How to write an effective SOP

Every year around 2.5L students appear for CAT to get admission into the top b-schools across India. Belling the CAT is an achievement but isn’t enough to get you a seat in a college. In fact, the real competition starts after getting the shortlist from a college. In most of the college, shortlist is followed by a detailed application form citing some extra information about the candidate and their personality. These may be posed in different ways, but they are aimed to know more about you, your background, and your rationale behind joining the specific college or program. One of the best ways to get this information is by asking you to write Statement of Purpose (SOP). This not only acts as the source of information but also plays a very crucial role in interview round as they set the base for the questions to be asked. They also help interviewer know about your version of story and if utilized properly, can help you crack the interview process. This comes up with an opportunity but if due diligence isn’t paid, it also has the risk of turning things out of track.

The SOPs are written in multiple ways keeping in mind the target audience and in this case it’s the interviewer who is going to be either an industry veteran or a professor. Hence, it is always advised to stick to the professional format. An effective SOP should not only tell the interviewers about you but also convince them that you have solid achievements that promise your success in the course you’ve applied.  It is also advisable to comprehend the question properly to not miss any specific information that has been asked.

A standard SOP(600-800 words) can be considered as a composition of four different parts:

  1. Your introduction, interests, and motivation behind pursuing the course. (100-150 words)

It must be concise and to the point giving a clear perspective of your personality. At the same time, it should also intrigue the interviewer to know more about you. This part should act as the pillar framework for the complete SOP.

  1. Elaborate on your past studies and the work experience if any. (300-350 words)

It should explain about your Undergraduate degree, subjects studied, projects done, and the extra-curricular activities associated with. You can also talk about your prior internship, job experiences etc. The kind of work you did, major responsibilities handled, and the accomplishments you had could be few of the topics to write about. It is strongly advised to write aligning with the field of management and the specific course you’ve applied for. Limited and proper selection of words with interconnected stories could be one of the best ways to keep the interest of interviewer maintained in reading your SOP.

  1. Your recent activities and your learnings from them. (200-250 words)

Here you can talk about the relevance of your recent activities with the course you’ve applied for. As a prospective student of b-school, you’re expected to possess some skillsets like learnability and here you can show case it to the interviewer. Any other information like working in an NGO, part-time teaching etc. should be shared here. The interviewer has already read more than half of your SOP and has built an image about your personality in his mind, you can use this section to enhance that image.

  1. Concluding and convincing the interviewer that you’re the right candidate. (100-150 words)

Here you can write about some specific fields that you would like to pursue after joining the b-school (Finance, Marketing, Entrepreneurship etc.) or the specific goal that you want to achieve. You can also write about any specific idea or problem that you would want to work on after completing the degree. Best way to do so is by using the STAR framework (Situation-Task-Action-Result). You should conclude your SOP on a positive node indicating that you’re excited to join the course, and you’re also prepared to tackle the challenges that come up with the course.

Some of the key points that should be kept in mind while writing the SOP are:

  1. After reading the SOP, the interviewer should get an image of a Competent, Self-motivated, and learning personality with the potential to bring out best from the course.
  2. Everything should be written in the active voice and emphasized from positive perspective.
  3. Be it SOP or interview stories play a key role. Whatever skill you write should be backed with an incident where you demonstrated it.
  4. If there were setbacks or difficult situations that affected your career, mention it. Write it affirmatively, showing your perseverance and motivation in pursuing the course.
  5. Whatever you state should be inter-connected with the use of proper words.
  6. Standard professional fonts (Arial, Calibri etc.) with font size 12 should be used unless stated otherwise.

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