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Common Mistakes to Avoid in SOP


SOP stands for Statement of Purpose, which is basically an essay that should include the purpose of applying to a particular course or a university. SOP is a document that is mandatory and required by foreign university admission. Your statement of purpose should justify your intentions behind studying abroad. Statement of purpose is written in paragraph format while following the general rules of essay writing.

A standard SOP is usually 800-1000 words long that are usually 2 pages. It uses a maximum 12-point font and is double-spaced in normal margins. The candidate must keep in mind that he/she should not use any colorful text or images while writing SOP, and it should only be written with black color text.


Importance of SOP

For getting admission to any top University in the USA, a candidate must submit a Statement of Purpose. A statement of purpose is an opportunity for the candidate to make an impression, to suppress any other weakness in which they have doubts.


Top Mistakes to Avoid in SOP

The following are the most common mistakes that candidates do while writing SOP:


1. Dull Introduction

A candidate while writing his/her introduction should always keep in mind that the introduction is the first and foremost thing that will be read. The first impression will always be your last impression, you should always write an attractive introduction that should attract and hold the reader to get a preference. You should try to start writing with a strong line that should highlight your academics, intentions, and confidence in your strong personality.

Remember that your introduction should not focus too much on self-introduction, it should rather introduce your academic field of interest, and you should try to answer questions like how and why the chosen course and university interests you.


2. Talking Too Much About Your Childhood Dream

While writing your SOP you should remember that international universities are looking for students who are realistic and are focused and serious about their careers.

Rather than sounding like a dreamer, you should sound like an achiever and a focused human being. Always remember that childhood dreams will help you decide your subject streams in the 11th and 12th standards but not in your further life. If you are mentioning how your childhood dreams are connected in choosing and pursuing your field then you should be precise (short and crisp).


3. Writing at the Last Minute

Candidates should always remember that it is mandatory for students who want to study abroad to provide his/her SOP to their respective universities. The most common mistake while writing SOP is writing it at the last minute or simply copy-pasting it from the various SOP sample available online.

These common mistakes must be avoided by the candidates as they should attract the readers. A candidate must start writing his/her SOP at least 30 days before it has to be submitted to the respective universities. You should always look for a scope of improvements, and writing it at the last minute will not give you enough time for looking for improvements.

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4. Not Writing in the Required Word Limit

The word limit for writing an SOP is usually provided by the respective university like the SOP word limit for the US is 600-1500 words (depending on the spacing) and the SOP word limit for the UK is either 47 lines or 4000 words (whichever comes first).

However, if the university has not mentioned the word count, you should always contact the admission department of the university for finding details regarding word limits. If for any reason you are not able to acquire information regarding the word limit, you should try writing your SOP within 800-1000 words.

Candidates should never exceed the word limit as he/she must respect the time of the officials who are reading their SOPs, there must be a huge number of applicants who are applying to the same course and university the officials have to go through every SOP, and therefore, you should always stick to the word limits.


5. Using an Informal Style of Writing

Using informal language can be a very bad idea while writing your Statement of purpose and it can be a reason for not getting admission to your desired university. Candidates should use a formal and professional style of writing while writing their SOPs. They should be respectful and polite while writing SOP. Your writing should be precise and crisp. Make sure you don’t use any abbreviations or slang throughout your SOP. Write in proper grammar and use proper vocabulary.


6. Being Flashy

Your content as well as the font you use should not be flashy. It is very good to write about your achievements and good academic record but always remember that it will be better if you don’t sound overconfident and arrogant about the same. A candidate should be humble and polite. Moreover, a candidate should always be eager and open to learning.

Apart from being polite with words candidates should also use a decent font. The candidate must not use bold, italics, colorful, or underlined fonts. The candidate should use simple and plain black font while writing SOP.


7. Over Complimentary

You should not use many words complimenting the university or the faculty. Remember that your goal should be telling why you and the university is equitable, rather than telling why the university is the best.

Over-complimenting the university will make you sound like you are trying too hard for it, and there are chances of looking fake. Being real will play an important role here, if you genuinely like something about the university you should mention that while being crisp and precise.


8. Proofreading

This can never be a bad idea after writing any content. After you are done writing your content for SOP you should read it thoroughly at least twice for checking any grammatical, vocabulary, spelling, or any other silly mistakes.

If you submit your SOP with any mistake it will picture a bad impression of you, and it can be a major reason for not getting admission to your desired university as proficiency in the English language is a basic requirement for studying abroad.
Few points to remember while proofreading:

  • Try reading it 2-3 times once you are finished writing.
  • Reading it after 2 days, as reading it just after writing will make it harder for our eyes to catch any silly mistakes, but reading it with fresh eyes will help our eyes in catching out silly mistakes.
  • Ask someone else to proofread your SOP, as there are chances of them catching some mistakes that you are probably missing.


