Sample SOP for Engineers

A good SOP is well structured, well written but most importantly unique to you. Download a sample SOP and learn how to make your SOP stand out in a crowd

I am not interested in what they did or how. I am keen to know why,” said a senior Admission Director in one of our campus visits in NYU.

SOP is where you tell that guy – why you did what you did and how it makes you the unique you.

Why do we need a SOP

GRE score can show whether you have the aptitude to understand the coursework or not. Your GPA and undergrad transcripts can show whether you have the necessary academic credentials for this program or not. Toefl shows if you will be able to communicate and hence, adjust well in an english speaking community or not.

But alas, you cannot capture the awesomeness of a human being in 3 scores. If that was the case, only the highest qualified will get admits to the Ivy Leagues. But what about that girl from small town in Africa who frickin’ fought against the societal bias and her closed minded aunts to dream of studying in USA! Or how about that IT guy from a tier 3 school in Indonesia who has mediocre grades but wants to be a data scientist!

Good schools want these super motivated candidates instead of uni-dimensional 10 pointers. And this is how, we came to the concept of SOP – its a Statement of Purpose. They want to know why you want to study this particular program in this particular school. It’s a story that tells them how you have come to this point in your life – what incidences have shaped your thinking, how you think, what will you do with your education and will you put it to a good use. And, what remains unsaid is – will you be a successful and good alum for the school?

Now that we have an understanding of what SOP is, let’s look at an example.

Sample SOP for CS

This is the real SOP of a candidate of ours who got into CMU MSIT, ASU MCS, NEU CS and TU Munich CS programs.

You can download the full PDF below.

Structure of a good SOP

There are a lot of samples available on Internet but what you will struggle with is finding out the right style for yourself. Of course, since these samples are available freely to everyone, you cannot copy them either.

So, let’s understand how to structure your SOP.

After 6 years of being in business and working with 500+ candidates, we have developed a deep understanding of what works. The problem is there is no one-size-fits-all solution here. But, to the extent that we can generalise, this is what we recommend.

Introduction

The opening paragraph should give a solid summary of your profile to the admission committee. It should answer why you are applying to this program, what makes you qualified for it and what is impressive about you.

Academic Background

Start with a brief summary of your college life. Try to cover your relevant academic details here such as grades in important subjects, accomplishments (scholarship, hackathon prizes, TAship etc). Start talking about how your interests started evolving in college. Follow up with 1-2 important academic project paragraphs.

Professional/Research Background

This is where you write about your internships, fulltime work experience and/or research experience. Talk about most relevant projects and what you learned from them.

Extracurriculars

Here, you can showcase your leadership and teamwork skills apart from anything meaningful you have done outside studies and work. People can talk about their serious hobbies, sports achievements, volunteering activities, experiences of leading a team in clubs etc.

Caveat – avoid cliches. If you were just a member of the IEEE club or volunteered for a simple event, that does not really count.

Why MS

As we discussed above, the admission committee wants to see how does MS fit in with your plan. So, this section has to convince them that you know what you want to get out of your MS. Talk about your career goals and what will you do after MS.

This is a good time to read our other post which shows good example statements you can use in SOP 

How to make your SOP unique?

As you can see, everybody can follow this structure but what is really hard is to personalize a SOP so that it stands out from the competition. It needs expert storytelling and multiple iterations to evolve a rough draft into a winning SOP. It has taken us years to perfect this process in our consulting.

Here are three pointers you need to keep in mind to make your SOP awesome-

  1. It should be genuine – Admission committee develops an eye for the fakers. If you keep telling how great you are and how you developed passion for microprocessors since childhood, no one is going to buy that. Don’t try to exaggerate unnecessarily. Keep it real.
  2. Address your salient strengths and weaknesses – Winning hackathons? Had low GPA because you went to participate in Formula SAE? Had to return to your hometown to take care of an ailing mother which caused a gap in your work? Only you can tell your story and you should.
  3. Your goals should make sense with your background – Everyone is applying for data Science these days even if they have never worked with ML or have any fundamental knowledge of statistics. If this is the case, you should ask yourself why are you applying to this program. If you cannot justify it yourself, how is the admission committee going to ever be convinced with it?

