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Updated: July 21, 2013 11:58 IST

SoP: Don’t exaggerate

M. P. Vijayakumari
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Subtle does it: Take time to write the SOP and put the points across effectively Photo: M. Vedhan
The Hindu
Subtle does it: Take time to write the SOP and put the points across effectively Photo: M. Vedhan

Support your claims with hard data when writing a Statement of Purpose for an MBA admission.

There are many hurdles to cross in your quest for an admission to a top business school – in India or overseas. In addition to the admission test scores, almost all top colleges require applicants to present their statement of purpose (SOP). This can serve as another indicator of your eligibility . There is more significance to the essays if you are applying to schools abroad, for these essays also contribute to your eligibility for financial aid.

The essays are to be written as responses to the prompts, either as questions or as statements.

Whether you are a fresher or working professional, you have to present yourself favourably while writing these essays to improve your chances of admission to the college.

To prepare the SoP, a majority of applicants refer to standard formats which successful students have followed, or take assistance from advisors. Yet others keep these original — in content and language.

That many of these SoPs are ridden with exaggerations is a given.

The admission committee may not choose to ignore these. Hence caution has to be exercised.

Common exaggerations

Always wanted to start my own firm: Most applicants believe that this is a ‘preferred response’. While it is true that many a student dreams of ‘owning’ a company while they are still in college, it is important to see that your academic and non-academic credentials match the goal.

Was the best student/worker/ all-rounder: Avoid superlative words unless the fact is expressible in tangible forms. For example, it is different if you say ‘I was the best athlete in my school and I was awarded ‘the best athlete’ at school level or district level in event X for the year Y.

If you have been awarded for your painting in a contest, or for an essay in a writing competition (include statistics such as the number of contestants/ state-level/ school-level), you are an achiever in that specific field.

If you are already employed, even if multitasking is sometimes part of your work, portraying these as multiple roles is an overstatement.

Done projects independently

A small project or a short-term internship cannot amount to actual experience. Similarly the usage ‘extensive experience’ may not apply to you.

If you mention your contribution towards conducting an event in college, or a work project, make it look real and believable.

Give your peers and your guide their due credit for their contributions; let team projects be stated as a platform to present your team skills. Acknowledgements are real signs of leadership.

Took a meaningful break

A tendency to hide a gap is not welcome. If the gap is more than six months after college or during employment, you need to duly justify it.

Non-existent fillers may not be the best solution. However, there is no harm in underplaying or not mentioning any episode in your academic or work life that you had no control over (such as an affiliation problem with the college or ‘benching’ of a work offer.)

High on attributes

Desist from using generic traits, such as ‘creative’, ‘highly motivated’, ‘effective’, ‘innovative’, ‘responsible’, ‘analytical’ and ‘optimistic’. Such generic words can bemisleading. Everything you put in your essay should have a proof. If no specific data is attached these terms are not considered valid.

Have few weaknesses

All of us have shortcomings. Most colleges require you to write about your weakness in your SoP. You may be honest about these and spell out what you have initiated to get over them.

Have adequate management skills ‘I have all the skills to be accepted into your university. I always wanted to get into your prestigious school.’

You are seeking business education. With a few years of work experience behind you, you may have rudiments of managerial skills. But if you have been in a technical job, making such judgment is a hyperbole; let the business school groom you to be a management professional. Unless, there is a question on ‘where you see yourself X years from now, you need not mention your long-term aspirations.

Want to change society

If you have done volunteer work, enumerate them in clear, specific terms, not fabricated and ‘tailor-made’ for the application. If your goal is eventually to bring out change, be specific about the causes that you are concerned about.

A born leader

The school may ask you to mention early signs of leadership, if any. This does not mean that it is mandatory to project yourself as someone who is already a leader: you may be one in the making.

If you project yourself as this ‘well-rounded’ personality what more moulding can a business school do?

Let the SoP showcase your integrity, true skills and achievements and value system. Give hard data on your achievements; be subtle in your plan for the future — the clear plan will emerge as you progress in your MBA.

The writer is a GMAT Trainer at semantics learning.

Email her at vijaya@semanticslearning.com.

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