MS applications are no cakewalk!
- Written by UnivAdmitHelp
- Category: Admission Application
- Published on 04 Apr 2022
Your profile matters, not your SOP.
A lot of time, I get to hear from the students that SOP does not matter a lot in the MS applications. No question about the fact that your undergraduate studies, your research, your project effort, and your standardized test scores play a vital role in the application process. However, the question that begs to be answered is, what to do when each and every student is similarly pegged across a range of similar parameters..?
That’s when your narrative comes into play, which plugs the gap between your achievement and intent. A strong narrative expressed through your SOP and validated through your LORs allows you to get that advantage that makes a difference between getting into a top 10 university or not.
Let me explain this with an example. There are two similarly placed students - both of them went to good IITs, and have about 1-2 years of experience. Similar GRE scores, around 324-326. No research paper; and some project work in college in addition to regular software development work in their respective jobs. Both of them applied to a range of schools from Cornell, CMU at one end, and UToronto, SUNY Stonybrook, and Boston University at the other end of the spectrum.
Look at this from the perspective of the host school. They are trying to take 10-12 students from India (or maybe 20-30 students depending upon how selective the university is..) and they don't have many differentiating factors to choose from. That is where the narrative helps.
A narrative that aligns with the school values that bring about your individual strengths to the fore, and differentiates your profile from the many others would be likely to get you in Grad-School more often than not. That is how the SOP would look like - highly differentiated and very unique!
Here are two examples of SOP summaries of these people -
- Reasoning based sequence, not necessarily chronological
- Selective listing of events, in line with the narrative
- Deeper as opposed to broader.
- Narrative: Focus on data structures emanating from a love to organize things, and further bolstered by advanced statistics and foundational mathematics courses during undergrad studies. Application of these across a range of projects in college; and actively being used in work.
- Looking to enhance the data structure work further to build upon my existing skills and problem-solving experience.
- Reverse chronological sequence
- Listing of everything being done, without a thought towards the narrative.
- Broader as opposed to deeper
- Just a list, not a narrative: Starting from my current job and a range of projects. Listing of internships and courses in which I scored a high grade. Saying that I am a good student who has done a lot of things.
- Looking to be a part of the program because it is highly ranked. (Note: no solid reasoning is given in terms of how it aligns with the student)
You may be able to see as to why the first example succeeds, and the latter would not. An important point to remember is that selection is done by people who may read 15-20 applications in a day. Of course, they look at objective parameters but like all human beings, they get impacted by the quality of your narrative, especially in situations where many students are at par. Your story then becomes a very strong differentiating factor. (Contextually, there are numerous studies that tell that data points, if conveyed through a story, have a greater impact than when presented as a table or a list)
I am not making a case for you to use our services, or deploy a mentor or a counselor for help with the SOP. My limited point is around you spending a fair amount of time in building out your SOP and giving it a fair share of your energies in the application process. If you can do it by yourself, do it. If not, it won’t hurt to use the services of a mentor or a counselor.
Your SOP is more important during this time of hyper-competition. Give it a fair share of your energies and it will certainly be a determining factor in your ability to get into a top-notch college.
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