Statement of Purpose (SOP) for PhD programs [FREE Template]
When applying for a PhD program, you must do 2 things as pre-work: 1.) Make sure you are convinced that PhD is the right choice for you; 2.) Make sure you have identified the ideal supervisor.
Once that much is done, the next step is preparing your application packet to start applying for available PhD positions.
As a part of your application packet, you will be required to write a Statement of Purpose, more commonly known as an SOP. It is a 1-2 page essay of up to 1000 words that tells a story about who you are and why you want to pursue a PhD in the subject you have chosen.
Let us look into how to write an engaging SOP for your PhD program and build a FREE to use template that generalizes for various PhD programs.
DISCLAIMER: The template is meant to help you get started with organizing your thoughts. Using this template, by no means is meant to encourage to copy-paste the same SOP across multiple applications. Use this to structure your thoughts and iteratively improve over the write up.
What is a Statement of Purpose (SOP)?
A Statement of Purpose (SOP) is a narrative essay that outlines your academic and professional background, your qualifications, and your reasons for wanting to pursue a doctoral program. It’s an opportunity to showcase your unique experiences and talents and explain how they make you a great fit for the particular school and program. An SOP should be written in a professional yet personal tone, as it should capture your personality, as well as your academic and work experience.
Is SOP same as Letter of Intent (LOI)?
Short answer: No, an SOP and a Letter of Intent (LOI) are not the same. LOI is more of an outline whereas SOP is an in depth statement.
Long answer: An SOP focuses on your academic and professional background, while an LOI focuses more on personal and professional goals and objectives. An SOP should share how your background and experiences have shaped who you are today and how these qualities will enable you to excel in your chosen field. An LOI should be more detailed and specific, and should include more information about your goals and objectives. Additionally, an LOI should provide an overview of you, your skills, and the value you can bring to the program.
How to write an SOP for PhD?
Writing an SOP can feel intimidating and overwhelming. However, there are some steps you can take to make the process easier. When writing your SOP, it is important to be honest and sincere. Start by understanding your purpose, writing a clear outline and identifying the key points you want to make. Additionally, use active language and provide evidence to support your claims. Finally, once you have completed your essay, make sure to edit and proofread it thoroughly before submitting.
When writing your SOP, it is important to create an engaging essay that stands out. Make sure to highlight unique elements of your background and experiences, such as your achievements, volunteer work, awards, and other accomplishments. Mention any research you’ve conducted and any internships you’ve completed. This will show the admissions committee that you are committed to the program and the research it encompasses. Additionally, make sure to tell stories, describe how you overcame challenges, and emphasize the impact your work has had on others.
[FREE] SOP Template
Below is a free SOP template that you can use to get started on writing your own statement for the PhD program of your choice.
The key thing to keep in mind while writing an SOP is to show evidence how you can build on your prior experience to excel in your PhD. It is possible that you may not have the exact skill set or even prior publications but that’s OK as long as you make a convincing case as to how your broader skills generalize.
Think of it this way- you want to convince the University that if given a chance, you are willing to go the extra mile to make sure you succeed and make their investment in you, worthwhile.
Subject: Statement of Purpose for PhD program at [Name of University]
My name is [Name], and I am applying to the [Name of Program, mention Term for which you are applying] at [Name of University]. I am a [field] professional with [X] years of experience in the [relevant field]. In the past, I have worked in various capacities, including [list relevant positions], and I am dedicated to furthering my education and pursuing my passion in the field of [field].
***Body Paragraph 1***
In my current role as [role– can be as a UG student], I am responsible for [broadly list responsibilities]. In this role, I have had the opportunity to \[list accomplishments\] and \[mention research projects\] that I have conducted. I have also gained valuable insights into the field of \[field\] and the potential impact it can have on society. This experience has reaffirmed my commitment to pursuing a PhD and has provided me with the motivation to continue my studies.
***Body Paragraph 2***
I am confident that the \[Name of Program\] at the \[Name of University\] is the great place for me to continue my studies. I have been impressed by the \[list qualities\] that \[Name of University/Program/Potential supervisor\] has to offer and I am confident that I will receive the support I need to excel in my studies.
In conclusion, I am excited for the opportunity to pursue a PhD in \[field\] during \[term\] and I believe that the \[Name of Program\] at \[Name of University\] is the perfect place for me to do so. With my prior experience, knowledge and dedication, I am confident that I will be successful in my studies and make a meaningful contribution to the field of \[field\].
Formatting your SOP
While most of the programs may not impose rigid formatting guidelines, as a rule of thumb, keep your SOP within 1-2 pages. As for the fonts, try using at least 12 pts to make it easier to read, underline the key takeaways so that the reviewers can get the gist even if they glance through it. For page margins, keep the standard page formatting for an A4/ Letter paper.
Should you create unique SOP for each program?
Yes, it is important to create an individual and unique SOP for each program you are applying to. Each program has its own requirements, and your SOP should be tailored to each specific program.
Additionally, it is important to include information that is relevant to the program you are applying to. This will help you stand out to the admissions committee and demonstrate how you can contribute to the program and the field as a whole.
Having a template at hand should help you save some time but that should in no way be an indicate to copy-paste SOPs across applications as this will diminish your chances of standing apart from the rest of the applicant pool.
Writing an SOP is an important part of applying to any PhD program. To be successful, it is important to be honest and sincere, use active language and provide evidence to back up your claims. Additionally, make sure to highlight unique elements of your background and experiences and tell stories that capture your personality and experience. With these tips in mind, you can create an impactful SOP that will be sure to catch the eye of the admissions committee. Finally, make sure to create a unique SOP for each program you are applying to, as this will help you stand out and demonstrate your commitment to the program.