How to Write a Statement of purpose (SOP)

With a global surge in the inclination for higher education, there has been a rise in the number of applicants for various post graduate and doctoral programs. But it has been more so in the field of management especially for MBA.

This has made selection process quite a challenging task for the top universities and the Institutes. The selectors want to ensure that they get exactly the kind of talent they are looking for.  So the selection process has become multi-stage and multi layered to make the assessment of applicants as holistic as possible. A standard written test score, sound academic record and a statement of purpose have all their share of importance.

For many students, written test and academic record make straight forward sense, but they seem to be at loss when asked to write a statement of purpose. This post aims to familiarise you with the basics of the SOP and the process of writing SOP for MBA.

What is Statement of purpose

As the name indicates the University or the Institute wants to know the specific reasons behind your decision to apply for the program. They also want to know about whether you have assessed yourself for the suitability for the applied program and also whether you understand the benefits  of the program. In short they want to know whether the applicant is clear about where the program exactly fits into his/her larger scheme of things.

So a good SOP should include the following

  1. Career Goal
  2. Your background and experiences correlated with your Career Goal
  3. Appreciation of what the program offers.

Let us understand these one by one.

  1. Career Goal

Career goal is the most important aspect of an MBA SOP or the answer of the question “Why MBA?”.

For most of the under graduates and even graduates these are the most confusing and amorphous words. They mean it to be some kind of prediction and seem to be wary of it going wrong.

To put it simply the career goal is a statement of intent and aspiration and not a prediction. While stating a career goal, one is expected to state the professional level one desires to achieve at the top of his career over the next 15- 20 years.

For example: “I aspire to be at a position of strategic leadership in a Fortune 500 company.” Or “I desire to have my own business in the field of e commerce with a global presence.” Or “I see myself as the leader of a trans national retail organistaion.”

Although a person must ideally decide to prepare for the written test only if there is clarity on career goal front, students often write the test with a vague idea like “a better job” or “everybody does it”. So at the time of application they feel quite uncomfortable in stating a convincing career goal. They should understand that there are no good or bad career goals. There are only clear or vague goals. And to arrive at clarity some bit of research is indispensible.

  1. Background and experiences correlated with career goal.

The objective of including background and experiences is to strengthen the candidature by showcasing your strengths, interests and inclinations.  So it is advisable to include those experiences which logically relate with one’s choice of a particular career goal. This part can include experiences and instances from school and college life – both academic and extra-curricular- , interactions with friends and family, social interactions and also from work experience if applicable.

For example “I discovered my interest in business when I participated in a Business plan presentation competition at my college. Right from doing the research and crunching numbers to presenting the plan and winning the competition, I went on to realise that I have inclination towards identifying and exploiting business opportunities.”

Or

“I derive a lot of pleasure in cooking and fine dining. I even like to give feedback to restaurants on improving the dining experience. In many instances a restaurant owners have appreciated my feedback. Over the years I have developed a desire to blend my interest with my career. “

  1. Appreciation of what MBA program offers

Many students who apply for MBA programs have a misplaced idea about what an MBA exactly offers. They mention words like “personality development or personality enhancement” or “to hone my managerial skills”. While personality development is a by product of life in a B School it is not its express purpose. So what does MBA really offers.

MBA program from a reputed Institute or University offers both inside class and outside class learning. The primary purpose of MBA is to equip the students with key skills and core competencies needed to run and drive the growth of a big business.  In the process the student’s involvement with peers during case discussions and co curricular activities, interaction with visiting Industry experts, and  summer internship provide a boost to various soft skills needed to excel in the corporate. Besides, the alumni connection boosts the placement scenario and strengthens the brand of an Institute. The brand advantage is one of the biggest intangibles offered by a top B school.

Features of a good SOP.

A good sop is one in which the background logically support the career goal and the skills needed to achieve the career goal are the same as those offered by MBA program. Often a word limit – ranging from 100 words to 1000 words – is provided while asking for the SOP. However, if no word limit is provided SOP of around 600 words is highly desirable.  The language should be as simple as possible and jargon should be used only when necessary. Also remember that often the SOP serves as the basis for the subsequent Personal Interview, so you should be absolutely clear about the meaning of special words and the jargon used in the SOP.

Final word

Writing an impressive SOP is a process that depends on decent language skills, proper research and patience to write multiple drafts and edit them for improvement and removing any errors.  The two essential qualities of a good SOP are clarity and conviction.

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