Get Done With Your Statement Of Purpose: To Help Yourself Or To Seek Help
BEAUTY IS IN THE EYES OF YOUR BIOGRAPHER
So, what is an SOP- Statement of purpose? Are we clear on that? Let’s make it simple. An SOP is an autobiographical ( or biographical) resume that you have to write as part of your admission process to an institute or a country- You write everything you have done in life, that is worth mentioning; everything you want to do with your life, that sounds real, while being little short of your own ‘I have a dream’ speech, and finally, how can ‘they’ benefit from having you. It is all about selling yourself and selling your ideas in the most compelling, brilliant and yet, humble and relatable way possible.
I know the atrocity of what I just said- compelling, brilliant, humble and relatable don’t go together. It is like winning a Ferrari from a ketchup bottle, that is also somehow organic and delicious at the same time. But that is the colossal task you have to achieve in your SOP. It is like taking your interviewers to the most expensive cinema, and having them watch the best movie of their lifetime, with you starring in the lead role.
Now, that shouldn’t be difficult. We can always enhance our self-image. We do it all the time. (Look at the many dating apps, or if I dare say, your own resume.) But can we really do it in a way that sends us to a first-world nation, an Ivy League education or just past the gates of the VISA office? That is the difficult bit. Your SOP is not just a brag- it is a controlled, disciplined, empathetic and professional brag. (Yes, all four of those spices in perfect balance; less of a document, more of a biryani!)
And trust me when I say, we really do not know how to brag. That is why most students find it so difficult to write an SOP. All your life you are compared to every other child in your class, told that you are not good enough, or that you did not work hard enough and all your dreams were too tall for your laziness to catch up with- or some version of that vicious sarcasm. And suddenly, one fine day, you are expected to write a whole ‘Statement of Purpose’ telling top-notch foreign institutes and the strictest VISA offices that you are the best, most honest, hard-worker and innovator they will ever find.
Is this even possible?
Of course, I am speaking out to people you are new, shy, and just starting out! You are still to see yourself in the glorious light of well-deserved pride. You have made it up to here, despite all odds, all hindrances, the side-eyes, humiliation and bullying. You survived it all! So, come out of the giant shadows of those petty put-downs and let the best version of your true self shine on your SOP. Some of you might be good at it right from the start. And some of you might need a little help, a little push, a little borrowed voice and shared articulation. That is the truth- ‘Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’ and if the ‘beholder’ wrote about us, they would probably paint a much better picture of us.
That is nothing to be embarrassed about- we all need help sometimes. Don’t be shy or untrue with your ambitions. If you cannot write about yourself without sounding too humble or too arrogant or too lost, don’t lie about it. Just let someone else hold your image on a better mirror. You are still the same, only the mirror has evolved. And our self-image is an essential part of our confidence, with which we approach the world to seek resources, admission and permission to transit into a better life.
Your SOP is the ticket to that good life, which you have always dreamt about, seen in movies and iagined yourself in when no one was watching. A leap of faith is not worth the risk, when the jump is so crucial to your dreams. Take charge, take help, and combine the two, until you see the most ideal real version of yourself etched into your SOP.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WRITING AN SOP-
There are practically two types of SOPs. One that you write for a university, and another, that you write for acquiring a VISA permission for going into a country. A lot of times students get really confused in differentiating them. They try to make their university SOP way too technical, which makes it boring and rather standard, because technicalities do not vary from person to person. After all, you are speaking about the same subject in different inflections and tones. But it is the same combination of jargons and that you want to see the world improve and see yourself improving with it. In the VISA SOP students usually panic that they won’t make it, and try driving the point home, that they will come back (to their humble third world nations) after passing out from (their first-world colleges). You really think the VOSA Officers have not heard it over and over (and over again). Yes they have. And all you will get out of writing these template-borne google-based SOPs is a defeated sigh and an eye-roll from the reader- whether he is a prof at a university or a screening clerk at the VISA Office.
