For every engineering graduate program in the United States and in most other countries around the world, the Statement of Purpose (SOP) is a vital part of an application, along with letters of recommendation and a resume.
For technical programs, this document must elaborate on specific technical skills, and especially if the applicant has relevant work experience.
When helping a student with a technical SOP, independent educational consultants (IECs) must look for an overarching pattern that accurately covers the technical topic being applied for. Keep a look out for technical vocabulary and terminologies that will signal to someone who is knowledgeable in the area (should a faculty member be involved in the admissions process) that the applicant has domain knowledge. While regular SOPs tend to focus on personal experiences, thoughts, and motivations, the technical SOP also requires facts, figures, and analysis to be presented in a clear and concise manner.
A strong introduction in a technical SOP can start by referring to the area of interest, like a thesis statement, which can then be elaborated on in the following paragraphs. Engineering school admission committees are looking for applicants who stand out with regard to the clarity they bring to their area of research focus. So, it is in the applicant’s best interest to be specific about their interests within the field. For example, an applicant can highlight analytical abilities and showcase technical knowledge acquired while interning or working full-time. Describing a specific related project, the subject areas researched for the project, the obstacles faced during testing, and the revisit to the drawing board make for a great read and highlight the key attributes. Explain to the applicant that using such examples is far more valuable than stating traits like diligence, perseverance, etc. This detail is far more impactful than merely stating that you value perseverance.
The body of the technical SOP can comprise of an elaboration on how the proposed study will connect the previous academic and practical experiences to the applicant’s short-term goals. Mentioning realizations gained through academic readings is also a good idea here. The applicant can share details about their motivations, as well as their short-term and long-term goals. There is also an opportunity to include statistics and data that can be linked to the short-term goals and showcase its viability.
Typically, activities unrelated to the subject area do not find priority in a technical SOP. Most universities allow a limited word count essay and as such it is best for applicants to only include extracurricular and co-curricular activities that are relevant.
Applicants should also be aware that their subject area of focus must align with the research being carried out at the universities and be the area of interest of the faculty members of that specific school. Stating the above by mentioning the relevant courses, concentrations, and out-of-class engagements that are of interest can help. This highlights to the admissions committee that the applicant will add value to the department’s culture by participating in discussions, projects, and club activities that are related.
Overall, a technical SOP must demonstrate the applicant’s technical strength in a compelling narrative that goes beyond their resume.
IECA members: Join us for the new College Conversations in Focus series focused on engineering/CS to learn more about specific programs. Visit the Member Network and click on Events > Upcoming Events for details on upcoming sessions.
By Tripti Singh, MA, IECA Associate (China), The Red Pen