Common Mistakes that Lead to Rejection or Permanent Blacklisting of SOP

  • False information in the SOP might create trouble for candidates. So neither lie nor provide false information in documents.
  • The presence of irrelevant information in the Statement of Purpose.
  • Plagiarized/copied documents can lead to direct rejection from abroad foreign university admission.


Statement of Purpose vs Personal Statement: Know the Difference

A statement of purpose talks about the things you want to achieve and do on the other hand personal statement describes you. Both statements of purpose and personal statements have their own goals.

The SOP will include points that highlight a candidate’s strengths, academics, career goals, and research interests, whereas a personal statement talks about the candidate’s personal motivation for choosing the program and the challenges he/she has gone through.

Despite these differences, the purpose of both statements is to make the admission department feel that you’re a perfect fit for the university and the program.


Do’s for Your SOP Application

These are the few points that should be considered while doing the SOP Application:

  • The beginning and end of the Statement of Purpose should be unique and engaging. It must be original and the reflection of the candidate.
  • Briefly explain the academic background and present and future aspirations.
  • Through this, candidates must justify their choice of a particular course for master’s or doctorate courses.
  • Through SOP, the admission officer should be able to understand how a candidate can contribute to the university in terms of research and further scope in their chosen area.
  • Always write the SOP in an active voice and ensure it provides information in a manner that reflects the passion and optimism of a candidate. If they have any statements or references, try quoting them with relevant examples rather than being direct.


Don’ts for your SOP Application

These are the few points that shouldn’t be considered while doing the SOP Application:

  • Don’t mention unnecessary details.
  • Don’t make objections to the events and experiences that have happened to you in the past. Rather tell them how you managed those situations.
  • Don’t get emotional and sloppy.
  • Don’t mention words that reflect your nervous breakdown, depression, and other controversial topics.
  • Don’t spend too much time writing about your future goals and aspirations. Instead, you can talk about your past experiences.

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What do Universities Look for in SOP?

Here is a list of things that Universities look for in the SOPs:

  • Candidates must tell the admission committee why they are unique and equitable candidates to get admission to the university.
  • Statement of Purpose will eventually reflect your writing capability, therefore it must be free from any grammatical, vocabulary, spelling, or any other silly mistakes.
  • Candidates must include their long-term and short-term goals along with their talent, experience, and interest.
  • Candidates should also use their SOP as a platform to describe what they can contribute to the university, program, and the students studying there not only in the field of academics but also in extracurricular activities.
  • Candidates must tell the admission committee what inspired them to choose the specific program and university.

How Long Should a Statement of Purpose be?

The word limit for writing an SOP is usually provided by the respective university. However, if the university has not mentioned word count, you should always contact the admission department of the university for finding details regarding word limits. If for any reason you are not able to acquire information regarding the word limit, you should try writing your SOP within 800-1000 words.

What Should be Included in an SOP?

  1. There are various elements to an SOP which include the goals and the career path candidates have taken so far as well as their academic progress the other elements that are essential to the SOP are the personal motivations that lead them to decide the university/course they have applied to as well as how they intend to use that experience to achieve the goal.
  2. When it comes to writing an SOP, there are various questions that come into the minds of candidates. To summarize the entire life and career in 100 words could be a tiresome exercise, and with that, it is important to understand what to include in the SOP.

Can I get Scholarships with the Help of SOP?

If a candidate is eligible for any college-specific scholarships, then during the application process they will be required to write a separate essay/SOP. They will be given an essay prompt/ question with a specific word limit or would simply ask for an SOP which includes.

Why do they deserve the scholarship and/or what makes them unique from the rest of the candidates?

Hence, a generic SOP is different from a scholarship SOP because in a scholarship essay/SOP, they will be required to highlight their unique selling points, major accomplishments, any quality/skill that makes them different from other candidates, and so on.

What is the word limit of writing SOP?

The word limit for writing a SOP is usually provided by the respective university. However, if the university has not mentioned word count you should always contact the admission department of the university for finding details regarding word limits. If for any reasons you are not able to acquire information regarding the word limit you should try writing your SOP within 800-1000 words.

What are the things to keep in mind while writing an introduction for SOP?

Candidates while writing the introduction for SOP must remember that they are not writing a self-introduction, they should write about their academic field of interest and try writing answers for questions like how and why the academic field interests them.

Should we be honest while writing our statement of purpose?

Yes, a candidate while writing his/her statement of purpose should be honest as if you may have to show proof of anything you are writing. Being honest can be a key to you getting selected in your dream university.

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