How to Write a Successful Statement of Purpose to a University Abroad

Writing a statement of Purpose (SOP) is an essential part of the college application to a foreign university. It is no different from a cover letter to a job application. It highlights your strengths and gets you noticed from hundreds of applicants. A college statement of purpose though gives you almost 1000 words to make a better pitch. Our advisors at IEC Abroad have collated some statement of purpose tips culled from advising over 20,000 students globally.  

What is a Statement of Purpose (SOP)?

Writing a statement of intent is important as one of the main deciding factors for admission to a programme and university. It is the first personal insight on your fit for the course and gets the admission officers to know you better.  And this is why a SOP usually talks about who you are, your motivations for a career path, incidents in your life that influenced your career decisions. Think about it as a conversation, but a structured one with a clear flow of ideas. 

One of the biggest fears a student has is if their essay is written well. Don’t worry, the essay will not be judged for your writing skills unless you are applying for a major in English. It will be used to find out the clarity of thinking and logical reasoning. That said, one of the biggest statements of purpose tips is never to lift off from a Google search or get someone else to write your SOP. Admission officers are going to match your style of writing from your GMAT or GRE Essays and you should not come across as dishonest. Further, if you write in one style but in the interview, you cannot carry off the same lucidity, you are again in trouble. 

Of Interest: 9 Challenges Indian Students Face living in the UK

Do’s and don’ts for writing the study abroad statement of purpose:

  • Be clear, concise and honest in your SOP
  • Don’t beat around the bush. Edit. Edit. Edit.
  • Before submitting your SOP check for grammar and spelling mistakes 
  • Sound positive, admission officers like students with a positive approach
  •  Don’t plagiarise your SOP as it can lead to a blackmark
  • Don’t do your Statement of Purpose at the last minute 
  • And never submit the first draft. Sleep on it and then edit it once again.
  • Use language you are familiar with. A big mistake is to use high sounding words when you are not familiar with their usage. 

Constructing your Statement of Purpose for grad school

Having a template for an SOP will help in putting all the information together.  An SOP is divided into paragraphs that should follow a natural flow. Most college statement of purposes do not have subheadings for different sections but if you think you would like to, nothing wrong in that. 

You can’t sum up your entire life in 1000 words, so highlight only what substantiates your theme. Some universities specify the SOP to be 500 and in some cases 200 words. Generally, a Statement of Purpose usually follows this structure 


A very brief introduction of yourself and explain your interest in the field of study you have chosen.

“It all began when I was in 5th grade. I still remember flipping through the various applications on my uncle’s newly bought Nokia mobile. It amused me and made me constantly think of the programming involved in the creation of the game and various applications.” – SOP intro to Leicester University.                    


This should cover your education and any industry exposure. It is good to include your extracurriculars if you are applying for UG or MBA programs.      

Career goals:

Make sure your career path ties in with the course you have selected.


Why the course and why this university. Now is the time to do some research and tie-in how the course curriculum will develop the skills you need. Also, the university facilities and features that made you choose it.

“With a curriculum well balanced in the fields of Engineering, Technology, and Management, this course offers a high probability of getting into a respectable position in reputed companies.” –  SOP for MSc Computing at Kingston University.


Conclude it with a strong end that brings together all you have written. This is NOT the time to write about a need for a scholarship or that living abroad is your aim.               


Your SOP if applying for an MBA 

Most universities have specific admission essays for their courses in MBA. Some may require a very general Statement of Purpose for masters. Often, it is an answer to a specific question.

Business students’ applicant questions are like “what are your short- and long-term goals” (when you talk about your goals you should be specific in how your short-term goal will lead to your long term.) 

They might ask you to describe your teamwork and leadership activities, or they could ask you to explain a situation and how you handled the situation. 

The following are study abroad statement of purpose sample questions for a masters in business administration. 

  • Why Stanford? Tell us how earning an MBA at Stanford will help you understand your desires. Explain your decision to pursue an MBA. How will the opportunities at Stanford help you pursue your dreams.? 
  • Joining a Business School is an important career decision. Analyse your career till date, the choices that you have made, the influences behind your choice, your goals for the future and how do you think ISB can help you in accomplishing your goals?

From the examples mentioned above, you get an idea of how each statement of purpose question varies and is put in different ways.

Of Interest: Why International Student Choose to Study Business

For those writing a statement of purpose for a masters programme or an undergraduate course, I hope this statement of purpose tips help you in crafting a good SOP.  If you still are considering which course or university is best for you, then contact our advisors for a free consultation.