When applying for a study permit in a foreign university, there are certain things that an applicant needs to submit. The most important documents that need to be submitted are SOP and LOR. The Statement of Purpose (SOP) is your proxy at the immigration office, and based on it, you get your study permit. It may or may not be demanded by a university. But, almost every university will ask for a Letter of recommendation (LOR). A student may or may not be aware of the SOP, but generally, students are clueless about LOR.
Get a better idea about both these documents and their importance in this blog. You can find good SOP writing tips which you can use to prepare better SOP and LOR.
What is an SOP (Statement of Purpose)?
SOP or Statement of Purpose is a personal statement an applicant submits along with their application to a particular university. As the name suggests, it is an essay that specifies the purpose of selecting a particular course, university, and country. In an SOP, you mention your goals, aim, and ambitions. You reason why doing a course in a particular foreign university can help you in achieving your goals. You highlight strengths and achievements in the university to convince them that you’d be a good choice. But, an SOP is not just a list of your scores and achievements. You also give a sneak peek to the committee into your personality and life through your SOP. You show your resolve to do a particular course and do some revolutionary work in the field.
What is the importance of an SOP?
Several aspects are considered in a candidate’s profile to make a decision regarding admission. These include your scores, academic transcripts, etc. But, these documents are essentially objective in nature. The admission committee receive tonnes of applications. With the current competitive academic circle, every other student is a meritorious student. This makes it difficult to decide.
An SOP, on the other hand, is subjective in nature as it establishes your uniqueness. Through this document, you describe your motivation and conviction to the authorities. It helps them get an idea about your mindset and background. They learn about your reasoning behind choosing a particular course, university, and country. This is the reason why it is the first document that the assessors check. So, you show your individuality through your Statement of Purpose. Through this document, you show that you’re a promising candidate and you’re not a part of the crowd. Therefore, this is the document that has a huge impact on the decision of your acceptance.
The importance of an SOP can be summarised as follows:
- Get to know you
Given that SOP is a personal statement, it is a highly personalised content. You highlight your accomplishments and strengths in your SOP. So, the authorities will learn about you even though they’re not meeting you personally.
- Unique personality
From your SOP, the authorities try to make a picture of you. So, your SOP should uniquely describe your personality. Whatever stories you mention in your SOP, they should be written so well that your unique personality shines through it.
- Written communication skills
Your SOP reflects your proficiency in the language. So, it has to be syntactically and semantically correct. There should be no scope for any errors in your SOP. Use simple and smooth language, and it should have an engaging flow in the SOP.
- Exact candidate profile
Millions of students send applications to get admission in a given university. It becomes difficult for the admission committee to select a student solely on the basis of their scores. Therefore, by knowing them & their goals helps in selecting the right candidate.
- Pros of selecting you
The SOP gives an idea to the authorities as to why they should select you. What are you going to give back to the institute or the field you’ve applied for?
- Comparing the pros of selecting you with others
As mentioned before, many students send in their applications. Therefore, through your SOP, the authorities can decide whether you’re worth selecting in comparison to other candidates.
What is the format of an SOP?
An SOP can be broadly divided into 7-8 paragraphs depending on the content you wish to include in your SOP. There is no set word limit for an SOP as it depends on the country and university you’re applying for. The general format followed in an SOP are as follows:
- The first paragraph is an introductory paragraph where you introduce yourself. This helps you in making your first impression on the authorities. The paragraph needs to be creative and captivating to get the authorities interested in you.
- The second paragraph should give a brief about your academic background. If you have any professional background, then that is also included here.
- The third paragraph is dedicated to the achievements you have had so far in your academic and professional life. You also mention the major projects you have been associated with, your role in it, and how the project performed.
- In the fourth paragraph, you discuss why you chose a particular course or program. You mention your expectations from the course, how the course is in line with your goals and ambitions.
- In the fifth paragraph, you mention your short-term and long-term goals. You also mention how your decision to go for the course of your choice will help you in achieving these goals.
- In the sixth paragraph, you justify your reasoning for choosing a particular university and country for the course you have opted for.
- In the conclusive paragraph, you thank the authorities for giving you the opportunity. Make sure your endnote leaves a memorable impression on the reader.
What is a LOR?
LOR stands for Letter of Recommendation. This letter aims to establish your experience, achievements, contributions, and skills before the committee. But, it is not you who communicate this to them. But, a person who has closely seen you working in a professional environment or someone who has taught you in school or college writes a LOR to authenticate your candidature. The selection committee gets an insight into your learning abilities and skills. So, this helps the selection committee decide whether you’re a suitable candidate for admission to the respective university or not.
What are the types of LOR?
There are two types of LOR:
- Academic LOR
An academic LOR is written by a faculty member of your previous institute. If you’re applying for a bachelor’s, then your LOR may be written by your school teachers. Whereas, if you’re going for a master’s program, you need to get it written by your college professors. Generally, a university asks you to submit two-three LORs from your previous institute. The format and structure may vary, and the details are usually shared by the university. But, in general, the content entails the student’s accomplishments while s/he was pursuing the course.
