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SOP Writing Guidelines: Do’s and Don’ts to Follow

Statement of purpose or SOP is a very important part of your application while applying for admission to foreign universities. Almost all universities ask for SOP as part of your overall application. Writing a good SOP can be very challenging and students often wonder how to write a winning SOP.


There is a lot of confusion regarding what to write and what not to write, what should be the ideal word limit, what are the common mistakes to avoid, etc. To ease up your pressure, we have come up with this article about SOP writing guidelines.


SOP writing guidelines


We will discuss in detail all the aspects of writing a good SOP. Just go through our complete article carefully and you will have all your doubts cleared about SOP writing guidelines.


What is a Statement of Purpose (SOP)?


Statement of Purpose is an essay that should reflect your overall personality in front of the admission committee of the college you want to apply to. Your academic journey can be traced by the committee through your academic records.


But when it comes to analyzing your personality, your goals, your background, and your motivation for the specific course you are applying for, SOP is the single most important document that can decide whether you will get admission or not.


Presently, SOP submission is mandatory if you are applying for admissions to universities abroad and that’s why one should be aware of SOP writing guidelines in order to avoid any mistakes while writing the SOP.


Best Practices for Writing a Statement of Purpose for Ph. D


Importance of Statement of Purpose:


SOP is highly important in the sense that it is your chance to present yourself in front of the committee. You can’t change your academic records but through SOP, you are given a chance to showcase other traits of your personality and to explain why you should be chosen.


SOP gives you a chance to explain why you are interested in a particular course and what are your future goals and aspirations. Universities get a lot of applications every year for admissions in various programs.


SOP acts as the final deciding factor in determining whether to allow a student admission or not. A well-written SOP gives a clear picture of who you are as a person, what motivates you, what are your goals, and why you want to join the course. SOP gives you a chance to prove how you stand out from the crowd.


General SOP Writing Guidelines:


Statement of purpose will differ w.r.t. what course you are applying to, but there are some basic SOP writing guidelines that will be common for all SOPs.


  • First and foremost, your SOP should not have any spelling and grammatical mistakes. You should double-check for any such mistakes before submitting the final copy.


  • The language should be precise and clear. You should be clear about what exactly you want to convey through your SOP. Keep your overall tone as confident but try not to use excessive informal language.


  • Focus more on why you want to pursue this course and what motivates you and what do you want to achieve by pursuing this course. Focus less on why the university is great and how you will benefit from it.


  • The ideal word limit is considered between 500 – 1000 words though it may vary in some cases. Hence, do not divert from the topic and use every line effectively. If the university has given you any specific word limit, do not cross it.


  • Prioritize quality over quantity. Write about one or two experiences that are special in your life in the sense that you became enriched from those experiences. Write about any adversity you overcame or any specific thing you excelled in.


  • SOP should include details about why you want to pursue the specific course you are applying for and what you want to achieve by completing the course.


  • Write about your short-term goals and long-term goals. Write about the kind of companies or the broad industry you want to work in after completing the course. Connect the dots regarding how your goals are aligned with the course you want to pursue.


  • Write about why you chose this specific university and specific country for your studies. You can also write about your expectations from the university. Keep it to the point and do not repeat it again and again.


  • Write about any voluntary services or any NGOs you have worked with and how these experiences have helped you grow. Write about your extracurricular achievements.


In case you need some professional assistance for writing SOP, here are the Top SOP Writers in India


How to Write a Good SOP:


In the previous section, we learn about SOP writing guidelines. Now, in this section, we will learn about the typical format for SOP writing and how SOP writing guidelines from the previous section can be applied for writing a good SOP.


There may be variations in the formats for SOP depending on the university or the course you are applying for. However, the following format will give you an idea about writing an effective SOP that can make you stand out among the crowd.


Part 1: Introduction:


The introduction is all about giving a brief overview of your complete SOP. Try to explain your background w.r.t. your family and your past education in general. Write about why you are opting for the course and what you want to achieve through it.


You can mention a specific incident regarding how you got interested in the field you are choosing. You can also mention your long-term goal and how the course you are opting for is aligned with your future goals.


One thing to remember in the introduction is whatever you are writing, should be somehow connected to the course you are applying for. For example, talking about your interest in music won’t help you if you are applying for a medical course. Your content should be relevant to the course.


Also, read about How to Write SOP for Visa Application


Part 2: Academic Qualifications and Professional Work Experience:


In this part, you will describe your academic background and your work experience. You can write about school and college grades in brief. You can describe all the extra-curricular achievements.


You can write about any voluntary work you have done or any NGOs you have worked with. You can write about any certification programs or any training courses you have done.


You can write about your professional experience including the companies you have worked for or the overall industry you have been part of. You can write about the language proficiencies you have. This section will give the admission committee an idea about your academics and working experience.


Part 3: Why this Course?


In this part, you will describe in detail why you have chosen this course. You can start with any specific incident or childhood interest that may have propelled you towards this particular field. You can write about the skills and expertise you are expecting after completing the course.


You should also write about how this course will help you in achieving your future goals. You can also write about the immediate goals you want to achieve after completing the course. The important thing is first you should be convinced about the course you are selecting, then only you can convince the committee by writing your thoughts in a clear way.


Part 3: Career Goals:


In this section, you will write about your future career goals. Your goals may be short-term or long-term. Short-term goals like immediately after completing the course, which companies do you want to work for? You can name a few companies or specific industries or specific roles you are looking for.


