|Things to remember while writing a SOP: What do Admission Committees Look For? A SOP is the most important document that you will write for your application.|
In an era where the majority of applicants have good academic records, SOP can bring out your uniqueness and therefore can make or break your application. An applicant who does not take the essay seriously is throwing away the best opportunity to shine.
Put yourself in an admission officer’s shoes. From among thousands of applications, you have to choose the fraction of students that will comprise next year’s incoming class. The goal is to identify a mix of interesting, confident and enthusiastic people who will make the class a stimulating place. Academic achievements and good test scores are important. But in an era where the majority of applicants have good academic records, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between individuals and decide who gets the offer of admission.
When you apply, your application packet will contain recommendations and extra-curricular achievements, which add dimensions to your personality. But it is the SOP that brings you to life. Which is why each essay is read carefully by at least two and often four or five people before a decision is taken on the application.
Does this mean that the SOP is the main deciding factor? No. Your academic record, grades and the courses you took- are the first section admission committee members turn to. Standardized test scores are useful to know where you stand in the applicant pool. For graduate schools, relevant work or academic experience is important. Being from a reputed school or college confers a distinct advantage. What your teachers or boss think of you goes a long way towards the school’s opinion. A good work sample can show your creativity, skill and professionalism.
However, only the SOP or application essays can bring out your uniqueness and therefore make or break your application. An applicant who does not take the essay seriously is throwing away the best opportunity available.
So are the admission officers looking for specific personality sorts? Well, yes and no. Creativity, curiosity, pride in your work, an enthusiasm for learning, a capacity for teamwork, the ability to think independently and so on are all good attributes, and most of us share these in varying proportions. But what schools look for is a mix of individuals that together, form a well-balanced class. This would include several personality types.
Your SOP should be convincing and make an impact on the Admission Committee. Make sure that it does not appear superficial and unbelievable. The people who read your application have been doing so for years and are skilled at spotting fakes. They are likely to know soon if a particular author is saying something for effect or if an essay does not ring true. And that means almost certain rejection.
Don’t try to be something you are not. Don’t try to tell the admissions committee what you think they want to hear. Be honest, look inside yourself and do your best. The Admission Committee wants to be convinced that you have a thirst for knowledge and that you have thought long and hard about (a) who you are? (b) what are the things you appreciate and what inspires you? (c) what you want out of life? and (d) where you are going from here? It is not necessary to have all the answers; after all, several admirable people have no idea where they are going even at age 40 or 50.