Updated on Apr 29, 2021
A major stumbling block faced by most applicants to a master's program in the United States is the intimidating statement of purpose. Our strengths typically lie in the arenas of Math and Science, and as stereotypical as that may sound, it is ground in a bed of truth. Reading a Chetan Bhagat or an Amish Tripathi does not make you a writer. But there is hope, simply because what most of us tend to forget is the fact that the statement of purpose is not a flowery novel. It also isn't a testament of your writing skills. The sheer term 'statement' in its name should remind you of the fact that this essay solely tests your ability to put forth your thoughts and basic facts in a concise, logical way.
As a person actively involed in the SoP business (about which you can read more of below), I find that people often struggle with this very aspect because they are so misguided by the entire process itself. My intention is to hopefully clear up some conflicting issues and shed some light on how to make writing an SoP less painful and more reflective. First, create a mental sketch of how exactly you want to portray yourself. If you had to put down your personality on paper, what would you come across as? An overall performer? A person deeply knowledgable in his/her field? Someone who didn't get a job, and is hence applying for a master's? Choose one and choose wisely, because you must stick to that theme and reinforce it throughout the SoP. The trick lies in molding your achievements so that they fit a particular category, thus making you look like a confident, actualized individual (at least on paper).
The next step would be to ensure that you are answering all the important questions that colleges usually look for. Why do you want to do a master's? What was your motivation? What facts do you have to back up your motivation? What kind of activities were you involved in? What kind of research did you do, or what internships did you complete? Why did you decide to choose a particular college? What do you intend to do after completing your master's? How does this degree match up to your long term goals? It is essential that every single question in this list is answered, regardless of the order. The fact is that all SoPs contain the same thing, now the rest is upto your presentation.
If you want to be safe and traditional, go ahead and start with a quote. It won't gather a lot of eyeballs, but it's still better than shoving your foot in your mouth. If you're applying to some seriously competitive schools, then conventional is probably not a good thing. Just avoid being someone or something that you aren't, because the admissions committee sees through all the bullshit, clear as day. The fact that they choose to ignore it has largely worked in our favour. Admittedly, some amount of creativity and writing skill would be a plus and this is where your friends and family come in to add that little zing to another wise dry essay (using vocabulary that requires a dictionary is not what I mean by zing). If you want to steer clear of all adornment, then simple, clear, concise and grammatically spotless is the way to go.
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