How to circumnavigate the fact that you are not from a top university in a SOP?
Don’t sweat it! Every year, I see students from Podunk State University Tech get admitted to master’s and PhD programs at Top-5 and Top-10 schools. In fact, for graduate admissions, coming from a middle-tier university might even be a benefit. There’s a lot of data showing that #1-ranked students from middle-tier schools get better grad school and career offers than, for example, #10-ranked students at super elite universities.
Because if you’re the best in your pool of students, your professors will love you more than anyone else. You’ll have had access to the best resources the school has to offer. That means the best labs, the best research opportunities, the best grants, and the most chances to present at conferences. Plus, a 4.0 is a 4.0 anywhere. It means one very certain thing: you do not fail. Grad schools recognize that.
So, own it. Be proud of your school and sell yourself for all of your strengths. Never focus on your weaknesses, especially if they’re not really weaknesses!