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3 SOP Tips Must-Know (3/3)

Welcome back to 3 SOP Tips Must-Know Part 3!

3. Share: What makes you stand out?

It’s not your school name. It’s not your ranking, or your major, or the Big Four Company name you interned at. These things are numbers; sure, they might be impressive inside of Taiwan. Students could be #1 in competition rankings, or have near-perfect scores, but still get rejected from top schools because they fail to communicate these core ideas. For foreign universities, you must share details, stories, and personality traits–about you.

Consider living in the USA: you’ll see people of all skin colors, mother tongues, fields of study. Though there are so many differences, these differences contribute to positive growth, for individuals, companies, and industries. There’s no “magic formula” or recipe for getting accepted. However, think about the other thousands of applicants who also want to go to the same school you want to attend. If they all spend half the essay complimenting the institution on their “well-balanced curriculum, esteemed faculty, and alumni connections,” all the essays look the same. What do the schools not know? You.

This is a vague question, “what makes you stand out?”; let’s break it down into smaller questions.

  • What soft skills do you have that help build teams?

  • What sports have you tried that developed your competition, artistic sense, or cooperation?

  • Where have you volunteered before? How do you contribute to your community? (College or after, nothing from high school)

  • What are you most proud of in your life?

  • How have you expressed or used creative abilities?

  • Which passions or interests have you devoted significant time to outside of class? (補習班 does not count)

  • Are there any health concerns that you or family members have, making you a more compassionate person?

  • Were there financial struggles your family faced, which forced you to make difficult decisions, or work during school?

  • How does your family history background shape you and your perspective?

  • Are there opportunities you wish you had, but never had a chance to try?

Now, you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) attempt to answer all of these questions within your SOP. But, from this list, you can see how comprehensive the graduate application will be. Some of these questions will be answered in other parts of different documents. However, note how different the Taiwanese application is from applications in the USA.

Instead of being evaluated in terms of ranking or score, American cultural understanding values these differences. What seems normal to you might be a foreign experience to someone else from another country. How can your perspective and experiences help you contribute to discussions and team projects in the US? In the future?


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Cate Shubat

Private Tutor at Thrive English Language Center


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