What is a SOP?
(The introduction below refers to educational environment prevalent in India)
There were days when secondary school leaving certificate (S.S.L.C) was the end of an academic career. There were also days when people stopped their academic career with a bachelor degree. Because jobs were available for those with an SSLC or a BA. Further academic learning wasn’t necessary for office promotions unless the profession was teaching in a college. Even MPhil was unheard of till perhaps the early 1980s.
But today, for the past or decade or so, that is, expectations of employees, employers and students are sky high, knowledge explosion, job opportunities, life ambitions have all been responsible for this. A PG degree in the right discipline is necessary for smooth entry and quick growth.
This is especially true of students with a bachelor degree in engineering. They all know the value of an MS from a foreign university, an MTech from India, an MBA from a foreign or Indian institution. Even when they are in the middle of that UG courses they prepare themselves thoroughly to get through qualifying examinations and proceed further to send applications for admission.
This is where the Statement of Purpose enters the picture. Most applicants are required to send a write-up about themselves, their studies and the reason for wishing to join a PG course.
This write-up is known as a statement of purpose or simply SOP.
What do the institutions expect in write-up? A brief, crisp, clear presentation of information relevant to the course being applied for. This will facilitate the selection process because the application contains only statistics and does not create a mental image of the candidate. The SOP will provide this. It will show the candidate as a person, as a learner, as a thinker. It will indicate the candidate’s expectations, achievements, ambitions.
The SOP is a short essay of not more than two pages. The information should be presented in paragraphs. The first forms the introduction. Generally speaking, this contains the area of interest of the candidate in a given discipline. The body would deal in complete detail with subjects studied in the UG course, the knowledge gained, the projects taken up with a brief description of goals, development and conclusion. Both these should be linked to area of interest if possible. Or the candidate should talk about the analytical skills gained—a necessary trait for pursuing a PG course. The concluding paragraph should close with the reasons for choosing that particular institution and for wishing to join it.
Throughout the write-up, the candidate should present the information in such a way that the selecting institution can see and visualize the candidate’s capabilities as pursuer of knowledge and one who will add to the good name of the institution.
Here are a few samples. Those wishing to write a SOP can follow the method they see here.
As I approach the final stages of my undergraduate student life, I have a very important decision to make. A decision that will shape the future course of my further education. But I am clear in my mind where my interests lie. I believe a career in research and development is where I will be most happy.
I have always shown good proficiency in mathematics and pure sciences. With the encouragement of my teachers and parents, I participated in a number of quizzes and talent tests. I was among the few students who were awarded distinction in the Australian talent test and in the Maths Olympiad. My strong performance (94.57) enabled me to enter the portals of ... (your present institution’s name)
During the first two years, I was given solid grounding in mathematics and was introduced to various areas of electronics—electronic power, analog electronics, digital systems, solid state devices. Each of these is like an ocean in itself and I realised the need to narrow down my area of interest and specialise in it.
The turning point in my career came when I attended a series of lectures given by world renowned professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala (Indian Institute of Technology, Madras) on CORDECT wireless in local loop technology (WLL). This was developed by a group of faculty and students at IIT Madras. It gives a subscriber a fixed wireless connection providing both a telephone as well as a 35/90 Kpbs internet connection. This new technology has ushered in a rural telecom revolution in India along with a cyber boom by reducing the cost of rural telephony by over 50% besides keeping the maintenance cost to the minimum. I was fascinated by this technology and its usefulness to developing countries like mine. Since then, it has been my desire to work on technologies that can make a difference to society.
During the fifth and sixth semesters, I credited three courses ‘analog modulation and systems’, ‘communication systems’ and ‘satellite communications’ which introduced me to the world of communications. I began to develop an interest in this field. To improve my practical knowledge I did a miniproject with Cognizant Technology Solutions. It involved integrating EPBAX system to the computer. We developed the software which would accept the data given by the BPABX systems and then generate reports as well as update the existing records. I have also authored a research paper entitled ‘Prototype for optimizing web browsing in wireless environment’. It describes a prototype that makes it possible to run web applications in wireless networks. This prototype reduces the response time by intercepting the HTTP data stream and by performing various optimizations including file caching, protocol reduction and elimination of the redundant HTTP protocol.
I was introduced to another interesting medium of communication—‘ham radio’ by a professional ham radio operator. In spite of the advent of wireless communications, internet telephony ham radio is a distinct joyful experience in itself. The very fact that we are allocated a particular frequency and that our voice goes on air is fascinating. I have listened to a number of technical discussions and talks carried out by ham operators. I have decided to design and construct a ham radio receiver in the next few months. After that I plan to appear for the ham radio operator’s exam in order to get a license from the government to become a licensed ham operator.
Today there is a communications revolution. This revolution has meant that people can communicate with people thousands of miles away and access information from all over the world. However, this revolution is confined only to developed nations and the majority of people in the developing world remain untouched. It is my desire and ambition to come up with disruptive technologies that would reduce the cost and make the technology accessible to all.
To achieve the above objective, I need to have total mastery of current knowledge in the area. My undergraduate course offers only a glimpse of the various fields in electronics. Hence doing my Masters is of utmost importance to expose myself to greater depth in my field of interest. I strongly feel that graduate study will further enhance my knowledge, hone my skills and enable me to achieve my goals.
After browsing the websites of several universities, I have Xeroxed in on Clemson University, I am impressed with its world class facilities. I have read with interest the wireless communications and networks programme at your university. I feel that it closely matches my interest and I also understand that the faculty for the ireless communication program comprises some of the best professors in this field. It would be a privilege to work under them. I keenly look forward to joining the wireless communication research group of your University.
‘Discovery consists of seeing what everybody else has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.’
Computer scientists are software engineers. They design and implement efficient software solutions to computer-solvable problems. Computer scientists are the behind-the-scene programmers who make the present technological advancements possible. I am inclined towards these infinite possibilities; hence, graduate studies in computer science.
My interest in computers blossomed in my school days. So I opted for Science group (Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry) at higher secondary level. During that time the world was becoming increasingly depended on the advancements in science and technology to fuel our future. I opted for Information Technology as my major in undergraduate studies.
In my undergraduate studies, the girth of...(institute name) (Approved by AICTE and affiliated to the University of Madras) a premier institute in India, with its vast syllabi and wide-ranging curriculum has enabled me to probe, core areas of computer science and get a strong grasp of fundamentals of the same. Subjects like Microporcessors, C, C++ programming, ORACLE, Computer Network, Operating Systems and Artifical Intelligence interest me the most. I have worked on DOS, Unix and Windows platforms.
Because of the fast growing need for computer technology in areas such as high-speed networks, multimedia technologies, virtual reality, and voice recognition systems, I would like to become a specialist in these fields. To be an authority in a chosen field it is imperative that one goes through a profound and structured study dealing with every aspect related to it. Research is such a means and it epitomizes the application of theoretical principles. Having keen interest in Computer Networks, Operating System and Artifical Intelligence, I wish to do an MS computer science program with a PhD to pursue a career in research and thus experience the ensuing pleasure and fulfilment.
At ... (name of the institution) one has avenues for developing technical skill, updating knowledge, personality development. If one were to ask my faculty to describe me they would say I am a hard worker, a very pleasant, diverse, active, intelligent and sincere person. My project in pre-final year ‘STUDENTS QUIZ’ under the MOU between a leading software company Cognizant Technology Solutions, Chennai and my College was declared THE BEST PROJECT from over 50 projects. I have consistently ranked in the top 5% of the students of my class, in school. During my undergraduate studies, I have been a keen participant in extra-curricular activities. I was in National Cadet Corps (Army Wing) EME Wing (Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) during the period 1998-2000, and also played an energetic part in the national level symposium, PROTOCOL, conducted by our Department.
A really distinctive faculty, a milieu replete with academic activity and research facilities are just three of the many reasons to choose your esteemed Institution for the pursuit of my Graduate studies. I believe that becoming part of your reputable organization one will acquire versatility to become a full-fledged engineer and sould satisfying experience. I also have a passion for travel and understanding different cultures. All these rudiments have given me a revelation and encouraged me to apply to your University.
Having a broad outlook, with varying degrees of knowledge in a range of topics, a zest for challenges and animated desire to learn all I can, I strongly believe that although some are not related directly, all these qualities will influence me to become part of your rational atmosphere, which will be very conducive to match my aspirations, when I return after finishing my studies. I would be grateful to you if I am accorded the chance to pursue my graduate studies with financial aid at your Institution.