Don’t Use Templates

Please refrain from using templates given by counselors or websites. The whole point is to make your application stand out and by using a template (especially the ones where you just change your specific information), you are looking similar to thousand other applicants. In fact, try to write the first SOP yourself without seeing any sample SOPs. After writing the first draft, check out some good SOPs and tweak accordingly.

Download the Sample SOP in a PDF 


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How to plan the timeline of your Fall applications?

MS in USA application process can be overwhelming and cumbersome. So, here we have tried to simplify it for you so that you can keep a tab on what’s happening.

GRE/TOEFL

Take by end of Aug so that you have enough time to retake if necessary
Retake GRE if required by end of Sep (need 21 days between reattempts)

Shortlist Schools

by end of Sep – mid Oct. Here’s full post on how to shortlist schools.

Email Professors

Drop emails to relevant Professors you are interested to work with (especially for people interested in research) by mid of Oct.

Apply for WES

If any of your shortlisted schools require a WES evaluation, apply for it by the end of Oct since it can take a month or more to get their results.

Check for scholarships

There are some third party scholarships available for MS applicants. Search these by end of Oct (so that you can apply by their stated deadlines)

Order transcripts

from your undergraduate college by end of Oct

Finalize SOP, essays and LORs

by mid Nov

Fill the application online and send application packets where required

by end of Nov – mid Dec

Follow up on the status of your applications

and if the required material has been received by the schools in Jan. Resend if anything is amiss

Receive results

by end of Mar-Apr

Submit financial docs for I-20

by end of Apr

Finalize your school and apply for education loan

by May

Appear for visa interview

by end of June

Arrive on the campus

by Aug (2 weeks earlier if you need to look for funding on campus)


That’s it – it is not as cumbersome if you know what to expect. Save this infographic for a quick reminder.

Timeline for MS applications (fall)

 

For personalised assistance for your applications, check our counseling packages.

MTech in India vs MS in USA – which is better?

Let’s cut the chase. Many applicants wonder if they should just go for an MTech in India instead of supposedly expensive MS degree in USA. Here are my thoughts on the same.

Whether you should go for GATE or not partly depends on where did you do your Bachelors from.

How helpful is an MTech degree?

Pros: MTech is cheaper than studying abroad and can make you eligible for placement in PSUs. If you did Bachelors from a low tier college and if you can do MTech from IIT/NIT/BITs (that means doing very very well in GATE), it will increase your employability and can give you access to top tier of employers in India.

Cons: Education quality in India is not good enough and the same is true for MTech. You have to, at the end of the day, deal with same kind of teachers and similar infrastructural constraints in colleges. That is why I said it depends on your college. If you did undergrad from a good college, MTech will give you only a little additional advantage in terms of job opportunities and I don’t think spending 2 years is worth it. Even if you get into a top tier institute in GATE, I feel that employers always have a higher demand for undergrads at these places and you might compete against not only your MTech batchmates but BTech guys as well. The fact is a Master’s from India is not considered that cutting-edge. So, if you think you are going to gain some major knowledge boost, that is wishful thinking.

Just to give you a perspective on how competitive GATE is, IITs offered < 700 seats in Computer Science for MTech in 2011. Even if we double the number of IITs and calculating for more branches, that is <10,000 seats for MTech in IITs when 7.5 lac+ people appear for GATE every year. So, 98.5% of the candidates appearing for GATE will end up not meeting the cut off or even if they do, they will get non-IIT kind of colleges.

Pros of doing MS from USA

  1. Education is just way way better than in India. At UIUC and NYU, I had the privilege of learning under Nobel Laureates, reputed award winner scientists and people who were truly experts in their fields.
  2. Starting salaries are quite high (read USD 85k and above) that you can earn so much more than what you will back in India. Many students have this myth about financial affordability but if you do the math, you can repay the loan in 2-4 years if you go to a decent enough school and work hard to get a good internship/job since CS folks are really in demand there.
  3. Besides the exposure to a foreign land, opportunities and learning to be independent are something that will make you a better person and professional in the long run. It will prepare you for a global career better than an MTech.

