Statement of Purpose (SOP) vs Personal Statement

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Piyush Kohli
Study Abroad Expert
Updated on Aug 2, 2022 16:04 IST

What is the difference between a Statement of Purpose and a Personal Statement? Those who are planning to apply for studying abroad often have this question in their mind. Apart from a few aspects, a Personal Statement seems similar to a Statement of Purpose. An SOP includes a two-page essay about your motivation, goals, experience, extracurricular activities, and so on, whereas a  Personal Statement is a crisp one-page essay about your motivation, inspiration, goals, and achievements. A Personal Statement is more personal than an SOP, so it should elaborate on your aspirations and motivations.

An SOP is a much more detailed version of the Personal Statement. In this article, we will explain to you the difference between a Statement of Purpose and a Personal Statement, so, you have a clear idea at the time of your application process. First of all, you need to understand what these two types of application documents intend to express. The main difference between the two is that a Statement of Purpose contains what you want to do or achieve by pursuing the course you are applying to, whereas a Personal Statement includes details about you: who you are?

Statement of Purpose

An SOP is a long essay asked by universities abroad during the application process. A Statement of Purpose is an essay stating the purpose of applying for a particular course at a particular university. This essay consists of a gist of who you are, who you want to become, and how ready you are to pursue a certain course at an institution. The SOP states the candidate’s life, the motivations for the chosen career path, and his/her goals. Therefore, a candidate should discuss the past incidents that have influenced your career path, in a specific domain wherein you aspire to grow by enrolling in a course/college.

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Personal Statement

A personal statement is your application for studying at a particular college or university. It gives you a chance to articulate why you would like to study a particular course or subject, and what skills and experience you possess that reflect your passion for the chosen field of study. This essay should demonstrate your readiness for the chosen field and why you are applying to a particular program. If any space is left after giving these details, then you can explain your personal achievements or qualities, which can be other than academics or the field in which you have selected to study; for example, volunteer services. You should explain how that activity or experience has prepared you better for your studies.

Learn how to write a UCAS Personal Statement here

Difference between a Statement of Purpose and a Personal Statement

 Basis of distinction

Statement of Purpose

Personal Statement

Type of Content

motivation, goals, professional experience, extracurricular activities

Personal motivation, inspiration, goals, and achievements

Type of document


Can be informal

Length of the document

2 pages

1 page

A Statement of Purpose highlights your academic strength and background, research interests, long-term goals, and why you fit for that particular program, whereas a Personal Statement showcases your personal motivation for applying to that program or any achievement or challenges that you faced, as well as your learning from those experiences.

Personal Statement vs Motivational Letter

Now that you are clear about the differences between an SOP and a Personal Statement, let us look at the difference between a Personal Statement and a Motivational Letter. A Letter of Motivation is directly addressed to the admission committee/department faculty explaining your objectives, motivation, and goals related to the course. A Personal Statement, on the other hand, is not addressed to anyone specifically, but it is an essay-type document outlining your motivation, inspiration, and achievements. To know more about a motivational letter, read: How to write an impressive Letter of Motivation?

Which document do you require for graduate schools?

Having understood the difference between a Statement of Purpose and a Personal Statement, you should know which document you require for applying to a graduate school. This completely depends on the school you are applying to. Some schools ask you to write a Personal Statement, whereas some want a Statement of Purpose.

If you are facing any difficulty in writing a Statement of Purpose, then you can look at the sample SOP and learn how to approach your SOP.

You can also learn how to write a Graduate School Statement of Purpose here

Those who need to write a personal statement but are facing challenges in writing it can learn How to Write the UCAS Personal Statement here

Note: Aspirants should always check what is the exact requirement of the university and accordingly work on that document, whether SOP or Personal Statement.

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About the Author
Piyush Kohli
Study Abroad Expert

With a plethora of knowledge of the education domain, Piyush Kohli has been involved with study abroad for over 5 years and counting. He comes with prior experience on the complexities of the study abroad applicatio... Read Full Bio


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