How Important Is a Statement of Purpose?

Illustration of man in front of school

It’s that time of the year again: contacting professors for letters of recommendation, finalizing school options, and drafting personal statements. The Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose (SOP) remains the most important element of the admissions process. It allows the admissions committee to peek into your background, almost providing a narrative for your entire application.

A well-drafted statement of purpose could downplay certain weaknesses and can convince the admissions committee to lean towards approval! Read on to find out why an SOP is important, as well as some writing strategies from education and writing experts to implement when writing your own.

From finding the program of your dreams to organizing your documents, ApplyBoard’s free platform is a one-stop shop to help you study abroad.

A yellow folder with a paperclip underneath a blue file.

Why an SOP is Important

You may be wondering “How important is a statement of purpose?” The short answer is: “very important.” Here are some of the reasons why a well-written SOP is key to your admission. 

Share Your Story

Your SOP is your chance to share your unique story with the admissions team. Dive into what led you to applying to your program and institution of choice, and how you got to where you are today.

Some ways to share your story include: 

  • Personal challenges
  • Passions and interests
  • Future aspirations 
  • Role models 

Showcase Your Skills

Lots of people apply to post-secondary programs. A good SOP will help you stand out and showcase skills that make you a good fit for the program you’re applying to. Remember to talk about your technical and interpersonal skills: admissions teams are increasingly looking for a balance of both.

Some skills you can talk about: 

  • Problem-solving skills 
  • Leadership abilities
  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Technical proficiency

Find out more about what an SOP is on our blog.    

Talk About Your Experiences

Your SOP allows you to tell your institution all of the things you’ve learned and experienced. Whether you mention your volunteering with a local charitable organization or the extracurricular clubs you’ve joined, use this opportunity to talk about the adventures that led you to apply to your institution and program!

Other experiences you can talk about may include: 

  • Internships or work experience
  • Research projects
  • Leadership roles
  • Coursework and projects

Note: Remember to only include experiences that are relevant to your application. You might have other experiences that are exciting, but if they don’t strengthen your application, this might not be the time to discuss them.

Share Your Plans

It’s important to share your plans for your future in your SOP. Doing so lets your admission officer better understand why your admission into your program is beneficial. Not sure where to start? Think about questions like: “What do I want to do after graduation?” “What are some of my major life goals?” Or, “how will this program help me achieve my goals?”

Below are some examples of plans you can share in your SOP:  

  • Career goals
  • Further education goals
  • Research interests
  • Desired impact on community or society

Plagiarism can seriously hurt your chances of admission to the college or university of your dreams. Find out what plagiarism is, and how to avoid it on our blog.

Writing on Documents

Writing Strategies

Now that we’ve reviewed how and why an SOP is important, it’s time to delve into writing strategies, so your SOP stands out. Below, we’ve gathered advice from two education and writing professionals.  

  • William Rieth, Director of Graduate Enrollment Management at Temple University stresses the importance of students understanding their audience before setting out to draft their essays. The SOP should hit a strong note with the admissions officer reading it. Admission officers read hundreds of essays. So, every effort should be made to make your essay compelling and relatable to the department’s long-term vision.
  • Writing coach Debby Bacharach‘s strategies for essay writing include passion and sharing experiences. A student’s ability to align their experiences and talents with their academic career can impress admissions staff.

International postgraduate student Kushal Srinivas credits his personal essay as a key to his acceptance at Northeastern University. “Despite an incredibly low undergraduate GPA,” he shared, “I took advantage of the SOP to highlight my strengths and develop an entrepreneurial streak during my tenure as a prospective graduate student.”

Read more about the documents you need to study in Canada in this blog post.

When it comes to admissions, every institution weights different application pieces differently. However, a strong personal statement can often improve your chances of acceptance. Use it as a chance to shine. Not only is it a word map of your personality, but a chance to show your personal and academic skills and strengths. Remember to leave enough time to draft more than one version, and ask someone you trust to read it over: constructive criticism can refine the final version.

Combining your experiences, talents, and ideas into a convincing SOP can lead you to the golden ticket: the Letter of Acceptance.

Ready to start pursuing your study abroad dreams? Try the free ApplyBoard platform today!


The most important stories in international education, backed by data