A Statement of Purpose (SOP), or personal statement, is a brief and focused essay about one's career and/research goals, identified means to achieve them and accomplishments so far towards those goals. It is a required document when applying for admission to most graduate and professional programs in the United States.
More often than not, the student’s SOP is used as a yardstick to assess his/her capabilities in terms of critical thinking, analytical abilities, interests, aims and aspirations. It serves as a perfect medium for an applicant to communicate to the admissions committee, why s/he deserves the admit and/ or scholarship/ graduate assistantship/ financial aid as compared to other meritorious students applying for the same.
An effective SOP is a short, crisp and ideologically clear essay that clearly communicates the person’s career and/or research goals concisely. While every university has its own regulations, an effective SOP is 2-3 page document that communicates the student’s academic & professional background and other aspects about his/her personal life that have influenced the chosen field of interest.
It includes concrete examples from his/her life experience and personal qualities to distinguish him/her from other applicants, leaving the reader with a statement of the candidate’s perceived qualifications and his/her plans and goals after s/he completes the degree. While it is possible that two students have similar academic scores, work experience and/or may be scored the same number of marks in aptitude tests such as GMAT, GRE or LSAT, it is highly improbable that their SOIs may be similar.