The process of writing your statement of academic purpose (SAP) for a graduate programme application may seem daunting initially but seeing the write-up evolve into the perfect reflection of your candidature is equally satisfying, if not more. So, how do you get there? Here are five tips to help you craft an excellent SAP:
- Let your personality shine
Have a thing for quotes from your favourite books/movies? Like poetry? Passionate about a social cause? Showcase it in your SAP. You may feel compelled to only state your academic and professional achievements to make a strong case for why you’re a good fit for the programme. However, your hobbies and passions are equally impressive factors that convey your unique personality. So, make the SAP personal and use it to stand out from the competition.
For my SAP, I wrote about how my passion for research developed over the course of my childhood and higher education and how my inclination for understanding human behaviour became integral to the way I think and work.
- Quality over quantity
Depending on the programme guidelines, you have between 500 to 1,000 words to write about what makes you a strong applicant. This can be difficult but the beauty of this lies in making you think hard about why you’re a good fit and to present your case in a compelling fashion. So, accept this as a challenge, draw up an exhaustive list of points that could potentially be included, and then eliminate points based on relevance and space constraints.
In my case, I started with 12 broad points including my ideas, personal experiences, lessons I’ve learnt and then boiled it down to three.
- Be original
While you may look at several examples of SAPs available on the internet for inspiration, your SAP should be an honest and meaningful reflection of you. So, avoid reproducing material you may have previously come across and devote time to writing an SAP that truly celebrates your individuality.
When developing my SAP, I read several samples and watched videos on the internet for writing tips. However, what worked best for me was to reflect back on my time as a student through my undergraduate and postgraduate years and how those experiences shaped my thought processes and career development. I also asked people in my close circles to give me their honest opinions of my strengths for inspiration.
- Grab the reader’s attention
Remember that the person reading your application will be reading several other SAPs too. So, make your SAP a captivating story by weaving in all your points seamlessly, ensure smooth logical flow between sentences and paragraphs, write assertively and avoid details that are not connecting well to your main points. Elaborate on the points you’ve mentioned in your resume/CV instead of plainly restating them in your SAP.
My final SAP was approximately 1,000 words and was an account of my passion for research and how that seeped into the many aspects of my academic and work life.
- Write, re-write and refine
The SAP is a creative write-up and creativity flourishes over time. Start writing as early as you can and refine your draft. This will allow you ample time to write creatively, and refine and edit your draft. Proofread multiple times to check for and correct any grammatical mistakes or spelling errors. Have a friend/sibling/professor proofread and give you their honest feedback.
I started writing my SAP two months in advance of the application deadline and then requested my sister and my professor to review it before submission.
And there you have it; those are my top tips for writing a spot-on SAP. Best of luck with the application process! 🙂
Learn more about LSE’s requirements for the statement of academic purpose.