Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A Sop Story

With most deadlines drawing close, almost everyone here at IIT keen on apping can be seen in their room sitting with the computer busy at the keyboard hammering out a foul document called, rather innocuously, the Statement of Purpose.

In these Statements, people show their true colors. Phrases such as 'my intelligence was evident' and 'Ever since my childhood I loved research' are rife. Ostensibly mellow individuals are often the worst. Their faces might be humble and shy. But what they write on paper flirts with the outer limits of social acceptance.

When I was studying for the GRE (yet another pointless monopoly that fleeces money out of gullible third world students), I used to wonder whether I would use half the words that I was forcing down my throat. The SOP, I realized, was a document that was meant for GRE students. Prolixity is appreciated, verbosity encouraged. Equivocation (the hallmark of all GRE essays) is imperative, failing which your SOP might be considered unambitious and you might be rejected.

The story of the evolution of my SOP is quite interesting. I drafted a first copy (which fell prey to almost all the aforementioned defects). This was sent for review to friends, who were particularly critical. This resulted in millions of corrections. And not, the SOP is sleeker and smaller, albeit a mutant.

Since I have no real aesthetic sense (except a gut feeling which goes 'This looks bad' when I see something that looks bad), I decided the best way to get a good looking format is to use LATEX. And so I did. All that aside, I am of the conviction that writing a SOP is a task comparable to writing a minor technical paper. The number of reviews that it goes through is tremendous, and the number of sleepless nights spent on it are tremendous too.

Each SOP should also have some data about the university that you are applying to. When you are applying to MIT (say), then you have to tell the professors what their institute is good at. This way, the professors are always in touch with the latest developments in their institute.

Well, I shall end on that note. I hope my conclusions are getting better and less abrupt. You shall see a gradual shift to better conclusions. This gradual shift shall be called the 'conclusion learning curve'

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