So what should you do? Remember, your SOP is not an essay-version of your resume. Neither is it an autobiography about how much you have struggled in life, nor is it a confession about your overarcing dreams that only a first world nation can live up to, (something the students usually end up doing). An SOP is a series of short stories, filled with interesting observations, fun memories and a small take-away from each story that rolls into another story. Let me give you a small example (and this is only a skeleton)-
“My mother kept a cut-out of Princess Diana in her drawer. She would never really look at them, but every time there was a picture in any paper or magazine, you could be sure that in a week’s time (when she was sure everyone had read the paper), the cut-up would end up at the base of the bed-side chest. I noticed them when I was an infant, but never garnered the courage to ask her the purpose of this frantic exercise.
Now I know why she would do it- Regret. My mum wanted to be more than a home-maker, more than someone’s wife, more than my mother, more than her kitchen, utensils and lampshades. She would rather be someone else, anyone else. And the amazing, indomitable Princess Diana embodied the relentless fire in her belly. But since she had settled for less, she never looked at her cut-ups twice.
It taught me the most valuable lesson in life- ‘Never ever live in shame, guild, regret or fear’. I would live every dream I have ever dreamt, pursue every ambition that challenged me, jump past any hurdle that attempted to scare me. For now, I am applying to this haloed university that seems to embody all my dreams, ambitions and a precious threshold, I would put my heart and soul to step across.”
Be vulnerable, be interesting and most importantly, be a storyteller. Don’t say that you are honest. Tell a story to prove the same. In the above story, the reader realises that you are brave, diligent, deeply empathetic, discerning, familial and somewhat profound. People who read SOPs know how to pick out the ques. BUt not everyone is a storyteller. Some people are growers and not showers and there’s nothing wrong with that. BUt explain it to the universities, will you? That is where the problem happens.
Nothing is impossible. Neither is this. In the previous paragraph, I have asked you to do a lot of things. But one thing I have not asked you to be is ‘honest’. Because honestly, not all of us have led an interesting life, we like to talk about. It has mostly been grimy hard-work, tears, frustrations, dotted with random middle-class vacations, (always divided by mountain or sea- how the elders in the family were feeling like.) So how can you make up irritatingly riveting stories that universities would gulp down like a coke-and-burger.
Take help! Get someone who makes a life out of building up people from their minimal details. (Like the earlier story, it can be written by anybody for anybody. Fact is, we have all learnt the same things from the regrets of our parents. We have watched them in silence, and promised ourselves that we will never become like them, until one day, we realised what made them the way they were. But how many of us can bring ourselves to speak about those experiences, those silent devastating experiences. And no one should be judged on the basis of that. Yet your vulnerabilities are what make you the most perfect, most lean and hungry candidate for the position- the one that can’t be allowed to get away. So, you must be able to speak like that, or get someone who can convert your weaknesses into strengths through a small fairytale, that leaves a deep impression.
If you agree with me, read on. If you don’t agree with me- be empathetic to the plight of those who actually need help. Be kind- the world is a melting pot!
KNOWING WHERE TO SEEK HELP
There are three absolutely angelic companies that we found out upon thorough research over the last one year, when Covid-19 hit. We scored the companies on the basis of empathy towards students, diversity of students background, diversity of universities in which the students finally made it into, urgency of help and last but not least, quality of student-representation (which is at the heart of an SOP). For VISA SOPs we looked into the list of financial details that the companies covered in writing the SOPs.
Three companies made it at the top of the list-
- This is best for candidates from pure sciences and liberal arts background
- If a student is looking to change from science to arts or arts to science this is the place to go to. That is to say, for B.Tech students looking to go for an MBA degree abroad, ‘Estorytellers’ is the place to be
- They work on the ‘turning points’ in the lives of the students, when they realise that their present field is not suiting them well enough and a change was needed to be made. These turning points are very sensitive. This is what the interviewers stress upon in the interviews until you convince them that the change fits spontaneously into your career.
- “The best way to do this is, get to know what was going in the minds of the students, and put that into a story that even interviewers can relate to. Something, that they may have faced in their youth and that is what makes them ask more questions to the student about his future interests.” By establishing a chord of relatable connection between the interviewer and the students, ‘Estorytellers’ brings the students closer to the decision-makers, in a strategic and yet empathetic way.
