College essay is often one of the most underrated aspects in the application process. For Master’s program, it’s popularly called the Statement of Purpose aka the SOP. Usually, candidates with good GPA and test scores (GRE, GMAT, SAT, TOEFL, ACT, IELTS etc.) tend to undermine the importance of a good college essay even more. Not much effort is put into it by candidates because good scores give them a boost in confidence. This is extremely risky because a college essay can make or break your whole college application. Which is why candidates with average scores just cannot afford to slack on writing good college essays because this can compensate for their average scores. Here are few things that are incredibly important while you are writing your Statement of Purpose:
1) Academic and Work Experience Stories:
It basically entails what you have learnt from your past experiences and courses that distinguishes you from the pool of applicants. Discuss, in your own words, your research experience, academic and professional plans, and reasons for wishing to pursue graduate work. Include detailed plans of your intended field of specialization, your preparation for that specialization, and anything else you consider important for a judgment of your abilities by our admissions committee (including articles, thesis, books, or any other material published, or any invention patented, academic honors, prizes, or honorary scholarships, etc.). Follow STAR method to convey your stories if possible- Situation, Task, Analysis and Results, in that order. It becomes easier to understand your story/experience. What’s important is to make the admissions committee know how your past experiences are in line with the exact same course that you are applying for. Try to connect your past with your future.
2) Leadership Skills and Extra-Curricular activities:
Universities admire versatile personalities- people who accomplish things outside of their coursework and work experience. They want someone who can’t just finish a task but someone who can show the people how it’s done. So, list out experiences where you showcased your leadership skills, it can be a startup, volunteer work, music group, playing a sport etc. Make sure that you list out the What, Why and How of the experience.
WHAT? What was the experience about? What was your contribution in the project?
WHY? Why did you pursue this particular experience? Why were you inspired?
HOW? How did you achieve the goals? How did you contribute?
3) Structure and Flow of the Essay:
One of the most important things to consider is to maintain a thread of logical thought throughout the essay. A common mistake people make is to write an incredible nth paragraph, an incredible (n+1)th paragraph but with NO CONTINUITY between the two. Continuity is a big part of the flow of your essay and it is important to pay special attention to it. It is important that you prioritize all the points you have shortlisted for your statement. Once you have ranked your points in a priority-based fashion, you should form a skeleton for your essay. The skeleton should be a description of the main point you wish to convey in each paragraph. Like all good stories, a good essay/SOP should also have a smooth and interesting flow. Every word in your essay/SOP should contribute something to the story you are trying to tell. The flow should be such that the amount of relevant information conveyed per line of text is as high as possible.
4) Grammar and Overall Language:
All these experiences and good stories that you have about yourself should be easily comprehensible to admission committee. Make sure that there are no grammatical errors, spelling mistakes etc. that can create a bad impression on your audience. Stories should be articulated in a simple yet sophisticated manner that grabs attention immediately. Build that curiosity and make the reader admire your accomplishments. Describe your achievements in detail, though not in vanity. It shouldn’t look like the writer is ONLY bragging. Always stick to the word limit. Finally, do not make the mistake of making use of your newfound GRE/SAT vocabulary all over the place in your essay. Fancy words stick out like a sore thumb, especially if you don’t use them appropriately. The best essays are ones that use simple, concise and appropriately expressive language; not the ones that use fancy words.
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