Sidestep basic pitfalls in writing a Statement of Purpose

Young female student working on a laptop
Photo: © Rahultiwari3190 / 123RF Stock Photo

Rahul came to my office to discuss his rejection slips from several universities — puzzlement and disappointment written all over his face. All he kept saying was: “Where did I go wrong?”

There are several pieces to the puzzle that makes an application — the reference letter, the statement of purpose, standardized test scores, etc. Very often we look at our scores and feel complacent about the other aspects of an application. “After all, with scores like that a committee would be crazy to reject me!” Right? I’m afraid that’s wrong! The scores, the percentages are only one of the few concrete pieces that complete the puzzle. The subjective pieces like the reference letter and the statement of purpose provide vital data which make or break the application. Coming back to Rahul, his grades were great but the language of his statement of purpose (SOP) left much to be desired. There were careless mistakes and abbreviations strewn all over. So what could have been a great application sitting in the accepted pile reached the rejection pile instead.

Let’s take a closer look at what went wrong in Rahul’s SOP:

SMS Language vs Formal Language: When we send out a SMS or a WhatsApp message, most of us are used to using terms like ‘y’ to represent ‘why’ or ‘atm’ to represent ‘at the moment’ or ‘cu’ to represent ‘see you’. However, when we write a formal essay or a sample of writing it is unacceptable to use SMS like abbreviations. Some of you might roll your eyes at this but the admissions committee needs to know that you are familiar with English and can write an assignment in the same. Even though an IELTS or TOEFL is part of your application we are still light years away from SMS language being acceptable in the academic world.

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Shivani Manchanda
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Shivani Manchanda

Shivani Manchanda, a post-graduate in Counselling from the USA, is a warm and vibrant counsellor. Her expertise lies in counselling students on career development, stress prevention and international education. She is an enthusiastic speaker with over two decades of experience.