Statement of Purpose (SOP) vs Personal Statement

Statement of Purpose (SOP) vs Personal Statement

9 mins read39.4K Views Comment
Aprant Agarwal
Study Abroad Expert
Updated on Sep 18, 2023 12:36 IST

SOP vs Personal Statement: What is the difference between a Statement of Purpose and a Personal Statement? Those who are planning to apply to study abroad often have this question in their mind. Apart from a few aspects, a Personal Statement seems similar to a Statement of Purpose. An SOP includes a two-page essay about your motivation, goals, experience, extracurricular activities, and so on, whereas 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, so it should elaborate on your aspirations and motivations.

An SOP is a much more detailed version of the Personal Statement. In this article, we will explain to you the difference between a Statement of Purpose and a Personal Statement, so, you have a clear idea at the time of your application process. First of all, you need to understand what these two types of application documents intend to express. The main difference between the two is that a Statement of Purpose contains what you want to do or achieve by pursuing the course you are applying to, whereas a Personal Statement includes details about you: who you are?

Statement of Purpose

An SOP is a long essay asked by universities abroad during the application process. A Statement of Purpose is an essay stating the purpose of applying for a particular course at a particular university. This essay consists of a gist of who you are, who you want to become, and how ready you are to pursue a certain course at an institution. The SOP states the candidate’s life, the motivations for the chosen career path, and his/her goals. Therefore, a candidate should discuss the past incidents that have influenced your career path, in a specific domain wherein you aspire to grow by enrolling in a course/college.

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Personal Statement

A personal statement is your application for studying at a particular college or university. It gives you a chance to articulate why you would like to study a particular course or subject, and what skills and experience you possess that reflect your passion for the chosen field of study. This essay should demonstrate your readiness for the chosen field and why you are applying to a particular program. If any space is left after giving these details, then you can explain your personal achievements or qualities, which can be other than academics or the field in which you have selected to study; for example, volunteer services. You should explain how that activity or experience has prepared you better for your studies.

Learn how to write a UCAS Personal Statement here

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Difference between a Statement of Purpose and a Personal Statement

A Statement of Purpose highlights your academic strength and background, research interests, long-term goals, and why you fit for that particular program, whereas a Personal Statement showcases your personal motivation for applying to that program or any achievement or challenges that you faced, as well as your learning from those experiences.

Basis of Distinction

Statement of Purpose

Personal Statement

Focus and Purpose

Academic and professional objectives, citing the reasons the candidate is drawn to a particular programme and how it fits with their desired careers.

More biographical and self-reflective, offering details on the applicant's own life experiences, principles, and goals.

Type of Content

Motivation, goals, professional experience, extracurricular activities

Personal motivation, inspiration, goals, and achievements

Tone of Document


Can be informal

Length of the Document

500-1,000 words

500-2,000 words

Similarities between an SOP and a Personal Statement

Similarities between an SOP and a Personal Statement can be noted from the points given below:

  • Goal: Both documents are used to shed light on the applicant's credentials, background, and motivations. They want to persuade the admissions panel that the candidate is a good fit for the course.
  • Tone: The tone of both texts should be formal at all times. They ought to be correctly formatted, well-written, and error-free.
  • Originality: Honesty is required in the presentation of the applicant's experiences, accomplishments, and motivations in both the SOP and Personal Statement. Genuineness and authenticity are crucial in both documents. Moreover, there should not be any plagiarism in either of the documents.
  • Avoiding Clichés: It is important to avoid clichés and generic statements in both the SOP and Personal Statement.

SOP Format

Depending on the particular requirements of the institution or programme, a Statement of Purpose's (SOP) format may change. When formatting your SOP, you should bear the following principles in mind:

  • Length: Although some programmes may have specified word or page restrictions, SOPs are normally between one and two pages lengthy (usually 500-1,000 words). It is critical to review the instructions given by the programme or institution.
  • Font and Formatting: choose a common, easy-to-read typeface in a size between 10 and 12 points, such as Arial or Times New Roman. Double-space between lines and use 1-inch margins on all sides.
  • Introduction: Start your SOP with a succinct and straightforward opening that grabs the reader's interest and gives a rundown of your academic background and objectives.
  • Body Paragraphs: Divide your SOP into paragraphs, with each one highlighting a different facet of your academic and professional development. Use descriptive subheadings to help the reader navigate the various sections, such as "Academic Background," "Research Experience," "Career Goals," and "Relevance to the Programme."
  • Programme Fit: Indicate your interest in the particular programme or organisation and how it fits with your academic and professional objectives. Draw attention to any relevant experiences or abilities that help you stand out as a candidate.
  • Conclusion: A powerful ending paragraph that restates your primary ideas and reiterates your interest in the programme should be included at the end of your SOP. Keep fresh information out of the conclusion.
  • Proofreading: Check your SOP carefully for spelling and grammar mistakes before submitting the final version. Having another person check your SOP for coherence and clarity might also be beneficial.

