SOP for Canada: Guidelines for Student Visa & Top Universities
What is an SOP? Statement of purpose a.k.a SOP is a 1000-1500 word long essay giving information on why you are applying to the respective program and institute. The SOP highlights 3Ws i.e Who are you, What are your academic qualifications, and Why you are the right person for the course. Institutes often check SOPs to judge how strongly your profile is aligned with the program you are applying to.
SOP for Canada - What is Different & Important?
Unlike in other countries, an applicant has to write an SOP for both Canadian universities and student visa. SOP for Canada student VISA application is different from the Canadian University application, addressing different aspects and fulfilling different requirements.
- SOP for VISA application is an essay wherein you need to explain why Canada, academic profile, post-study plans, reasons for selecting the particular university and course.
- Applicants reapplying for a Canada student visa should address the same in their SOP for visa essay.
- Canadian Universities often ask for three short essays or/and a short video(s) justifying your application. The questions can also require you to submit three photographs with a short description around them.
- SOP for Canadian universities should go beyond what you have already mentioned in the admission application. It should rather portray your uniqueness and reflect on your most pertinent experiences.
Of the two, SOP for Canada student visa is of greater importance as it can make or break your chances of studying in Canada. So let’s start by discussing that in detail.
SOP for Canada Student Visa
Canadian visa officers do not call every applicant for a visa interview; the majority of applications are accepted or rejected based on their Letter of Explanation or SOP for Canada student visa.
An ideal SOP for Canada visa should address all required questions at the same time to reflect your individuality. Remember the introduction matters, you want the visa officer to read beyond the first paragraph.
While writing an SOP for Canada student visa, ensure that you cater to five major questions below:
- Why do you want to Study in Canada? Here you don’t just have to address why you want to pursue higher education in Canada, but also why you are choosing Canada over the USA, UK, Australia, etc.
- Why have you applied to this particular university in Canada? Don’t just focus on the university’s rankings and reputation. Talk about how the particular Canadian university is suitable for you in terms of program choice, curriculum, affordability, etc.
- Which program do you want to study and why? Mention your choice of program (complete name not short form), talk about your motivation and genuine interest in the chosen program.
- Do you have a gap year? Remember to address this question carefully and thoroughly as Canada is strict about gap year(s). Explain what you did during your gap year in detail.
- Are you going to return to your home country? Don’t mention anything about staying in Canada. Emphasize strongly on returning to your country and state reasons and long term plans.
In addition to addressing these questions, it is recommended that students provide a response to the following elements as well:
- How are you going to fund your studies in Canada? Whether you have a scholarship/sponsorship or your parents are going to fund your studies, mention that in detail. Attach affidavits, letters, and bank statements referring to financial support.
- Do you understand all your responsibilities as an international student? Students planning to work part-time and off-campus can do so for a maximum of 20 hours/week, during an academic semester.
All applicants are recommended to ensure that their SOP for Canada visa is a strong essay, highlighting your goals, expectations, and financial availability. For details, check the video below:
SOP for Canada Universities
Statement of Purpose at Canadian universities is more personal compared to SOP for Canada Student visa. While each university’s approach towards the Statement of purpose or statement of intent may vary, there are a few elements that all Canadian universities check-in applicant’s essay:
- Academic Scores: Universities give extra emphasis to academic scores, especially in the case of business & engineering programs. So if you are applying for such programs, talk about your academic grades and experience to get an edge.
- Community Culture & Volunteering: While it should be included in every PG applicant’s SOP, those applying for programs like social service and public administration should prioritize it.
- Work Experience: At Canadian universities like UBC, UToronto, it is mandatory for PG applicants to have relevant work experience of at least 2 years.
Applicants must ensure that they stick to specific word count as Canadian universities are quite strict about it. Furthermore, ensure that your SOP for the chosen program caters to the program curriculum and your expectations from it.
Let’s discuss the SOP requirements at a few top Universities in Canada:
SOP for University of Toronto
UToronto doesn’t require an SOP for undergraduate programs. However, its graduate programs require an essay and a10-min video essay. There is no fixed pattern or question for either as every year, the university comes up with something new.
For instance, in 2019, U of T’s Rotman admission written essay was related to the ‘spike factor’ and video essay was an interaction with the admission committee.
"Our admitted students stand out by doing interesting things in different walks of their life ( both personal and professional) — something we describe as the ‘spike factor’; What are the things you identify as key elements which demonstrate Passion/ Grit/ Resilience/ Innovation/ Drive/ Ambition and more?
You don’t have to limit yourself to just one aspect of your life, it can include multiple aspects outside work and education such as hobbies, volunteerism, awards, entrepreneurial ventures, sports, and the arts.
Upload 3 'spikiest' pictures for you and use the SOP to tell us why you have chosen these particular images to illustrate your ‘spike factor’. ( Up to 1000 words)
State 4-5 attributes or characteristics that best describe you. (3 to 5 words)
The video interview component guarantees face-time with the Admissions Committee and thereby, giving you a chance to showcase your personality, characteristics, passions, and values.
Tip: For the video interview, be as genuine and unique as you can be. Whereas, for the written essay, be as creative as you can be.
SOP for University of British Columbia
University of British Columbia is one of the few Canadian universities which require an SOP for both undergraduate and graduate programs. For UG programs, UBC’s personal profile requires answers to 4 questions such as:
- Describe for us “Who are you?”. How would your friends, family, and/or members of your community describe you as an individual? If possible, include something you feel like is your biggest achievement and state why. (maximum 250 words).
- What is important to you and why? (maximum 250 words).
- Describe upto 5 activities that you have actively pursued or the accomplishments achieved in one or more of the following areas. Highlight the nature of your responsibilities within these activities. (50 words per description).
- Elaborate about one or two activities listed above that are significant to you. Please explain the role you played and key learnings from the process. You will be asked for a reference who can present your case in this respect. (maximum 350 words).
For the PG programs, the Statement of interest includes a small essay, wherein you have to address your
- specific academic area of interest
- previous educational experience
- expectations from UBC graduate program
Refer to any prior citations, publications, or experience in your chosen field of interest. Such elements will separate your applications from others.
Tip: While writing an SOP for UBC, remember to emphasize on your academic background and accomplishments. UBC is amongst those universities that prefer students with exceptional grades.
SOP for Queen’s University
At Queen’s statement of purpose is not mandatory, but recommended. If you decide to write an SOP, remember it solely focuses on your non-academic elements. The statement of intent for Queen’s University comprises two portions- a questionnaire and an essay.
- List any of your awards and distinctions that you have received in the last 4-5 years. Briefly explain each one of them in about 200 characters.
- Identify any extracurricular activities and total number of hours you have devoted to each one.
- List any part-time/full-time paid or unpaid work you have done in the past 4 years.
Essay: One extracurricular activity or employment opportunity, describe the impact of this experience and the greatest learning outcome from this experience.
Tip: Even though SOP is optional, admission officers at Queen’s expect you to submit one.
Overall, your SOP for Canada should be a representation of you on paper addressing the question that your university might have asked for. Key to a standout SOP is fluency, personalization, and to the point details of how both you and the university can mutually benefit each other.