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2 application essays international students confuse

Top Admit - October 07, 2019

MBA and MS engineering application essays

What's the difference between Statement of Purpose and Personal Statement Essays?


The Statement of Purpose (SoP) essay describes why you want to attend a specific university or course.

The Personal Statement essay highlights your unique abilities as an applicant. 

When applying to any school, whether it’s undergraduate or MBA, you will always be required to submit one or more written documents. The purpose of these documents is to allow the admissions committee to find out more about the students on a personal level.

Too often, students overemphasize class rankings and exam scores in these essays. Yet, thousands of international applicants can claim similar scores and credentials. Your writing is often more important than anything else you submit because it gives you the chance to distinguish yourself among a large pool of similar applicants.

Different essay formats demand different topical emphases. Writing off-topic - no matter how unique your story – may lead to automatic filtering by the admissions committee. 

In particular, here are two essay types, with tips for each:

1. Statement of purpose

The Statement of Purpose (SoP) essay describes why you want to attend a particular university/MBA programme and how you are a good fit for the programme. 

Some tips include:

  • Schools will usually assign what they call prompts, which are focused questions you need to answer in detail. Failure to answer the question automatically marks you as an unfit candidate.
  • Effective SOP writing discusses your background, career plan, and future goals.
  • Make sure your essay is well organised.
  • Do not brag!

2. Personal statement

The personal statement essay expresses who you are and highlights your unique abilities. 

Tips include:

  • Should be more narrative and self-reflective than the statement of purpose.
  • Show off professional and academic accomplishments, skills, and extracurricular activities.
  • Represent yourself creatively to stand out from the other students.
  • Don’t ramble – select details carefully to provide a unified theme.
  • Keep to a well-structured story, and avoid jumping around in time and place.
  • Don’t lie! The best personal statements are straightforward, reflective and honest, so don’t overthink the task. Just express yourself.

Knowing the variations between international grad school essays, and preparing them accordingly, might mean the difference between admission and rejection. You'll want to focus on getting it right now so you can focus on preparing for your time on campus.


Already finished your grad school applications?

Now's a great time to start looking at the finances you'll need to complete your international master's degree. Prodigy Finance can help with that. 

Prodigy Finance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Post updated for accuracy and freshness on October 7, 2019. Originally published on January 27, 2014.

Guest blog post written by Jyana Tata from TopAdmit. Top Admit is a premier provider of online English editing and proofreading services. Top Admit has a team of 200 editors - all graduates from Ivy League schools with professional backgrounds. Their mission is to help international students gain admission to the schools of their choice, by providing friendly and professional English-language services. 


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