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How to Write an Award-winning Statement of Purpose (SoP)

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How to Write an Award-winning Statement of Purpose (SoP) in 6 Paragraphs:

This Approach earned me 6 fully-funded Scholarships in the United States

Paragraph 1:

“Growing up” stories such as “ever since I was a child, I had always known I would become the next Albert Einstein,” have become a cliche in graduate school application. Instead, think of making your entire first paragraph all about the problem you’ve identified, how you’re interested in solving that it, and conclude by mentioning that applying to this program and university will help you achieve that aim.

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Paragraph 2:

Now that we know the problem you want to solve and your interest in solving it, proceed to convince us about how prepared and qualified you are to pursue this interest at our university. Start with academic qualification and link it with other experiences and strengths that make you the most qualified applicant – more like “this is why you should admit and offer me funding.”

⁠Paragraph 3:

Of all universities in the world, why did you choose our program and school? Talk about university and/or program ranking if they’re highly ranked, availability of top-rated faculty members (highly cited/referred professors) “especially Prof. XYZ who encouraged me to apply after I reached to him given our aligned interests” (importance of cold email), world-class learning environment, state-of-the-art research facilities, interdisciplinary study approach, the university’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion among other factors.

⁠Paragraph 4:

Career/professional goals: What do you see yourself doing after your bachelor’s or master’s or PhD (depending on which you’re applying to), and how the program/university you’re applying to will prepare you for these post-study goals.

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Paragraph 5:

What are you bringing to the table? Reel out what you’ll contribute to the program and university if admitted. Here, you leverage on your paragraph 2 (qualifications and experiences) to subtly brag about how you’ll be a great addition to the program/university.

⁠Paragraph 6:

Wrap up your SoP by briefly reemphasizing why the problem you identified in paragraph 1 needs to be addressed, your qualification, how you look forward to resuming and learning from the best at their program/university.

1. Use a laptop or desktop to work on your SoP. Using Word on your mobile device isn’t encouraged. It doesn’t do a good formatting job. If viewed on a large screen, it may appear scattered.

2. Formatting: 1-2 page(s), 1.5-2.0 spacing.

3. ⁠Header: Insert a header that reads thus, “Statement of Purpose: Architecture Ph.D., Harvard (Fall 2024) – James”

4. Don’t submit an SoP written by AI. You can ask AI for ideas or template, but SoP must be in your own words.

5. Don’t sound desperate. Don’t sound like you’re begging to be admitted.

6. ⁠The truth is, your CGPA, awards, and experiences aren’t enough. Identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis) and knowing how to synthesize them to your advantage is everything.

7. ⁠See this as an opportunity to market yourself. Make the review committee see what they stand to lose if they don’t admit/fund you.

8. Save and submit SoP as PDF: This way, your formatting is locked and won’t appear scattered when viewed on a desktop/laptop with a big screen.

9. An award-winning SoP isn’t written in a day. Start with a draft and continue working on it every day to improve it.

10. Get a second eye to review and make comments. This is what I recommend – someone in your field should do the first review followed by an “outsider” (someone who knows little or nothing about your field). The “outsider” will let you know if your SoP is written in a language that is clear and easy to understand.

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