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All you wanted to know about a great Statement of Purpose

By Chitrita Chaudhary

The Statement of Purpose or SoP is one of the most important documents that go with your application. Universities ask students to provide an SoP so that the former can judge the student’s level of motivation and the desire to excel in the particular study programme. Hence, a good SoP should always reflect clarity of thought – why the student wants to pursue a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Ph.D. The student should be able to substantiate his/her short and long term goals. In a nutshell, an SoP should answer the four principal questions:

  1. What do you want to study and what did motivate you to apply for that particular degree programme?
  2. Why do you want to study the particular degree programme?
  3. Do you have any experience in the related field? Please explain.
  4. What are your long term and short term goals?

Remember, the answers to the questions given above should consistently point towards your inclination to pursue a particular degree programme. Your long term goals should not contradict your past academic experiences. To cite an example, a student who is inclined to pursue an MA in English should try to substantiate her motivation by citing relevant skills and experience in related fields. If her past work experience has all been in the hospitality sector and presently she wants to pursue an MA in English Literature, the student has to draw a link between her work experience and her present objective which is to enrol in an MA degree programme. Other things which a student should keep in mind while writing the SoP are:

  1. Make it interesting, especially the first two paragraphs. The Admissions Committee should feel the urge to read your entire SoP enthusiastically. The Admissions Committee has to go through hundreds of SoPs on a regular basis. An interesting first paragraph will certainly give you the edge.
  2. Substantiate whatever you are claiming. To convince the Committee that you are really motivated to pursue the course, furnish details of seminars, conferences and workshops that you have attended or participated in.
  3. Admissions Committee wants students who have an all-rounded personality. Hence, if you have excelled in your school sports or won a prize in a debate competition, your application will stand a very good chance to make the grade. This holds especially true for Bachelor’s degree programme applicants.
  4. You need to convey to the Admissions Committee that you have specific long and short term goals and you believe that the course for which you are applying will help you attain them.
  5. Do your research well. This again holds true for Master’s and Doctoral students in particular. Go through the concerned academic department’s webpage and find out the latest research areas in which the department is involved. Try to locate a professor who has similar areas of interest. Furthermore, you have to state why you want to pursue the study programme from X University. You have to state a few reasons why you think X University will provide you the right platform to achieve your objectives.
  6. Never send the same SoP to every university. Your SoP should be tailor made for every respective university.
  7. There has to be a logical progression of ideas in the SoP. Every paragraph should be connected and there should be a transition of ideas. It shows that you are methodical and, above all, organised which are key skills if you are pursuing a Master’s or a Doctoral degree.
  8. There should not be any factual errors in your SoP. Don’t exaggerate your credentials. Remember, along with your SoP, you have to submit your certificates and transcripts and any factual discrepancy can always be pointed out by the Admissions Committee when they go through your documents.
  9. Some SoPs have word limits. You have to adhere to the specified word count if the university asks you to do. Otherwise, a 2-3 page document should be perfectly fine. Don’t make the SoP too long. If you feel that you need more space to list your skills and experiences, you can always include Curriculum Vitae with your application.
  10. Formatting is extremely important in the SoP. Make sure the margins and indent are uniform. Font size should be 11 or 12. Proofread the draft thoroughly before sending.

I am providing a model SoP which will give you a hint of the structure and the things that should be included.

Model Statement of Purpose

“It’s a mesh of technology and engineering, but every component is working with such cohesion and precision! It’s amazing, isn’t it?” I remarked to my friend as I observed and learnt from all I witnessed at Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL). The Electronics and Communication Engineering (ECE) Department had organized an industrial visit when I was in the final year of my undergraduate studies in ECE.

Ever since I learnt to unscrew the remote control of our television, electronic devices have been fascinating me. Being a child I have always wondered how a television set displayed wide range of channels or how radio transmits voice without actual presence of a being. I have tinkered with all the appliances like audio equipment, visual devices and computers etc. This early interest in electronic devices and signalling steadily increased throughout my schooling years, as I tried to understand in a better way the working of these devices by observing the technician repairing faulty gadgets, and by making small projects using LEDs, microphones, speakers and alarm. This fascination for electronic gadgets prompted me to take up Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry as my course of study in my higher secondary school and electronics and communication engineering subsequently in my bachelor’s degree. All these significantly improved my understanding of the subject and further enhanced my interest in it.

Having passed my higher secondary examination with distinction from a renowned English Medium school in 2009, I joined Vidya College of Engineering, Meerut, affiliated to Uttar Pradesh Technical University approved by AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) and completed my B. Tech degree programme with distinction in Electronics and Communication Engineering in 2013. During my study I have been highly motivated by the twin challenges of understanding concepts and then applying them to practical outcomes, which explains my consistent top grades in theoretical as well as practical examinations. During the last four years I have spent most of my time carrying out research and attending a number of lectures, seminars and workshops organized by different institutions under the patronage of the university. Apart from robotics and its mechanism, automation and its applications, techniques related to programmable logic units, embedded system, and MATLAB were the main focus of the aforementioned research seminars and workshops.

As the electronic world is undergoing gigantic advancement with new software capable systems replacing old methods and with my habit of engaging in educational work, I felt the importance of continuing learning and so, I joined Embedded System classes during my summer breaks to update myself with developed integrated systems. Moreover, building basic logic skills is the stepping stone in any area, and to blend my technical knowledge with software enable programs, I also joined certified C Language classes. To implement the logics learned in C, I made a project on “Port Programming using C” which displayed the use of all functions including font management, colouring, using loops, array, pointers etc. My individual effort in all my endeavours went hand in hand with team work when it came to lab sessions and project work, which helped me greatly to gain in-depth knowledge and understanding in subjects like Digital Signal Processing, Microprocessors and Microcontrollers, Very Large Scale Integrated Circuits and interfacing various circuit components on to a project board.

