more about writing a scholarship essay here.

Statement of Purpose vs Personal Statement

Barring a few points, a Personal Statement seems similar to a Statement of Purpose. While SOP includes a two-page essay about your motivation, goals, experience, extracurricular activities, and more, a Personal Statement is a crisp one-page essay about your motivation, inspiration, goals and achievements. A Personal Statement is more personal than an SOP; hence, a Personal Statement should mention your aspirations and motivations. An SOP is a much more detailed version of the Personal Statement. For a detailed view on this, visit Statement of Purpose (SOP) vs Personal Statement.

SOP vs Letter of Motivation or Motivational Letter

A Letter of Motivation (LoM) is directly addressed to the admission committee/ department/ faculty explaining your objectives, motivation and goals related to the course. An SOP is not addressed to any specific person or department; rather, it is drafted in an essay format.

SOP for University Admission Sample Guidelines

In this section of the article, we will look at SOP guidelines and requirements for the top universities in the world.


THE World University Rankings 2024

Statement of Purpose Requirements

University of Oxford


  • 1-2 pages
  • 1000-1500 words
  • Reasons to apply to a particular course
  • Link your academic background and experiences with your reasons for pursuing a particular course
  • Proof that you will be able to complete the course and contribute to it

Stanford University


  • 1,000 words
  • Reasons to apply to a particular programme
  • Background
  • Research interests
  • Career path
  • Any other interests that can contribute to your admissions
  • You might be required to submit a Diversity Statement of a maximum of 500 words

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


  • 2 pages
  • Background
  • Motivations
  • Background
  • Career goals
  • How do you fit into MIT?
  • Professors or research projects that caught your attention

Harvard University


  • 600-1500 words
  • Background + Experiences
  • Reasons to pursue a course
  • Research interests
  • Career plans

University of Cambridge


  • 4,000 characters
  • Research the course thoroughly
  • Reasons to pursue a particular course
  • Academic strengths
  • Why do you fit this course?

Princeton University


  • 1,000 words
  • Background & experiences that influenced your motivation to apply to a particular course
  • Current academics
  • Future goals

California Institute of Technology


  • 800-1,500 words (mostly 1,000 words)
  • Not more than 2 pages
  • 1-inch margin
  • 11-12 pt. font
  • Make sure to research the university and course details, including faculty profiles, ongoing research, etc.

Imperial College London


  • 1,500 characters for each section of the SOP
  • Current studies and their relevance
  • Why this course?
  • Work experience and skills
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Why Imperial College London

University of California, Berkeley


  • 500-1,000 words
  • 1-2 single-spaced pages
  • 12 point font
  • Interests & motivations
  • Background
  • Current activities
  • Academic interests

Yale University


  • 500-1,000 words
  • Reasons to apply to Yale
  • Research Interest
  • Background
  • Career goals

Note: The above SOP guidelines, for the top universities, have been taken from their official website. However, these are generic in nature. It is advised that students visit the official webpage of the course and follow the exact SOP (Statement of Purpose) requirements mentioned there.

For help with university applications, students seeking to study abroad can contact our Shiksha Study Abroad Counsellors. The comments section below allows candidates to contact us as well.

Statement of Purpose (SOP) FAQs

Q. What is the importance of an SOP (Statement of Purpose)?

A. A statement of purpose is an essay that highlights your educational background, goals, and achievements. In an SOP, you should share why you would like to study your desired program at the university of your choice. Here are a few points that will convince you to take your SOP seriously:

  • It decides your selection: If a large number of applicants meet the eligibility criteria for the competitive scores (GMAT, GRE, SAT, ACT, etc.), then your well-written SOP will be able to put your application in the spotlight.
  • It can fetch you a scholarship: For scholarships that do not require a separate essay, SOP can be the deciding factor.
  • It goes beyond your resume: It provides you with a chance to overcome all the loopholes that your resume might have.

Q. How to write SOP for Masters?

A. One can only follow certain guidelines to write a good draft of an SOP for Masters and the rest is up to Adcom to review and accept your profile. However, if you are looking for just the guidelines for graduate (MS) SOPs, you may refer to Writing SOPs for MS Courses with samples. There are a few important points that you should keep in mind while writing an SOP. These include:

  • Write original content and do not copy anyone’s SOP.
  • Make sure that there is Logic, Coherence, and Cohesion in your SOP. All the events that you mention should be connected to each other in a seamless flow. There should not be any randomness in your SOP.
  • Make sure to research the course, university, city, and country where you are applying.

