How to Write a Winning SOP to get into a Top/Ivy League University
If you are here thinking that we are cooking up some special concoction for your admission to the Ivy Leagues, we are extremely sorry to disappoint you. We don’t have any such special formula to get you into your dream university. However, what we do have are vital tips to help you with the approach, a sort of ‘modus operandi’, you may call it. In this post, we will look at the top tips for writing an SoP for top/Ivy League schools.
Table of Content:
- Don’t make the SOP an expanded version of your resume
- It’s a Statement of Purpose – so the purpose should be out and screaming
- It ain’t no technical statement
- Always ‘show’ never ‘tell’
- Talk about your career goals lucidly
- Bring in a little emotional quotient
- Give them a clear idea of how you will fit in the foreign environment
- Talk about the irregularities
- Get a second opinion
- Keep it simple
Firstly, if you are an MS or a UG applicant and are aspiring to study in one of the top or Ivy League universities, you will have to start building your profile quite early. Studying at a top international university in the US is a life-altering opportunity and will require your entire school/college life to prep for it.
Top universities always look at the complete profile of the applicants and offer admission only when they are assured that you can maintain a healthy balance between your academics and other activities such as sports, extracurricular activities, community service, professional experience, etc. And you know for the Ivy Leagues, you need to ‘up your game’, like literally!
If you have a stellar profile, it is also important to present it in the right kind of light. We don’t want it to be lacklustre now, do we? So let us get down to see how to write an SOP to slay.
Let the resume speak for itself. You do not need an SOP to explain and elaborate on your activities and achievements. A repetition of the resume will look bland and get lost in the numerous piles of admission essays/SOPs. So if you want your SOP to stand out, let it tell the story of ‘behind the scenes’. Pick a few of your most impactful and relevant experiences, academic or professional, and talk about what went on. Talk about the challenges you faced, the efforts you made, whether you succeeded or failed, and the learning you took from those experiences. Don’t overdo it though, remember it is for your college/university application.
The most important part, in fact, the centre point of the SOP is your reason to pursue this course, in this particular field, in this particular university. Everything else that you mention revolves around this. When you talk about your academic and professional experiences and background, you are trying to justify why you are a perfect fit for this programme and when you are talking about your career aspirations, you are reasoning out how this programme is a perfect fit for you and how it will support your career aspirations. So the entire SOP is about why you are applying to this course at this university.
So when so much is at stake, you should be very specific when it comes to your reasons for choosing the course and the university. Mention the connection between the programme you are applying to and your career aspirations. So you need to bring out the fact that you have a certain idea about making an impact on the world or the community or country and how the programme at XYZ University can help you; this, you need to do in very specific terms. The admissions committee needs to know that you know what you are doing. So before you set down to write your SOP, do a thorough groundwork.
When you speak about the university or the programme, mention those specific details that will help you if you take the course. Speaking about how the university is ranked or how globally recognised it is will lead to unnecessary using up of your words and space. So, get down to mention the projects and researches that are related to your field of interest. Mention the names of the professors and their works which are aligned with your interests. Talk about the specific lab facilities and how they will provide you with an ambience to do your research or learn what you want to learn. Whatever you mention, ensure they are specific details.
It is a good idea to highlight your technical skills, especially if you are applying for technical courses. However, please don’t go overboard and rant about all you have gathered in terms of technical skills. Avoid mentioning every project and every technical hands-on and theoretical learning. The reason? Plain and simple, it might just bore the admissions officer because he may have read dozens of essays that mention similar kinds of projects and skills. While your technical skills will be evident from your certifications and course modules, your SOP should have details about your most standout projects, publications, research projects, etc. and should be communicated in such a way that it engages the reader.
Never claim that you have this skill and that. It may come off sounding hollow. However, when you say that you have done some which had some impact or effect and provide actual figures to quantify your claim, you put yourself in a better position in terms of talking about your skills. The message there is clear and direct, while also being not hollow. So always talk about not just what you did but also about the impact/effect it created in actual numbers or percentages.