Personal Statement vs Motivational Letter

Now that you are clear about the differences between an SOP and a Personal Statement, let us look at the difference between a Personal Statement and a Motivational Letter. A Letter of Motivation is directly addressed to the admission committee/department faculty explaining your objectives, motivation, and goals related to the course. A Personal Statement, on the other hand, is not addressed to anyone specifically, but it is an essay-type document outlining your motivation, inspiration, and achievements. To know more about a motivational letter, read: How to write an impressive Letter of Motivation?

Which Document Do You Require for Graduate Schools?

Having understood the difference between a Statement of Purpose and a Personal Statement, you should know which document you require for applying to graduate school. This completely depends on the school you are applying to. Some schools ask you to write a Personal Statement, whereas some want a Statement of Purpose.

If you are facing any difficulty in writing a Statement of Purpose, then you can look at the sample SOP and learn how to approach your SOP.

You can also learn how to write a Graduate School Statement of Purpose here

Those who need to write a personal statement but are facing challenges in writing it can learn How to Write the UCAS Personal Statement here

Note: Aspirants should always check what is the exact requirement of the university and accordingly work on that document, whether SOP or Personal Statement.

SOP vs Personal Statement FAQs

Q. What are the differences between an SOP and a Personal Statement?

A. A Statement of Purpose (SOP) and a Personal Statement differ in their focus and purpose.

  • SOP: An SOP focuses on your academic accomplishments, character traits, abilities, and reasons why you should be admitted to the programme. It is commonly used for graduate or undergraduate programme applications. It is more structured and formal, typically taking the form of a two-page essay in which you outline your motivation, objectives, past experiences, extracurricular activities, and how these relate to the programme. Your academic and professional objectives, credentials, and programme alignment are highlighted in the SOP.
  • Personal Statement: The main goal of a personal statement is to include details about you that will improve the admissions committee's impression of you. It enables you to share your interests, life experiences, and distinctive qualities. In comparison to a SOP, the personal statement is frequently shorter and clearer.

A personal statement describes personal experiences and passions, whereas an SOP emphasises academic and career ambitions. The SOP is more structured and professional, whereas the Personal Statement offers a more unique and personalised viewpoint.

Q. What are the similarities between an SOP and a Personal Statement?

A. Here are some points that provide similarities between an SOP and a Personal Statement:

  • Both a personal statement and an SOP are written materials that shed light on the background, experiences, and goals of the applicant. They are meant to highlight the applicant's abilities, objectives, and fit for the course of study or job for which they are applying.
  • In all situations, the candidate should show enthusiasm, commitment, and pertinent abilities or experiences that make them a strong contender. To successfully communicate the applicant's distinctive characteristics and ambitions, both pieces demand thoughtful consideration and reflection.
  • Both the SOP and the Personal Statement ought to be well-written, interesting, and free of typos or grammatical errors. They need to pique the reader's interest and create an enduring impact.

Q. What is an SOP?

A. A statement of purpose (SOP) is a brief essay that summarises your intents, objectives, and driving forces for pursuing a certain opportunity or programme. It gives the reader a personal introduction to you while also giving them some background information about your experiences and goals for the future. Your accomplishments and pertinent abilities should be highlighted in the SOP along with how they relate to the programme or job you are looking for. Additionally, it should show how committed, enthusiastic, and successful you are in your chosen industry. In the end, the statement's goal is to persuade the reader that you are an accomplished and deserving applicant.

Q. What is a Personal Statement?

A. A personal statement for students is a piece of writing that offers information about their experiences, goals, and background. It is frequently utilised when submitting applications for educational opportunities like scholarships or college admissions. Students can highlight their distinctive traits, abilities, and accomplishments in the personal statement while also outlining why they are a strong candidate for the programme or opportunity. It ought to focus on the student's motives, objectives, and how their experiences have influenced their intellectual and personal growth. Students have the chance to show their enthusiasm, commitment, and likelihood of success in their chosen fields in the personal statement.

Q. Should I write an SOP or a Personal Statement for studying abroad?

A. Understanding the particular needs and expectations, of the institution or programme you are applying to, is crucial when it comes to studying abroad. They might call for a Statement of Purpose (SOP) in some situations and a Personal Statement in others. It is essential to adhere to the clear instructions provided by the institution or programme. If there is no preference stated, it is still important to take into account the objectives and content of both papers.

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About the Author
Written by
Aprant Agarwal
Study Abroad Expert

Aprant Agarwal is a seasoned study abroad expert at Shiksha Study Abroad, specializing in countries that include Canada, the Netherlands, UAE, and Finland. He holds more than 2 years of experience in the study abroa... Read Full Bio


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