Q. What makes a strong statement of purpose?

A. A strong statement of purpose should always make it clear as to why you feel compelled to apply for this particular program. Furthermore, to make an SOP stand out, it should be clear enough to make the readers understand why both the program, and the institute to which you are applying, will help you in achieving your professional and personal development. Moreover, a strong SOP is original and is free from plagiarism. Every event, which is has been mentioned, must be connected with logic and there should be a seamless transition from one event to another.

Q. How long should a Statement of Purpose be?

A. Statement of Purpose should be 1-2 pages long and everything must be put together in about 800-1000 words; however, the length may vary as per university requirements. Some Universities put a cap on the word limit, which might be as less as 200 words. Most universities accept 800-1000 words SOP; however, in most cases, it does not go beyond 1200 words. It is relatively easy to write a story of your life explaining the importance of each incident that has helped shape your personality. However, it becomes challenging to write an SOP within a specified word limit, and that too when your admission is at stake. Some foreign universities do not require SOP; rather, they ask you to answer an Essay Prompt in a specified number of words.

Q. What are some tips to improve an SOP (Statement of Purpose)?

A. Once you have finalised your SOP draft, give it a double-check for grammatical and formatting mistakes. Your next step should be to analyse and critique your essay. Look at your SOP through the eyes of Adcom and see what is lacking. For more effective input, you can show your drafts to your friends and family and take their inputs. Accordingly, you can make some changes but do not overdo it or deviate from the format. Finally, check for spacing errors.

Q. Should I explain the low grades in my statement of purpose?

A. You should avoid mentioning any low marks or shortcomings about yourself in any of the application documents, including SOP. There are very few universities that ask you about your gap year. For them, you can mention the reason for the gap between your studies. Generally, no university asks about low grades during your study period as your selection depends on various criteria like exam scores, student profile, financials, and so on. However, if there is some issue that is clearly visible in your marksheets or your resume, make sure to provide a logical reason behind that event.

Q. How to conclude an SOP?

A. Ending of an SOP should summarize the important points discussed in your essay. You can also restate the points briefly in the conclusion and highlight your reason or motivation one more time. At last, you can sum up the arguments as to why you are the best candidate for the course. While writing the conclusion of your SOP, you should think from the perspective of Adcom. If you were a member of Adcom, what would convince you to select a candidate? Make sure to mention those points that can convince the adcom to select you for the course.

Q. What mistakes should I avoid in an SOP?

A. In a statement of purpose, avoid a weak and vague introduction and conclusion. It is also advised to not write the SOP at the last moment. Apart from these points, be careful about the word limit. Do not use informal language, slang, and short forms in your SOP. Also, do not sound too flattering in your SOP. It is important to appear confident in the SOP; however, you should not sound arrogant. You should sound polite, humble, and focused. Your SOP should be free from plagiarism. Moreover, the flow of the events in your SOP should be seamless and smooth. There must be a logic behind everything that you have written in your SOP.

Q. Should I mention an internship in my statement of purpose?

A. If you do not have relevant work experience, then you can definitely mention internships in your statement of purpose. Moreover, if your internship was exceptional in terms of achievements, you should mention it in your statement of purpose. Please note that you cannot include everything in your SOP; hence, you must be careful in deciding what you wish to include and what you wish to exclude in your SOP. When you mention any internship in your SOP, make sure that you have adequate knowledge of what you have done in your internship. You should be able to justify everything that you have written in your SOP.

Q. Do LORs and SOPs need to be attested?

A. Only your LORs need to be attested by your college or company. An SOP need not be attested/ self-attested until and unless specified by the university. If you take a LOR from your Professor/ Principal/ Dean, then it needs to be signed by the recommender along with the college/ school stamp and letterhead. Similarly, professional LORs need to be signed by their respective recommenders on the company’s letterhead and company stamp.

Q. Should I put my name in my SOP?

A. In a traditional SOP, you do not need to write your name or course details anywhere. SOP is a part of your application/ student profile, thus, it will have your name and course details by default. However, there might be some universities or schools that require you to mention your name in your SOP. These universities will provide you with specific instructions on how and where to write your personal details. Thus, you need to follow their instructions thoroughly.

About the Author
Written by
Rahul Singha
Study Abroad Expert

Rahul Singha is a seasoned editor with Shiksha Study Abroad, specializing in overseas education. With over 8 years of domain experience, he has made a significant impact in contributing to the study abroad industry ... Read Full Bio

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Reply to goodness babatunde

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Aprant Agarwal

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Hello. Currently, we do not have this particular SOP. You may visit a related SOP here:

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Hello. Please refer to the following links: and


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Hello. You can refer to the following links based on your query: SOP for MS in the UK: , SOP and Personal Statement Difference: , Guideline



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a year ago

You can refer to this link to get an overview of SOP for Canada: