The Art of Writing SOP – Carving out the Best LL.M Application
People who go abroad for pursuing higher studies in their own chosen fields do so for two reasons:
- To gain advanced specialized knowledge in their chosen fields;
- To explore and apply such specialism in practice to bring outstanding results.
Unlike Indian Universities, almost all Western Universities have a very elaborate and daunting admission processes. The admission processes involve a series of steps which the applicant has to successfully surpass to be guaranteed an Offer of Admission.
Among all the documents to be submitted by the applicant, the most important and essential document is the “Statement of Purpose” (also called the SOP or Personal Statement) which primarily determines the outcome of any application for any reputed university.
WHAT IS A SOP?
In simple terms, a SOP is a document which allows the applicant to introduce themselves to the admissions committee and convince the committee for selecting them without meeting the committee in person. In other words, the SOP communicates to the committee the motivation and purpose of the applicant for joining masters at the desired law school. SOPs are normally evaluated as part of the application process by taking into consideration other submitted documents such as the Law School’s Master’s Application Form, SOP, Letters of Recommendation (minimum 2 which could be either from academic such as from a professor, etc. and non-academic such as from an employer, etc.), Degree Manuscripts and other such relevant documents if necessary.
HOW TO WRITE A GOOD SOP?
The admission process in reputed law schools around the world is a highly competitive one and the probability of getting admitted to such prestigious universities is very small. For this, the applicant has to spend an ample amount of time in carefully planning and preparing their application. Specifically, writing a SOP is no easy task and could be daunting as it involves a lot of hard work, commitment, and dedication. SOP is not a personal story, though it looks like one. But the applicant should ideally invest at least 3-4 months of time to structure and present their ideas clearly in their SOP before their programme’s deadline.
The Personal Statement should be a document which should tell more about the applicant and his passion to pursue Masters at the desired university. The ideas should be laid out clearly in simple language. SOPs don’t need complex sentences as the admissions committee are not testing the vocabulary of the applicant. The sentences should be brief, simple and short. The applicant must tailor his personal experience and connect the purpose about how a Masters from a particular university would help him/her in their future. ‘Personal Experience’ is very difficult to explain as it differs from person to person depending on their upbringing and background. Moreover, it should be something which the applicant has deeply experienced it personally which reflects his passion for pursuing Masters. There can be no further justification and this wholly depends on the way the applicant understands it.
WHAT GOES INTO A SOP?
The Admissions Committee generally uses the following criteria (though these are not the sole criteria) to judge the applicant:
- The Background of the applicant;
- Why should the admissions committee select the applicant?
- How does the applicant stand out from the rest of the applicants? (which includes academic achievements and other extra-curricular activities)
- Motivation for studying Law at a graduate level;
- What inspired the applicant to apply for Masters from the specific Law School?
- How the applicant’s academic and professional background meets the demands of the program he/she is applying?
- What all does the applicant plan to do while pursuing Master’s at the Law School or how does the applicant intend to contribute to the Law School?
- Work Experience of the applicant, if any?
- How will pursuing Master’s from that Law School would help in the applicant’s future?
- Is the applicant able to coherently present his ideas in a structured manner within the specified word limit?
Normally, the word limit of the SOP is thousand words or some universities demand not more than 3000 characters. In all likelihood, an ideal SOP shouldn’t exceed 2 pages or a word limit of 1000 with the standard formatting of 1-inch margin on all sides, Times New Roman, Font 12 and 1.5 spacing. Some European Universities may have different word limits and it is advised that the applicant check the guidelines of each university before starting to write a SOP.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE STARTING TO WRITE A SOP?
Before starting to write a SOP, the applicant must have a clear idea and strong sense of motivation for pursuing masters abroad. It would be ideal if the applicant starts researching on various universities and the programmes being offered 1 year before applying for the programme and jot down all key requirements and guidelines for admission. The applicant must then shortlist all the law schools and their criteria and analyze if the university’s requirements match his/her requirements and purpose.
After shortlisting all the law schools, the applicant should brainstorm and start working on the SOP on those required lines and make sure that the SOP is reviewed, edited and re-edited by experts many times before submission. Writing SOP 1 day before admission and 1 week before the deadline would do no good to the applicant. A Good SOP would reflect on more chances of the applicant getting selected despite stiff competition.
DO’s for Writing a SOP:
- Before starting to write a SOP, the applicant must keep calm and brainstorm themselves to have clarity in their ideas.
- The SOP should be written on their own by the applicant by taking feedback and advice from successful applicants.
- The applicant must make a general SOP before altering it to the need of different law schools.
- The applicant must answer all parts of the questions asked by the law school in the SOP.
- The personal story or experience of the applicant must come alive on paper.
- The applicant must give sufficient reasons for the selection committee to select him/her.
- Grammar and spellings must be given special emphasis and avoid unnecessary spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
- The applicant must stick to the world limit which indicates that the applicant is respectful about the instructions and is professional.
- ONLY ACTIVE VOICE must be used while writing the SOP.
- The applicant must have coherency in his thoughts by structuring the SOP to convey the meaning and purpose to the selection committee.
- The SOP must be lively and interesting.
DONT’s for Writing a SOP:
- Avoid Copy, Pasting someone else’s SOP as the admissions committee can easily identify any such piece of copy-paste work as they maintain a record of all previous SOPs and applications.
- Avoid self-boasting. Statements such as “You should be fortunate to have me”, “You should select me as I am the best” etc. should be avoided.
- Avoiding bluffing and lying on the SOP as the admissions committee may verify the facts at a later stage also.
- Avoid writing names of influential family members except for the applicant’s personal story.
- Avoid repeating all those things already mentioned in the Letters of Recommendation and Curriculum Vitae as it serves no purpose.
- Avoid writing about achievements in high school unless they are very significant.
- Avoid fitting all the plethora of information into the SOP. Instead, it is better to include 2 to 3 clear ideas into the SOP and explain them in a clear and concise manner.
- The applicant must NOT devote more than one or two paragraphs in the SOP in explaining to the admissions committee the reasons why he/she should be selected over other applicants.
At the end of the day, there is no standard for determining a good or a bad SOP. Each applicant and each SOP differs and it is very difficult to arrive at a rigid commonality. But the applicants should make sure that they have followed the guidelines and devoted ample time on their SOP before submitting their applications. Let SOP be unique and may the best outcome reach the applicants.
Sit Back, Relax and Let the Ideas Flow!!!
Author: Lokesh Kumar Mavilla
I am too authentic to be understood.