As part of my 3rd year program, I opted to undergo training in Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), New Delhi. Apart from field training on Switching Technology, Transmission basics, Data Communication and IP networks, Technology and service aspect, and 3G Overview, I specialized in Broadband sector. These activities gave me valuable experience in Communication Technology as well as satisfaction of hard work.

The above-mentioned factors sowed the seeds in my psyche for exploring the entire gamut of the complexity and as part of my exploring and developing skills, I along with some friends made a project on “Digital Bus Prototype”, which is a prototype of Metro rails, fully automated and works purely on electricity. It was an embedded system based project using AT89S51 microcontroller which synchronized timing circuitry, motors, breaks, LCD display, and announcement records. For the same, I won the 1st prize in Tech Fest at intra-college level. I have also worked on “Digital Data Transmission Using Laser with Password Protection Mode” as a part of my 4th year project in which I worked to develop a system which can transmit data without the limitation of range of transmission, cables, and extensive authentication process. Overcoming the limitations of basic system, it also provides high speed, low noise, better accuracy, and minimum interference. This project won many a praise as it was aimed at solving a pertinent problem in our professional life and also abridging what I had studied over the four year period of my undergraduate studies. This is corroborated by the overall maximum percentage of marks that I scored in that particular semester in the entire class.

Seeing my ardency to excel in my field of engineering, the Head of Department and professors of my college motivated me to present an abstract on “Development of Laser Enabling Data Transmission with Low Energy Consumption” in front of highly distinguished dignitaries at the ICRTAE 2013 (International Conference on Recent Technologies in Advance Electronics) conference held at our college. The abstract was eventually selected. The paper presentation and group discussion enlightened me with various engineering concepts. This event gave me a chance to discuss my ideas with the pioneers in my field. During these sessions, I took criticism and praise with a positive frame of mind which helped me to further fine-tune my knowledge and skills.

I have always believed in living life in a balanced way where the academic curriculum and extra-curricular activities are two sides of the same coin. I have consistently secured first class in all my semesters. On the other hand, I have very good interpersonal and communication skills and have organized several educational camps and inter-collegiate activities at my college. I have participated in Tech Fest and extra-curricular activities like poster making, and dancing for which I have won numerous prizes in various inter-college competitions. Apart from these, I have also won medals and trophies in games such as “kho-kho”, badminton and athletics.

The University of X is my first choice for a Master’s degree programme in Electronic Systems Engineering for a plethora of reasons. I believe that the study programme offered at the University of ABC will help me achieve the perfect blend of technical knowledge, professional guidance and overall development. The University of X, being a well-reputed university and which has ranked among the top universities in Canada, focuses solely on experiential learning and research. Besides providing opportunities in the electronics sector, the University of X emphasises more on producing a close partnership between the course professor and the lab instructor. While going through the Department’s webpage, I found the works of Prof. X particularly intriguing. Prof. X has published a number of academic papers in the field of electromagnetism which happens to be my area of specialisation as well. If I am accepted as an MS student at the University of X, I would certainly want to work with Prof. X. I am sure my association with her would guarantee me invaluable learning skills in my area of specialisation. Additionally, I can get constructive feedback from Prof. X which would certainly enhance my knowledge of Electromagnetism and its effects on Communication Technology.

In my study towards a master’s degree program, I hope to critically explore my professional career in digital signal processing. The use of mathematical modelling and basic fields such as Fourier analysis and sampled data signals, continuous time system analysis, pulse response, IIR and FIR filters in the advancement of digital signal analysis and its application are my area of interest. I am also keenly interested in wireless communication, especially its advancement in network sector. The ways in which software is engaged to work with hardware in a simultaneous way have always fascinated me. I would like to enlighten myself with the ways layered network models and protocols relate themselves with telephone networks for the upgradation of complete wireless system.

Apart from academic dividends, I personally love Canada’s astonishing environment and enticing lifestyle. I believe that it is a tranquil and serene country where my thought process and communication skills would go uninterrupted and ensure good results. The vibrant industry scenario in Canada will undoubtedly provide me with internship opportunities where I can further hone my practical skills and put my theoretical knowledge to use.

My long term goal is to work as a communication engineer and be actively involved in the development process in an area that I cherish and enjoy. I believe life is a learning process where one learns every day. So along with updating myself in the practical field, I would like to enhance my academic knowledge related to concerned subjects. Taking admission in an esteemed institution like the University of X will be my first step towards my aim. Apart from providing me a global platform, this opportunity will also give me the confidence to be able to live and work in any part of the world. I earnestly believe that the excellence of the program, along with my capabilities and motivation, will help me attain my objective.

In conclusion, I would like to add that the essence of university education lies in the cohesive relationship between the student and his or her department. I feel that graduate study at your university will be the most logical extension of my academic pursuits and a major step towards achieving my objectives. I believe the program offered will help me acquire the versatility and a holistic approach needed to reach my full potential as an engineer. I am supremely confident that education in your esteemed university will provide me with the invaluable opportunity to further explore my areas of interest and provide me the best environment to achieve my goal. I strongly believe that I have got the aptitude, drive and the motivation needed for the program and would like to continue my studies on the level demanded by the specified course. I would be grateful to you if I am accorded the opportunity to pursue my graduate studies in your institution. I hope to have a long and mutually rewarding association with the University of X.

Author:

Chitrita Chaudhary received offers of place from a number of Canadian universities. However, due to some personal exigencies, she chose to stay back in India and enrol in a Master’s degree in VLSI Design at VIT University. She is now planning to do a Ph.D. from a Canadian university after she completes her Master’s study programme. Her e-mail is chitrita.chaudhary@gmail.com.

***

For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.

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