All You Need to Know About SOP and Personal Statement


If you are planning to apply to a graduate school, one of the key requirements is writing a Statement of Purpose and/or a Personal Statement. Given the similarity between the names, most people tend to get confused, and many also think that both are the same thing. However, it is not so. There is a clear difference between a statement of purpose and a personal statement. Read further to find out the key features and the difference between the both.

Statement of Purpose

A Statement of Purpose (SOP) is a document that includes your academic objectives, and also your professional goals. You can also mention your prior learning and skillset in your statement of purpose. It is mainly needed when one is applying for a graduate program. The admission committee or a university uses this document to evaluate a candidate’s potential for success and the relevant skillset needed for a specific program.

Importance of an SOP

To begin with, other than a candidate’s test scores, and other academic achievements, an admission committee also looks for other skills and achievements that make a candidate stand out among the crowd. Some universities may ask for a Letter of Intent which is nothing but another term for SOP.

An SOP plays a crucial role in justifying a student’s candidature for a specific program. It allows highlighting your academic achievements, skillset, research interests, academic objectives, and career or professional goals. The admission committee uses an SOP to determine if a candidate is a good fit for a program and if he/she has the potential to excel in it.

Let us now look at the key components of a Statement of PurposeImportance of an SOP

  • Introduction: A sentence that starts a statement of purpose ought to be captivating and summarize the program you are applying to. Personal anecdotes can be included.
  • Academic Details: Emphasize your academic accomplishments, grades, relevant courses, technical skills and experience in research if any.
  • Industry Experience: Disclose the internships that are useful in your field and elaborate on the main lessons learned from such internships. Moreover, in case you have been professionally employed, what were some of your key responsibilities? What kind of an impact did it make?
  • Research Interests: If there is any specific topic you would like to specialize or further work on during your graduate studies, this is an opportunity for you to explain whether this aligns with your intended program.
  • Reasons for pursuing a graduate program: You should justify why you want to pursue a graduate program, what you expect to learn from this program, and how this learning will help you with your career aspirations.
  • Career goals: This section should highlight what you plan to do after completing your graduate studies. It is important to mention well-defined short-term as well as long-term career goals to strengthen your SOP.
  • Why this university: Here you need to justify why you want to study at a particular university. Therefore, it is important to mention aspects or features of the university that you find compelling.
  • Conclusion: Conclude your SOP by summarizing the main points and highlighting your interest in the program.

Personal Statement

A personal statement highlights your personal experiences, achievements, and qualities. Some universities, in addition to an SOP, also ask for a personal statement. It is also required for job applications. A personal statement should include all the relevant personal motivations, and factors (Social, economic, financial, etc.), and be able to articulate your thoughts and ideas to convince the graduate committee of your choice of application.

In a personal statement, you can draw attention to your specific characteristics that guarantee you a place on a particular program. It needs to be precise and assertive, demonstrating your competencies and attitude and their relationship with the educational or organizational values.

Central parts of an admission essay.

  • Introduction: Start your personal statement by introducing yourself and providing the necessary background information.
  • Qualities and Skillset: This section should also showcase your interpersonal or soft skills combined with your qualities i.e. leadership, teamwork, ability to solve problems, decision-making, etc.
  • Relevant experience: Give an account of all the applicable internships, volunteer work, extracurricular activities, etc.
  • Accomplishments: This is where you highlight the relevant achievements and qualities.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the main points and emphasize your interest in the program.

What is the difference between a Statement of Purpose and a Personal Statement?

The main objective and focus of an SOP are different from that of a Personal Statement. Mentioned below are some of the differences.

  • Focus: In SOP, your research and academic aspirations are more emphasized and your Personal Statement is all about your experiences and background that define your ability.
  • Length: Generally, the SOP is lengthier than the personal statement. A statement of purpose could be around 500-1000 words long, and a more concise personal statement usually ranges from 300-500 words.
  • Tone: While the tone of an SOP must be formal and academic, in a Personal Statement the author is allowed to be personal and conversational.

The important thing to keep in mind while writing the SOP is the fact that it should absolutely be genuine.

Steps for an Impactful SOP

Steps of Impactful SOP

  • Plan ahead: Please note that writing SoP is a labor-intensive process that requires time and work. So, it would be prudent to begin with the plans right away. You will have your time to examine, brainstorm, draft (draft again if you want), and then complete the job.
  • Do thorough research: The very first step in the process of writing an SOP is research. It is extremely important to research the program you are applying to. This will ensure that you have a clear understanding of the important requirements and can accordingly write your SOP.
  • Hit nail on head: Do not write vague sentences. Be specific about the information like academic goals, research interests, and goals. Back your statement by adding relevant examples or instances to demonstrate your skills.
  • Proofread: It is important to edit and revise your statement. Your statement should be free of spelling errors and should be grammatically correct. You may ask a friend or a family member to read and point out any mistakes.

How to write an impactful Personal Statement?

Write SOP

  • Be authentic: A personal statement becomes insincere if you write it with cliches or generic statements. Your statement should accurately reflect who you are and what you hope to achieve.
  • Show rather than say: Do not use ‘show, don’t tell.’ Each time you mention a specific skill or trait, provide an example where you have used that ability.
  • Tailor your Statement: It is important to remember that when writing your personal statement, it should be customized as per the requirements of the program applied for.
  • Indicate how eligible you are: It is crucial to demonstrate how your individual goals and ambitions fit in with the ethos of a university.
  • Review and Revise: Just like an SOP, edit and proofread your personal statement before submission.

An effective SOP or Personal Statement increases one’s chances of being considered for admission into a University of their choice. From these pointers above, a compelling SOP/Personal Statement can be drafted.

However, students might get confused about the elements to be added to each document type and therefore it is advised that the students take external assistance. At Manya – The Princeton Review, we have our seasoned editors who will help you craft a compelling SOP or Personal Statement as per the requirements of your chosen program, enhancing your application by concentrating on other application prerequisites.

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