Many time we have heard of statement of purpose, study plan, personal statement and the likes but many are not so sure what these mean or how to go about them.
There are thousands of students applying from all over the world with similar application to yours. Therefore, your writing is arguably more important than anything else you submit, as it gives you the chance to express what makes you stand out from the rest of the applicants.
The aim of your Statement of Purpose (SOP), Personal Statement (PS) & Study Plan is to allow the admissions committee to find out more about the students on a personal level. Looking at your test scores, credentials, class rank, and similar data is not enough.
Different schools ask for different formats. Writing off-topic, no matter how creative and special your story is, could lead to an automatic filtering by the admissions committee because you have failed to read the requirements and deliver what they are asking for hence you need to read critically requirements for each school and don’t generalize.
Statement of Purpose (SOP): Just by looking at the title, we should already know that this paper is focused on your purpose, or the reasons why you want to study a particular course/major at this university.
Usually, schools will assign what they call “prompts”, which are focused questions which you need to answer in detail. Failure to answer the question automatically marks you as an unfit candidate. It is very important to direct your response to the particular questions at hand.
Effective SOP writing discusses your career plan and future goals. This must be well thought out, as it takes focus and determination to pursue a degree, especially if you are applying for a master’s or doctorate degree.
The admissions committee wants to see how well organized and prepared you are. Your readers need to know that you are serious about the degree program. They do not want slackers; they want well-defined research interests.
A well-written SOP formally expresses the candidate’s background (education, interests, credentials, etc.), but the candidate does not brag. The candidate explains in detail his or her desire to gain acceptance into the program of choice.
Personal Statement: The keyword “personal” already tells you how different this is from an SOP. Here is your chance to show off what you have accomplished in your academics, any major skills you have, and any extracurricular activities in which you have participated.
On your Personal Statement, you have the chance to represent yourself to stand out from the other students; you have the freedom to talk about anything and everything in your life, as long as it is relevant to the program to which you are applying.
You need to carefully choose relevant details or know how to transition fluidly from idea to idea when writing your personal statement. Jumping from one story to another in one paragraph will put off the admissions committee, so organize your thoughts in advance.
Study Plan: A study plan is just another way some schools around the world, particularly in Asia, refer to a personal statement/SOP. They are looking to learn about your personality, past achievements, present roles, and future goals.
There may be a shorter word limit for a study plan or no limit at all, depending on each individual school’s guidelines. When you are reading through the requirements, pay special attention to what the school is asking for so that you can focus the essay accordingly.
If you do research on how to write a study plan, notice that the term “study plan” can also refer to a planned schedule to help students prepare for tests and exams. E.g, some students make study plans/ schedules to determine how productive they can be during a class, exam, etc.
“To simplify the differences: An SOP describes why you want to attend a university while offering some details about your fit for the program, whereas a PerSonal statment or Study Plan is all about representing yourself, your skills and accomplishments, and why this university should choose you.”
Writing the Statement of Purpose: The statement of purpose should convince readers– the faculty on the selection committee – that you have solid achievements behind you that show promise for your success in graduate study. Source
How to write a personal statement for Grad School Application: A good personal statement can mean the difference between getting an offer and being rejected. Your personal statement should show us that you are the right person for the course. Source
Proposed Plan of Study Guidelines: Some school applications including awards/scholarships will ask you to submit a proposed plan of study. You should take this as an opportunity to research your options.