- Students who are freshers with year gaps (of unconventional explorations), ‘Estorytellers’ is the place to be properly represented and guided by.
2. Write Right-
- This is one of the most professional SOP writing firms on our roster. They record the highest diversity of students who avalil their help. They are also very high on the diversity of universities where their students are finally placed. What that means is that they have the highest level of customization and can work very well with a small amount of information coming from the students.
- This was supported by the fact that many students who avail their help are freshers, who are making an early start in a foreign nation or experienced executives who are making a late transition into a foreign nation through expansion of their education.
- “Their requirements are very different”, they say. “Freshers want to tell people all the details of what they have learnt, which is obvious because they are young. Even a small amount of knowledge seems like a mountain. So, we take care that their expression is more balanced. We make sure that their SOPs show what they have learnt from each experience, rather than trumpetting a short horn”
- “The necessity of the experienced people is just the opposite. They have done a lot in life. But for some reason, they always want to speak about their experiences in life, like they are almost shy about it. In that case, we make sure that their SOPs speak about their body of work, through their experiences and their stories. It is all about balance, wherever you go, and whatever you want to do.”
- We recommend ‘Write Right’ for students whose future education will be a continuity of their previous education. (Like B.Tech/ BA converting into MS. Or BA converting into MBA.). These are profiles with less diversity, less interesting material and need a lot of boost, and amping up.
- ‘Write Right’ promises to tell stories of your arduous journey, to make them sound inspiring and warm at the same time.
- This is a place for students with unconventional profiles, who want to study subjects that are interesting but a road less travelled. (Say, anything between aviation engineering, genetic sciences, neurosciences, nanoscience to mythology, theosophy or modal logic, or as is known in India, not computer sciences)
- If you dream big and dream differently, this is the place for you. They learn why you believe that a subject is meant for you. And then, weave the story around your personality to prove that the decisions you have made in life justifies your selection of that discipline. This is actually no mean feat, and Taletel somehow does it really well.
- They score highly on empathy, students’ diversity, and quality of students’ representation
- “We have students coming here, who have been so dissuaded that they are hesitant in pitching their own ideas. That is the worst thing that can happen to a student, when he begins to question his own aptitude. We bring these students out of that mindset, by making them tell their stories, in person or through questionnaires, whatever works better.
- Once they start telling their own stories, the effect is twofold- They gain back their confidence, and we can finally write our SOP knowing that we are being accurate. This also helps the students gain clarity about their dreams.”
- Taletel is the place where you need sensitive personal care over time. So the more unconventional your dreams, the more should Taletel suit your needs.
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU NEED HELP WITH YOUR SOP WRITING
In India, we suffocate students under the burden of more tutitions than the number of hours they sleep in a day. Despite that we teach them that it is shameful to take help. So, most of our students try their best to shove their weakness under the covers. But under the experienced eyes, those covers are inadequate and the student is revealed for all the shortcomings, which he/ she cannot afford, if they want a place in a good university.
The sheer mass of students who want to move on to a different country has grown massively over the past few years. The number of good colleges has not changed equally. SO the chances of getting through are getting slimmer by the sessions. Political unrest, unforeseen ailments have only made matters worse.
So, we suggest an option. Make your own SOP. And keep it with you for 10 days (and no less). After 10 days go back to your SOP. If you find it interesting enough, do not take help. But if you stumble 3 times, in the process of reading a 1500-word SOP, then know that your interviewer shall fumble at least 6 times, because he does not know the way you write- to him, you are simply another name on the paper he has to get done with. So, 3 or more fumbles, take a snapshot of your SOP, and send it to any one of the recommended institutes or one of your choice, and seek the help you need.
Dreams are fairy-tales. But the path to achieving it is brutally real. And no form of idealism can deny that, it takes a village to raise a child and a country to sustain a dream. And for that, you need to be in that country. So, help yourself or take help from someone- either way, get done with your SOP as intricately and as optimistically as you want to see yourself in your precious future.