Dear Mentor:

Will a well-written SOP help me get admission and aid?

I have completed my M.Sc. in Biochemistry from Calcutta University. I scored 2000/2400 on the GRE [Graduete Record Exam] (2000/2400) and 270/300 on TOEFL [Test of English as a Foreign Language]. I am recently in USA on a spouse visa. I want to join the Grad School at UWA [University of Washington] in Seattle, because that is the nearest. Unfortunately, these people do not take in many international, because of funding problems. I want to know how to write a Statement of Purpose (SOP), so that I can impress them. Please help me out.

Admission vs Aid, Redmond, Washington, USA

Dear Admission vs Aid:

We wish to note a minor difference of opinion with you. Schools such as UWA do not "limit" the number of international students. The admission process is fairly open - should you meet the school's selectivity threshold, you are offered an admission. You are welcome to join the program if you can foot the bill. If however you want financial aid, that's a different story. In this case, they are not limiting you because you are an international student, but you are limiting yourself because you wish the school to fund your education. Getting admission is much easier than securing financial aid and the seats for international students are not limited by some magic number.

We have addressed the issue of how to write a Statement of Purpose (SOP) in the past: How should I write my SOP? We must be honest and advise you that your SOP is likely to have a nominal, if any, impact on your prospects for financial aid. The financial aid decisions for graduate studies in Biochemistry are based primarily on your academic performance and your performance on the GRE.

Financial assistance to foreign students in the US comes in two basic forms: teaching assistantship and research assistantship. Foreign students are not eligible for educational loans. Research assistantships are funded primarily by professosr through research grants. You may wish to talk to professors at UWA directly to explore opportunities for a research assistantship.

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