Applying for an LL.M. abroad can be, and often is, a stressful process. There are a number of factors at play during the application process. The sheer number of courses on offer, fiendishly frustrating university websites, non-negotiable deadlines are just a few of the factors that can lead to a fair bit of unpleasantness.
And then, of course, there is the application. Typically, this would include documentation such as Transcripts, additional qualifications (English proficiency, for example), Recommendation Letters, and a Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement. While each of these elements ought to be given equal amounts of attention, it is the last one – the Statement of Purpose – that often proves to be the most time-consuming.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of online resources devote a significant amount of time to the SoP, and this post is just one attempt to add to this database. Having said that, this post is exclusively based on the documents that we get to review at Amicus Partners, and the findings shared below may not be universally applicable.
Furthermore, given that there is no “magic formula” for drafting the unicorn that is the perfect SoP, what I have decided to do instead is focus on some of the most common mistakes made while writing an SoP.
More specifically, four such mistakes.
One, go (way) back in time
Avoid going back to the time when you were ten or twelve and decided you wanted to study law. While this can very well lead to a well-crafted SoP, I think this particular approach should be handled with a bit of care.
You really (really!) ought to evaluate how the decision ties in with the LL.M., if it all. Unless you can create a recurring theme, or a solid fundamental narrative, the “Why I studied law” just eats into precious word space.
Two, make the SoP the Curriculum Vitae (Director’s Edition)
The CV is an important part of the application process, but it is also a separate and distinct one. Don’t use the SoP to highlight or explain the CV away; the fact of the matter is that the admissions office already has your CV.
Instead, pick and choose one or two specific examples/achievements from the CV and explain how this changed you, how it affected you, how it pushed you towards the master’s course that you are applying for.
That is where the real value of an SoP comes into play. At the risk of sounding terribly cliched, put the “personal” in personal statement.
Three, fail to highlight the value of You.
Often enough, applicants use a large fraction of the word count on the value of a particular course—for instance, stellar faculty, alumni, brand etc. However, precious little is said about the value that the applicant brings to the table.
Not only should you mention how you will add to the classroom experience, but you can also highlight your own value as a future alumni member.
This one is pretty simple. Just don’t do it. It is not worth it. Not only are admissions teams pretty good at catching out “alternative facts” but the stress that comes with this process is not worth the hassle. Not worth it one bit.
Hope this helps, and all the best.
(This piece has been edited by Harsh Mahaseth)