Essay and SOP writing

Essay and SOP writing

Written by Overseas Education Consultant and Study Abroad Career Counsellor in Mumbai, Karan Gupta

Essay and SOP writing


‘SOP’ is not a new club or restaurant. Neither is it a welfare organization called ‘Save Our People’. SOP is the acronym for Statement of Purpose. If you are applying for admissions overseas, most likely you will be sending a statement of purpose along with your application. A statement of purpose is an essay which outlines your career goals, your aspirations, your reasons to choose a particular program and degree, and so on.


The SOP is your chance to talk directly to the admission committee. Through the statement of purpose you can discuss with the admission committee any flaw in your application. You can explain low grades, family issues and other personal problems. Keep in mind, that while you explain circumstances to the admission committee, it should not look like you are making excuses for your grades. It is imperative that you take responsibility for your actions.


Most students get harried with just the thought that they have to write an essay. Universities are not looking for flowery language or great writing skills (unless of course, you are applying for a major in English or Writing) but instead are looking for students with clear and concise thoughts and students who precisely know the reasons why they are applying to a particular university and major. If your university does not provide a word limit, try to restrict your SOP to about a 1000 words. This is not a MumbaiUniversity exam paper, where the more you write, the better your grades will be.

Do’s and Don’ts of an SOP


  • Be honest, clear and concise
  • Don’t keep repeating the same information
  • Don’t send an SOP with obvious grammar and spelling mistakes
  • Don’t just state information. Analyze it.
  • Don’t use words that you don’t know the meaning of. Use language that you are comfortable with.
  • Don’t whine or moan in your SOP. Universities want optimistic students and not students who sound like ‘father of doom’
  • Check and recheck your SOP to make sure that you discussed all the salient points in your application.
  • Don’t ever plagiarize information from the Internet or books. If you submit work that is not your own, you can be sure that you will be denied admissions.



MBA applicants may not require a statement of purpose but instead may need essays to complete their applications. Business schools ask applicants to answer questions such as ‘What are your short term and long term career goals?’, ‘Describe your teamwork and leadership activities’, ‘Describe an ethical dilemma you faced at work’. Many students decide to first write out an SOP tackling these questions. They then answer specific university questions from the SOP they have written.


Always write the statement of purpose or essays yourself. Never copy material from websites or books. Also, beware of people who say they will write your essay for you. The GMAT and GRE both have essay writing components and universities will be able to tell a ‘fake’ SOP from your writing style. Similarly the new SAT also has a writing component and colleges will be relying more on the essays you write as part of the standardized test. “Sometimes we’re not sure how much help a student received in writing the essay. Using the tests’ writing components will level the playing field for all applicants and help us ensure that each student writes his or her own essay without any help,” says Deborah Smith, associate vice provost for Enrollment Services at Georgia Tech University. Universities such as Harvard, Notre Dame, Rice, Penn State, University of Texas and Ohio State University are also scheduled to follow the same system.


Being an international student, you most likely will not have the opportunity to visit your university and have a personal interview with the admission officers. Naturally the essay is a vital component of your application packet. If you are not getting any additional help to write your essays or SOP don’t experience myopic paranoia. If you are clear about your career goals, why you want to attend a particular university and why you want to pursue a particular programme, you have nothing to worry about. Use this experience to do some soul searching. Identify why you really want to study abroad and what you plan to do after your education. Keep in mind what the University of Chicago admissions staff have to say – “err on the side of intellectual pretension than on the side of pure silliness”

Sample introductory paragraph of an SOP with review


My decision to pursue graduate study in the United States is underscored by my desire to be a part of the graduate program at your institution. Purdue University offers the flexibility needed for such a vast and rapidly changing field. The research facilities and the faculty at the university are par excellent.


Review: While it's accepted wisdom that you have to suck up to the university, doing that in the very first paragraph isn't always seemly. This is something that all applicants should be careful about.  Something else that's essential in these personal essays is to sound natural. In this paragraph, 'underscores' and 'par excellent' don't come across too well. This kind of awkward phrasing is best avoided.

I am applying for admission to the Ph.D. program in Business Administration because I want a career in the research and teaching of management. In particular, I am interested in factors that affect the competitive performance of a business concern, and the manner in which changes in technology affect an organisation's structure, long-term business strategy, product development, manufacturing, supply chains, distribution network, information needs and standard systems. In order to gain an appreciation of these and related issues, it is essential for me to have a strong grounding in Economics, Supply Chain Management, and issues connected with Information Technology, as well as gain a General Management perspective.

Review: If you can capture your ambitions in a few words, this is the sort of beginning you want to shoot for. Far too many essays begin with cliched sayings or throwbacks to the author’s childhood. However the pitch does get a bit queered in the next line. There are a few words about ‘factors that affect …’ and then an extremely long spiel about ‘changes in technology affect’ absolutely everything there is about an organisation. You don’t have to be a business major to understand that things get a bit confusing since these unrelated ideas are presented in the same line. This results in things coming across in a rather unbalanced manner.


Karan Gupta is the leading international education and career consultant in Mumbai, India. Since 1999, he has given career counselling and has helped thousands of students with study abroad and get admission and visas to universities and colleges in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore and EU and also helps them get scholarships, loans and financial aid. In addition to aptitude tests and career counselling, his firm also provides training and coaching for the GMAT, GRE, SAT, ACT, TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE exams. Karan Gupta is the best study abroad career counsellor, consultant and career guidance expert in Mumbai.

chat close Book an Appointment
Karan Gupta Whatsapp