Destination USA: SOP gives an insight into student’s goals

It should be written in advance so it could be checked

By Author  |  Published: 20th Oct 2019  12:03 amUpdated: 19th Oct 2019  10:50 pm
OPPORTUNITES GALORE: A US university representative explaining course details to students during a US Education Fair in Hyderabad.

We continue today our discussion on the Statement of Purpose (SOP), or personal statement, required for US university PhD applications.

In a statement of purpose, you should highlight your motivation to conduct research in the given field of study, your relevant research experience, and your long-term research goals. So, the first step in writing a good SOP is self-reflection. However, it is equally important for students to relate their background research experience and proposed PhD programme research work to the research goals of the department/university where they are submitting their application. So, you should set aside enough time to read and understand the research agenda and current research projects underway at the department.

The contents of the personal statement should include your research objective, education and work background; reason for choosing the field of study/program/university; research projects and how they helped develop the relevant skills; accomplishments, extracurricular activities, trainings, and workshops; and other factors that will help you succeed in the program.

While writing the SOP, students should avoid repeating information already mentioned in the resume or other parts of the application (e.g. grades, marks, and achievements). However, the knowledge gained from each experience may be mentioned in the SOP. Use the personal statement to convey something more about the student as an individual that is not found in other places in the application.

It is important that students keep the SOP document simple and use short sentences. The statement should very focused and specific. So, a one-page document is generally encouraged (around 750-1000 words) but do check the word limit specified in the application. Use written and not spoken English terminology, and try to keep the language straightforward. Do not use shortened phrases and always expand and abbreviate in parentheses. Engage the reader from the start. Remember that presentation and visual aesthetics are as important as the content.

Students should write the statement in advance so that they have time to put it aside and then read it again to see if it still makes sense. Also, ask someone in your field to read your statement of purpose before submitting it. Lastly but also most importantly, you should be genuine and honest in your personal statement, making sure that the statement is a true representation of yourself, your interests, experience, and abilities.

— Monika Setia (Regional Officer and EducationUSA Adviser at US – India Educational Foundation, based at the U.S. Consulate General Hyderabad)


Q1. Are international students eligible for distance education courses at US universities? Can you please elaborate on these programs?

– Anand Sharma

Online learning, also known as distance education, is a great way to experience the US educational system. International students are generally eligible for distance education courses offered by US universities.

US institutions offer a variety of full-time degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels as well as individual courses. To receive credit from a US institution for distance learning, the student usually pays a tuition fee. In addition to full-time degree programs or individual courses, some US institutions of higher education offer part-time blended programs that may be partially online and require occasional on-campus attendance, called “low-residency programs.”

To find accredited online distance learning programs, please search the following website of the Distance Education and Training Council: The types of programs/certifications offered and application process may be found on individual university websites.

There are options now also available for online learning such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that are usually tuition-free, but in most cases do not offer credit. A few prominent MOOC providers include Coursera, Edx, and Udacity. You may check the website of each provider to understand the process of enrollment. The U.S. Department of State also facilitates a free in-person MOOC Camp program in many countries. You may check for further details.

Q2. What is ACT test? We heard about it while exploring bachelor’s programs in the US for our daughter.

– K Krishnamohan

The application process for undergraduate (bachelor’s degree) programs in the United States requires one or more standardized test scores. The test scores, along with high school GPA and other factors, are considered during the admission process and decisions on scholarships and college credit for undergraduate program applications by US universities. The SAT Reasoning Test and the ACT are the two principle standardised test options for undergraduate applicants, while the SAT Subject Tests and AP exams are additional exams that universities may require or consider.

The ACT measures college readiness of students through English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science Reasoning sections, with an optional writing test. The test is comprised of multiple choice questions, with the total score ranging from a minimum of 1 to a maximum of 36. The duration of the test is around 3 hours and 30 minutes. The ACT is offered six times a year – February, April, June, September, October, and December.

The types of test accepted by universities vary, so it is important for students and parents to make sure to check the admissions page of the selected universities before registering for the test. The SAT and ACT differ from each other, so I encourage you to research both before choosing which one to take and reach out to EducationUSA with further questions.

For further information about the ACT, please visit the following website:


Every question has an answer. And ‘Destination USA’ will strive to provide the right answer to all those youngsters who dream of studying in the US.

Mail your questions and doubts to [email protected] to have subject matter experts answer them, right from the degree and programme of study you can pursue to what the application process entails, on universities, how to prepare resumes, financing your studies and even how it is like to live and study in the US, all are welcome.

Now you can get handpicked stories from Telangana Today on WhatsApp / Telegram everyday. Click these links to subscribe and save this number 9182563636 on your contacts.