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6 simple tips to a better SOP
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February 08, 2008

A well-written Statement of Purpose (SOP) is an essential ingredient to any application process. Here are 6 simple tips to make your SOP more effective.

Take time to sketch out an entire outline before beginning to put down sentences. The outline will assist in picking good content as well as developing a good flow of thought for the essay.

Begin well
Universities go through hundreds of SOPs routinely. Opening your SOP well is extremely important to capture the attention of the reviewer. The beginning is where you can establish your uniqueness. Use quotations, short anecdotes even couplets to spark the reader's interest in you.

Keep it simple
Your SOP is not the place to show off your vocabulary. Flowery phrases and long winding Proustian prose are sure turn-offs. Use simple words and short sentences to convey your ideas. Simplicity does not mean discounting passion. The SOP is fundamentally supposed to reflect your sense of purpose.

Divide the essay into short paragraphs each encapsulating an idea. If you do the planning properly, it will be easy to connect each paragraph to the next so that the flow is never broken. If you like to discuss disconnected topics, then subheadings can be used. Basically, having a structure with head, body and end is a must.

Be honest
Sincerity can easily delight the experienced eye of the reviewer. By the same token, deliberate lies and fraudulent claims are much more easily spotted that imagined by the writer. It is your personality that needs to be etched through those lines. So stick to your own thoughts and life experiences and be judged fairly.

Avoid cliches
Avoiding cliches is the easiest way to establish your uniqueness. Dime-a-dozen sample SOPs are available all over the place. Closely imitating them leads to dozens of SOPs appearing to be carbon copies of each other packed with "power phrases", "catchy verbs" and "must have adjectives".

The SOP should evolve into its final form over a period of time passing through multiple rewrites. Use the revisions to trim each sentence, paragraph and idea. All unnecessary words should be avoided. The SOP should be clear and concise, smart and simple and all the great writers of the world agree that such a product demands several patient hours of editing.

All the best! Start SOPing!

The author is a PhD student at Texas A&M University.

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