Now, your immediate goal is to enrol, pursue, and complete the course that you are applying for. Your short-term goals start right after you graduate with the intended degree. What you want to do, the industry you want to work for, your role in functional terms, and the kind of contribution you want to make to the organisation or the country/community/society, etc. You should have clearly thought of these things almost at the time when you decided to apply for a UG/MS/Ph.D. abroad. If not, you always can consult your professors, teachers, seniors, parents, or professional Study Abroad Consultants who will give you a clear picture that will help you decide.
The same goes for long-term goals. You need to say how you want your career to progress in a time span of about 10-15 years. Keep it strictly relevant to your current goals and there is no harm in aiming big. You will also have to say how your long-term goals are going to help you make an impact on the society, community, country, or the world.
Since you are writing about your career aspirations and what you expect to do in the future, there should be a little element of emotion included too. Talk about the passion you have for this field and bring out through the words, the burning desire to accomplish your goals. It should be a perfect balance of technical details and personal drive.
Fitting in should not be a problem if you aspire to study abroad. Articulate this in clear terms in your SOP – not just by making statements but by showing how you plan to work with students from all over the world. The best way to mingle with the student community at any college will be the cultural and extracurricular clubs and these top universities are no different. Talk about the activities that you have involved in at your current/previous institution or organisation. Mention how you plan to continue those activities by being a part of their clubs and campaigns. Draw a picture where the adcom is assured of your contribution to their university. You, however, should have done some considerable work in that field before you express your desire to join that club. So as mentioned earlier in this article, the preparation must start much earlier than the application.
If you have any gaps in your academic or professional background, don’t try to hide it. Talk about it, mention the reason why there was a gap, however, don’t cry out your sob story and make this bump any larger than it is.
After you are done writing an SOP, preferably get a second opinion. A third one wouldn’t hurt but too many opinions will make you go in circles. So write an SOP after thorough research and brainstorming with an interested person (your parents, teachers, professional education counsellor, or professional admission editors) and get it read by someone who may be experienced in this field or someone who has already got an admission in the course that you are applying for. While they can help in verifying your content, you can also get someone to proof-read the SOP – to help you with those hidden double spaces, character or word repetitions, spelling errors, etc that may skip your eyes.
It is a good idea to put your lexical resource to good use but make sure you are using the words correctly. If you are unsure, it is better to use a simpler term. Similarly, avoid using verbose and labyrinthine sentences. Even if you don’t lose the meaning, there are chances that the admissions officer may. And he/she doesn’t have time to re-read. So keep your sentences straight and simple that convey one and only one meaning. As for the tone of the SOP, it should be positive – not too cheery; not too sombre. Just the right tone.
If you have read the whole article, you may be convinced that writing an SOP for your top universities is not an hour’s job. The groundwork for your application should have been in process for over a few years and this groundwork is what we are talking about in the SOP. Our Study Abroad team of advisors and editors will help you chart out a perfect SOP that throws the right amount of light on your positives to help you grab that coveted admission.
Rukmini is armed with over 12 years of proven experience in the service industry. Apart from being a study abroad knowledge expert, she is skilled in service delivery operations, training, and audits. She exhibits enormous flexibility to adapt to new processes and policies.
Rukmini’s university placement record includes Brown University, Georgia Tech, University of Michigan Ann Arbour, TAMU, University of Bath, Durham, etc. Rukmini has been acknowledged and awarded as the best performer (under Service Category) in all the organizations she has worked to date.
Author: Manya Education Group
Manya Education, the largest partner of The Princeton Review (TPR) globally, offers end-to-end guidance and solutions for all the overseas education requirements.
Founded in 1981, The Princeton Review is headquartered in New York, is a part of ST Unitas, a global education company; and has grown to become one of the leading companies in EduTech.
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