- Professional LOR
Generally, in master’s programs, many universities have a prerequisite work experience. So as per that, they demand a LOR written by an immediate supervisor. The content in a professional LOR is primarily focused on the applicant’s efficiency in the work environment. This includes things like whether they’re able to show teamwork, interpersonal skills, leadership qualities, and how much exposure they’ve had in the workplace.
The content varies
The format of a professional LOR is different from an academic LOR. The academic LOR majorly focuses on the accomplishments of the student in the course they were pursuing. Whereas, in the case of professional LOR, the focus is on the student’s career growth. It describes the student’s role as an employee, particularly in any project they were associated with. It mentions the professional qualities of the student and how efficient they were in managing the assigned tasks.
What is the importance of a LOR?
A LOR is an extremely important document that provides credibility to all the claims you have made in your resume and SOP. The importance of a LOR is summarised as follows:
- It validates your resume
The universities refer to your LOR to validate the claims you have made in your resume and SOP. The LOR proves that whatever work or achievements you’ve mentioned are indeed true. For example, you mentioned that a certain project was well received and earned you a grade. If it was indeed well-received, then your professor will also mention that in your LOR.
- It gives a third-person perspective towards your candidature
A LOR will also give an insight into your personality. The assessors will learn about your attributes which are relevant and essential in a student. Generally, when a university asks for a LOR, they want to validate your abilities. That is, they wish to verify whether or not you’re a sincere, diligent, and disciplined student. So, your professor here is providing your future professors with their perspectives of you.
- It gives valuable insights into your abilities
You are as good a leader as others think. Suggesting that you’re a good leader is one thing, but your superiors also admit that is another. Therefore, your professors or seniors should mention that you have leadership qualities and can work and manage a team to verify your claim. It is considered as a major requirement in professional LORs, particularly if it is written for MBA courses. It is, in fact, given 8% weightage.
- It highlights your weaknesses
Mostly, if LOR is form-based, then a question that is always there is regarding your shortcomings. Often, an SOP dodges this section, i.e., many applicants refrain from adding their weaknesses. So, in a LOR, the recommender is asked to mention the areas where you need to improve yourself. This gives them an unbiased perspective of you.
Given the immense importance of a LOR in getting your study permit, students should know what they want in their LOR. Also, it is equally as important to choose the right recommender. Almost every application demands the submission of at least 2-3 recommendation letters. Therefore, you should choose your recommenders and convince them to write a LOR for you well in time.
A LOR cannot be written by a friend or by yourself. It has to be written by a person of authority only.
What is the format of a LOR?
As per the program’s need and the candidate’s achievements, a LOR can be of 4-5 paragraphs. Provided, each paragraph gives relevant information about the applicant. The general word limit for a LOR is 750 words. The general format that can be followed for writing a LOR is as follows:
- The first paragraph should include the details of the person writing the LOR. It should also include why they’re recommending the applicant for a particular course in a particular university.
- The second paragraph should mention the relationship between the writer and the applicant. It should explain for how long the two of you have known each other.
- The third paragraph should elaborate on the projects you have worked together during your graduate, undergraduate or postgraduate programs.
- In the fourth paragraph, the skills and talents of the applicant should be mentioned. It should elaborate on the applicant’s qualities, dedication, and potential to achieve in life.
- In the conclusive paragraph, the writer should mention how the applicant will benefit by joining the course they have applied for. The writer should also leave their contact details so that the authorities can contact them in case of any doubts.
What is the difference between SOP and LOR?
The major difference between SOP and LOR is the author of these two documents. A student writes an SOP to describe their purpose for applying for a particular course in a particular university and country. A LOR, on the other hand, is written by a person who knows the student personally. The writer, in both cases, highlights the applicant’s personality, strengths, and achievements.
But in Statement of Purpose, the writer themselves suggests it, while in Letter of Recommendation, the writer validates the claims made by the applicant. Also, in an SOP, the writer must provide the documents as proof, including the LOR. While in LOR, the writer is not supposed to attach any proof.
SOP and LOR, both make important documents for your acceptance to a foreign university. The SOP has its importance as it gives the authorities an idea about the applicant without having to personally meet the candidate. It helps in determining whether or not the applicant is worth giving an opportunity to. A LOR, on the other hand, provides the authorities a validation to the claims made by the applicant. It gives them a third person’s perspective regarding the applicant. Both the documents are given importance by the authorities in deciding the future of the applicant. Therefore, due diligence should be made by the applicant in preparing both documents.
We, at Contentholic provide SOP writing Services in India. Our Online SOP writers have more than 10 years of experience in drafting the SOPs and LORs. Therefore, if you are someone who can not pen a good story out of your life then connect with our team.