Statement of Purpose often referred to as SOP is also sometimes called a Letter of Intent (LOI). You are required to write an SOP every time you are making an application and generally, each SOP will be different and have unique content describing your reason for application. Primarily, you will write an SOP on two occasions:
- University/college admission – for the admissions committee
- Visa application – for the visa officer
So, what is the difference between these two?
Admission SOP: A Statement of Purpose (SOP) written for admission in a university or college is sometimes called your Letter of Intent or even a Research statement if you are applying for a Ph.D. or Research. It is addressed to the admissions office or an admissions committee/panel explaining why you are a suitable candidate for admission in their institute.
Visa SOP: An SOP for the Visa officer must focus on why you want to come to Canada for studies, your current situation, and future plans once you complete your studies. This document will help you prove that you are a bonafide student, your primary purpose to come to Canada is to study, you have enough support from your family to study and fund your stay in Canada and you have enough reasons to return to your home country after completing the studies. A very strong SOP is required especially to explain the study gap and reason to go back to school if the gap is more than 2 years.
The basic content of both the SOPs will be similar (your life story) however each will have additional information as the intent is different in both cases.
I included the following attributes in the essay to weave a life story into the SOP, and if you follow these, I am sure the result will be a very strong SOP.
- A brief history about your childhood, siblings, upbringing, place of birth and schooling
- Family background and who are there in your family
- What did you choose as your career after Highschool, did you get help from someone in choosing your future education like your teachers, mentor, parents etc.
- Your learnings during the post-secondary education, include the elements of your education, co-curricular activities and community/social service aspect as it is highly valued in Canada
- How did you fare in your education till now and what are your future plans?
- Did your future plans go as per planned, if not what are you doing to correct them (generally this is where you will be mentioned about your intentions to study or upskill further)
- What is your educational goal (if you are writing the SOP for a university/college)
- How will the education in Canada help you achieve your future goals?
- How important is it for you to study in order to achieve your goals?
- Why do you want to study the program you have chosen and why in Canada over your own country or any other country? Show with some examples that you have done thorough research and you are confident about your decision
- Provide details about your current situation and work history if you are/were working
- Provide the details about any recent certifications you might have done to establish that you keep upskilling yourself
- What are the future opportunities for you after completing the studies in your country or internationally?
- Try to establish strong ties with your home country a few examples would be your family ties, you family business, your home, responsibilities you need to take care of in your home country, Student loan, Long-term investments in your name etc.
- In case you have a travel history, feel free to include the arrival and departure dates to convince the visa office that you will leave Canada once you visa expires. (This is optional, and you may skip it if you don’t want to mention). You amy also want to include any information which you want to tell the visa officer about your situation.
- Finally, tell the Visa officer that you are a law abiding citizen and would ot extend your stay beyond the permited time as per the visa.
- Of course, don’t forget to thank the Visa officer for his time and anticipation of approval.
Things to avoid in the SOP:
- Writing the SOP at the last minute – It is an important document and you must give it due importance and thoughtfully build the document so that it comes across as a genuine life story. Remember, everyone likes reading/listening to stories.
- Use of informal language or slang – Keep it professional and use simple language/words easily understood by everyone
- Don’t focus too much on your shortcomings like low percentages, weak GPA, backlogs in education etc. Stay positive!
- Limit your SOP for admission to 800-1200 words (1-2 pages max.) and visa SOP to 1200 – 1500 words (2-3 pages max.). Remember you must be precise, crisp and simple to convey your point. As long as you convey your message to the reader, the length of the SOP doesn’t matter, however too short may mean that you have not given importance to explaining your position and too long will mean that you may have repeated a lot of information or have digressed. Remember information overload is also bad.
With my SOP, I also attached all supporting documents, reference letters from employer and spouse, marriage pictures, proof of funds from different sources, experience letters, salary slips and all other documents required for SOWP and Study permit (click here to read about SOWP and Study permit).