Hi Andy, can I ask what are the typical components of an SOP? What do I start with? Research experience, internship experience, extra curriculum activities, academic results?
Thank you for this question. I’m going to answer by suggesting that you think about the ‘components’ of the SOP a little differently. I hope this helps.
Avoid thinking of your SOP as comprised of blocks of descriptive narrative about ‘research’, ‘internships’, etc.
Instead, think of it as a different type of writing entirely! A piece of persuasive writing. The information you provide—about research, internships, and any other relevant experience—should be included in order to:
- persuade the reader about your readiness and potential
- communicate something specific about your individual personality (think leverage and likability, of course!)
- echo the requirements of the program
I’ll outline some ways to think about these points below:
Readiness and potential
Your SOP should aim to persuasively demonstrate your:
Ability to succeed on the program and beyond
That means it should persuasively demonstrate:
- Your motivation for your subject
- Your capacity to pursue your subject on the program
Leverage and likability
Our own skills and aptitudes are great. But no-one is perfect, we’ll always have limits. We all need to sleep! Unless we:
- Have the humility to recognize our shortcomings
- Are able to work successfully with others to make things happen
Our potential will always be limited.
Apart from anything else, those reading your application want to know whether you’re the kind of person they’d like to have around!
The requirements of the program
- Carefully review the question the school asks you to specifically address
- Break it down into its component parts
- Seek to understand precisely what is being asked
- Read the website and take all other opportunities to learn about the program and its approach to your discipline. The key thing you want to understand is what matters most to this program? (So you can reflect this in your SOP).
Those are the best ways I can summarize the components of an SOP at an abstract level.