Top 5 Ways to Ruin Your SoP

Our experts at GradMint go through hundreds of SoPs every season. Unlike most of the guides out there, we won’t settle for commonplace tactics. We decided to outline very specific mistakes we notice in the SoPs, highly often.

1. Plagiarizing Ideas

Plagiarizing ideas (and of-course content !) from the internet is probably the worst thing you could do to your SoP. You’d think you can take ideas from an SoP posted online and reword it in your own SoP. But believe it or not – rest 49,999 applicants are thinking the same way.

In fact, even if you have your own ideas, consider checking if they’re not among these common ones, and we suggest avoiding these at any costs. Probably the most common ones are these two:

– “Ray Kurzweil and the famous Epochs”

This is probably the most plagiarized idea used in SoPs. This is probably stolen from this link that comes up first on Google when you search for “statement of purpose example”. We have seen people with really great profiles stealing this idea, and it almost always makes excellent SoPs look plagiarized. We do not hate Ray Kurzweil or the author of this masterpiece SoP, but when you’re copying someone else’s ideas, it shows lack of creativity and ability to have your own thought process.

– “Implementation of intelligence”

This is probably abridged from an archived e-mail conversation over here. With so many people applying to AI/ML/Data Science programs, this result is coming up on Google search results, and so is the rate at which it is being plagiarized !

2. It’s an autobiography

The graduate admissions committee doesn’t need to know about how you spent your childhood, or what were your childhood fantasies, or even worse, your family history (except if you’re a child of the Obamas or Terence Tao or the president of your country – in that case – it’s almost always a great point to write – see why.)

3. I’m the Thesaurus.

It’s great to know that you aced the GRE. But it isn’t necessary to exude all those vibes and specially not in your SoP. Your SoP should have a balance between brevity, complexity and style of writing. Any words like “abeyance” would only hurt your chances of being accepted, even more so, having a good vocabulary is never, ever a manifestation of how good you’d perform at grad school.

4. I failed, show me some sympathy

Well, that’s sad. You describe how you worked hard but miserably survived your undergrad, barely aced any courses, but was good at practicals. Hmm, you send your SoP, refresh the portal ten times a day for 70 days only to find that Harvard rejected your application. So inhuman of them, right ? Well, yes – and no. It’s almost never a great idea to describe your failures in detail. Even if you got bad grades, or have a year of gap with no particular achievements – don’t “assume” that Harvard will show your sympathy. They won’t. That said, try to keep it short, and ALWAYS talk about the bad part after you have baked the cake and dressed it with toppings. To put it simply, if you discuss enough achievements in the first few paragraphs, your little (or even bigger) failures might be overshadowed in the light of your achievements.

5. From high-school to corporate

This is probably the most underrated mistake ever! Almost 70% of SoPs we see are a victim of this grave mistake. And we’ve been assured this is what clearly separates the Harvard crowd from the rest.

Describing your achievements or life events in chronological order is almost always a bad idea. There are two reasons for it.

  1. You are obviously more successful right now than you were back in your high school. (unless you really ducked up! – no offense.)
  2. Most of the “Achievements” in high school are same for all – became the captain of the soccer team – head boy – head girl – class representative – topper of the entire state – aced the high school.

Even if you Google for some masterpiece SoPs – you’d observe that 90% of them are written in a reverse-chronological order – meaning that the applicant has described the events or his achievements moving back in time, and not forward.