What to write in your admission essays and SOP

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

“Write about your world and your experiences. Seventeen-year- olds inhabit a foreign 
country, and adults who work in colleges and universities are curious about what it's like to live within its borders. Essays about a friendship that was forged or one that failed, buying a pair of sneakers, an afternoon working at Dunkin' Donuts, the first trip to the museum without Mom or Dad, or getting robbed on the subway can provide glimpses of your ideas, values and passions,” advises Glenn C. Altschuler, dean of the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions and the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. 

If you are applying to foreign universities, chances are high that you will need a statement of purpose (SOP) or essays to complete your application. Most universities require international students to submit essays along with their applications. These essays help the admission committee know you better. It tells the admission officers what is important to you, and what your values and career goals are. It is imperative that you put in your best foot forward and write an essay or SOP that clearly talks about who you are, what your career goals are and why you are applying to a particular university.
 

Most students tend to be frightened about writing essays. Admission officers are not looking for flowery language and ‘big’ words. The admissions committee prefers essays that are well thought of and reflect what’s important to you. 

Be honest and straightforward when writing your admission essays. Admission officers are well trained professionals and can spot a fake easily. Don’t try and bluff your way and exaggerate your achievements. Similarly don’t guess what the university is looking for and then tailor your essay accordingly. Admission officers have several years of experience and can easily tell if you are trying to make them hear what they want to hear. 

It is not a wise idea to copy material from the Internet or books. Also, beware of people who claim to write your essays for you. If a university suspects that your essay or SOP is not your work, you can be certain that your admission will be denied. Universities have your GRE and GMAT AWA writing score and will know your true writing potential and hence if you submit essays that are not your true writing style, you are jeopardizing your chances of admission. Similarly the new SAT will also have a writing component and hence the admission committee will know your writing capability. 

Applicants for MBA programmes should be sure to include all relevant work experience, teamwork and leadership experiences, and post MBA career goals in their essays. B schools rely heavily on essays and even if you have excellent GMAT scores and top- notch work experience, badly written essays can certainly be the cause of denial of your application.

Do’s and Don’ts of SOPs and essays

  •  Be honest in what you write
  •  Check and recheck your essays and SOP and avoid obvious grammar and spelling mistakes 
  •  Follow a logical flow in your essays
  •  Analyze information rather than just stating it
  •  Use words that you normally use. Don’t try and be someone you are not.
  •  Don’t sound too pessimistic in your essays.
  •  Don’t ever plagiarize information from the Internet or books.


Writing your SOP or essays for your university applications may seem like a daunting task. But if you use this opportunity to do some soul searching and understand your reasons to study further. This can be an enriching process if you want it to be.

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. 

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