So, what to do?

In the end, it depends on your financial constraints but if you can manage a semester worth of fee, I highly recommend looking at Master’s from USA instead of MTech in India.

Agree/Disagree? Comment below!

MS in Canada compared to MS in USA

Why apply to MS in Canada?

1. H1B and green card uncertainty in USA due to Trump policies

Trump has hinted that he does not like immigrants (which is the intention of 90%+ internationals who go for MS in USA), H1B caps and OPT rules are constantly under scrutiny and green card processing takes forever.

In comparison, you easily get work permit upon graduation in Canada for 2-4 years in any field to work anywhere you want. The study permit itself allows for taking jobs off campus right from the beginning. Within this time frame, you can easily get your permanent residency. Therefore, studying from Canada means not only getting higher education but a hassle-free option of settling in Canada.

2. The high quality of living and curriculum

Canada’s political stability, tolerant government, super healthcare, natural beauty lends itself to the wonderful quality of living in a peaceful environment. Yes, winters might be an issue for some people.
I saw the ultimate reward of being in Canada in our alumnus’ Rafi’s response –

“I used to weigh 120+ kg in India and had multiple health issues. After coming to Canada and seeing the fitness of people around me, it made me work hard to become healthy myself. Today I weigh 70 kg and have learned swimming and skiing. I love it here.”

While Canada may have a fewer number of schools than the USA, most of them are comparable in quality of coursework and research to the top tier schools of USA.

3. Not so bad job opportunities

Plus, for all the health and wellness benefits it offers, the job scenario is also not bad (we are talking about engineering fields for this post). There are increasing opportunities in growing fields such as Data Science. Plus, most of the bigger tech companies are opening offices in Canada if not already.

In terms of the cost of attendance and living, it may be akin to the USA in total. However, financial aid opportunities seem to be abundant in good Canadian universities.

So, where is the catch?

As is the case we discussed in MS in Germany blog post, downsides of studying in Canada are:

1. Lower job packages

While it is not unheard of to get $100K USD+ packages in the USA in software and technology along with handsome relocation bonuses, Canadian offers are lower with little bonuses.

2. Lower possibilities of working in the USA

It is hard to get placement in US offices from Canada. So, if you graduate from Canada, you are best positioned to work in Canada only. I still believe that the USA offers the best job market and growth opportunities in most of the engineering fields.

To summarize, those looking for long-term settlement, relocation to a foreign country and peaceful living, Canada offers you a wonderful opportunity. But if you are studying abroad to earn as much as possible and might want to come back to India, USA is still a better bet.

The comparison is more clear from this interview with Rafi Alam. He shares insights about studying and working in Canada.

Hear it from someone who pursued CS from Waterloo

That’s it, hope it helps you make a more informed choice for your study abroad plans!


We have now covered MS in Germany and MS in Canada. Which other country are you considering and would like to know more about?

Should you consider doing an MS in Germany?

MS in Germany can be lucrative

Did you know that Hyperloop competition by Elon Musk was won by TU Minich students for a second time! That is not all, pursuing MS in Germany can nearly be free in technical streams. German schools further help all students in getting co-ops kind of internships for practical training. However, there is still a catch when you compare it to USA. Read on to find out…

In an interview with Sangram Gupta, we chat about his experience of pursuing an MS in CS from TU Munich, Germany. He is parallelly interning with a Business Intelligence startup called Incuda.gmbh where he is earning 15 euros per hour. Best thing – he did not spend a single penny in his MS.

Interview covers

  • How helpful is the curriculum like?
  • How long does it take to do an MS?
  • How much does one spend on graduate school in Germany? (Its almost free!)
  • Who should apply to German schools (which kind of programs are best)?
  • What is the process to apply to programs in Germany?
  • What is the internship process and ease of doing internships in Germany?
  • What is the employment scenario in Europe?
  • Why you should or should not consider MS in Germany? (Conclusive comparison with USA)

Video

Let us find out more directly from him in this video-

Resources

Here is the list of top German schools that Sangram considered while applying.


We have now covered MS in Germany and MS in Canada. Which other country are you considering and would like to know more about?