How to Write a Statement of Purpose

Sept. 2, 2021

Eller Business Blog

If you are interested in applying for an MBA program, the list of admissions requirements may seem daunting. Breaking the application down into bite-sized components can make the process more digestible. 

One important component of an MBA application is the statement of purpose (SOP).  

To help ensure your SOP is ready to face the admissions committee, we gathered some insights from the Eller MBA team on what an SOP is, the proper format and what you should include as well as some other helpful tips and tricks. 

What is a statement of purpose?

The Statement of Purpose (SOP) is an essay in which you discuss your career goals and how an MBA along with your work history and attributes can help you achieve them. Admissions committees are looking for MBA students with strong academic backgrounds and unique or relevant work experience that will help them contribute to the MBA cohort. These should be threaded through the narrative of the SOP so that admissions professionals can see how you will fit in, contribute and ultimately make the transition to what you are seeking.  

There is a fine line between creating a compelling narrative and being too personal. Approach the SOP as if it were a conversation with a prospective employer—tie components of your personality back to your strengths and career goals. 

Is a personal statement the same as a statement of purpose?

Though the names sound similar, a personal statement is not exactly the same as a statement of purpose. A personal statement focuses more on the applicant’s background and journey of growth and can be very personal. Review the application instructions to see which type of essay is being requested and construct your essay accordingly.  

Some of the topics discussed below hold true for the personal statement and statement of purpose. However, our focus is the statement of purpose. 

How long is a statement of purpose?

The length of the SOP will vary by institution but is often around 500 to 1,000 words. Check the guidelines for each program and follow them. It will be clear to the reviewer if you used the correct font, spacing and length—don't give them a reason to reject your application before you have even had a chance to present your story. 

What is the format of a statement of purpose? 

The statement of purpose can be broken into five parts: 

  1. Introduction 

Use the introduction to give a brief overview of your background and your current career goals. This is also where you should hook in the audience. What makes you stand out from the crowd? 

  1. Why are you applying? 

In the second section, describe how you came to be interested in your field of study. Give a few examples of your professional experiences in the field. Describe how this specific program can help you to reach your goals and further your career.  

  1. Why are you the right candidate? 

Do some research on the specific school and program you are applying to. How do your personality, goals and experiences align with the program and the culture of the school?  

  1. Future Goals 

Here, write about your long-term goals—where you see yourself in several years. Note the difference between the goals you mentioned earlier in the SOP, which should be about goals closer to the present, such as what you hope to achieve upon graduation from the program. Show that you have a long-term vision in place and how the program will help you reach that vision. 

  1. Conclusion 

Restate your professional goal for attending the program, how the program is the perfect fit and how you are excited to contribute to the institution as a student and eventually as an alum. 

Do I sign a statement of purpose? 

Given that most applications are submitted online with other application documents, you do not normally need to sign a SOP. Again, double check with the requirements for your specific desired program. 

Tips and tricks for a polished statement of purpose: 

  • Make sure you reference the correct school and program 

Nothing will move your application to the reject pile faster than getting those names wrong. 

  • Be clear, succinct and have a good hook 

Keep in mind that admissions professionals may be reading hundreds of essays. Having a compelling hook to draw them into your story will make your application memorable. 

  • Check your grammar and spelling 

This shows professionalism and that your SOP is polished. 

  • Proofread 

Have someone you trust proofread it for you. Having someone not so close to the subject read your essay will let you know if your message is resonating the way that you intended. 

  • Be authentic 

Finding the best MBA program is a bit like dating. If you try being someone that you aren’t it will most likely show in your SOP. If not, it will become clear in the interview. If the school doesn’t appreciate who you are find a school that does – you'll be happier in the end. 

View more tips for submitting a strong MBA application (video). 

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