Program applying to: Masters in Computer Science
Discipline : Computer Networks and Distributed Systems
It is said, ‘you are magnetized towards what you think.’ It’s quite true in my case.
I have always been in situations where I wanted to be. I passed out of school with a state rank in Mathematics and was ranked in the top --% of my class at DAV Chennai, India on my major subjects of Mathematics, physics and Chemistry and Computer Science. I was admitted into... (institution name) affiliated to the University of Madras, a highly revered Institution in India in the field of my choice. I am right now completing my final year in Computer Science and Engineering under the guidance of excellent faculty.
This positive experience has strengthened my wish to pursue Masters in Computer Science with a special emphasis on Networking. Networking has opened up a whole new range of services like email, internet telephony, video conferencing and e-coomerce that have a tremendous impact on our lives. It emphasizes the fact that “Users should have computing power at their disposal irrespective of their location”. The state of the art equipment, huge information databases and essential resource have to be shared or else the whole idea of having them at a particular node or system would be meaningless. Mobile computing will lend a new dimension to the services currently used. Of course, before computers can be interconnected in such an ubiquitous manner, power networking techniques must evolve, such as the ability to support hight data rate, wireless communications and other ‘real-time’ connections.
My real interest in UNIX helped me to get exposed to the field of Networking. The quest to know more in these area made me acquaint myself with Professors in my College regarding the TCP/Ip and OSI reference model even before it was taught to me. During my sophomore year I presented my first paper on TCP/IP in my College, which mainly talks about the two separate protocols, TCP and IP. This study not only helped me to understand the basic concepts, but also drew me deeper into the field.
My project mate and I got the opportunity to present a working model of a “PC Based Remote Control System” at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanput. It is basically an extension of X10 Automation Systems. My part was to design the protocol and to do the coding. The Centronics Interface was used for the transmission of the data from the computer to the interface card and the entire coding was done in C++. It was widely appreciated at we had done this project as sophomores. This gave a boost to my confidence and further initiated me to hone my research skills.
I had taken Computer Networks and Data Communication in my previous semester as part of the academic curriculum and I plan to take Distributed Computing Systems in my current semester. To put in practice what I have learnt I undertook two projects. One was in the area of Network Security and other is “implemtation of a Multicast Protocol”.
Under the guidance of the Systems Administrator of the Unix Lab in my College. I undertook a project on Rectification of Security Breaches in a Network. It basically involved detecting the holes in the network and using appropriate rectification procedures for each case. This was an opportunity for me to learn about Spoofing, NAK attacks and Trojan horses. I had to practically penetrate into the network to check for the Security Breaches. I had also learnt in detail about Encryption/ Decryption Techniques as part of the project. The second project on multicasting involved setting up user groups over various Linux networks in our College. Linux being one of my favourite Operating Systems, I found the project to be stimulating and also learned a lot about how multitask works.
During my entire undergraduate studies, I enriched myself by attending many technical symposiums and participating in competitions like quiz and programming. My academic performance has been consistent and my aggregate in the computer-related courses in 81.4%. The coursework, combined with projects has made me very confident and has strengthened my resolve to speculate in Computer Networking.
I also have substantial teaching experience. I was the inter-port student representing India and a guest lecturer in topics related to my country at the ‘semester at Sea’ Programme of Institute For Shipboard Education, USA for over 600 undergraduate students from vaiours universities. I love teaching and I always look forward to giving seminars and presentations.
The breadth and depth of networking and allied courses offered by SUNY, Buffalo were a strong factor in my decision to apply. The infrastructure facilities, the faculty and their research-oriented activities at your University are excellent and I think I can ease myself into the activities of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Projects in the research topic ‘Advanced Network Design and Evaluation’ a LANDER in your Department headed by Dr Chunming Qiao interests me and I would be very much willing to be a part of it. Particularly I am interested in mobile/wireless networks and in fact I plan to do my final year project in the area of Wireless Application Protocol.
My long-term goal is to have my own start-up and tackle the real world problems in addition to purely academic ones. An alternative scenario is to join an industrial lab, which should offer the right mix of theoretical research and practical applications to satisfy my appetite. In any case, my first step would be to pursue my graduate study.
In order to achieve my goals I need to have a total mastery of the fundamentals in my area. I am confident that I can bridge the gap between simple knowledge and total mastery at your University.
