I'm International Student applying for technical courses to universities in the UK and the USA, this might seem like a frequently asked question but I'm genuinely curious in knowing whether a Statement of Purpose (SOP) does carry any weightage when you meet the minimum requirements for Graduate Admissions (Msc).

I've seen peers with great GPA's but poorly crafted SOPs make it to top schools. Would it be possible for someone to walk their way in with just words using a flashy SOP?

Top universities get a myriad of applications, especially high demand courses. Does the admissions committee get ample time to review each applicant's SOP? or Do they have an Application Screening Process after which they review only the most salient applications?

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    Anecdotally, my PhD cohort originally consisted of 18 people (seven years ago; I went to a University of California, for what it is worth). The 2019 cohort was over 20, and the 2020 cohort was around 20 as well (COVID related austerity measures had not come into play by the time offer letters were being sent out). The 2021 cohort is 8. Funding is *incredibly tight right now. Anything you can do to distinguish yourself is important. Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 18:16
  • @XanderHenderson Well I'm pretty sure an SOP plays a integral part in the application process for PhD but the question is aimed at MSc
    – Luke
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 18:19
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    The salient point is that funding is incredibly tight right now. Most institutions don't have the ability to offer as many spots (in any graduate program) as they have in the past. However (anecdotally, again) the number of applications has not really gone down (in fact, many programs are seeing very large surges in applications, e.g. medicine and law). There are a small number of slots, and a large number of applicants. Anything you do which distinguishes yourself from the pack is going to be important, because the competition is fierce. Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 18:22
  • The question is unclear because admissions standards are very different for funded MSc programs vs. tuition-charging MSc programs. Further, each department can set its own policies. Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 7:26
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    Well, the answer is that it varies, but even at elite universities, the tuition-charging MS programs often exist primarily to bring in money. They might admit every student that they think will be able to finish the degree. In that case the SOP is not so important. Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 22:09

2 Answers 2


The Statement of Purpose possibly carries weight toward admission to a graduate program.

Meeting the minimum requirements for acceptance may get you past an initial screening, but many departments have more applicants than they have space in their program. (I hesitate to say "most" or cite percentages since that could change from year to year, but you can often find this information on a program's website.) In these and other programs, the whole application packet - including the Statement of Purpose - may be considered by individual reviewers and/or a committee of reviewers before initial offers of admission are decided. Given two similarly-qualified candidates, it is conceivable that they would admit the one with a more compelling Statement of Purpose.

It's not easy from the outside to guess at an institution's internal processes, the number of applicants that year, or what they'll weight more heavily in your packet. While you may know anecdotally of people who are admitted with terrible Statements of Purpose, you don't know others who were rejected. You also don't know whether this year will be different. Given that, while you could gamble on a subpar Statement of Purpose and meeting the minimum requirements, prudence suggests putting some effort in so that you might stand out compared to your peers.

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    I like the second paragraph especially. If you make the initial cut so that individual professors look at your application, the SoP is, for me at least, one of the most important documents. In particular it is your one chance to discuss your goals and your future. Nearly everything else in an application is more about the past.
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 20:05
  • On the contrary, universities do release information on the number of applicants to a program and the number of offers given out for the past years. However, like you've mentioned it's difficult to perceive what their internal process might be.
    – Luke
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 20:45

This will differ between countries, universities, and individual departments. I believe that it is hopeless in pretty much all places to "walk your way in with just words using a flashy SOP" if their results are not good, but if there is a limited number of places and it is between otherwise about equally qualified candidates, it may well play a role.

When I was MSc admissions tutor in the UK, by the way, I got the impression that many SoPs were written with lots of help from other persons, sometimes in stark contrast to other information in the CV and transcripts, and I didn't find them very informative in general, as it seemed everyone can come up with a sparkling SoP. So I differentiated using other criteria as much as possible, and I think that ultimately (because there was never a precise limit on the number of offers I could send out) an SoP never made a difference for students I had to decide on. But I'm not saying that everybody handles things in this way.

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