Your long-term goals should explain where you want to see yourself after 5 or 10 years. You can write in detail about which sector you are looking for or maybe you want to start your own business. Try to give a clear idea regarding your career goals so that the admission committee will understand what exactly are your expectations from the course and the college.


Part 4: Why this University?


In this specific section, you will write about why you have chosen this specific university. You can talk about the specific points that helped you in shortlisting the university. You can talk about the curriculum, the placements, any specific faculty members, or any specific activities of the university that you think motivated you to apply for this university.


Part 5: Closing Paragraph:


Be very specific in the closing paragraph and summarize wherever you have written in the SOP. You should sound confident and ready to join the course. Your eagerness and excitement to join the course should be reflected in this paragraph. You can write about your vision and how this course will help you in your long-term vision.


This is the most standard format followed for writing SOP. You may be a little bit flexible while finalizing the format. However, you should cover all the points mentioned in the SOP writing guidelines, so that nothing is left out. You can check out sample SOP for the USA to get an idea about SOP.


Common Mistakes to Avoid in SOP:


Till now, we have understood how to write an SOP. We have also discussed in detail SOP writing guidelines. In order to write a winning SOP, we should also talk about the common mistakes that you should avoid while writing the SOP.


  • Writing too much about Childhood


You may write about any specific incident or anecdote that inspired you towards your goals but digging too much into childhood memories may work against you. The committee is not looking for your childhood fantasies. Committee wants to know who you are and what you want to achieve. You should be clear and focused in your SOP.


  • Writing too much Family History and Financial Background


Try to stick to the basics and do not write about the whole family tree. Also, a lot of people commit the mistake of mentioning sensitive financial information. Please keep in mind that scholarships are a separate part and no need to mention your detailed financial background in the SOP.


  • Providing False Information 


Providing false information anywhere is a crime. Whether you are applying for admission to a school, a company, or a university, the other side expects you to provide information that is 100 % correct.


They may ask you for supporting documents anytime and if you are unable to support your information, you will be blacklisted. So, never provide any false information in your SOP.


  • Plagiarised Content


A lot of people might wonder why we do brainstorming when we can simply copy and paste from the internet. Please understand one thing: the committee members go through several applications every year and they can surely detect the copy and paste content from the original one. Take your time, ask for help from your friends or relatives or any college professors you are acquainted with, but never do a copy and paste job.


  • Too many Technical Terms


You might be an expert in the automobile industry but the committee members might not be acquainted with the technical terms that you use in the automobile industry. Try to think from their perspective. They will not feel connected to you and think of you as a show-off. Try to use simple and effective language.


  • Not Sticking to the Word Limit


A lot of people might not give this point much attention, but this is a very important point to remember while writing the SOP. If the university has given you any word limit, do not cross it. If nothing is mentioned, you can consider anything from 800 – 1000 words.


Please understand the value of time and space. The committee has to go through a lot of applications within a specific time frame and it can be very annoying if you have written a long essay. Hence, you should stick to the word limit.


  • No Clarity on Career Goals


The committee should get a clear picture of what you want to achieve through the course and what are your future career goals. If you write only about past experience and achievements, It may give a perception that you are not focused on the future. Hence, keep a balance between your past achievements and your future goals.


  • Using Flattery and Humor


While it is considered okay to write a few lines praising the university curriculum or its overall culture, try not to be too repetitive in using flattering phrases and too much humor as it may backfire and give an idea that you are not sincere and focussed enough.


  • Using Weird Text, Fonts, or Colored Paper


Do not use SOP to try your art. Use simple fonts and simple font sizes. Do not use colored paper for SOP. Keep it simple.


Now, let us summarize all the points under Do’s and don’t so that you can easily remember the same.


Do proper research before starting the SOPDo not provide any false information
Use simple and effective languageAvoid casual language and humor
Use simple fonts and text sizeDo not use and colored paper
Keep focused and remain on the topicDo not exceed the word limit
Write about your future career goals clearlyDo not use complicated terms
Be authentic and take help from othersDo not copy and paste from the internet
Write, rewrite and edit till you are satisfiedDo not hesitate to take feedback from others


Frequently Asked Questions:


  1. What is the ideal word limit for SOP?

Some universities mention the word limit they are expecting and in such cases try to stick to the word limit prescribed by the university. If nothing is mentioned, you can consider between 800 -1000 words as per our SOP writing guidelines.


  1. Is it ok to mention my name in SOP?

Only if it is being asked by the university. In general, there is no need to mention your name in the SOP.


  1. Does SOP need a title?

There is no need to provide any title to SOP unless it is specifically asked by the university.


  1. Can I take the help of any professionals for writing my SOP?

If you are not confident about writing your SOP, you can take the services of many professionals who are experts in writing in the SOP.


  1. Should I write about scholarships in SOP?

Never. Please note that there is a separate system and process for a scholarship and you need to follow it. Do not write anything about scholarship in your SOP.




The statement of purpose can be the difference between acceptance and rejection of your application for admission. The document gives the admission committee an overview of your qualifications, your experiences, and your career goals.


SOP is an opportunity to present yourself in front of the committee and provide a solid reason as to why you should be chosen over other candidates. Do your research, do not hesitate to take help from friends and family, write and rewrite till you are satisfied with the content of your SOP.


All the points discussed in our SOP writing guidelines need to be taken seriously and we hope our SOP writing guidelines will help you in writing a winning SOP. Wish you all the best in your application!

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