“The value of higher education is to make aware of what was and what is, to incite them to probe into what might be” – Otto Keppler.
My Grandfather the most lovable human I had met in my life called me one day and said “I see that the hope of entrepreneur is declining in you. My greatest ambition was to be an entrepreneur and I had a stamping company that manufactured vessels and cups. It failed because I participated in the freedom struggle. Your dad was not interested in being an entrepreneur but I see that kind of spirit I had in you. Try to become the best industrialist, and inspire youngsters to live their dreams”. Yes, I wanted to have my own stamping company and to become a great industrialist in the next 10 years but no bank was willing to giving a loan.
My strong academic background and analytical quantitative skills got me admission to Maamallan Institute of Technology, affiliated to Anna University, Tamil Nadu as an undergraduate student of Mechanical engineering department. My four year stay helped me get a firm grasp over the principles underlying Mechanical Engineering. I have studied numerous courses stretched across several related fields as dictated by the course structure along with intensive practice in the respective laboratories. I concentrated on major subjects like Heat Transfer, Gas Dynamics and Jet propellants, CAD/CAM, Thermodynamics, Engineering mechanics, Automobile Engineering, Theory of Machine Elements, Finite Element Method, Strength of Materials and Engineering Drawing etc. I have consistently been ranked top 10 and completed my graduation without having to appear for any paper second time.
I gained some practical experience as well. During my undergraduate study I had completed In-Plant training in two companies and a Project in one company:
1. Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Perambur for 7 days from (6.06.08-12.06.08),
Asia’s largest factory in producing train coaches. I studied about the designing and
manufacturing of different types of rail coaches.
2. Ashok Leyland, Ennore 10 days from (16.06.2009-6.06.09).The second top
commercial vehicle producing in India where I thoroughly studied about the company,
their products and how do they manufacture a product. My involvement and study in
this company was appreciated by the Engine Assembly Section Senior Manager and
offered me with sponsorship to do two projects in the company.
In The final semester I did a project in Reduction of Marine Engine Vibrations and Modernization of Stud Stage Assembly sponsored by ASHOK LEYLAND LIMITED and the duration was 3 Months. The work is a complete analytical investigation of the ride vibration behaviour of marine engine intermediate commercial ship at high speeds especially above 30 to 60 km/h by designing the parts in PRO-E software and analysing the motion of clutch components in Ansys software. In modernization stud stage we have reduced time, man power by changing the process flow and implemented tools to increase the productivity.
I was also an active participant in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Technical symposiums that I had attended offered me a platform to showcase the depth of my knowledge through various technical papers. I also participated in National Level Technical Symposium “JET MATRIX” and presented a paper on “Energy Resources and consumption” and also in two national level Technical Design competitions. THE (JETPOWER) Mechanical Association of my college organized many state-level technical and cultural festivals and Industrial Technical Tours. I felt proud because I was the Secretary of the Association. From an early age, I always engaged myself in many extra-curricular activities. I specialized in Fencing (State Medallist), Ball Badminton (District Player) and Cricket. I captained my school team in several inter-district school matches. It was from these games that I learnt the importance of being a team player. I have won prizes in several General knowledge and science quiz programs during my school days. I have also been involved for more than six years in ExNoRa INTERNATIONAL (N.G.O) which is a Voluntary Non-governmental, Non-political, Non-profit Global head environmental service organization. I was nominated Secretary for Thiruvallur District Youth ExNoRa International during the year 2007. These experiences have made me realise that “Serving nature is not a kind of work; it’s each and every human being’s duty”. As Mahatma Gandhi said “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching."
In addition to all these, I owe my desire for further studies to Mr Mohan Swaminathan from Gestamp Plant, Alabama, USA. I reported to him and with his guidance I learnt global procedures and developed skills. Once when I said that I wanted to start a globally successful company, he advised me to do a masters in Mechanical Engineering overseas and learn about global standards, planning and gain leadership qualities and he also added that he would provide me full support. He also gave me a recommendation letter.
I would like to obtain an MS degree in … (mention here specialization) from your University. I am aware that the University expects very high standards from its students. On my part, I can assure you of my sincerity and hard work. I am confident that my passion will enable me to meet your expectations. I am glad and thankful for giving me this opportunity to express myself.