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SOP Format for MS in USA: Guidelines and Structure for Top Universities

Komal Yadav Komal Yadav
Study Abroad Expert

Statement of Purpose is a letter or essay describing the motivation or intent behind pursuing a program. Its objective is to highlight more personal traits of a student which are usually not included in other admission documents such as transcript, recommendation letters, resume, etc. A well-written SOP format for MS in USA must include components like academic background, professional experience, reasons for choosing a university and program, etc.

Although most institutions open or emphasize on a semi-structured SOP, some universities like Harvard and University of Chicago prefer more structured essays based on questions or prompts. SOP for MS in USA is also referred to as Statement of Objective, Candidate Essay and Personal Statement in some top universities of the USA.

Components of SOP Format for MS in USA

SOP is a personal essay and should be unique for every student. Hence, there are no fixed guidelines or formulas on how to write SOP for MS in USA. However, some of the basic sections that should be covered in such documents are discussed as follows:


Start the SOP for USA by introducing yourself:

  • what is your name,
  • chosen program,
  • what have you done before,
  • where do you come from, etc.

Some students also start with a quote resembling their personality or course.

Eg. I am (name) from (country name) applying for (course name) at (department name) of (university name).

Academic Background

Describe what you have studied before and focus majorly on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Management) courses. Students who studied these programs in their previous degree are given more weightage in the admission decision of MS at top universities of the USA. Include details like

  • what type of student you were,
  • how much you scored,
  • why you chose a STEM course,
  • reason for choosing a college, etc.

Also write in about your previous course curriculums and how it will help you to succeed in the program you are applying for. Give more importance to bachelors degree than school level studies while writing your SOP for MS in USA.

If you have completed any project or thesis related to the STEM program you are applying for, write in brief about them describing its impact on your knowledge and learning curve. Research papers published in journals having high impact value are also an added advantage.

Note: Try not to include GMAT/GRE or English proficiency scores as they form a seperate part of the application process. Mentioning them in SOP format for MS in USA doesn’t add any substantial value.

Professional Background

Mention any internships or job roles you have taken before. Experience in technical fields are preferred over managerial roles for admission to MS in USA. Describe following details in brief:

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Skills you had and acquired while pursuing this role like leadership, social, etc
  • Experiences and knowledge gained from the job such as methodology of a project, its impact on organization or public, ultimate goal, etc.
  • Recognition or award won during the job
  • Key learnings

Reasons for Studying in USA

Explain why you prefer to study MS in this country instead of your home country or any other study abroad destination. Narrate why the higher education system of the USA is better than other countries, how it will help you in future, etc.

Reasons for Choosing a University

Some of the factors that can be mentioned to answer why you chose a particular university of USA over others are as follows:

  • Curriculum of the university
  • Infrastructure, Faculty and Location
  • Personalized teaching experience with reference to low student to faculty ratio.
  • International Community (number of international students, students from your country, facilities for international students, etc)
  • Research or career opportunities available for your program


Conclude the SOP for MS in USA with a brief summary of all the above mentioned points. It is important to convince the admission committee that you have considered all the aspects and did a proper research before applying.

Top Universities SOP Format for MS in USA

SOP format for MS in USA varies from one university to another and in some cases from one program to another within the same university. Following are the guidelines for writing SOP of some of the popular programs of top universities of the USA:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

SOP is majorly referred to as Statement of Objective at MIT. It should be written in bullet points and paragraphs of 2 to 3 lines. SOP is required for following MS programs of MIT:

  • MS by Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering: 1 to 1.5 page
  • MS in Computational Science and Engineering: Approximately 1 page
  • MS in Management Studies: Cover Letter, Video Essay, Thesis Essay

Stanford University

SOP for MS programs of Stanford University should describe your development uptill now, intentions with the program and future goals. Try to include information that is not mentioned in any other application document rather than summarizing the CV.

Following popular programs of Stanford University ask for submission of SOP along with admission application:

  • MS by Institute for Computational & Mathematical Engineering: PDF or Word file of not more than 10 MB
  • MS by Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering: 2 pages in length and single spaced
  • MS in Computer Science: 2 pages in length and single spaced

Harvard University

SOPs of Harvard University are more structured and focused towards few topics or questions specified by the respective departments. Students have to submit a supplemental essay and an optional essay for admission to an MS degree. Questions mostly asked in the application are as follows:

  • What more would you like the admission committee to consider while reviewing your application for the MS program? (No word limit)
  • How do you expect the MS program to help you at both personal and professional level? (400 words approximately)

MS in Biotechnology, MS in Computational Science and Engineering, MS in Engineering and Applied Sciences and MS in Data Science are some of the programs of Harvard University requiring SOP for admission.

University of Chicago

A candidate statement, personal statement or answer to essay questions is required for admission to MS degree of University of Chicago depending upon the program. It should address topics such as academic and career goals, reasons for applying to a particular program in university and future plans.

Some of the programs that require submission of SOP in University of Chicago are:

  • MS in Analytics: Candidate Statement
  • MS in Financial Mathematics: Candidate Statement of 750 words and a video statement
  • MS in Computational Analysis and Public Policy: Answer to following prompts within 300 words
    • Essay on one of the topics mentioned in application
    • Motivation towards pursuing graduate studies in public policy
  • MS in Computer Science: Answer to essay questions

Princeton University

Students applying for the MS program of Princeton University are required to submit a 1,000 words statement of academic purpose along with the application. The focal point of statement should be current academic purpose and future career plans.

Professional and personal experiences that inspired students to apply for a program at Princeton University should also be included. Popular programs that require submission of SOP are as follows:

  • MS in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • MS in Computer Science
  • MS in Quantitative and Computational Biology
  • MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering

SOP format for MS in USA must be written from the student’s perspective in English language only. Translated essays are not accepted by the universities. It should be free from grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and plagiarism. The chances of writing a unique story is rare since top universities receive a lakhs of applications every year. Thus, the motive should be to write an individual narrative.

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