Destination USA: Importance of statement of purpose

Statement of purpose allows the admissions committee to assess your research capabilities, long term goals

By Author  |   Monika Setia  |  Published: 13th Oct 2019  12:04 amUpdated: 12th Oct 2019  10:33 pm
Destination USA
The committee reviews the SOP with an eye for why they should accept one particular student over other students.

Statement of purpose is an important part of the application that is submitted by students to US varsities for joining various graduate and postgraduate courses. As we explained in one of our recent articles in this series, applicants are required to submit a written statement of purpose (SOP) or personal statement as part of the Ph D admissions process at most US universities.

In a personal statement, a student is expected to address following questions:
• Who are you? What is your background?

• What are your short-term and long-term goals for your research career?

• What factors contributed to your interest in your chosen field of study?

• Why do you want to pursue the Ph D programme at that particular department/ university?

• How do you plan to use the degree to achieve your research and career goals?

Your statement of purpose allows the admissions committee to assess your research capabilities, long term research/ career goals, and reasons you chose your field of study. The committee also takes note of how you may contribute to the research agenda of the department, college, and/or university. Beyond the standardised test scores, academic grades, and the resume, the statement of purpose gives an insight into you and your motivations that is not possible in the numbers that make up the rest of the application.

In addition to the understanding your research profile, your personal statement also allows the review committee to assess your writing skills, academic ability, organisational skills, and purpose in applying to the Ph D programme at the department. The reviewers look for strong writing skills as well as a demonstration of academic and research acumen.

The committee reviews the SOP with an eye for why they should accept one particular student over other students. Hence, the statement of purpose is a critical part of your Ph D application.

Next week we will share some tips for writing a good SOP with our readers.

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


Q1. We want to send our son to US for his higher studies after Class XII. What is your recommendation on community colleges? – Nikhil Lamba

A: Community College is a great cost-saving option for international students. However, community colleges usually offer a two-year Associates Degree. If a four-year bachelor’s degree is the goal, identifying a community college that have “articulation agreements” with four-year institutions is a wise choice. Articulation agreements usually mean that the community college has an agreement with a four-year university so that the majority of the community college coursework is applicable towards a bachelor’s degree at a four-year university. Ultimately, a student could complete two years at community college at a lower cost and then transfer to complete the remaining two years for a full bachelor’s degree (otherwise known as a 2+2 programme).

Community colleges operate on an “open” admissions policy.  This means anyone who wishes to enroll and meets the minimum entry requirements can do so. Each institution will have its own set of admission requirements, but the minimum usually includes the following:

• Completed application form

• Proof of secondary school completion, usually 12 years of schooling

• Certification of English language proficiency – TOEFL or IELTS

• Evidence of financial support

The English language proficiency requirement is often lower for a community college than it is for a four-year institution.  In addition, if your score is a little below the entry requirement, the community college may still admit you into its English as a Second Language (ESL) programme. Successful completion of all the prescribed ESL courses will open the door to the wider academic world of the community college.

There is a word of caution to keep in mind regarding community colleges. If the goal is not to pursue a bachelor’s degree after finishing the two-year study, it is important for students to think about how they plan to use their Associate degree, especially since the degree may not be accepted in India.

Q2. I am trying to shortlist universities for MS programmes in the US. Can you please explain the difference between public and private universities? – Mukund Sharma

A: State colleges and universities, also called public universities, are funded and subsidised by US State governments to provide low-cost education to residents of that State. These universities tend to be very large and generally admit a wider range of students than private universities. State university tuition costs are generally lower than those of private universities. International students, as well as those from other States, are considered out-of-State residents and therefore pay a higher tuition than residents of the State in which the institution is located (but the tuition still may be lower than that of private colleges and universities).

Private colleges and universities are funded by a combination of endowments, gifts from their alumni, research grants, and tuition fees. Tuition fees tend to be higher than State universities, but there is no distinction made between State and non-State residents. Private universities are usually smaller and can have religious affiliation or can be single-gender schools.


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.

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