14 Most Common Mistakes in SOP

21K School · Aug 10, 2023 · 3 min read

One of the essential parts of a student’s college application is their statement of purpose (SOP). It’s their chance to tell the admissions committee who they are and why they are a good fit for their school. However, many students make mistakes when writing their SOPs, hurting their chances of getting accepted. 

Here are the 14 most common mistakes in the SOP that applicants must avoid while writing:

1. Not knowing what the admissions committee is looking for:

The biggest mistake any applicant can make is not understanding what the admissions committee is looking for in a statement of purpose. Before writing their SOP, applicants should research exactly what they are looking for.

2. Failing to sell themselves:

A statement of purpose is a candidate’s chance to sell themselves to the admissions committee. The candidate needs to highlight their strengths and accomplishments. It must portray how they would add value to their program.

3. Not being specific enough:

A statement of purpose is not a general essay. The candidate needs to be specific about their goals, strengths, accomplishments, and why they are the best candidate for the program. Their SOP should tell a story about who they are and why they are interested in the program. 

4. Not using proper grammar:

The candidate should always use proper grammar and punctuation in their statement of purpose. It shows that they are professional and take their application seriously. It also showcases their ability to convey their point grammatically correctly.

5. Not proofreading:

The candidate should always proofread their statement of purpose before submitting it. Typos and grammatical errors make applicants look unprofessional and reduce their chances of being accepted into the program. So, the candidate should always proofread their statement of purpose before submitting it. 

6. Trying to be someone they’re not:

The candidate needs to be authentic in their statement of purpose. The admissions committee wants to learn about the candidate’s real personality. So, the candidate shouldn’t be someone they’re not.

7. Not tailoring their statement:

Generic statements are a massive turn-off for admissions committees. They can tell when a candidate has written a generic statement of purpose. Each program is looking for something specific in its applicants. So, the applicants need to tailor their statement of purpose to the school they are applying to. Mentioning specific faculty members, courses, or research opportunities at the school shows that they are interested in and knowledgeable about the program.

8. Relying too heavily on clichés:

While applicants need to be sincere in their statement of purpose, they should avoid clichés or hackneyed phrases. Instead, they need to focus on authentically conveying their unique story.

9. Focusing too much on their research interests:

While the candidate’s research interests are vital, the statement of purpose is also their chance to show that they are more than just a researcher. The applicant needs to come out as an overall package.

10. Including irrelevant information:

The applicants need to keep their statement of purpose focused on why they’re interested in the program and what they hope to accomplish from it. Any unnecessary information about their personal life, hobbies, and extracurricular activities can detract from their central message.

11. Not including enough detail:

Admissions committees want to get to know the applicant through their statement of purpose. The candidate needs to include all details about their academic and professional background, research, goals, and motivation for pursuing the program.

12. Applying to the wrong programs:

Believe it or not, one of the most common mistakes students make when writing their statement of purpose is applying to the wrong programs. The applicant needs to research the program they’re applying to and check that it’s a good fit before writing their statement of purpose.

13. Focusing too much on grades and test scores

The applicant needs to understand that grades and test scores are essential, but they are not the only things the admissions committee looks at. The candidate should also focus on their accomplishments outside the classroom. Check out these extracurricular activities for college applications to give you a leg up!

14. Being too negative

Admissions committees want to see positive, driven students who will contribute to their school. The candidate should avoid being negative in their SOP and instead focus on their positive qualities.


By avoiding these common mistakes, the candidates will be well on their way to writing a strong statement of purpose that will improve their chances of getting accepted to their dream school.Here’s a complete guide on how to pick your dream university!


21K School World

Read our latest education blogs here. We are pioneers in proffering personalised, affordable and high-quality lessons using an advanced learning platform.

Join Asia’s Leading Online School and Unlock
endless opportunities

Join Asia’s
Leading Online School
and Unlock endless opportunities